Top tips for going abroad as a couple
Louise is studying French at the University of Glasgow and is currently a British Council Language Assistant in Tarnos in the South West of France, and her boyfriend is living there with her! She says, "many of our fears were completely unfounded and I would love to write a post for those considering moving to the country of their year abroad together, to dispel some fears and offer some advice for the inevitable challenges that do come up. Sometimes it can just be reassuring to know someone has done it too!"
When I first applied to study French at university a friend asked me if I would be nervous about doing a year abroad. ‘Of course not’, I replied, ‘it’s one of the reasons I’m applying!’ Fast forward two years and I, like pretty much every other language student ever, was petrified! It is undeniably daunting to leave your home country to live and work in another country. One of the things that occupies the thoughts of many future year-abroaders is the prospect of missing friends, family and partners. However, for some, whether married or in long-term relationships, it makes sense to consider doing the year abroad together as a couple.
Deciding to take on my year abroad in France together with my boyfriend, Ben, was one of the best but scariest decisions I have ever made. We have had an absolutely amazing year together but making the decision to take that leap was intimidating. Ben spoke absolutely no French. We had never lived together before. Ben had no job lined up for when we arrived. I worried like crazy! Thankfully, these concerns melted away over the course of the year and it has been so rewarding both individually and as a couple to develop and learn.
For those thinking about making this decision, or for those already on their year abroad as a couple, here are my top 5 tips for enjoying this experience together:
1. Don’t compare your year abroad experience to others’
Everyone’s year abroad experience is different, and that’s okay. In fact that’s great! Some people choose to complete their year abroad single, some as a long-distance couple and some together. We all learn different things through our different experiences but just because your choices do not necessarily mirror those of other year abroaders, does not make them any less valid. Enjoy your year abroad together without worrying about what you think other people think about it.
2. Have your own interests and time apart
Neither of you are fully responsible for the other’s happiness. Sometimes the best thing for both you is a little time alone. Just because you’re a couple does not mean you have to be joined at the hip. You will have different interests, different friends, different needs. That’s good for you - use your diverse experiences to make the most of the year abroad and that independence will ultimately strengthen your relationship.
3. Keep things flexible
When we first arrived here in France, we had a three month rule. We would split up the year abroad into three slots of around three months each. After each period we would decide if we wanted to carry on as we were or whether Ben would rather return to the UK for a period. This was really useful as it forced us both not to think too far ahead and to take things one step at a time. Keeping things flexible took the pressure off. We both knew we could and would do this apart if need be. Nobody has signed a binding contract to complete the year abroad together. If things aren’t going well you always have the option to revert to a long-distance situation for a while.
4. Challenge and support each other
One of my concerns about doing the year abroad together was that I would stay in my comfort zone and wouldn’t push myself to meet new people or try new things. However, being here with Ben has led to some amazing experiences I would never have had if I hadn’t come here with him. It is important to support each other through the challenges the year may throw at you, but also to push each other to try new foods, new classes, new places, and to meet new friends. That encouragement makes all the difference.
5. Remember to have fun together
It can be hard not to get caught up in some of the stress that a year abroad can naturally cause. The most important thing about the year abroad is to really make the most of it, to enjoy it. Having your partner there with you reminds you to have fun, and just to enjoy the time that you have on the amazing journey that is your year abroad.