Wessex Scene Study Abroad Special Issue

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o r a b d A I y s d s u u t e S


University of Southampton’s Student Magazine

Study Abroad Issue

Wessex Scene


to study or not to study? 10 A question facing all study abroad students: to study or take a work placement?


cultural differences on a year abroad 29

Embracing new cultures is at utmost importance during your study abroad!


ingredients for a perfect exchange 30

Follow this recipe, and you’ll be on your way to the best possible study abroad experience.



WESSEX SCENE TEAM Want to write for us?

Get in touch with a section editor. Editor ALICE HEARING




Head of Design MACKENZIE BROWN design@wessexscene.co.uk

HEAD OF IMAGERY BETHANY WESTALL image@wessexscene.co.uk







VP DCI Cameron meldrum



Welcome to Wessex Scene’s first ever-special issue dedicated to the year/ semester abroad! Whether you’re a languages student about to head off to Spain or a science student making your way over to another English speaking country, this magazine is full of useful ideas, tried and tested advice and reassurance to help prepare for one of the most exciting opportunities of your university life. We have a whole range of insiders who’ve embarked on and survived the same journey you’re about to start. This magazine hopes to unite the experiences of students abroad to give the best possible advice, tips and answer your queries and concerns. Two of our editors have been on a year abroad, and the other is very well travelled. From our own experiences we’ve handpicked the topics and content and put them all together to create the ultimate study abroad bible, to get you through all kinds of scenarios. If you’re currently away, we have some helpful advice on how to adjust to your new surroundings. Although it varies from country to country, homesickness and arrival jitters can hit anywhere in the world. We will provide you with all the information to get through it. Know that it’s okay to miss home but it’s important to take every day as it comes and enjoy it whilst it lasts. Moving to another country will test your limits and throw you in the deep end at times but we promise you it’s a challenge worth rising to. It’s incredibly exciting and you can be reassured in knowing that you are not alone, everyone is in the same boat and feels the exact same way. This truly is a wonderful opportunity to explore a new country and create new memories that will last you a lifetime. Travelling abroad is one of the greatest things a person can do, it will open your eyes and you will grow in ways that you could never have imagined. We hope you enjoy reading this magazine as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Good luck, have fun and happy adventuring!

Want to contact the Study Abroad services at the University of Southampton? E m a i l erasmus@southampton.ac.uk o r studyabroad@southampton.ac.uk W E B S I T E www.southampton.ac.uk/studyexchange F a c e b o o k www.facebook.com/UoSExchanges T w i t t e r @uos_exchanges I n s t a g r a m @sotonabroad FRONT COVER IMAGE BY SELINA HAMILTON 2


34 Sooner Rather Than Later: Returning from the Year Abroad by Kirby Moore. Image by Heather Rankine.



Study abroad destinations


to study or not to study?


Work placements abroad: all work and no play?


How to fly like a boss


don’t forget... essential advice for your year abroad arrival


how to cope with homesickness


mission impossible? budgeting in switzerland


your 7 step guide to packing your life in a suitcase


‘Hello... are you an exchange student too?’


Does your year abroad have to be the best year of your life?


braving a 10,000 mile relationship - possible?


a guide to finding the best travel information


making the most of your free time on your year abroad


Cultural differences on a year abroad


ingredients for a perfect exchange


what i’m looking forward to on my year abroad



insurance - the boring bit that’s super important and will stop your parents nagging



Sooner rather than later: returning from the year abroad



@officialwessexscene WELCOME


Study Abroad Issue

MEXICO Kirby Moore

Why should people choose the destination? Mexico seems to be a country full of misunderstandings. People gasp at the decision of spending the YA in a country, unfairly stereotyped as one of murder, kidnaps, cartels and corruption and so on. For some, choosing Mexico is the obvious next step as they have already travelled around Europe and, for others, Mexico is a way of challenging these negative views we have and what we read about in the media. In reality, living in Mexico has truly changed my life. The vast array of heritage, history, patriotism, colour, cultures, climates and people make Mexico an endless journey of discovery, that will take you out of your comfort zones and will give you the opportunity to learn about the importance of life, relationships, nature and spirituality.

What are the travel / cultural highlights? Snorkelling in the Caribbean. Music festivals in Mexico City. Clambering up a mountain in the back of a pick-up truck. Bathing in the natural springs on top of a mountain. Showering under breath-taking waterfalls. Travelling through the bottom of a 1000ft gauge. Sleeping among the trees in a rainforest, accompanied by Howler Monkeys. Waking up at the crack of dawn to head out into the middle of the ocean to experience thousands of dolphins passing through. The jaw-dropping and inspirational moment, witnessing wild Humpback Whales on their migratory route. Having the privilege to visit indigenous communities, learning their language and history. The honour of being invited into the Zapatista, autonomous, community.

How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK? The first month or so is, of course, full of hurdles. Many trips to the Visa office, figuring out the safest way of travelling around the city, starting a new job, accustomising to the cultural differences (including banda music!), understanding your tollerence to spicy food and getting to grips with the colloquial lingo!

How expensive is it to live there? "In pounds, it's nothing"- became a well known phrase of mine! It is difficult to resist converting the cost of EVERYTHING into pounds, leaving you speechless! The food is unbelievably cheap. Luckily, with student loan help, money is never an issue in Mexico thanks to the pound! Although, if you are completely dependent on Mexican pesos (i.e. workwise) then, depending on where you are placed, income isn't great.

What is your best piece of advice? All the issues during the adjustment period will be the toughest yet most rewarding experiences. You will grow so much as a person, so take these as your chance to grow.

What study abroad options are available? University study, working as an English language assistant at one of the anglo centers, or at a university.

Over Christmas, we spent a month travelling through Oaxaca and Chiapas. Just two states yet full of such an incredible variety of people, food, cultures, traditions, climates, panoramics, experiences, nature and parties! 4



Cameron Ridgway Universidad de Concepción, Biobío Region

Study Abroad Issue

BRASIL David Williams

Why should people choose the destination?

Why should people choose the destination?

Chile is quite possibly one of the most varied countries in the world with a huge range of geography and attractions to explore. Although travel costs are expensive, living here is a lot cheaper than in the UK and transport across the country via a network of cheap coaches makes travelling far and wide a real possibility.

Brazil is just the most beautiful, diverse, crazy country imaginable! The landscapes are simply spectacular and the people are so warm and friendly. There really is no other place like it on Earth! Going to Brazil is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity!

What are the travel / culutral highlights?

Rio de Janeiro is undoubtedly one of Brazil’s highlights for being such an iconic city. Spending at least one of either New Year or Carnival there is a must! The Foz do Iguaçu waterfalls is personally one of my favourite places in Brazil to witness the sheer power of nature. The North of Brazil also has many great places to visit, such as the Amazon and the truly unique Lençóis Maranheses. There are too many to mention here, Brazil is so huge that you’ll never run out of places to go to!

Regardless of where you end up in Chile, make sure to pay a visit to Santiago. Alongside the huge range of attractions and things to do in the city itself the spectacular backdrop of the Andes offers a wide range of opportunities, from skiing to visiting the surrounding nature. Chilean vineyards are also worth a visit.

How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK? For someone used to living in Britain, moving to Chile was a bit of a shock. The huge metropolis that is Santiago as well as differences in weather due to the country being in the Southern Hemisphere and the peculiarities of the Chilean Spanish dialect made it difficult at first, but after a few weeks you start to get used to the peculiarities. It takes time to adjust, but it will be rewarding.

What are the travel / culutral highlights?

How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK? There can be quite a big culture shock going to Brazil as it’s culturally very different to the UK. Life is much slower-paced in Brazil and there’s a lot of bureaucracy, making even the most mundane daily tasks such as going to the bank or the post office time-consuming. You need to be very patient with Brazil to get the best out of your time there.

How expensive is it to live there?

How expensive is it to live there?

Apart from the cost of getting here, life in Chile is generally cheaper than the UK. Food, drink and socialising are much cheaper than in Britain once you convert the costs from the Chilean peso into pounds. Travel within the country via the coach network is also much cheaper than trains or national express in the UK and is often more luxurious, as many coaches have onboard catering and adjustable bed type seats.

You’ll be pleased to hear that it’s mostly quite a bit cheaper to live in Brazil than in the UK. This means that your basic expenses such as food, rent and going out will be significantly less than how much you spend back at home. However, the larger, less frequent purchases can be more expensive than in the UK. I’m talking about any technology (phones, laptops, etc), clothes that will all cost you more dollar in Brazil (well actually Brazilian Reais), so make sure you keep your valuables safe and in fine working order!

