Interested in a year abroad as a Warwick student? Six things you need to know before you go
Advice that will save your time, money and mental health
I’m back again! Your resident travel writer (can you tell I’m on a year abroad right now?) to share some unsolicited advice to mentally prepare you for the journey you might be taking in the coming year. If you’re not going on a year abroad, you’re welcome to use this article at pre-drinks and take a shot every time I say “year abroad” – hopefully in preparation for a good Tuesday Smack. Regardless, here are six things you should prepare for before going on your year abroad:
Unfortunately, as a result of some recent geopolitical shenanigans, the UK is no longer part of the European Union. It’s so recent, however, that we often forget that British citizens moving into the EU now need the proper documentation to avoid more geopolitical shenanigans. This is the same globally – it is always important for you to check what needs to be organised before you move to your new country, always do your own research. This could range from a simple application to depositing 10,000 pounds into a blocked bank account. Also, for the love of DJ Dave, please remember that work visas are different to study visas. We’re trying to get de-grees and not de-ported.
2. Lost in Translation
It’s fun when Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are in the middle of it during their love affair in Japan (if you haven’t watched this movie please do), but it’s not fun when you’re trying to negotiate your contract for your accommodation in French. It’s extremely important you check what the lingua franca is where you live. It sounds intuitive but is actually fairly easy to forget when you’re all excited to move to a new place.
I don’t think you should avoid a country if they don’t speak the language you speak. On the contrary, I think those are the best year abroad trips to go on. However, I think you need to at least mentally prepare to hit that language barrier when you first move. Living in Brussels, I’ve found that it’s always 50/50 that someone speaks English, but pretty much never when you actually need it. My French, however, is pas mal if I should say so myself (Google translate is my best friend).
3. East or west, where is best?
Moving to a new city also means you’re typically unfamiliar with the lay of the land. On the one hand that probably means you’re going to have a fun time exploring this new place. On the other, it means you have no idea where the best place to live is, should you not be living on campus. This could lead to you accidentally living an hour away from the town centre or 40 minutes away from all of your classes. If you’re really lucky, public transport will be cheaper and you won’t need to stress as much. For example, I don’t live too close to the city centre, but I paid a one-off 17 euros for public transport and it’s free for the entire year I’m here. Find the good balance of distances and always check how accessible public transport is.
4. Papers please
If there’s anything I’ve learnt on my year abroad, it’s how to manage paperwork. I have filled inexhaustible hours doing paperwork and sometimes have had to wait days or months for everyone to sign off on the form I’m submitting. The administrative part of this year has made me really spiritual.
I have looked into the abyss of paperwork and it has stared back into my soul, making me question who I am. I’ve even started meditating because of paperwork (maybe I’m slightly exaggerating here). Regardless, staying on top of paperwork will help you avoid so much disaster. Trust me, you do not want to have to accidentally repay your grant because you didn’t have something signed in time.
5. Money, money, money! Must be funny
All year abroad students are given funding before they head to their desired destinations. Until this year, if you were in Europe, you would be eligible for Erasmus + funding. For most of the world (and next year including European exchanges) you would be eligible for Turing scheme funding. Usually, these schemes cover general living costs based on how expensive the cost of living is in your designated country. But under no circumstances should you blow through all of it in one go in a Regina George-esque shopping frenzy.
6. 21 can’t do anything for you
“21, can you do something for me?”, a question posited by a famous modern philosopher. I’ve found this question to be most poignant in the context of buying drinks. Unfortunately, not everywhere in the world has set their legal drinking age to 18. You might find yourself somewhere in the US or in Southeast Asia getting rejected from a bar because your ID doesn’t have the magic blackjack number. To this I say always double – if not triple – check the legal drinking age where you’re going. Getting thrown out of Neon is one thing, but being thrown into jail is a whole other ball game.
With these six nuggets of golden advice, I send you off on your year abroad journey. And for those of you that aren’t leaving, that was nine “year abroad” shots (excluding this one, that’s another shot). Have a good time at Smack.