Making the most of the year abroad

Namrata did a split year abroad in Spain and Australia in 2019/2020, and we asked her for some insight into her time abroad. She has given us five top tips for making the most of your year abroad, and we think they are true wherever you study!

By Namrata, Psychology and Business Management
International Year at Universidad San Jorge, Spain and Edith Cowan University, Australia

Reflecting on my time in Spain (Zaragoza) and Australia (Perth), I wish someone would have told me how to make the most of my time! To be totally honest, I do have some small regrets so here’s what I would have wanted to know or would have changed…
So, here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Don’t be afraid of solo trips!
    I completely understand the fear of travelling alone in a new country (especially when you don’t really know the language) but I think that’s one of the things I regret most. Looking back now, I missed a few opportunities to see and do more during holidays we had. You have to remember, being on a year abroad is time limited. This brings me onto my second tip:
  2. Don’t put things off because ‘I can do it later
    You never know what is going to happen so if you have an opportunity to do something, do it! During my second semester, I arrived in Australia a few weeks earlier to settle in and I had planned to travel around towards the end of the semester. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to return to the UK a lot earlier that I expected to. This meant I unfortunately did not get to travel to the places I wanted to. Again, looking back now, I wish I optimised my time during the first few weeks I was there.
  3. Be spontaneous and open to new opportunities!
    My most memorable trips from my year abroad were the spontaneous ones! This one trip was to Alicante, Spain with a group of friends who I am still so close to. At the time, it was early on in the semester and we were still getting to know people and making friends. The previous weekend was spent hiking in the Pyrenees and coincidentally, we booked hiking again for next weekend. That is when we came up with the idea of renting a car and relaxing by the beach instead! In a day, group of us found an Airbnb and booked a car rental. The following day, after attending our classes, we drove 5 hours and ended up in Alicante. Spontaneous trips are also an amazing way to bond with people and form connections!
  4. Embrace the culture
    Wherever you go, the culture will be different and will come as a culture shock but it’s so important to embrace it. The city I was doing my study abroad also had ‘Juepinchos’. This is where every Thursday, the community would gather to have drinks and street food (tapas) for very cheap prices! I tried going as often as I could to these as it was amazing to see people coming together and having a good time. There were also festivals ‘Fiestas del Pilar’ which is a huge four- or five-day celebration honouring Virgin Mary. Although, I am not particularly religious, it was incredible to be a part of it! Although Australian culture is perceived to be similar to UK culture, there certainly were differences. During my short stay, I tried new food such as, lamingtons – a classic Australian cake, fairy bread (which I thought was quite strange as it was bread, butter, and sprinkles!), TimTams, etc.
  5. Find local resources/travel groups
    If you are looking to travel and explore the country/city you are in, try finding organisations which arrange trips. For example, in Zaragoza, there were two organisations (one part of the university and the other, a local organisation) specifically for international students! Through these organisations, I was able to travel to Valencia, Bilbao, Santander and San Sebastian throughout the semester. There was also a similar organisation in Perth for international students. I was fortunate enough to go to Rottnest Island with this organisation which is usually relatively expensive. It was cheaper as these trips are organised for large groups and it is a fantastic opportunity to meet other people from around the world!

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