What is your best piece of advice? Always ask if unsure! Information about how things work here isn’t always clear online or in the documents you are given.

What study abroad options are available? University in Santiago or Concepción, a work placement or working as an English language teaching assistant through the British Council or Chile Open Doors schemes.

What is your best piece of advice? You have to throw yourself right into it and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. Be open-minded and say yes to things! If someone invites you to go to the beach or to go for some food, say yes! With a positive, open attitude like this you’ll meet so many people and have some amazing experiences.

What study abroad options are available? University or work placement STUDY ABROAD ISSUE


SPAIN Lizzie Gardener

PORTUGAL Natalia Jopling Tanser

Why should people choose this destination?

Why should people choose this destination?

Spain has rich history and culture that is really exciting to learn about, from the countless fiestas to salsa dancing. Home to cheap tapas, nights out that last until 6am and the siesta. Plus the good weather and many beautiful cities to visit and you’d be crazy not to want to go!

Portugal is an underrated, and often forgotten about destination, both for holidays and as a study abroad option. But once you go there, you will never forget its incredible culture, cuisine or people. Perhaps since I lived there for 12 years, I am a bit biased, but you can be assured that it’s still somewhere you should go.

What are the travel/cultural highlights? Madrid is definitely worth a visit. Even in just a weekend you can pack in so much. Another favourite of mine was Seville, which has a beautiful plaza with a canal. In terms of culture, there are a lot of bull rings open to visitors. It’s interesting to see the ring and learn more about the history of this culture and how the festival actually works. Wherever you go, find out the local delicacy and try it – each region has its own speciality. Some of my favourites are napolitanas and flamenquín.

How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK? For me there were three main things. 1) greetings: in Spain it’s customary to kiss people once on each cheek, 2) siesta – most shops shut for a few hours in the afternoon (probably between 12pm and 4pm). 3) meal times, often lunch (the biggest meal) isn’t until 2pm or 3pm, whilst the evening meal is much smaller and is generally eaten at 9pm or later.

How expensive is it to live there? Luckily it’s not too expensive at all! Rent is cheaper than England, as are most supermarkets. The thing that seemed most expensive to me was booking transport to other parts of Spain, but it is definitely still doable, especially if you’re willing to get a coach instead of a train.

What is your best piece of advice? Get help from locals for anything bureaucratic! depending on who you ask for help you will get different advice. If you’re not confident that you’ll manage it on your own then see if a native will go with you – it will make the process much less stressful.

What study abroad options are available? If you are a native English speaker and studying a language degree, then you can work as an English Language Assistant with British Council. Alternatively, you could find a job placement yourself, or go there as an Erasmus student and study in a university.

What are the travel/cultural highlights? Portugal might be a small country compared to the European tourist giants of Spain, France and Italy, but it still has a lot to offer. It's capital is the only European capital to be on a coast and is so rich in culture, you wouldn’t believe it. You can see a Fado show, (a Portuguese music genre), visit the Belém district and munch on some Pastel de Natas (also known for us English as 'Portuguese custard tarts’). But it's not just the capital that has a lot to offer. Porto, in the North of Portugal, is a fantastic spot for the vino-lovers, and was rated one of the most underrated cities in Europe. And of course if you're a beach babe, you’ll love the Algarve; located in the South of Portugal and has plenty of beautiful beaches, as well as interesting history.

How expensive is it to live there? It's not expensive to live there providing you don't earn your money from working there. Generally, things are quite cheap. You can get a three course meal at a typically small, charming Portuguese restaurant ('Tasca') for around €7. Then train tickets from the South of the Country to Lisbon for about €20, so basically you can see the entire country without worrying about being out of pocket.

What is your best piece of advice? Don’t hold back and try all the food. Don't eat a full English all the time, you can do that in England. Whilst you are exploring a new culture you should introduce your taste buds to some very different and interesting flavours.

What study abroad options are available? If you study Music, Physiotherapy, Fashion/Textiles and, obviously, Portuguese, you can study at various universities in Portugal, including Universidade de Coimbra and Universidade de Nova de Lisboa-Reitoria. It might not sound as good as boasting you spent a semester in Barca, but I’d definitely recommend going to Portugal, you won’t regret it.

POLAND Tom Randall University of Wroclow

GERMANY Margaret Allen

Why should people choose the destination?

Why should people choose the destination?

Poland is one of the best and most overlooked study abroad destinations available. It has many famous and well-renowned universities, many of which offer study abroad programs taught in English.

You may not think of Germany but it really is a wonderful country. Not only is it the home of beer and the dazzling Christmas markets, it’s full of wonderful places to visit. Many people believe the Germans are very hard-lined. However I found that if you just ask for help, they can be really generous.

What are the travel/cultural highlights? As a country very much at the centre of Europe, Poland’s cultural and sightseeing opportunities are extremely varied, be it the mountains of the Tatry Gory, the medieval cities of Krakow and Torun or more modern history, such as the shipyards in Gdansk where the collapse of Communism arguably began. Many Polish cities have truly beautiful old towns, you may be lucky enough to live in such an area here.

How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK? Polish culture and society is relatively easy for a British person to adapt to, although the linguistic barrier is higher than many other areas of Europe and some knowledge of Polish is essential, this is the only real barrier to a society surprisingly similar to our own. Furthermore, Poland is excellent placed to explore the rest of Central Europe, such as Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

How expensive is it to live there? Student life in Poland is very similar to in Britain, although with a drinking culture to match, but there is still plenty for less outgoing students to get involved with, both Erasmus activities and as part of the wider society here. Another advantage is the excellent flight connections between here and Britain and the comparatively low cost of living, a pint of beer is typically around £1.30-50 and rent easily half what it is in Southampton.

What is your best piece of advice? One tip to a student planning a year abroad in Poland, don’t dismiss local food. Many people stereotype Polish food as being heavily based on cabbage and soup, which although play a part, completely neglects the richness and diversity of food in this country, from the ‘pierogi’ dumplings to ‘bigos’, a hearty stew of apple, pork and vegetables.

What study abroad options are available? University in Wroclaw, Warsaw and Lublin and Zielona Gora.

What are the travel/cultural highlights? Almost too many to choose from! My trip to Stuttgart for Volksfest (a beer festival, like Oktoberfest) was pretty spectacular. Everyone was clad out in traditional German dress and happily singing songs whilst stood on tables and brandishing massive tankards. Amazing! The Christmas markets aren’t to be missed either though with their cute little huts, which really made winter seem a lot less bleak.

How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK? Luckily the Germans aren’t too dissimilar from us so adjusting culturally was okay. However there is the whole language situation. I was based in Saxony, where not many people speak English but if you live in a big city like Berlin, then getting around with not much German should be no problem.

How expensive is it to live there? My accommodation was very cheap, as I wasn’t anywhere touristy. So my rent was as little as £150 a month, with bills included – every student’s dream! However if you go to places, like Berlin, you could be paying £420 a month. It really does vary. Otherwise things aren’t priced too dissimilarly from here. The beer is cheap though. So you needn’t worry there!

What is your best piece of advice? Discover the wonders of FlixBus! FlixBus is like our National Express but 10 times better! It’s cheap and goes to most places in Germany, and other countries too! Plus it has free wifi – what’s not love! If you’re looking for accommodation, use WG-gesucht. de online. That’s where I found my flat and couldn’t have stumbled upon nicer people to live with.

What study abroad options are available? The university has lots of exchange partners for studying in Germany, like Hamburg, Munich and Berlin. This is available for most disciplines. A lot of German universities lead their lectures in English too. So that should help! If you’re studying German, you can also teach in a school with the British council (like I did!), or find a work placement.

Study Abroad Issue


Joanna Hynds University of Hong Kong

AUSTRALIA Frazer Loveman

Why should people choose this destination?

Why should people choose this destination?

It’s approximately 5,000 miles away from home, with cultural and language barriers. It’s far from the “easy” choice but it’s a challenge that you will not regret rising to. It’s always tomorrow in Hong Kong, the city gave me a reason to get up in the morning and to stay up all night.

Perth is one of the most ‘livable’ cities in the world, with an ideal climate to boot! The university itself is picturesque, and the best in Western Australia. There’s an excellent (and cheap) public transport system, and being a city of nearly two million people, there is plenty to do.

What are the travel / cultural highlights?

