Each year, we ask students at the end of their year abroad if they could give a prospective study abroad student just one piece of advice, what would it be?
These are some of their answers:
Try to be open to any opportunities to travel that come your way, regardless of whether that is with friends, solo, or other people from your hall that you may not know quite as well. In each of these cases I had some of my best experiences and made many friends along the way.
[Before you go] get in contact with someone who has spent time [in the city] . . . and [don't] be afraid to ask questions. I had no idea about how to withdraw money, or what foods were cheap or expensive before arriving . .. I could have worked all of these things out had I had an in depth talk with a Warwick student or anyone else who had been in the city.
Research the university not just the country!
Doing a year abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity! Take every opportunity, travel, make loads of friends, and take a lot of photos.
Enjoy it. I wouldn't worry about the first few weeks . . . I stuck it out and looking back it's one of the best things I have ever done. Take everything in, grasp an opportunity. There will be times you miss home or feel overwhelmed but that's waht a year abroad is all about.
Don't be scared to go off and do things on your own, becoming independent and making your own decisions based on where you want to go or what you want to do is one of the best realisations.
Definitely try and get a job in the first few weeks! Save this money for travelling during semester break and after study finishes in June. I regret not getting a job more than anything because now I am struggling with finances and it is impeding my travelling.
Make every effort to experience everything and surround yourself with new people from different cultures and backgrounds. Try not to take everything too seriously (as we Warwick students tend to do) and just enjoy yourself! Finally, travel, travel, and then travel more!
Do not be worried about feeling homesick, it is completely natural.
Take every opportunity that is given to you. Especially if you are trying to learn a new language, talk to as many people as possible and try to integrate yourself in an environment in which the language is spoken because even though it will be hard at first, it will make your life easier in the long run and allow you to get as much as possible out of your time abroad.
Say "yes" to as many opportunities [as possible]. Things can go wrong, of course, but the more you take opportunities abrouad the more incredible and unusual experiences you have. It's a simple formula that encourages you to be positive, meet people, and seek out new places. Every time I said "yes" to doing something it usually brought new friends, new places, and new experiences, all of which have been immensely valuable. The risk is simply hiding in a shell, only attending lectures, and taking no chances or risks. I met plenty of peple who did this as exchange students and their time was vastly limited whilst abroad, making only a few friends and seeing very few places. It has nothing to do with a comfort zone; no one is in their comfort zone. Instead I believe by taking opportunities you create your own new comfort zone with new friends and new experiences.
Although the first month or so will be difficult, power on through it, go out and meet people and don't just do things with the other Brits. Immerse yourself in the local culture and try and live as a local, rather than as a British expat. In doing so, you'll gain the best possible understanding of the location that you're in.
It often takes time to settle in and feel at home in the host country. My first term wasn't always easy at times - often I missed home and didn't feel fully at ease. It takes time to build relationships with people and feel part of student life. But I would say that it is definitely worth sticking it out, because after giving it a little time, I felt fully integrated and had the best time!
Say yes to every opportunity! Whether it be going on a trip, applying for a position in a society/club, going to a social event - you might not get the chance again, so if you can, embrace every opportunity that is presented to you!
Do not worry about the things that you feel could go wrong, embrace the opportunities you are given and make friends who are from the place of study not just Warwick friends.
Do not let shyness and anxiety hold you back. Being on a year abroad feels like you are in a simulation, because it definitely is not as long as a year sounds. Do not shy away from making friends or grabbing experiences as you would back home - because you will regret it.
Go for it!
Get involved in absolutely everything. This year will give you probably more free time than you will ever have until you retire - this gives you no excuses not to try something new and learn something different. Come final year, you'll want to look back on your year abroad and think "Look at how much I did!" - the only way to achieve that is by getting involved.
My main piece of advice would be to save up as much as possible and learn to budget efficiently.
Fully embrace where you are going, throw yourself into the lifestyle and enjoy it because it flies by! Travel and explore where you are living as much as possible and don't worry about being homesick, it's surprisingly easy to stay in touch with family and friends whilst abroad. Don't let your doubts and worries get in the way of this amazing opportunity!
