The Year Abroad: One Year Later
Emma has just graduated with a degree in Spanish and International Media Communications from the University of Nottingham. She spent her year abroad in Cantabria, Spain, where she taught English with the British Council Assistantship, and then went travelling around Latin America. Here, she looks back on the year abroad and ways in which it can change people.
It has been one year since I left Spain, the country I called home for an extensive period of time. My time living abroad was filled with highs and lows, moments I will never forget, whether that is a good thing or not. Returning home one year ago, I felt as if the world was at my feet and anything was possible. I had, after all, done something that not many people would ever do, and lived to tell the tale. Now, fast-forward to today and I can see how the Year Abroad has changed my life.
I know that not everyone’s experience with the year abroad is a particularly positive one. Even those who have had positive experiences have also had to deal with some very difficult situations. However, I believe it is fair to say that you come back a different person to the one who left their home country. This might not even be a change that you notice immediately, but others will, and in time, you will too. Here are some of the ways in which the year abroad will change your life.
1. You will become more daring
People say that the year abroad is the time to say ‘Yes’. From bungee jumping to hiking across a country, if you keep your mind open, you will discover amazing new experiences. On my year abroad I decided to dismiss my dislike for walking and hiked the Camino de Santiago trail, which was an unforgettable experience, and one I am proud of achieving. On top of that, I flew to Brazil by myself when, in the past, I was scared of getting on the wrong train. When it is time to return home, suddenly everything that seemed scary will seem less so, and whenever a challenging experience occurs, you will think remember that time when I…
2. You will get better at problem solving
Nothing will make you better at problem solving than being dropped into a foreign country alone, with only a shaky knowledge of the language, and having to build a life there. Within the first week of living in Spain I managed to lock myself out of my flat by dropping my keys down a lift shaft. Not the smartest idea in the world, I will admit, but it was just one of the many instances where I managed to solve the problem myself, albeit with a little help from my friend, the dictionary. The year abroad will throw many challenges at you, but guess what? You are more capable than you give yourself credit for, and there is no better time to discover that than when you are frantically trying to remember the word for key in Spanish (it’s llave, and I will never forget that).
3. You will become more ambitious
Through all the problems solved and experiences embraced, it becomes very easy to become comfortable in foreign situations. The more comfortable you become, the more you seek to push yourself. Suddenly, what seemed to be scary becomes exciting and, dare I say it, normal. You live and breathe the life of travelling, and then you come home. That feeling will never quite leave you.
The year abroad will change the way you think, feel and view your own life. Whilst I agree there is too much pressure put on having the best year abroad anyone has ever had, the move will have a major impact in your life. It is one that is still affecting me one year later.