What are the travel / cultural highlights?

China offers a dynamic range of destinations, from rural goldmines to international cities. The culture of China is so endlessly fascinating, with a history of dynasties to revolutions. You get to celebrate the Chinese traditional festivals, like a Chinese New Year! Plus, the Mid-Autumn Festival, National Day, Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, so get used to fireworks, fire dances and lanterns because your year is going to be lit! Other travel highlights include exploiting cheap flights. I travelled to Japan, The Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Rottnest Island, a 30 minute ferry ride out of the suburb of Fremantle, has some of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever been on. In the city you can go to Perth Arena to watch a concert or Wildcats basketball game, or head into East Perth and take in a Test Match at the WACA with a few beers. Further afield, you can head North to the Pinnacles and snorkel at Coral bay, or head down south through the Karri forests to Albany.

How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK? I arrived with little expectations making it easier to delve into a new way of life. You have to adjust to the language, the metro, small living spaces, densely populated streets, high rise buildings, time difference and new currency. But nothing is ever too large to overcome when you live in Hong Kong, the place is so welcoming.

How expensive is it to live there? In Hong Kong prices for transport and food were much cheaper than European standards. Private rent is expensive, thankfully the universities will accommodate you in student halls which are a steal. As for China, it’s seriously the cheapest place in all of Asia (Yes cheaper than South East Asia).

What is your best piece of advice? Travel lots. Make friends with both locals and internationals, they will teach you more about the world than any institution ever could. Learn some key mandarin. Be brave, if you are willing to leave your comfort zone, you will have the most immensely incredible time of your life.

How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK? After you’ve got over the jet lag there’s not a huge amount of adjusting you need to do. The city is probably more like a US city, but the fact Australia is a former British colony means that there’s not exactly much of a culture shock. Just remember to bring sun cream!

How expensive is it to live there? Thanks to the plunge in the pound (Cheers Boris) an already high cost of living is just getting worse. In the cheapest Halls I pay $405 a week (which includes 14 meals), a pint is cheap when it’s under $10 and a men’s haircut is rarely under $25. However, if you get a job then wages are very generous.

What is your best piece of advice? It’s clichéd, but just take every opportunity you’re offered because you’re only going to get to do this once. That, and take the time early in the semester/year to try and get a job, as it just gets harder the later you leave it.

What study abroad options are available? University of Sydney, University of Western Australia, University of Adelaide

What study abroad options are available? Mainland China – Nanjing University, Xiamen University Hong Kong - Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, University of Hong Kong 8


Study Abroad Issue


Rachel Davis Universitat Wien (University of Vienna)

How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK? Why should people choose this destination? Vienna is a beautiful city, set in a beautiful country and offers an almost unending choice of things to do. The city moves at a slower pace to other capitals I have visited, the people here take more time to relax and enjoy life, which offers a much less stressful experience than exploring other cities. The city offers hundreds of opportunities for exploring elsewhere too, Bratislava is accessible in a 50-minute train journey and trains also run to Budapest, Zurich, Prague and Ljubljana as well as much further afield.

What are the travel / cultural highlights? One thing every tourist must do in the city is to walk along the Ringstrasse. It’s the only way to truly appreciate the scale of the city’s magnificence. Many of the city’s main buildings (university, Parliament, palaces, opera, theatres) are situated on this long curving avenue and walking past is the only way to admire them properly. Vienna is also known for its abundance of palaces, and the one I would recommend is the Belvedere. While not particularly large, it is the home of several world-famous paintings by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. His painting ‘The Kiss’ is one of the few famous paintings which doesn’t disappoint when seen in real life.

I find the way of life and the way people behave here very similar to the UK, no one talks to each other on public transport and people like to moan about everything! Coming abroad to study though makes you realise quite how much students in the UK are pampered. I had to find my own modules, apply for them individually, check that none of them clashed and construct my own timetable accordingly. Within the next few weeks I will have to register for my own exams too, because you have to do everything for yourself here.

How expensive is it to live there? Food is expensive here, mainly because everything is organic and free-range. However, entertainment and culture is on offer very cheaply if you know where to look. Opera, theatre and ballet performances all offer cheap standing tickets on the evening of the performance and unsold tickets are often offered at a reduced price to students, so you could pay €12 instead of €80!

What is your best piece of advice? Most things are closed Sundays.. All supermarkets, banks, university facilities and chain shops are closed on Sundays, which means planning ahead is essential for food shopping. Sunday closure is less of an issue for tourist attractions, but it’s still a good idea to check.

What study abroad options are available? University or work placement as an English language teaching assistant for the British Council



Study Abroad Issue

To Study or Not To Study? WORDS BY DAVID WILLIAMS IMAGE BY MICHALIS RODOSTHENOUS It’s the age-old decision that has to be made before your year abroad: whether to spend it at university or in a work or teaching placement. Having been myself at a university in Brazil last year, I’m going to present both the pros and cons of a study placement. Starting off on a positive note, there are many advantages to choosing to go to university! Firstly, I think it’s much easier to make friends abroad being at uni, especially friends of around the same age. In Europe the Erasmus network can help with this, and although ESN doesn’t exist in other continents there is usually still a large group of international exchange students as well of course the local students. Furthermore, going to a university as opposed to working will almost certainly mean you’ll have a lot more free time to travel, go out, and just generally make the most of your year living in a new country. I personally only had six hours of class per week in Brazil and I wouldn’t have done nearly as much travelling or exploring if I had chosen to do a work placement. It was good to have a more relaxed year with less pressure on it before coming back for final year, while at the same time experiencing an extra year of university/student life.

If you go to university abroad, you need to be prepared to make an extra effort to speak the language you study, be that getting to know local students more or by insisting on speaking the language of the country you’re in with your Erasmus friends. The other international students are great to have around to socialise and travel with given that you’re all in the same boat, but they can sometimes be a hindrance when you’re ultimately on a year abroad to improve the languages you study and become more integrated into the culture of your chosen country. Erasmus can, at times, become a bit of a goldfish bowl with not much contact with the ‘real’ life of the place you’re in. Also, for some people the thought of another year of having to write assignments and revise for exams, but this time in a foreign language, would put them off. All in all, I am glad I chose to study on my year abroad as it suited what I personally wanted to get out of the year and allowed me to make the most of this amazing opportunity. However, everyone is different and you should research the three options available to you carefully (study, work, or teach) and choose the option that is best suited to you.

Studying abroad does also have its cons. For language students, it can sometimes be hard to practice the language you’re actually meant to be speaking there due to the large community of international students for whom the common language is usually English. It can be very easy to slip into speaking English a lot of the time.



Study Abroad Issue



robably one of the most difficult decisions you are faced with before you leave for your year abroad is whether or not to study, or undergo a work placement. Both have their pros and cons but for me, choosing a work placement was a no brainer. Working abroad can be daunting – as well as having to throw yourself into an entirely new environment and lifestyle you also have to navigate a different culture, and more often than not this all needs to be done in a language that is not your own. In my case, I was lucky: working as an English Language Assistant meant that the vast majority of my work was completed in English which was at the very least, one less thing to worry about. Despite this, interacting with colleagues can be tricky at first, particularly in the first few days when you are maybe still really scrabbling for your language skills. This, coupled with the crippling pressure to make a good first impression, has the potential to render your first few days at work slightly more stressful than you might think. There will be lots of unintelligible paperwork, many incomprehensible administration meetings, and some awkward run-ins with unknown colleagues but you will eventually feel like you have worked there all your life. Promise. There are many advantages to working abroad. On a simply practical level, you are paid for your efforts, which for students who are used to living of a meagre student loan can be a fantastic opportunity to save some pennies. Earning a wage also means you have the funds to really explore the country or region you are in, and to really embrace the culture. It is a lot easier to travel around and socialise when you are not having to clutch at purse strings after all.

necessarily be working with colleagues of your own age group, there are always opportunities to socialise outside of work. And if language learning is your main concern, undergoing a work placement really is the best way to fully immerse yourself in the target language, something that can be a struggle if you opt for university study. There are of course some cons involved in working abroad, the main one being that you are well and truly thrown out of your comfort zone. I, for example, was given twelve hours of teaching English a week, unsupervised and with zero training. Talk about a learning curve! However scary it might sound, these experiences can do wonders for your confidence and really teach you things about yourself that may not have been so apparent before. Equally, a social life can be a lot harder to come by outside of the ready-made university environment. It is evidently a lot harder to find people your own age and even to find places to socialise. There are of course ways to combat this; join groups, take up a hobby or keep in touch with that one acquaintance from home who is posted at the nearest university‌ But this does all require much more effort than you might be used to. All in all, work placements can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. For many, it is the first time you are truly tested and thrown well in the deep end in terms of your responsibilities. You can fully insert yourself into the foreign culture and use your recurring payslip to make the most of your time abroad. While yes, you may have to say goodbye to uni life for nine months or so, there are many ways to ensure your social life can keep up with your busy working schedule. Working abroad gives you the freedom to really appreciate your culture, and your language skills will really thank you for it.

