Your year abroad is eighteen months, not nine! Make the most of your summer holidays!
Think about it. Your exams finish in May or June, and then you're FREE! You don't need to be back at university until the following September/October! That's a maximum of 18 months you have to play with. And you can do anything you like! Why does everyone think about their year abroad in terms of the academic year?! Here's why you should go to your year abroad destination early, and how to make the most of your summer holidays...
1. Eight reasons why you should go to your year abroad destination early
1. Get to know your new city before it's deluged by students
Get the culture shock over and done with before your course/job/teaching begins. It will help you settle in faster and dodge the Year Abroad Blues.
2. Meet the locals!
Get your 'usual' breakfast from the local cafe, find out the best, cheapest market to buy your lunch from and ask their advice about everything from travel cards to tax codes. Having local friends is so useful! (see 5.)
3. Find somewhere to live before the international students arrive
It's much easier to find long-term accommodation in the summer when all the previous year abroaders are leaving, than in September when the big rush begins.
4. See your city in summer!
It's great to arrive in 'holiday mode', so you're more relaxed, positive, and know what you have to look forward to the following summer if you're there for the full year.
5. Practice your language skills
You'll feel so much more confident if you've had a chance to get used to the local accent/dialect, and you're speaking a bit more fluently before your course/placement begins.
6. You'll be in less of a panic
Having a bit of breathing space between arriving and starting your placement will mean that you can take your time to explore, work out where you need to be and when, and find somewhere to live.
7. Friends and family can come and visit
If you move to your year abroad destination in the summer, then friends can come too and help you settle in! If you leave it until September, they will have their own back-to-uni chaos to deal with, and might not be able to visit for a month or two.
8. Pave the way for success! (cheesy, but true.)
Here are our top ten tried-and-tested ways to make the most of your year abroad. Act ASAP so you know you'll make them happen.
2. Ten ways to make the most of the summer holidays before and after your year abroad
1. Do a summer internship in your year abroad destination
If you're studying on your year abroad, then doing an internship abroad will mean that you have paid work abroad to add to your CV, which is absolutely invaluable*. It will also help you to settle in faster and make friends before your year abroad placement begins.
2. Be a tourist on your year abroad!
Arriving early means you can really suss out your new city in the tourist season, and visit surrounding areas too. Watch out for High Season prices (make a note to return in November) and travel as much as possible before your work schedule kicks in.
3. Sign up for courses and classes
Many fun extracurricular classes start in September. Shop around, work out what you want to learn and sign up quickly! Creative courses are a great way to meet interesting, like-minded people.
4. Get insurance to cover you for the full 18 months
Having Year Abroad Insurance will put you in the right mindset to travel and leap at new opportunities throughout the duration of your year abroad.
5. Get a currency card - possibly the best way to manage your money abroad
If you get a currency card, you don't need to worry about stinging charges or setting up bank accounts in multiple countries - you can focus on the more important things.
6. Find a job abroad
You have so many options, and they are all a positive asset for your CV*. Working at festivals, getting a job in the tourism/hospitality industry, working in a bar, restaurant, or hostel, helping out at a summer camp, volunteering... Find out more!
7. Keep career-focused
When it comes down to it, your year abroad might be what gets you your graduate job. Make sure that you have a lot to say in interviews about being motivated and making the most of your opportunity.
8. Do a summer course abroad
Learn a new skill, discover a new culture, meet new people, and add to your CV. Boom.
9. Start a business!
Have you been pondering over an idea you had in first year? Have you spotted an opportunity? A gap in the market? Your year abroad is, in our opinion, the best possible time to start a business! Check out our Entrepreneurship articles for some inspiration.
10. Put your student loan to good use!
At home, your money never goes as far as you'd like it to. You can really stretch it abroad! (Depending, of course, on where you go and your lifestyle.) If you want to, you can take the opportunity to travel, stay in hostels or a tent, live out of a backpack, shop at markets, and see the world. Take advantage of the fact that you're under 26 and there are discounts available (think: STA Travel, travel cards, ISIC discounts, online advanced bookings, etc.), and make the most of the summer holidays before and after your year abroad.
So all that's left to say is: start planning! It's going to be one of the biggest adventures of your life.
* We've spoken to a TOP employer who says that they're really only interested in graduates with at least 2 weeks of paid work abroad.
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