It’s application time back in Durham (and quite a few other universities) to apply for a year abroad. I’m writing this post for those who are on the fence, and even for those who don’t think they would take a year abroad, to try and convince you to embark on possibly the best year of your life.
I find it so easy to simply say ‘go on a year abroad, it will be one of the best things you’ll ever do’, having already completed one semester in Australia. But I know that it is not as simple as deciding in a couple of minutes. You have family to consider, close friends’ graduations you’ll miss and you won’t see for a year, possible financial worries and relationship uncertainty. You’ll miss your friends’ 21st birthdays, you will be on a completely different time zone and find this difference annoying, you are going to miss teammates and your skill in whatever sport you play might degrade. The year abroad certainly isn’t for everyone, but I urge you to seriously consider taking one (apart from my close friends, stay in Durham pls) – the benefits are amazing.
Durham has opportunities to study abroad in 20 different international universities, from Canada to New Zealand, as well as tens of Erasmus institutions. You will only have to pay £1350, compared to the £9000 if you were to stay in England. For Erasmus, you are even given a grant to study there – you don’t pay anything. Even after flights, you will be saving a great deal of money, which you can save up, go traveling the area, or whatever else you like to do. Doing a year abroad is actually quite a large scheme around the world; UWA, where I am studying, has over 200 universities where students here can go on exchange. Other British universities also have hundreds of possibilities – it is a testament to the experience of international students that this program has grown so large.
The main benefit for me of being abroad is experiencing living in a new country. Australia isn’t much of a culture shock, being a Western civilisation, but it is still so cool to be doing things differently – from going for a quick dip at the beach every other day and wearing shorts, t-shirts and thongs (aussie for flip-flops!) everywhere, to having aussie rules footies being kicked around instead of soccer balls. English oak are replaced by colourful jacaranda trees, the rain is replaced by the thirty degree heat, and radiators are of course replaced by air conditioning units. However it is not all about the weather, English frowns are commonly replaced by Aussie smiles, joined with a lovely ‘g’day’. It’s just cool to say you’ve spent a year of your life living in a different country. It certainly has inspired me to want to live around the world. I know friends who are studying or working elsewhere in the world have had a more cultural experience, getting the chance to get out of their comfort zone, grow and experience life in another language.
Being an international student, you meet many like-minded people. They share similar interests, and are always up for going travelling somewhere. You learn to make the most of each day, remembering you are only here for a year, and always want to try something new. This is something I will take back to Durham with me, constantly trying to find something new to do, places to see or go. Your friends are also spread across the world; although it is likely you won’t see many of them for a long time, you have people who can show you around their country and stay with. I have made friends all the way from Mauritius, to Oregon, Denver (go broncos) and Montana in the US, to Norway, Netherlands and yes, even Newcastle in the UK, and I’m looking forward to visiting them, and having them stay over at some point.
You are going to go through ups and downs, and you have to find a way to deal with it being a long way from home, but you’ll learn so much about yourself. You will find new interests, current interests will grow, and old interests will pass. You will learn more about the world, want to go exploring different places, but you will also appreciate being at home and day-to-day life you sometimes take for granted. There will be a great opportunity to go traveling around the country you are living in, as well as cheap flights to nearby countries that otherwise would have cost much more.
But it’s up to you, it is a big choice to make. But I’ll leave you with this picture: you could either be in England, rain pouring down, deciding to stay at home and watch TV, or you could be relaxing on the beach, surfing and sunbathing in 35 degree heat. In November.