On top of earning money, work placements really let you interact with the local people. While it is true that you may not STUDY ABROAD ISSUE


Study Abroad Issue

HOW TO FLY LIKE A BOSS Flights can often be really daunting. Some people have a phobia of heights, some people hate the endlessness of it all and others just can’t deal with the airplane food. But if you want to travel, then flying is just an unavoidable factor; but the good news is it’s 100% worth the effort. Here’s some important tips to remember that can make your flight all the more easier and perhaps even cheaper – because who doesn’t love a bargain?



For some unknown but great reason Manchester and Bristol airport tend to offer the cheapest flights abroad outside of the London options. So if you aren’t close by to the big capital city or just don’t want the drama of trying to drive or commute into the capital’s madness, then these cities are more often than not your best bet. It’s definitely worth a price and effort comparison check before booking anything at Heathrow or Luton.


Turn up at the airport three hours before if it is international, and two hours if your destination is in Europe. Now I know three hours seems excessive but just trust me; don’t be that person who turns up late and expects everything to be fine. All sorts of unexpected things can happen at an airport, and the queues are always so unpredictable. So when you’ve paid a large amount to get on that specific flight


and all your plans for that week count on you making it there that day then just don’t risk it. Turn up three hours early, get yourself through all the security checks, then have a nice, relaxed cuppa in one of the endless dining options in airports; you are truly spoilt for choice.



Buy water for your flight and do it after you get through the hand luggage checks. It’s essential to have water on any flight and so worth paying the extortionate airport prices for this life necessity. The air on-board a plane is so filtered and artificial that it completely dries your mouth out within half an hour, so if you are on a long haul flight there’s really nothing more important than keeping some water to hand.


On that note, bring a packet of mints or sweets that you can suck on during the flight to pop your ears, and stop


Study Abroad Issue

WORDS BY FREYA MILLARD IMAGE BY DANIELLE REDSTALL them from feeling funny when you are up in the sky. Everyone knows how uncomfortable it is when this happens.


If it’s a long haul flight you should definitely get up and walk around whenever possible, this is recommended for medical purposes to prevent DVT – which means blood clotting. Another way to help prevented this is by buying a pair of flight socks, which are very cheap on Amazon. No matter what kind of flight you are on you should be moving your legs and toes frequently to keep the blood flowing and stop your body getting restless.


One of the best tips I’ve ever been given is to eat and sleep in time with your new time zone as to avoid jet lag. Instead of all those ineffective jet lag preventing ‘folk tales’ and ‘remedies’ this is actually a really effective way of solving the problem. By adjusting your body clock with food and sleep a day before and during your flight you’ll find the transition so much smoother. Once that hard part is done then really the only thing left to adjust to the new time zone is your mindset when you get there.



all the research yourself. If you want to really get to know how to get the cheapest possible price then sign up to have the price notifications for that certain flight emailed to you regularly; this way you can monitor the patterns of price changes and time it perfectly to get the best deal.


If you don’t mind stopping to change once or twice during your trip then that can dramatically lower the price compared to a direct flight which although is more tiring it could be quite worth the extra hours of travelling to save your pennies for better things. Although, the risk of you losing your baggage when you have flight changes increases dramatically, so proceed at your own peril!



Make the most of your on-flight TV if you are lucky to get one and especially all the latest films you have been dying to watch. Being entertained makes your flights so much more bearable, and you’re less focused on counting the minutes which we all know makes them go even slower. Bring your headphones, a book, crosswords and whatever else will keep you content for those many hours you have to kill. The last thing you want is to sit there twiddling your thumbs.

Skyscanner and other flight comparison websites should always be your first point of call. They will show you exactly who offers the best deal without you having to do



Study Abroad Issue

Don’t Forget...Essential Advice for Your Year Abroad Arrival WORDS BY CAMERON RIDGWAY IMAGE BY ROBERT LEWIS

Arriving in a new country for the first time during your year abroad can be an incredibly daunting experience. Alongside all the forms you have to fill in and plans you had to make even before leaving the UK you then have to deal with another country’s systems and regulations. All in all the progress can seem overly complex, but here’s some advice on how to make your arrival process as smooth and stress-free as it can possibly be.


Check and double check your entry requirements.

Even in free travel areas, such as Europe, there are often additional processes you have to complete. For example, when arriving in Spain you will have to obtain an NIE number and register with the local authority upon arrival. Whereas in Chile you have to register your visa and address with the Policía de Investigaciones – the best thing to do is check online and clarify everything with the relevant embassy at least a month before you leave Britain.


Bring copies of literally everything!

You never know when you might need another copy of your passport, boarding pass, confirmation of enrollment or any other documents. Its a good idea to buy a large folder and take at least five copies of everything with you. Especially since getting anything sent over that you leave behind can potentially be quite difficult.


Get some currency changed before you arrive at your destination.

While you can get foreign money from the airport or at a bureau de change before you arrive, the best rates can be found online. Websites such as the International Currency Exchange will offer a much better exchange rate and will deliver to your door within 24 hours. This removes so much of the stress that can be accompany getting a different currency. Before leaving, check the charges imposed by your bank for withdrawing currency while abroad. Although you will always be charged for the conversion, this is sometimes a lot easier and in some cases cheaper than opening an account in a bank native to your own country. Plus the VISA exchange rates used when withdrawing from an ATM are often comparable to or better than those offered 14

by currency exchanges. Lastly check any ATM you use carefully since some banks will charge all ATM users for the privilege of withdrawing cash – online travel forums are a good way to find out which foreign banks do and don’t apply additional charges.


Get a new SIM card.

Using a SIM native to the country in which you will be living in can greatly reduce the costs of calls and texts and avoids charges implemented by some networks for using your phone abroad. Pay particular attention to this if you are going outside of the European Union, as only a few of the deals which let you use your allowances outside of the UK will function further afield. As I found out the hard way, some Pay as You Go SIMs cannot actually function in certain countries. Using a foreign SIM is also pretty much the only way to get cheap 3G or 4G internet on your phone. Never fear though, WiFi hotspots are easily accessible in most large cities across Europe and America.


Be wary of scams.

It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but you are far more susceptible to being defrauded when abroad in a new country for the first time. In Chile, for example, fake taxi services overcharging and people posing as students to ask for money as donations are commonplace, especially in the capital Santiago. Reading up on the risks of your chosen destination and speaking to people who have been there before is definitely a good way to be aware of the risks. Not that this should detract from the adventure of a new country, but it’s always best to be smart and prepared!


Study Abroad Issue



Study Abroad Issue



For many people, going to university for the first time is terrifying. Even more frightening is the prospect of heading to a university in another country for a year alone, having to adjust to the new culture and dynamics whilst also trying to study. It is undoubtedly a challenge to get used to these new surroundings and homesickness can hit like a train. So how do you handle this horrible feeling of being homesick? Some go with the hard-hearted approach of ‘you’ll get used to it’ whilst others suggest constant phone calls home. These are generally unhelpful so if you want some other suggestions which might help, then have a read of my top tips:

Tip 1: Don’t call home every night I know this may seem like a good idea. You’re feeling lonely and just want some support from your family and friends so what harm comes from calling home daily? Whilst it is definitely good to keep in touch with people at home to let them know how you’re doing, you don’t want to get used to only being able to cope because you call home. When you eventually settle in and gain confidence and independence you don’t want to be in the habit of only being able to sleep at night having phoned home. It sounds silly to avoid calling home too much but it really can be detrimental if you get used to it.

Tip 2: Don’t stay at home all the time The feeling of being homesick sometimes forces people to hide in themselves and curl up alone. For me, this always used to be at night when I would start to over think things. To combat this, however, you should really try to keep busy! The logic behinds this comes from giving your mind so much to focus on that it doesn’t have time to worry about missing home and instead you fall asleep from the good kind of tiredness. This also means you get to explore more of the city you’re studying and meet new people, which are two very positive factors.

