Nine bits of advice you can’t ignore if you’re going on a year abroad

Don’t accidentally tell your friends you’re about to go shag a bus…


Those who are considering a year abroad, have just got back, or are getting ready to leave in the next few months, will be all too aware that the joys of Brexit combined with the reliably ‘unpredictable’ effects of covid don’t make it easy to prepare. It also means that language and year abroad students alike are left running around like headless chickens at this point in the summer as they realise that the passport that’s due to expire in six months really should have been dealt with during term time.

The Bristol Tab has once again got you covered. Whether you’re travelling to France or the US, Italy or Hong Kong, there’s a piece of advice in this list which will be useful to everyone.

1. Find a good hostel to stay in upon arrival

Plenty of you will have been advised to sort out your accommodation before you arrive. However, for those of us who are travelling on a less well-trodden path, which often carries a greater risk of being scammed, it’s better to sort out permanent accommodation upon arrival. A hostel is a great way of meeting people with a similar situation to you, and Hostel World is a really good app to figure out the best places to stay.

2.  Research the VISA requirements for your country

I’ve heard of far too many VISA related dramas in the past few months as students scramble to receive confirmation from their GP that they are Ebola, Cholera and Polio free in order to travel. Therefore, whilst it can be a pain, and an expensive one at that, getting your VISA documents prepared with enough time to be approved before you fly is super important.

3. Do some DuoLingo practise before you set off

You may be doing a languages degree, but can you actually order a pint in Spanish, or have you just spent the past two years learning how to discuss the merits of eco-tourism??? Practise the vocab that the uni doesn’t teach you so that you’re ready to live like a local.

4. Learn the local slang

On a similar note, it’s important to get to know the language local to your area before you leave. For example, in Spain, ‘coger un autobus’ would be to catch the bus. In Mexico however, you would be telling your new friends you were going to go shag a bus. A pretty mortifying mistake that might change their opinion of you pretty quickly.

5. Buy AirTags for your luggage

Don’t be that person who refuses to fork out an extra 40 quid for an AirTag. Airports are in chaos at the moment, and when you’re on the fifth day of wearing the same pair of pants again because your suitcase can’t be located, I’m sure you’ll wish you’d have listened.

6. Create an Instagram account specifically for your year abroad

It’s a rite of passage for everyone going away for a year abroad to make a really quirky Instagram account in order to show off their life for the whole world to see. I’m sure your final year friends will really appreciate the constant travel updates, especially during exam season when the most exciting part of their day is lunch.

If your year abroad is more to the tune of muggings and missing home rather than beaches and beer, ignore the Instagram traffic as it’s probably not all what it seems.

7. Buy some packing cubes

Never mind the hundreds of pounds spent on plane tickets, no way are you paying an extra fifty quid to fit in all of your clothes. Whilst I commend you for maintaining the student mind-set which some would call enterprising, and others just pure stingy, make your life that bit easier by buying some packing cubes to help stuff a years worth of your life into just one suitcase.

8. Get ready to do the most admin you’ve ever done in your life

One aspect of the year abroad which I never considered, but has probably led to the most breakdowns, is the admin. Filling out health forms and insurance information in English is bad enough, but doing so in a different language requires about 10 times the brain power. How dare they assume that I can understand the language I’ve been studying for the past eight years?!

9. Join Erasmus/International Student groups for your area

Going away for a year abroad is just like being a fresher again, and if you want to make friends you need to put yourself out there. There are plenty of groups or pages that exist on Facebook for you, whether you’re doing British Council in Spain, or studying abroad in Hong Kong, there’s bound to be something.

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