Meet as many people as possible. I think Canada was a great place to go for an introvert because everyone was so lovely and welcoming there, and everyone everywhere will talk to you. I made so many great friends, most of whom lived in Canada but also other British people who were on their years abroad.
Also, get Amazon Prime.
You will make the most out of the experience if you throw yourself into every opportunity that you are given.
Stop thinking about it and just do it
Be open-minded, be confident, be daring and be yourself! Even if you think you are already a confident person, living and studying abroad can be daunting and demanding, but that is absolutely the best thing about it! It’s also perfect preparation for life beyond the sheltered world of Warwick.
At the risk of sounding incredibly cliché, the best advice is, genuinely, just to embrace the challenge of a year abroad. Predictably, the small task of moving oneself from a comfortable and familiar surrounding to the complete unknown is daunting in itself. There is no feeling quite as scary and surreal as that moment when you first arrive in your new home abroad. But this is the beauty of doing a year abroad – new surroundings also mean the opportunity to make new friends, new places to explore, and so on. Studying abroad will entail plenty of these scary new experiences, but when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, that is when the magic truly happens (an incredibly cringeworthy statement, but it is completely true).
Say yes to everything! Throw yourself into every opportunity that is offered to you as this is the best way to keep busy (avoiding homesickness), make new friends and experience new cultures. The best experiences I had were opportunities which I was nervous about taking but the ‘say yes’ attitude saw me embrace the chances offered to me.
You have the ability to shape this year abroad into anything you want it to be, the world is literally your oyster. Carpe Diem.
Don’t stop exploring your city even near the end of your exchange - it’s great to find your favourite local spots but make the most of your free time to visit different tourist spots, coffee shops, galleries outside of your neighbourhood.
Do things at your own pace. Do not feel pressured to ‘make the most out of your experience/year abroad’.
Do proper research into the university and location where they want to go. Look at the modules and extracurricular on offer to see which you would like to do or something that’s out of your comfort zone because it will really make your year abroad enjoyable.
Just do it, if you have doubts just dive in because if I had listened to my nerves I would not have experienced this amazing year abroad opportunity.
Make sure your skills in the language you will be speaking are practised before you go, as the first few days and weeks can seem very overwhelming, especially when you are always speaking another language.
Try and make every day count. I know that it is easier than one might think to waste the year exploring the Netflix of your host country, don't let that be you!
If you choose to come home for Christmas break, bring some stuff home or do not take anything out with you, as trying to bring a year's worth of stuff is really difficult as you do not realise how much you acquire.
Definitely embrace your time abroad and do things that you would not normally do at home. Meeting new people and experiencing a new country is so worth your time and effort.
Carpe Diem. Be sure to spend every moment you can making sure your year abroad will be something you remember. You can spend all the time in the world lazing around or not doing anything when you are back home. Make sure you explore your destination and travel around extensively. And never be afraid to solo travel. You may meet people who will become lifelong friends!
If you can, work before you go out there so you already have some money saved up. That way you can travel a lot because it was more expensive than I thought it would be.
The most important thing is to keep an open mind. Try not to go into the year abroad with a pre-conceived idea of what it will be like, as the reality of a year abroad is often quite different. My year abroad surpassed my expectations massively, but looking back I know that I had no real idea about what it would be like before arriving in Germany.
Make friends with as many domestic students as you can; they'll often become friends for life.
Get involved and throw yourself into everything from the moment you get there - it took me a term to really integrate with "native" students. Once you do put the effort in you feel at home straight away.
Go with a completely open mind. Get involved in anything and everything you can; travel, bungee jump, dive, eat out with friends, party, study, and really make an effort to devle deep into the country you will call home for the next year. It is absolutely what you make of it, and going in with an open mind will make it the most rewarding year of your life.
Do as much research as you can before going to your chosen country. BUT, you have to go with an open mind and be ready for your assumptions and idea of what it will be like to be completely turned on its head. . . and remember that everyone on the exchange is probably just as scared as you and wants to have the same incredible year that you do. It's bascially Freshers all over again!