Tip 3: Find your happy place If you start to feel the homesickness creeping up on you, try to relax. Meditating, bathing, reading or even watching Netflix are all ways to relax and distract yourself and put your mind into a tranquil state. These are also great tips if you’re having difficulty sleeping. I find meditating with the help of free apps including Headspace leaves me so relaxed that I can effortlessly drift into sleep. For those of you who get homesick at night, which is very common, this can be a godsend. A hot water bottle and some comfort food (maybe a bit of popcorn) can also make you feel a bit better, even just psychologically. Some say lavender is supposed to help you relax and you can buy lavender bags that can be heated in the microwave which might be an idea if you like the smell.

The opportunity to study abroad is incredible and being homesick is a frustrating potential side effect. Once you settle into your new environment and make some friends it’ll quickly disappear, but hopefully some of these tips can help you to cope until then! 16


Study Abroad Issue


Budgeting in Switzerland, is that even possible? It is true Switzerland has been ranked one of the most expensive places to live in Europe, and with the plummeting pound you would think being a student in Switzerland would resemble something from the Hunger Games. But do not despair, I have a few handy tips and tricks that will ensure you make the most out of this beautiful country without breaking the bank. A top priority amongst students is always food, after rent it’s a big part of your budget, and luckily, it’s where real savings can be made. There are really two options for your weekly shop. Option one, you can join the mass exodus across the border in search of the nearest Carrefour, but with a round trip of nearly 2 hours from the main student cities of Zurich and Geneva this can seem excessive; and quite frankly, just far too much hassle. The second option is to scout out your nearest Lidl. You will quickly learn that Lidl is your saving grace with your weekly shop coming in at around £30 in comparison to upwards of £60 in even the lower-end Swiss stores such as Migros, it is surely a short bus ride worth taking. Next there is the question of how to participate in that familiar student pastime of drinking on a budget. Most student towns will have a student friendly area, for Geneva it is Rue de l’Ecole de Médecine, where you can grab a casual drink with your friends after your lectures. But after a while you’ll be in search of something new, so you have to get creative. First step is to join all local event groups on Facebook; in Geneva, pop up nights are a familiar sight with cheap drinks and great music – they always make for an exciting and alternative night out. Next get involved with your local ESN group, often they will put on nights for exchange students, usually securing STUDY ABROAD ISSUE

preferential rates in bars. Not only are these great cheap nights out but it also gives you the opportunity to keep up your other languages. Travelling is a huge part of your year abroad and it is important you make the most of your new home, but in Switzerland this can come at a cost. While trains routes in Switzerland are considered to be some of the most picturesque in Europe they are also notoriously expensive, however you can get around this with a single country Interrail pass if you are planning a longer trip. Car rental is also a viable option if travelling in a group and gives you the freedom to reach those far-flung fairytale-like places plastered across your Facebook feed. And if all else fails remember, Geneva is one of the commuting hubs of the world, and for less than £60 return, Easyjet puts lots of European destinations within your reach. Of course Switzerland is never going to be the cheapest year abroad option, but with some budgeting a year abroad can easily be made affordable. While my views may be this is tinged with a hint of bias, I still feel more than confident in declaring that this will definitely be the best year of your life!


Study Abroad Issue

YOUR 7 STEP GUIDE TO PACKING YOUR LIFE IN A SUITCASE WORDS BY MACKENZIE BROWN IMAGE BY SELINA HAMILTON So your year abroad is approaching fast, if you aren’t worrying about packing now then you definitely will be in the future – and rightly so, the idea of packing your entire life into a suitcase is scary. Whether you’re a notorious over-packer or you’re simply just worried about not packing the right things – have no fear! While I haven’t studied abroad, I have packed up all of my belongings and moved to the other side of the world. So here’s my best tips and tricks to packing your entire life into a suitcase.

Worry about the essentials first.

Make sure the essentials are in order first. Without things like your passport and any visas you may need, you aren’t going anywhere. Pack any prescription medicine you take and make sure you have enough to last your entire time away. A really great idea is to pack a few spare outfits in your carry-on bag in case your luggage was misdirected and you’re stuck without it for a few days. On that note you should sure any important items are with you, and stay with you, for the duration of your time traveling.

Only pack as much as you can carry.

You’ve probably heard this many times before, but don’t roll your eyes, this is probably the best advice you’ll ever get. Sure, you could bring 3 suitcases with you for your time abroad, but I can guarantee it won’t be comfortable or even necessary. You must remember that arriving at an airport does not signify the end of your travels. Any sort of public transport, and really even just a walk around the airport, will be a huge hassle if you have multiple suitcases to lug around yourself!

Pack appropriate clothes.

Get familiar with the temperature of your destination and pack accordingly. Most people try to bring their entire wardrobe – but this is not in your best interest! Bring clothes that are easy to layer – so you’ll be prepared for all sorts of different climates. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to bring a particular item of clothing with you, then keep this in mind – if you haven’t worn it in the last year, it’s likely you won’t wear it during your time abroad either; no matter how much you love it. Save the space.


Don’t pack all of the basics.

You don’t need them. Keeping your luggage weight to a minimum is essential – not just because of the cost of checking luggage, but also because of the convenience. Things like shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant can easily be purchased once you get to your destination. This will save room for everything else you need to fit in!

Bring a few small reminders of home.

A few picture frames, printed photos, and your favorite room decoration will make wherever you’re staying much more comfortable. Making your new room feel more like home can be really important especially for those times when homesickness might strike! However, “a few” is the key here – don’t fill your suitcase with every sentimental thing you own, be practical.

Don’t pack a full suitcase.

As difficult as that may sound, leaving some extra space in your suitcase will work to your advantage in the long run since coming back home will be much, much easier. If you’re going away to study abroad, no matter how long, you’re bound to do some shopping – whether that’s for yourself, your family, or your friends. Save some space for souvenirs so you can bring a bit of your study abroad experience home with you.

Don’t panic if you forget something.

If you’ve forgotten something – do not panic! You’re likely to be able to buy whatever you need in your host country. And if worst comes to worst, you can always have whatever you need sent via the post from home. Whilst packing may be very important, it really won’t be the end of the world if you forget a thing or two, so don’t stress about it. STUDY ABROAD ISSUE

Study Abroad Issue

‘Hello... Are You an Exchange Student Too?’ Moving to a new country is a scary thought, made even more frightening with the prospect of making a whole new set of friends from scratch.The first four weeks of being in a new country is prime ‘friend making time’. Everyone you meet is in the same boat, and everyone is super social – think freshers but on a more international level. Although it can seem daunting having to throw yourself into the deep end, there are a few things to consider to make the process that bit easier. 1) Speak to anyone, everywhere

This sounds like an odd one, but friendships really can spring up from the most random of places. Waiting in a line at the bar, seeing someone looking as lost as you on campus or just hearing them speak the same language and approaching them are just some of the ways that friendships are born abroad.

I made one of my best friends in Barcelona after speaking to her in a queue at university, we bumped into each other in a club that evening, saw each other again the next day and a week later we were off on a skiing trip and the rest is history! I went to stay with her in Amsterdam in October (for free!!) and got an insiders tour of the city. So top tip: try and make as many international friends as possible – just think of all the potential (cheap) future holidays!


2) Don’t be afraid to make the first move

It can feel awkward and very uncomfortable to be the first to initiate conversation with a complete stranger, but trust me, 9/10 times the other person will be so grateful that you were the one brave enough to do it. Think of conversation starters that you can use in your opening line. Questions like ‘Do you know where the…. is?’ or asking ‘are you an exchange student too, where are you from?’ more often than not ignite a conversation. If it doesn’t go well, then really what’s the worst that can happen?

3) Go out and do things

Everyone feels homesickness at some point on their time abroad and that’s okay, but there’s nothing worse than sitting around and wallowing in it. As hard as it may be, force yourself to attend that Erasmus event, language tandem or even just go for drinks with your new flatmates – you need to try and be as social as possible, as the more people you meet the more chance you stand meeting people that you have an actual connection with.

4) Not everyone is going to be your best friend – and that’s okay too

You are going to meet so many new people whilst your away, and it’s okay to be picky with who you become friends with. Just because you meet someone on your first night, doesn’t mean that you’re obliged to carry on meeting with them if you don’t feel like there is the potential to form an actual friendship – invest your time and energy into meeting people that you feel have the potential to turn into a proper friendship.

