How To Survive a Year Abroad | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

How To Survive a Year Abroad

TV Editor Matt Dawson gives us some valuable advice for surviving your year abroad

It’s coming to that time of year where many second years (and perhaps some first years) are considering applying for a Year Abroad – be that due to a compulsory element of your course or just because of an interest in travel. As someone who has just finished, my advice is to definitely go for it, and here are some useful tips to survive.

Finances – While some would suggest opening a bank account abroad, my experience is that it depends on the period of stay. While it may be advantageous if you will be in the same country for the whole year, if you are just there for the semester, it may just be an unnecessary amount of paperwork. As I way around this, I found the Revolut app to be a lifesaver. An internet startup recommended by, the company sends you a free pre-paid Mastercard that you can top up with any currency, and you can then use the card to pay for whatever you need as well as withdraw up to £200 from local ATMs, all using the inter-bank exchange rate.

Accommodation – Another worry may be your living situation. Again, depending on the length of stay and the country itself, the uni may be able to provide some help on this matter, but I found accommodation normally ends up in one of three types: a hall of residence, a flatshare or staying with a host family. After my experience with the first two, I preferred sharing a flat as French halls are nothing like the ones in the UK. Although it can be less stressful to organise living arrangements before you arrive, sometimes that doesn’t work out, so you may have to be prepared to stay in a hostel for a few days while you go flat-hunting – just consider it part of the adventure!

Socialising – For me, this was one of the most difficult things at the beginning of the year: moving to a foreign country not knowing anybody. Even if you’re introverted, you should try to make an effort in the first few weeks where there are a bunch of new arrivals (think Freshers, just international!) – normally there are a variety of events for exchange students organised by the local ESN (Erasmus Student Network) or an equivalent, and even things like “language cafés” can be great to meet people outside the context of university. And if you come face-to-face with the language barrier, embrace it! I found that while it may be difficult at first, the locals are generally quite welcoming as soon as they hear a foreign accent, with any rudeness generally being the minority.

Final year Modern Languages student, TV Editor, using student journalism as a post-Erasmus coping mechanism. (@mdawson_96)


26th October 2017 at 9:00 am

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