Preparing for the year abroad
Exams are finally over, but that doesn’t mean we all get to relax! Many students, myself included, are currently preparing for a year abroad. With Brexit, obtaining a visa has become a necessary and difficult process when travelling to EU countries.
I myself am hoping to study at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, from September until around June. I’m really excited, and I can’t wait to move there so I can immerse myself fully in the Spanish language. But I’m currently swamped with paperwork that I need to prepare ready for my visa appointment in late July.
My advice for any student considering a year abroad is to get started on preparation as soon as possible. Starting the process early is the best way to ensure you can relax and look forward to your year abroad, instead of feeling stressed and worried that you won’t get it all done in time. There are several things you will need to consider, and the earlier you begin your research, the more choice and freedom you will have:
- Type of placement
The options might vary by department, but SMLC students are able to choose between sourcing a work placement, teaching English through the British Council, or studying at a foreign university. Investigating which one would suit you best is something you can do before you even arrive at Warwick!
Of course, this is probably the biggest thing you will consider regarding your year abroad – where exactly do you want to go? I chose Spain because it’s not too far from home, all things considered, and the culture is relatively similar to the UK. Your considerations might include job opportunities, climate, proximity to home, language, quality of universities, charity work, culture, and affordability, all of which vary by destination.
It’s necessary to adapt to the culture of the place you’re visiting, and it’s also important to protect yourself from any kind of discrimination. For this reason, you should make sure that you are familiar with the customs and culture of your target destination, and do your best to avoid situations that might put you at risk.
Where are you thinking of living? Depending on the type of placement you’re undertaking, you may be able to live in university accommodation, or you may prefer to get a house with people you’ve not met before. There are pros and cons of any route, and make sure to evaluate the financial side of it too.
- Student Finance / Finance
It’s important to get started on your student finance application as soon as you’re able. Then you will be able to budget for your year abroad, and also have access to your student finance entitlement summary, which is often crucial to the visa application process as proof of financial means.
Some people (cough cough, my girlfriend) leave it way too late to check if their passport is valid, and end up having to travel to Glasgow to get an emergency one. You don’t want to be in that position, especially when there are long waits for passport services at the moment.
- Visa Application
Again, this depends on your department and destination, but it’s best that you get started on your visa application as soon as you are able. Applications can take a while to go through, and you don’t want to cut it too close to your departure date. Without a visa, you cannot live, study, or work in your country of choice, so it’s very important that you familiarise yourself with the requirements and the list of documents you’ll need to provide.
If you are going to study, you’ll want to take a look at the list of modules you’re able to take. It’s worth mentioning that with a languages degree, you have more freedom when it comes to module options on the year abroad. For example, I myself have considered taking a module in animation, or law, which are two things I wouldn’t be exploring at Warwick, with my current degree. You might also want to compare which universities offer which courses, and base your decision around that.
- Work placement
If you are interested in a work placement, you are responsible for sourcing it. The university will always support you as best as it can, but this is a route that requires a lot of independent research in order to get the most out of your year abroad. Start thinking about the kind of placement you would like to undertake, and who you might contact in order to arrange it.
All of this being said, don’t let the preparation side of the year abroad put you off! I am hoping to bring more blogs to you once I am in Zaragoza, so you can see how I’m doing, how I’m adjusting to life abroad, and all the new, exciting experiences I’ll be having. A lot of students come back from studying abroad saying it was the best year of their life, and if that sounds appealing to you, it’s time to start looking into it.
Challenge: where in the world would you like to take a year abroad?