There’s no Smithdown in Sydney: Expectations vs. reality of your semester abroad

Sorry, but it’s not all trips to Fiji

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Universities across the country are putting all their efforts in selling that year abroad in China or semester in France right now, while You’re probably working hard to scrape that 2:1 in order to secure your place. Studying abroad is absolutely a great shout, but do bare in mind that the reality of what’s being shown on the PowerPoint may not be quite what you think.

It’s not always just this

EXPECTATION: You’ll be friends with lots of locals

You can’t wait to make loads of local friends, you’re going to basically be a local by the time you leave.

REALITY: This will only happen on nights out

You’ll meet a few locals, mainly on nights out. But don’t expect long term friendships here, as they will be fully invested in making friends who are there for the long term. “Should we invite that British guy from last night on our weekend away?” “Nah, he’s only here until June and anyway he gets very angry about Brexit when he gets drunk”. The most exotic person you’ll become actual friends with is Dan from Southampton.

Shall I add you on Facebook!?

EXPECTATION: You’ll stay on top of the group chat

Your final night out to Concert Square was an emotional one. You have to say goodbye to your beloved housemates and they have to deal with the prospect of living with a stranger who you’re riskily subletting your room to. But you know it’ll be fine, what else is WhatsApp for!? Of course you’ll stay up to date!

REALITY: The group chat will feel alien to you

One thing you’ll forget about is time difference. As you’re getting ready for the day ahead, you’ll be met with: “Beth where r u? We’re outside Heebies” “Beth where u?” “BETH?!” You even lost track so much that they’ve actually made a group chat without you and called it “[insert group chat name here] vol. 2” 

Ha ha was it a good night then guys

EXPECTATION: You’ll spend every weekend travelling

You think you’re going to spend so much time travelling when you’re abroad. You optimistically research flights to Bali over Easter.

REALITY: You’ll spend your weekends catching up all the work you didn’t do in the week, as usual.

Whilst spending your weekends travelling will occasionally happen, the prospect of renting a car and making your way up the Western Coast of the US isn’t entirely feasible when you’ve got 3000 words on “Gender Representation in Ernest Hemmngway’s Literature” due on Monday.

An all too familiar sight

EXPECTATION: You will save money whilst away and will definitely be able to afford Glasto when you get back

You hear all about how life outside the UK is unbelievably cheap and you start planning a long list of things you’ll do with your home friends when you make your triumphant return. From city breaks to Europe to raving it up at a festival, by living abroad you sincerely believe you’ll save money.

REALITY: You max out your overdraft

Your Erasmus loan does not cover living costs at all and you found no one to live in your Smithdown house so you’re still paying that bloody rent. Your new friends want to explore the sights every weekend and go out three times a week. But just like university in the UK, you’ll finish term eating pasta four times a week in order to afford that one Saturday night out. You cancel all plans for when you return as you increasingly start to realise that you need to work your ass off over summer to have any chance of living a comfortable life in third year.

Sorry Jack, but I think Bestival is looking a bit unlikely tbh

EXPECTATION: Your parents will miss you and you’ll FaceTime a lot

Remember at Gatwick, your dad trying to hurry along the goodbyes because he’s on a double yellow, your mum hysterically crying. It was like the first day of Freshers again. This time, it’s significantly worse because you’re moving to the other side of the world and your family have an irrational fear that you won’t come home. You expect this will be a continuous thing throughout your time abroad and FaceTime sessions will form a large part of your Sunday.

REALITY: Your mum gets over it offensively quickly and your room is now a gym

“Yeah me and your dad are really into spinning now”

“Just talk to the cat instead”

EXPECTATION: Your new University will probably give you a better quality of education

You cannot wait to be somewhere new, an international University with great resources and interesting lecturers. It will be great to not have to put up with the decaying buildings on your campus and Eduroam will be a thing of the past.

REALITY: It’s exactly the same, even lecturers abroad haven’t learnt the basics of PowerPoint


Eduroam is always down no matter what time zone you’re in

EXPECTATION: You won’t conform to the “I’ve studied abroad” stereotypes

You sit in the back of the Study Abroad pre-departure meetings, laughing at the international student clichés being thrown about. You assume you’re not the kind of person to come back and tell everyone what a life changing experience it all was and that you’ve truly learnt a lot about yourself.

REALITY: You’ll become a walking talking advertisement for the study abroad scheme

Your Instagram may as well be renamed “@StudyAbroadWithEllie” and will feature several pictures of you looking across the landscape immersed in the thoughts of your recently discovered international identity. When you get back, your housemates will get sick of you starting every other sentence with “That reminds me of the time in Australia…” but you actually couldn’t give less of shit. 

EXPECTATION: You won’t go out as much because surely nobody goes out as much as British students

You’d think that surely abroad there is no such thing as LEVEL Wednesdays in China! You assume that most of your time drinking will be done by the beach or on a boat as you explore the local landscapes (check the Intrepid Powerboats website for details).

REALITY: You probably still will

You can questionably dance to Flo Rida’s 2008 classic ‘Low’ in any country. Oh and you’re probably not making your 9am after a night out abroad either.

Just some international friends, hanging out