So there we have it, a few tips that will hopefully ease the doubt surrounding the prospect of making a whole new set of friends – everyone is different and friendships form easily and naturally, so don’t try and force anything. Just go with the flow (as one of my best friends would say) and see where your year takes you!

Study Abroad Issue



Study Abroad Issue


Whenever I told anyone that I was doing my year abroad in Brazil they would get so excited. They would tell me how great it was going to be and how much I would love it, then sigh and say how jealous they were. I would laugh, nod and say ‘you’re welcome to come visit’, while feeling slightly sick and wondering if I should feel more excited. Everyone said it was going to be amazing, and everyone who came back from their year abroad said it was great, so why did I feel like I was going to be sick every time I thought about going?

The homesickness lasted at least a month, and I didn’t really know what to do, I had never felt like this before. I was lucky to have friends I could Skype who understood, and two girls from Southampton here with me who understood what I was going through. All I could think was how much this sucked, and that I wanted to be at home where I wouldn’t feel like this, but I knew that was impossible so I tried to do things that would make me feel better. Bit by bit I settled in, figured out my routine and now I sometimes even feel at home here.

Finally, I had to go; on my way to the airport I begged my parents to turn the car around, I so wasn’t ready to cross the Atlantic on my own, let alone start living in Brazil. I had only studied Portuguese for two years, and I didn’t know how I was going to cope with speaking it 24/7. Goodbyes were emotional, and I cried most of the first leg of my journey.

I have been able to do and see things that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t come to Brazil, I have visited some amazing places, and plan to visit many more. I’ve met people from all over, and got to experience Brazilian university, which is very different to university in the UK.

I finally arrived, and spent the first few days exploring the area with my new flatmate, and it was great seeing somewhere new and meeting new people, even though I was confused most of the time as to what they were actually saying! Eventually, maybe two weeks in, homesickness hit and all I wanted was to be back in Europe where I had friends and family and I knew how things worked.

I feel very lucky to have this opportunity, and it’s amazing, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy or that it’s the best year of my life. Maybe some people do have the best year of their lives from start to finish, but most people don’t. It’s very easy to enthuse over how amazing it will be if you’re not doing it yourself, or have already done it because you’ll be thinking of all the great times you had, but I would ignore the hype. It probably won’t be the best year of your life, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

Does Your Year Abroad Have To Be The best Year Of Your Life? STUDY ABROAD ISSUE


Study Abroad Issue


Last year I went on my year abroad to Germany, which many people would think is far enough for any long distance relationship. My boyfriend then ended up going to Australia for his. No one says relationships are easy, but is a relationship over 10,000 miles really possible?


eading up to my year abroad, I was excited and nervous. I was obviously going to miss Britain and all its comforts and familiarities, and of course the people. However, there was one person with whom this was going to be even trickier: my boyfriend, who ended up going to Melbourne, Australia for his year abroad last year at the same time as mine. This distance was evidently terrifying at first, as it put us almost 10,000 miles away from each other! However we then also had to consider a 10 hour time difference and a 32 hour flight to see each other. This would be enough to put most people off. However, as mad as we are, we managed to stay together through this. My boyfriend went on his year abroad at the end of October but I left for mine mid-August. This was nonetheless ideal, as Matty (my boyfriend) was able to visit me in Germany before 24

he headed out to Australia. Plus the one hour time difference made it easy for us to communicate then. The end of October came around though and the challenges of a huge long distance relationship were upon us. Initially the distance, and even more so, the time difference were very tricky. We were both only awake for around 7 hours of each other’s day, and with both having different schedules, as I was working in Germany and Matty was at university in Melbourne, we relied on catching each other at lunchtimes to catch up from day to day. The weekends were obviously easier for communicating but it wasn’t ideal. However we soon got into routines and found ways of keeping those flames alive! A few of the tips below are what really helped us too.


Study Abroad Issue


Make time to chat.

Matty and I didn’t always have much chance to chat because of time differences but we made the effort to do that when we could. This ranged from grabbing a few minutes to chat around lunchtime to being able to speak for hours at the weekend. However it was important to us to chat about what we were getting up to and be there to support each other when things weren’t always easy on the year abroad, even if this could be only be brief chats at times.

Make plans to see each other.

This was evidently a very tricky one for us. However with how timings worked out, Matty was able to visit me before he left, which was really nice. This also allowed him to see where I was and that all was well. However, then the big Australia happened. Despite the ridiculous flights times and being very expensive to fly there, I made the effort to go to Australia. Obviously this may not be financially viable for everyone but I saved up money from work on my year abroad and where I was living was very cheap. So through bits and bobs, I managed to afford to go. I know it meant a lot to Matty, as it did to me too. Plus it gave us both something concrete to look forward to and to know exactly when we were going to see and spend quality time with each other.

Little Treats.

Whether this was a sweet message to wake up to, or a postcard, little things like this really made a difference. Postcards were particularly nice, as they gave us an even closer sense of proximity to each other. When things were tricky or we were missing each other, this was particularly important and helped perk us up and keep us going. So the little things really can count.



I know this sounds simple. However communicating when you’re sad, lonely or confusing really helped. Not being able to have a hug after saying something meaningful was painful at times but being honest with each, and knowing that we were being that with each other, was important and made us stronger and more easily supportive of each other.

Enjoy your Year Abroad.

I know this may seem self-explanatory but it is not always easily taken advice. As much as I wanted to talk to Matty, I equally knew I needed to take every opportunity on my year abroad, rather than dwelling on the fact I was missing him and home. Getting out and exploring really helped and also always gave us plenty to talk about when we got around to chatting. Obviously exploring did get in the way of chatting sometimes but being active on our year abroads made sure we had no regrets from our year abroads, and we were then able to share all these different experiences with each other and support each other in seeking adventure! Evidently relationships are never easy and this phase for us certainly wasn’t. However we managed it through simply communicating and looking forward to various things. This year we are still braving the distance from Bangor (NorthWales coast) to Southampton. However we’re stronger after the year abroad – it taught us a lot in how we can be stronger together and that distance is possible if we make the effort to make it that way.


Study Abroad Issue

A GUIDE TO FINDING THE BEST TRAVEL INFORMATION WORDS BY PIPPA DAVIES IMAGE BY DANIELLE REDSTALL Before embarking on your study abroad adventure, it’s essential that you know as much information as possible about the country you will be living in. The best way to do that is by checking the Foreign Travel Advice section on www.gov.uk. Here you will find a specific guide for the country you’re going to, and all about the different cultural customs, appropriate dress codes, places to avoid, political events and any medical jabs you may need. This is all really important so make checking this your first priority!


When your destination is confirmed, you will want to book your flights as early as possible to get the best deals (especially if it’s a long haul flight!). Skyscanner is a great site for finding cheap flights. STA also have very good deals; but you won’t be able to access these directly through their website. So go into a shop and see what bargains you find.


Once you’ve done all this

admin and settled in, you’ll soon want to start planning your travels in order to make the most of the once in a lifetime opportunity whilst you’re living in an exciting new country. Planning beforehand is definitely necessary, especially because moving to another country, sometimes even to the other side of the world, probably means you won’t be able to fit lots of guide books in your suitcase. But not to worry, there are plenty of online sources to help you out, like lonely planet ebooks. I think it’s important not to make a guidebook your bible anyway, hostels usually have a good stock of resources. You can also have a look at the country’s official tourism website; it will have lots of useful information and ideas about where you can go. Worldtravelguide also has some good information about each country and travel magazine websites would be a great place to start.


even company blogs can be a great source of travel inspiration and advice; you should always be wary of the writer’s motive, not everything you read online is trustworthy. There will obviously be biased views if someone has been paid to endorse a company or activity. That’s why I found small personal blogs really useful in planning my travels, because there’s no ulterior motives so they will usually be very genuine in writing about their favourite experiences and recommendations. Equally important of course are the things they wouldn’t recommend doing!


Although o n l i n e inspiration is great, don’t underestimate learning from people who are travelling themselves! The best advice I got was definitely from fellow travellers who had already been to the places I was planning on going to. They can recommend hostels, essential places to visit, places worth avoiding, transport options and the best tours. Don’t worry about asking people lots of questions or approaching them. The best thing about being a traveller is you are all in the same boat and there’s nothing you love talking about more than places to go and things to do. No one ever gets bored of sharing their travel stories, that’s a fact! Make sure you also ask local people but bear in mind they will have a different view of the local tourist spots than tourists like yourself would.

