The true importance of a pre-placement visit
Jonathan Nesbitt studies French and German at the University of St Andrews. He is spending his third year abroad in Vienna, studying both subjects at Universität Wien. In this article, he explains why a trip to a future study or work destination can be a great start to the year abroad!
Since applying to university in sixth form at school, the year abroad has always been a highly anticipated and integral part of my chosen degree course – something to look forward to, a horizon-broadening opportunity, a great chance to improve language skills, and many more oft-repeated sweeping statements, scoring high marks in A Level speaking tests…
Fast forward two years, second year has ended, and it is time to enjoy the long summer before embarking on what is shaped up to be a brilliant year away! What, however, people often neglect to consider is the huge amount of paperwork (think the Amazon rainforest in paper-form) that is required, as well as the necessary ‘psyching yourself up’ to head away, and not return along with your friends to your UK university, to the place that has become home.
My solution: go and visit the country / city / university that you’re going to be spending the next year in! About to head off, I feel so much more ready to finally go, now that I’ve been in Vienna and can imagine myself there. After all, most people visit their new university in the UK before starting first semester, so why not do the same for the year abroad? Here is a handful of reasons explaining why, acronymically organised into the word AUSTRIA!
A is for administration
As I mentioned above, there is so much admin to do before the year abroad begins to take shape, from insurance, to learning agreements and contracts, the list goes on. There is also lots to be done once you arrive abroad, such as sorting out bank accounts, organising SIM cards or phone contracts, and other similar first world errands. Being there in advance and getting started on these things, parents in tow, should make the first few days of semester so much less hectic!
This one could take on a host of meanings, but I’m looking at this from the perspective of a parent, and how important it is for them to understand what the year abroad involves, as they may not exactly be 100% up to speed. My parents benefited from exploring the city, watching me communicate in German, and understanding what my daily routine might involve – it really does put their minds at ease when they are more aware of what you're up to!
S is for sightseeing
Perhaps especially if your destination is a large famous city, or a renowned rural area with lots of natural beauty! Visiting some of the world’s best attractions is not only great fun and worth doing, but also helps you become a bit of an expert on things to do in the destination – useful when family or friends come to visit!
T is for transportation
Coming from a small university town with essentially three streets, the move to Vienna comes as a bit of a culture shock, not least because everything requires trams, trains, buses or undergrounds… Transportation systems can be fairly complicated, with various ticket options and six million and one possible ways to get to the same place! It’s really beneficial to have already done some journeys, including to and from the airport, to the main university buildings, and to some of the main sights.
R and the year abroad becomes ‘reality.’
Over the last year I’ve been preparing for, and working towards my year abroad, but it all seemed like a distant concept, something that was very much to come later on. After a busy summer, ending with a quick visit to Vienna, I feel like the year abroad has become very ‘real,’ and it is great fun to visualise actually living there, knowing more about the city, and feeling more content.
I picks up where I left off about knowing more about the city, because I is for investigation.
Be it interesting uses of the language (Grüß Gott, not Guten Tag for hello in Vienna!) cuisine, social practice or cultural differences, such a trip before the year officially begins is a great chance to find these things out - to make it easier to fit in once you arrive!
A, last but not least, stands for accommodation
A trip like this is either, (a) a perfect opportunity to visit accommodation which has been pre-arranged, and check out the local area, or (b), and for the more ‘last-minute’ amongst us, a good chance to find places to stay without time pressure, and with a comfortable hotel room to retreat to!
Viel Spaß beim Umzug! Enjoy the move!