Be prepared for the low days, it can hit you anytime and there will be a moment when you feel weak and just want to go home. But don't do it, stick through it and go out and meet someone or see something amazing!
It's the time of your life. Make sure that you study and pass your classes, but do not worry about a lower mark than you'd get at Warwick. You will never be able to have a year like this again, so cherish being able to do as much as you can. I am so grateful for my year abroad. It's the best thing that I have ever done.
Throw yourself into life in a new country immediately. It's certainly uncomfortable but I think this is where growth happens. I don't think I joined enough societies early enough so by the time I had settled in it was almost time to go. Make the most of every minute, and focus on the extracurricular because this is where I learnt the most about myself.
Do your research on the "hidden" or difficult to predict costs of your time in America (e.g. admin fees on arrival, allowing extra money for textbooks, and so on).
Put yourself out there, make as many friends as possible and travel as much as you can.
Don't be scared of introducing yourself to new people! In my opinion the more people you meet, and the more friends you make, the more experiences you get to have whilst you're out there! It's great to leave my year abroad knowing that I now have friends from all over the world who I can keep in touch with and will eventually travel to meet again!
Get in contact with a student who went to the university you are planning to go to and quiz them for all the information they can give you!!
Embrace it! Do everything you can and make an effort to meet people from different countries not just England! And travel as much as you can after!
Make the most of it - say yes to things, have a good idea of where you want to travel before you go (and costs involved) because time will fly by when you arrive, you'll be so busy, having done some research before hand will save you time and let you book trips in advance. Don't be afraid of travelling solo!
Don't underestimate how difficult leaving everyone and everything you are familiar with at home is.
Don't stress about things if they aren't as efficiently managed as in England!
Join in with social activities as much as possible. Try not to isolate yourself in your room . . . Try to put yourself out there to make new friends, once you do that it is a
Make sure you have enough storage space on your phone and a good camera. Take pictures everywhere you go and say yes to every invite you get. Also take an extension cord!
Students who go into the year abroad with the inflated expectations of ‘this will be the best year of my life’ should be ready for a shock. Moving abroad is tough, especially if you don’t enjoy where you live. It took me a while to find comfort and start to enjoy myself.
Don’t forget that you will still have mundane days and be living your life at uni just as you would back home. This isn’t a bad thing and you do need time to relax and recharge and have some normality so take those days as a nice break, don’t put pressure on yourself to feel you have to be constantly living your best, most exciting life because you will be doing that anyway but you can’t constantly.
Save lots of money and don’t regret spending it!
Make sure you plan ahead, but don’t stick to the plan. Be flexible and understand that the experience will be different than you expect and that being too rigid or closed minded will prevent you from having the fullest experience.
Don’t expect it to be smooth sailing, facing challenges is an inevitable part of moving to another country, however you will learn so much and grow from the experience.
As well as making the most of all the opportunities you have around you, it’s also good to remember that you shouldn’t feel guilty, or as if you’re not appreciating the opportunity of being abroad, if you sometimes look for home comforts. It’s not wrong to speak your native language, or to do familiar activities like staying inside and watching a film. While it’s amazing to go out and experience new things, ... you’re living in the country for a year and have to feel comfortable. Sometimes, slowing down and doing something familiar can really help your mental health and give you a renewed curiosity for exploring a different culture. It is a balance.
Say yes to as many things as possible. There were so many instances where I wasn’t feeling in the mood to go out and really just wanted to stay in my room, but I forced myself into going and ended up having an amazing time. Even when things didn’t go to plan the experience is something to learn from and look back at fondly. I can now happily say that I have no regrets as I willed myself into doing as much as possible.
Meet people, and don't restrict who you meet to just other Brits or just the nationality of where you are - I initially thought that, by only meeting Italians, I'd learn the language faster and have a more legitimate experience. Don't do this, just make as many friends as you can, they're all doing the same thing as you.
Say yes to everything, and if you want to say no, find three reasons why.
Judge the ‘success’ of your year abroad by your own metrics – don’t let other people’s tally of ‘cities visited’ or ‘friends made’ determine whether it was ultimately ‘worth it’ or not; it’s your year abroad, so live it your way.