Should you live with a friend from your UK university on your year abroad?
Finding somewhere to live is one of the first big hurdles of a year abroad and many people choose to live with friends from home to help them feel more at ease. But is that a good idea?
If you and your best friends from university are heading to the same location for your year abroad, it can be very tempting to hunt for accommodation together. While there are some wonderful upsides to doing so, there can also be some more negative repercussions. We examine the pros and cons of living with a friend from home, to help you make the decision that works for you.
1. It helps to keep homesickness at bay
The year abroad can be tricky at times (understatement of the century?), particularly during the first month. After a day of messing up your target language, getting lost in a new city, and embarrassing yourself in front of the locals, sometimes all you want to do is come home and watch trashy TV with someone who understands what you're going through.
And you know what? That's 100% ok.
2. You can share your newfound tips and advice with each other
One of the best things about living with a fellow Brit abroad? You can pool your knowledge and be twice as clued up in half the time. If one of you goes to open a bank account and the other attempts to buy a foreign SIM card, you can meet back at home at the end of the day, debrief and share what you've learned. That way, when you switch activities the following day, you'll be a little more prepared for what's coming!
3. You'll have a built-in travel companion
Travelling is a fantastic part of the year abroad experience and travelling with a friend is a wonderful way to create memories together. When you live with a friend from the UK, you can spend your evenings plotting your next adventure, whether it's exploring a new neighbourhood in your city or flying to a nearby country for the weekend.
When you get back to university in the UK next year, you'll have all those wonderful memories to relive together - there are worse ways to get through finals!
1. It is much harder to practice your target language
The most frequently repeated reason for not living with a friend from the UK on a year abroad is the difficulty of practicing your target language. When you live with native speakers, you are forced to practice your target language every single day, whether you're bickering with them over who gets to use the shower first or bonding over drinking games. When you live with English speakers, you lose that privilege. While the idea of living with native speakers can be scary, it's worse to come to the end of your year abroad and feel that you haven't managed to get to grips with the language.
If you want to live with a friend from the UK, why not try and pair up with some native speakers as well? That way you get the best of both worlds.
2. It can put a strain on your friendship
No matter how close the friendship, living together is a big step. Being in such close proximity to another person all the time can put a strain on your relationship and cause friction. To avoid any unnecessary conflict, make sure that you are honest with your housemate(s) about any minor annoyances (such as who last cleaned the bathroom or who ate all the Nutella). It may seem silly to express every little feeling you have, but keeping quiet can lead to a build up of resentment that will eventually lead to a much more serious fight.
It's also sensible to make sure that you have regular time away from each other. Try taking up a new hobby, signing up for a language class or doing some tutoring. It's important that you both have space to breathe and to find your place in the life you're creating for yourself abroad.
3. It can be tempting to remain in your comfort zone
While living with a friend from home can be a gift during the more difficult periods of your year abroad, it can also make it a lot more difficult to get out of your comfort zone. Why go out and meet people when you already have a great friend at home? Why embarrass yourself by attempting to speak the local language when you can take refuge in English? Why take up a new hobby or head to a class alone when you can bring a friend along for moral support?
It is perfectly possible to live with a friend from university (or simply from the UK) and still throw yourself into everything the year abroad has to offer. You just have to force yourself to leave your cosy new flat and keep trying new things. If it's a disaster, at least you'll have someone at home who knows how to make a decent cuppa.
3. So, what should you do?
Well, that's completely up to you of course. Who you live with on your year abroad is a big decision and one that only you can make. Just make sure you weigh up the options before you choose and remember that you can ALWAYS move if you're unhappy.
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