Pre-Year Abroad Worries
Charlotte Watson is studying French and German Joint Honours at Bangor University in Wales. She spent the first semester of her third year abroad studying in Toulouse, France and the second semester studying in Passau, Germany. Here, Charlotte discusses a year abroad with a language learnt from scratch, living in a new city, turning your university romance into a long-distance relationship, and where to go for help and advice.
Language AbilityAs someone who took up German from scratch during the first year at university, I often worried about how I would get by on what I felt were very basic language skills, especially in comparison to my much stronger language, French; it turned out that almost ten years of studying French didn’t make me feel any more well-equipped when I touched down at Toulouse airport. Years of giving presentations and doing exams about the environment and immigration in France had provided me with next to no language skills for everyday business and conversation!
This is what the third year abroad is for, to learn how to deal with day-to-day situations. Once I realised this, I gained confidence, my vocabulary grew, my fluency improved and it was the same case when I moved to Germany. If you want to learn, no matter how good or bad your language ability is to date, you will!
Living Somewhere Different to What You KnowI had never lived in a big city before I moved to Toulouse and although the idea of doing so seemed like an exciting opportunity, the prospect was also daunting at times. For example, back in Bangor I was used to walking just five minutes or so to lectures and now I was going to have to work out a route to university that required a bus and a metro, taking up to 45 minutes on a busy morning. I was used to bumping into friends in the street and stopping for a chat, not pushing my way through the crowds during rush hour! To say this was all a culture shock for me is an understatement.
Sure enough, I managed it in the end and I am still here to tell the tale. What seemed like being thrown in at the deep end turned out to be exactly what I needed to see how independent I could be! In all honesty, there were moments when I felt so overcome with frustration and anguish I could have cried but those moments passed and the next day I’d be happily sat outside a café eating cake with friends in the sunshine enjoying all that this fantastic city had to offer!
RelationshipsAs someone who went to university single, the year abroad was going to be another new test for me as I would be going away whilst being in a relationship. I met many other people who were in relationships during my time away too and saw lots of different results. The year abroad is not what will make or break your relationship but rather the way you and your partner deal with it is what will be the decider of its fate. The first thing to remember is that this state of being away from each other is not permanent and if anything, it will show you exactly what you want, both in terms of what you want out of a relationship and/or if you in fact want to remain in one. A relationship’s strength is truly shown when it is tested, not when things are easy. Effort on both sides, patience, understanding and trust is the recipe for a strong and healthy relationship to work and if it’s worth fighting for then you have nothing to fear! (Read more about long-distance relationships.)
Finding advice, help and supportIf you are truly worried about going away, don’t suffer in silence. Voice your concerns to a lecturer or someone at your home university. They might be able to help put some of your qualms to rest and maybe even put you in touch with a student who has been to the same place as you in years previous for some advice, whether you’re planning to work or study abroad.
TYA: The Third Year Abroad Facebook page is a great place to find students from other universities going to your destination, also please do post a question, a comment or a worry on our Q&A Forum so our Members can help you out!