Once you’ve found some ideas, I’d recommend reading about people’s personal experiences in the country. Personal and

Most importantly, make the most of the opportunities you have to travel. And remember some of the best spots are the least touristy so don’t get too caught up in always following the typical tourist trails. Some of the best travel experiences you’ll ever have come from the most spontaneous of moments. 26


Study Abroad Issue



To use one of the age-old clichés of the Year Abroad preparation handbook, everyone’s experience is different. Of course it is: you’re shipped off to a far-away land (with much less admin help than you would have liked, but hey, it’s all part of the process, right?) and told to get on with things. The various requirements of your degree will mean that you probably won’t be having the same number of teaching time as other people you know. I’ve somehow managed to end up with only 7 hours of lectures a week, with 4 of those being French lessons with other Erasmus students, so my actual contact with French people of my own age is a little limited. As you’ll have been told from primary school, however, activities outside of class are a great idea. Leaving aside all of that CV stuff, it’s absolutely great for the Year Abroad as well. Given that the whole year is a fantastic opportunity to try new things and get to know new people, keeping yourself busy in your free time is the best way to settle in. Since the main aim of living in a different country is to help you improve on the language, finding an activity to do with local people is the best way to get to know the slang and practise your language skills. I’ve joined the local hockey team here in Rennes, and the amount of French that I’ve picked up from speaking to my teammates is way beyond what I’ve learned in my language classes at the university. Being the new guy has also meant that my team have been keen to show me what Britanny has to offer, so I’ve been subjected to some of France’s worst rap, but also its best cider. Like most places, the locals here are thrilled that you are trying to learn and speak their language, so me making mistakes in French isn’t an issue. They’re sympathetic and they’ll help me out with vocab and grammar, and it’s always a very friendly atmosphere. I know plenty of other Erasmus students who say the same thing. By joining the local hockey team I’ve very much stuck


to what I know, but I’ve found that the reassurance of doing something that I was familiar with helped me to settle in. Other Erasmus students have gone a little more out of their comfort zone, and they’re having a great time. My friend Myles told me that the best idea is to do ‘something that you’ve never done before’. From kayaking to joining the local choir, I’ve met students here who’ve really made the most of their new environment. ‘You really have a lot of free time as an Erasmus student’, Vera told me, ‘Extracurricular activities are necessary if you don’t want to be bored’. The university’s kayaking club has meant that Vera has been able to visit parts of Brittany that she wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. It doesn’t matter what you do, but make sure you get out of the house. Whichever activities you do; sport-based or otherwise, make sure you chat to people in the local language, even if they’re English. Whilst I’m forced to speak French to the guys from my hockey club, I’m making a real effort to practice French with my Erasmus friends as well. It removes the embarrassment of making mistakes and allows you to have a moan about how bloody annoying French verlan and the subjunctive are. As well as taking part in organised activities, exploring your city and getting involved with things you see is a great way to make friends. Myles arrived in Rennes before most other students, so had plenty of time to wander around: ‘Sometimes you stumble across something as random as a re-enactment of an ancient fable in the park, and if you’re a little bit brave and wander over, you’ll have surely made a few friends within minutes.’


Study Abroad Issue

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES ON A YEAR ABROAD WORDS BY JOANNA HYNDS IMAGE BY BETHANY WESTALL One of the most rewarding and challenging experiences on a year abroad is dealing with cultural differences. Whether you’re comparing the UK to France or China to the UK, just about everywhere in the world will offer a distinctive cultural difference.

normal life, from my time in China I gained a newfound love and respect for my family through this Asian perspective on prioritising quality time together. Friendships and relationships seemed much more genuine, and looking after your elders is considered a moral responsibility.

It is very normal to deal with culture shock, this goes beyond just the language barrier; it can also extend to the difference in what is defined as ‘normal’ everyday life and values to which each country adheres. On my year abroad I went to Hong Kong, so from touchdown there was a change in language, climate, landscape and culture – all in all, everything was completely different, meaning the cultural shock was hard to escape from.

Most importantly, I learned that instead of being so individually driven, Asian culture valued collectivism. In addition, I experienced a culture influenced by religion, which is why it was no surprise to me that I found so much peace in this chaotic city when Buddhism is its leading religion.

Living standards were low, spoken English was limited, and an Asian way of life was far from anything else I had ever experienced. Everything went at a much slower pace of life; including the pace of walking. There was also incredibly strange foods, and the local eating habits were (in regard to my British mentality) “impolite”, because they were distracting and noisy. On the other hand I was unable to use chopsticks and therefore to the Chinese that was considered “impolite”. I soon realized how important it was and so I learnt how to eat with chopsticks. Some of the other culture changes I quickly learned about were that if you went to a traditional restaurant, then sitting with strangers to fill a table was totally normal. Also, sharing food with friends is essential, and having noodles for breakfast or for a midnight snack was just good logic. Although my example here is distinctly Asian, food culture is especially dynamic across the entire world; in Western Europe dinner is later and a lot more family orientated than in Britain. Culture changes can make such a massive impact on your STUDY ABROAD ISSUE

A state religion has precedence on national holidays, so in the West we celebrate Christmas and Easter, but whilst in China, celebrations for either holiday massively diminished which took some adjusting to. Instead of celebrating my usual New Years, I instead got to celebrate a Chinese New Year a month later; along with a host of distinctive Chinese holidays. This was an incredible experience and a massive change but that’s to be expected when living anywhere else in the world. Change isn’t a bad thing, living abroad gives you the chance to celebrate and embrace the country’s identity through its national holidays and values. Ultimately, different cultures force you out of your comfort zone. This can be both enchanting and terrifying at the beginning, but if you’re willing to embrace the differences, the good and the bad, you will learn so much more about people, place, culture, the world and yourself. I started my year abroad as an English speaker from a small town, who had never experienced culture outside of Europe, and had very few international friends and little knowledge. When I returned, I had (limited) language skills, an international friend group with places to crash around the world, chopstick skills on point, a new culture understanding, a wider perspective and a longing to return and learn more. 29

Study Abroad Issue


You receive your offer to study abroad in the country that you’ve always been in love with, and already you’re excited about the experience. In your mind, you have an image of an inspiring course, friendly and helpful people and delicious food. When you arrive, the reality may be different than your expectations and you feel overwhelmed and out of depth. Below are a few things to consider to help create the most memorable exchange. Ingredients: 3 tablespoons of practicality Be practical and keep your expectation to the minimum level. Why? Because life never goes the way you want and it is always full of unexpected surprises. The higher the expectations you have, the less happy you are. Sometimes you will encounter difficulties, such as annoying flat mates, tough modules, and unexpectedly high living costs and they can seem worse than they are when you’re alone in a new country with no family or friends and it can seem like your new found excitement is overtaken with stress and fatigue. Remind yourself that anything can happen and hard times can arise out of the blue at any time, you will be well prepared for when anything happens. 1 cup of openness Keeping an open mind and a respectful and eager-to-learn attitude will enable you to explore many interesting things about the local culture and people around you. It can even give you a chance to be transformed into the best version of yourself. Seeing things at a different angle, you will find that difficulties are actually precious opportunities for you to learn the ways to solve them and to develop necessary soft skills. And this exchange study becomes the best chance so that you could learn to stay firmly on your own feet, manage your life well, and become truly independent and mature. 1lb of sharing Now, even when you are practical and embrace challenges, you are still likely to experience difficult moments. Nostalgia, loneliness, and stress can really drive you off to deep end. Thus, there is no point in keeping all the negative feelings inside and let them drown you. Talking to your parents and siblings or chatting with your friends definitely will lift your spirit up. It is important to get it out of your system. You may also want to keep a list of emergency contacts of your exchange university to use them when necessary. And, remember you always can seek necessary support from your personal tutor and exchange officers; they are here for you! 2 ¾ spoonful of sociability Another suggestion to conquer hard feelings is to keep yourself busy. Participation in some students’ societies and other extracurricular activities recharges your energy. You meet new people, widen your friendship circle, and engage in the activities you’ve never done before. Who knows, you can find someone that shares the common interests, experiences similar difficult situations to yours, and is willing to listen to your stories and express his/her compassion. Also, social activities are excellent opportunities for you to pursue your hobbies and explore your undiscovered talents.



