Year Abroad struggles: it’s not always easy

Year Abroad struggles: it’s not always easy Bristol International Balloon Fiesta by Karen Roe

This article was written by Emily Maybanks from Swansea University, published on 27th November 2015 and has been read 3612 times.

Emily is studying Translation with French and Italian at Swansea University, and is spending the first semester of her year abroad at the Università di Bologna in Forl, Italy, and the second at the Université de Genève in Geneva, Switzerland. Here are her thoughts about struggling with your year abroad, and how important it is not to give up.

I read a lot of posts about the year abroad being the ‘best year’ of a student’s degree. However so far, for me, it hasn't felt that way, and I’m sure that other people feel similar. Here are some of the aspects of life in Italy which I am struggling with so far:

1. First and foremost, I’m really finding the language difficult.
I’ve been studying Italian for two years (since I started University) and it’s not been easy for me. I thought that I knew enough Italian to be able to ‘cope’ in everyday life here in Italy, but on arriving, I quickly realised that this was not the case. I think that it’s difficult for any student with little knowledge of the language to go to the country and immerse themselves totally in the language and the culture. I hope that my Italian will improve in the short time that I am here.

2. Being shy.
My self-confidence and my introverted personality is also something I have been struggling with since arriving in Italy. I’m a very quiet and shy individual and conversations and social interaction is something I have never found easy, so speaking to native people in Italian is very daunting, and it doesn’t help when they don’t understand me or speak to me in English because it lowers my self-confidence. Hopefully, as I begin to feel more natural and comfortable with the language, my self-confidence will pick up a bit more than it has done. 

3. Comparing.
Reading posts from other people’s year abroad blogs and on websites is also something which I have been finding tough because everyone else does seem to be getting on well in their year abroad situations and it’s hard not to compare with how I’m struggling so far.

4. Settling in.
I don’t think I really felt ‘settled’ at Swansea University until my second year so I’m finding it difficult to really settle into life in Italy, especially because I know that in February, I’ll be off to Switzerland. Everything feels very temporary so far and that’s something I’ve been finding tricky so far.

5. Homesickness.
I get homesick a lot even though I’ve been studying in Swansea for two years. But, since starting my year abroad, the homesickness has often become unbearable at times. Saying that, I’ve not felt as homesick as I initially thought I would, which has to be a positive note.

On the contrary to these points, it certainly hasn’t been all doom and gloom. I’ve made a few great friends with whom I have been to some exciting and intriguing places I have never seen before, including Verona, Rimini and Milan. I know there are lots of people back in the UK who I know will be so envious of all the adventures I’ve had and travelling I have done since coming to Italy and I’m sure it will be same for Switzerland in a few months’ time.

I certainly believe that it is vital that students on their year abroad realise that moving abroad for a year is not the easiest thing to do by any means so it’s only natural to have wobbles and to feel uncomfortable at times. However, it’s also important not to give up and not to be too hard on yourself. You’re already doing a very brave thing and when you return to your home university in the UK, you’ll feel very proud and have so many exciting stories to tell. That’s my plan anyway!

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