The feeling of leaving your home for an entirely different city is something that most people find to be scary. But if you have the opportunity to do exchange year in a different country, it can feel completely different. Simply going abroad can make the idea feel entirely like you’re taking an exciting step into the unknown.
I’m Faith, and when I applied to university, I decided to apply to a lot of local institutions. Mainly because I didn’t feel ready to stand on my own two feet and fend for myself.
However, when my third year came around I took the plunge, metaphorically speaking, and set foot in Spain. Albeit not that far from home, but far enough that it was a terrifying prospect.
The decision to leave home was exciting and new. The freedom of having my own place made me feel like I could do more than just rely on others for everything in life, which is what most people my age (and younger) usually end up doing anyway! It was exciting to be in an environment where there were no adults around who knew exactly what awaited me. It forced me into learning how things worked and gave myself some independence!
When you’re planning a year abroad, there’s obviously excitement and trepidation looming. You know it will be an entire 12-month separation from home that includes traveling to new places only dreamed about before? Sounds like fantasy but is actually real!
I was petrified of the idea at first, knowing that it meant leaving my family and comfort zone for an entire year. But as soon as we got on a plane to leave everything behind me in search what would become my new home abroad; there’s no turning back now! I had never been outside home country by myself before, so this presented an exciting opportunity as well as some scary challenges!
There are so many reasons to take a year abroad. You will expand your skills and knowledge of another culture. It’s also an incredible opportunity for personal development, professional growth- all while becoming more independent than ever before.
Living and studying in Spain
As I entered my second semester on year abroad, it was clear that all these things are true.
In the first five months living in Madrid, I have met an incredible number of international students. I expanded my knowledge not only of the Spanish language, but also the Spanish culture – something that the classroom could never have shown me.
Madrid is a wonderful city that has allowed me to explore many new cultures and languages. In just five months, I’ve met plenty of international students from all over the world who are studying at universities around Madrid- which gives you an idea not only on how large this community here really can be but also what kind welcoming people they tend toward!
What helped me to settle was that I decided move in with a host family. This way, not only could I experience true Spanish life but also its authenticity! Moving out of my home country was very difficult and stressful- it gave me the comfort of knowing what would happen next – having no worries about complicated tenancy agreements or added pressure for accommodation caused by being away from everything you know. There’s nothing worse than making decisions while feeling anxious. I made sure these things don’t bother me when diving into something new.
Living with another family was like being part of an extended close0knit community. The family that took me in for the year was everything. They were so supportive that I can’t thank them enough! The best part about living with these people has been learning from their local knowledge, delicious food adventures around town and further afield too – all while improving my grammar skills along the way.
Adapting to all the differences
The first thing that surprised me about university is how different university schedule actually is. Unlike England where classes are pre-scheduled for you – Spanish higher education has always been more sporadic due to its system which allows students much greater freedom over their timetable. This means you can choose any five modules from across the year throughout your degree. You just need to make sure that they don’t clash with with one another.
I can’t say it was an easy process, but it provided a great chance to study something I recently acquired a passion. As well as opportunity to study modules that I had missed out on in England. And because I chose it – I loved every minute of it.
Beside studying, I had great time exploring Spain and visited some of the most famous landmarks in the country. It was by far the highlight of the year.
I managed to visit Valencia and Alicante, and I’m hoping to travel even more next semester!
The year abroad is an opportunity that will never come again once the university is over. It’s taking a chance to do something abnormal and out of your comfort zone, which can be so empowering! I’d say you should definitely consider this as part of your student experience.
Think about your future career goals while taking an exchange or a year abroad. It’s an opportunity that will never come again, so don’t miss out on it! You may regret not considering this part of the university experience when looking back in 10 years’ time.
Ups and downs of an exchange year
The whole experience was great but that’s not to say that it hasn’t been hard.
Settling in, in my first semester was quite tough. You live in a country surrounded by a language you are not confident with, feels quite isolated and alone. The first couple of weeks are the hardest. However, I found that this was also just a temporary feeling of being in an uncomfortable situation. Once the first couple of weeks went by, it became second nature to me to converse in a foreign language, attend all my classes and sit the exams at my exchange university.
In situations like these, you meet other international students from all across the globe who are in the same position as you are. I embraced the moments of sitting in lectures conducted by inspirational speakers, practicing skills and experiencing a whole new range of things!
Close to my third semester, people have told me that they have noticed differences in me as a person. I have gained more confidence in speaking Spanish, and in my determination to succeed.
I know it’s hard to set foot in a country knowing you won’t be leaving for another few month. But what it gives you is the ultimate tool for personal growth. That is something undeniably important to prepare you for your future after university.
If you are given the chance or considering to take part in a year abroad, or even a semester, I would definitely encourage you to take it up. The experience can be difficult at times but the benefits and skills you will gain from it will outlive the fear you’ll feel, I promise.
After-all, you will only regret what you didn’t do, right?
You can check out further post of Faith experiences in Spain here: https://thewritelifeonline.wordpress.com/