Study Abroad Issue


I have wanted to study abroad for a year since I first starting thinking about university, as I knew that I wanted more from my university experience than just a degree. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities available and challenge myself in new ways, and studying abroad seemed like the perfect way to do this. There is no greater way to develop independence and self sufficiency than to remove yourself from what is safe and move across the world to a country that might have a different language or culture. There you have to be responsible for yourself. It is a brilliant way to grow and develop as an individual and will hopefully bring you one step closer to becoming this allusive thing we call ‘adult’. People often question studying abroad, especially when you go for a year. They wonder if you wouldn’t be better playing it safe and graduating with your class, after all there is always time to travel later. Some even suggest you’re clinging to student life, avoiding responsibility for as long as you can, and in some respects they might be right, but in many more ways they are wrong. When I leave university I want to be the best version of myself I can be – I want to be prepared, hard working and ready for a challenge. That’s part of the reason we go to university, to become responsible, independent people who can offer something to society and the workforce once we get out, but how are we supposed to become these people if we are always playing it safe? Taking risks and dealing with the outcome, whatever that might be, is part of becoming an adult. If we never went out of our comfort zone, never did anything bold, then we 32

would never grow as a person. Another issue with putting off travelling is that as students we are in a unique position, as we will never be this free from responsibility again.The older we get the more we will find ourselves weighed down by work commitments, relationships and children, making it harder and harder to find that space to do the travelling we put off when we were younger. While I have been excitedly waiting to start organising my year abroad I now find myself facing my fears, as well as hopes. For while everything I have said above is true, the fact is it is still a big commitment and needs to be thought over carefully. At this stage the paperwork seems daunting, the idea of not getting my first choice exchange partner is concerning and the idea of being away from my family and friends for so long is unimaginable. However I have found going to the talks organised by the university incredibly helpful, as I have met people who share the same concerns. Another thing which I find helpful is research, as the more I look into the different options available to me the more prepared I feel. While there are things which I am concerned about I am mostly excited for the experience. The idea of living abroad for a whole year is exhilarating and I am very excited to explore the culture of the country I live in, as well as travelling around and exploring with fellow exchange students. Mostly I am excited to see how it changes me as an individual, and how I will have developed by the time I come home.


Study Abroad Issue

in•sur•ance | noun | in-shoo-rance |

1. the boring bit that’s super important and will stop your parents nagging

WORDS BY TALLULAH LYONS IMAGE BY SADIRA PATRICK I remember having a conversation with my dad about a month before flying out to Barcelona. He was double checking that I had sorted out comprehensive travel insurance, and I, bored with the masses of paperwork that needed to be completed in preparation for a semester abroad, replied with “I’m sure I won’t need it, but yes I will sort it out today.” Fast forward to March 20th, and I found myself in hospital, after surviving what the Spanish authorities called ‘the worst coach crash Spain has experienced in 30 years.’ Lying in bed with a broken back, sternum and neck, in a hospital somewhere between Valencia and Barcelona, I felt incredibly grateful that my dad reminded me to sort out my insurance documents, so here’s me passing on the favor. It goes without saying that insurance is a must for any planned trip abroad, whether that’s a couple of months travelling, a semester or a year abroad. University of Southampton offer free travel insurance for everyone taking semesters/years abroad throughout their course and the policy covers pretty much everything from legal costs to medical costs so there is absolutely no reason for you not to take full advantage of this. Once you’ve sorted your insurance out, it’s not good enough to just have a digital copy floating around somewhere on your computer. PRINT OFF AT LEAST 3 COPIES! Leave one in a safe place at home, alongside all your other copies of important STUDY ABROAD ISSUE

documentation and take the original plus a copy with you, and store separately in different folders. Therefore, if something goes wrong and you can’t be contacted (because your phone is trapped in an overturned coach for example) then your parents have all the important numbers that can be phoned in an emergency. This level of organisation allowed my parents to ring the insurance company without my involvement and set up a claim immediately. The insurance paid for my mum’s flight out to Spain the day after the accident, as well as my repatriation back to England amongst a whole heap of other costs. The main point I’m trying to make here, is that accidents can happen at any time, and to anyone. So although you may not think that you will ever need insurance, it is 100% better to be safe than sorry, believe me. So next time your parents want to go through all your documents and check that you have everything sorted, as dull as it may be, resist the temptation to roll your eyes and pretend that you haven’t heard them. Instead, triple check that your insurance policy covers the entire period that you’re planning on being away, and make sure that you have at least two copies of all the documents to take with you, and that there is a one copy left somewhere safe in England that can be easily accessible if you ever need it.


Study Abroad Issue


After a year abroad, adjusting to life back on As soon as you step off that plane and embark on a daunting year, the first few frantic months are spent overcoming fears and stepping outside comfort zones. Everything from the change in climate, time zone, culture, social norms, what clothes to wear, where to buy groceries, how to take a taxi as well as settling into a new job, all require you to communicate in a foreign language – exhausting, both physically and mentally! Language is one of the most frustrating hurdles to get over. Making friends, getting your visa, setting up a bank account… language is the key to settling into life and, although it may take many failed attempts, eventually you will find your feet and voice. Sooner rather than later, you have built yourself a new life and become stronger as a person. You have integrated into your new surroundings, feeling accepted into a previously alien community and culture, so much so, in fact, that you now call this your home. You may even have started to thrive in the seemingly endless possibilities and beautiful opportunities that surround you. Travelling, snorkelling, trying new foods, organising and partaking in community events, exploring subcultures, perhaps caring less about your mobile phone or even trusting somebody enough to begin a romantic relationship. Sooner rather than later, however, it is time for you to leave. 34

Some may be so brave they decide to remain in their new home. (Un)fortunately, for the rest of us, the importance of and necessity to finish our degree has been hammered into our heads from a very early age, morally obliging the return to the home country. For many, the year abroad has always been nothing more than part of their degree: a requirement of the course. Briefly dipping their toe into a different way of life but always conscious of the fact that this isn’t forever – sooner rather than later, it will be over. Many anticipate their return with great enthusiasm, excited to see their loved ones, drive their car, wear their favourite jacket, get their hair done, have a Nando’s or return to their beloved student nightclub! However, there are also many of us who anticipate our return with utter heartbreak. Of course, we have missed and longed for similar home comforts and, above all, to hold our loved ones. There comes a magical moment, however, where we have a life-changing experience. The sudden discovery of something, someone, somewhere that grabs you. You embark on a journey within: a process of change. Conscious of this or not, with every difficult moment you face, your individuality, your knowledge and your heart opens and grows and strengthens. Sooner rather than later, you’re back on that plane. Stepping off, back onto home soil, you are hit with similar sensations STUDY ABROAD ISSUE

Study Abroad Issue

n home soil can often be hugely challenging. experienced at the beginning of this journey and you feel overwhelmingly nervous. Indeed, you feel anxious because this is no longer what you consider to be your home. The soil feels different and so does the person stepping onto it. You return a different person to the one that first stepped onto the plane – a phrase that will scream cliché to many. But for those who relate to such an experience, there is nothing but truth in this statement. A lost soul. The unfavourable sense of normality that you must try and adapt yourself (back!?) into. You’ve gone from constant immersion of culture, solving complex situations and dealing with language barriers to suddenly being back in an all too familiar place. A place of mundanity and routine that just doesn’t connect with you anymore. The feeling of place within this space has deserted you. Sooner rather than later, you return to university. You may have had a year without studying, therefore the expectation of spending your time behind a computer, reading as much as possible, consciously attempting to unconsciously soak up as much knowledge as possible- is not what your mind, body nor soul are used to. Nor is it what the mature you desires. Simply, you have outgrown your surroundings.

surroundings. It may become the toughest year that you must cope with, yet coping with it is the solution. Be realistic. As hard as it may be, enjoy the company around you. Build relationships, go to lectures, eat healthily, start a new sport. Become an ambassador to your beloved home. Don’t hold unrealistic expectations, especially with those relationships you develop abroad. Life is an endless journey, where the mind must adapt. It is not healthy to hold one person to account for the health of your heart. Love changes with time. Only a short space of time and a flight ticket awaits until you can let the travel bug be free, once again. Consider: Home Sooner rather than later, you will go through another process of change. Bear in mind that it could begin now. Home is an ambiguous concept; it is not concrete. Much like the soil you step on, home moves and changes shape. It moulds itself around you. You are always the central force in how home is defined. Expect the unexpected and live for the travel.

The question now is how do you move forward with such lament. Firstly, that plane isn’t returning until you alight! So, you must walk down the steps and embrace your new STUDY ABROAD ISSUE


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