The language, the roads and the home comforts all require some readjustment
The year abroad is simply the highlight of any language degree. Your opportunity to add a little je ne sais quoi to your CV. Your chance to internationalise yourself, to blend in seamlessly amongst the locals and to drink more wine than you’ve ever drunk before.
Prior to departure, students are overwhelmed with information covering all eventualities, from kidnapping in South America to how to ward off Italian men, but no one forewarns the strange adjustment period that comes with the return to normal life. Here’s a list of challenges that the average year abroad returnee faces on a regular basis:
Something as simple as crossing the road becomes tricky. Due to pretty much the entire rest of the world driving on, ahem, the wrong side of the road, our poor returning student no longer knows which way to look first. Those returning from Germany hesitate over-cautiously for fear of J-walking, in contrast to those returning from Italy who stride out confidently to resounding horn-honking, since if you don’t step out into the road in Italy, the cars ain’t stopping.
From saying ‘gracias’ to your local bartender when he hands you your pint, to some interesting deviations from English grammar, after conversing in a different language for a year, speaking English just isn’t that easy any more! You’re no longer scared of things, instead you ‘have fear’, you have a weird compulsion to end every sentence with ‘no?’ and all previous knowledge of spelling has been erased.
Before 10.30 tickets to Revs – Pft! 10.30 is dinner time! Clubs closing at 3am – an outrage. Shopping between the hours of 1 and 4 in the afternoon – still a novelty.
Tap water, fresh milk, Yorkshire pudding and real tea (it had to get a mention eventually) are just some of the things the returning year abroad student finds INCREDIBLY exciting. The risk of hyperventilating in the supermarket is real. Marmite? Gravy? FINALLY!
Finding a foreign buddy
The race is on with your fellow returnees to find yourself an international pal in order to keep your year abroad experience alive. A wing-manning system seems to have developed, where peers are setting each other up with students of the target nationality, in a, ‘Oh, you’re French? My friend so and so speaks French! TALK TO HER!’ sort of way. Friends like these are essential for language practise, and for lamenting about all of the things that you miss now that you’re back home. They love listening to you go on and on about your year spent in their country. Honest!