Pros and Cons of a Year Abroad

Having just got back from my year in France I thought I’d do a post about the advantages and disadvantages of doing such a year. Firstly, to make it clear, I absolutely recommend that you do one if you get the chance, it’s an amazing experience. At the same time I don’t want to sugarcoat it and sound like a salesman for ERASMUS, after all it may not be for everyone.

This is going to be largely written for those who have the choice in their second year to turn their degree (BA, BSc, LLB etc.) into ‘European’ or ‘with Study Abroad’ to try and help with a big decision. Obviously you don’t do this if your year abroad is obligatory, but hopefully it should still be useful. Apologies for the length of the post!

Anyway, here goes.


  • It’s brilliant life experience. Being placed outside your comfort zone and support network whilst having lots of stuff to sort out quickly, sometimes in a different language, is a tough but ultimately rewarding experience. When you’ve done it, you feel quite a bit more prepared for adult life than you otherwise would have. Before uni your parents will help you with lots of stuff, abroad you do it alone and in the long run, I think, this helps you.
  • You experience a new culture. Wherever you go, even if it’s somewhere like Ireland, it will be different in so many ways and learning to adapt to this and become part of it is an amazing experience.  This gives you a self confidence other students may not have.
  • It broadens your  horizons. Though there are, as above, a multitude of differences between our culture and wherever you may go most people find that, ultimately (sorry for how corny this is, but I don’t know how else to say it), people have far more similarities than they do differences, wherever you may be.
  • No matter where you go, you meet people from all over the world. I now have friends from Ireland, Spain, Poland, France, Vietnam, I could go on. As an international student you become part of the international community where you are and this is almost a separate culture from all those it is made up of.
  • You will meet some amazing people. You’ll do this at Leicester too of course, but it gives you a second chance to do it and these people live in places you might want to go on holiday to!
  • In many of the places you can go you will develop and improve your language skills. This is both rewarding in itself and looks good on your CV.
  • It gives you a chance to see if you’d be happy living and working abroad, in a world where that’s more and more common. This probably applies more to certain countries, Australia for example, than others, but it can be the case for anywhere you go.
  • It gives you a year in which to relax a bit (most years abroad don’t count towards your degree grade) before the onslaught of Final year. Also, you go into Finals more aware of the demands and hopefully you’ll have matured and thus do better in them.
  • You will likely never get a better opportunity to see the country you are on a year abroad in, and it may be somewhere you’d never even think of visiting otherwise. Seize this chance to explore, whether to see what makes a country like Italy or France swarm with tourists or those things more off the beaten track.
  • Academically you often have free reign on what modules you take whilst you’re abroad. Take the opportunity to try something a little different without any worries that it will adversely affect your overall grade.

However, it isn’t all perfect, and I have tried to do this before I end up with rose tinted glasses (as ultimate you will only remember the, many, good bits).


  • It can be lonely. Sometimes you will be just sat in your room when nothing’s going on and just think how much easier it would be if you were back in Leicester. You won’t have all your close mates around and, unlike in Freshers’, you can’t just go home or go and visit a friend at another uni. Ultimately this is what forces you to go out and meet people though.
  • You will go through stages with the culture shock. At first you will have a honeymoon period when you think everything is marvellous; then you will have a period where you hate everything and think wherever it is does everything wrong and finally you will learn to love the good bits and accept the bad bits. This last bit is just like you do at home if you think about it, after all we make anyone visiting endure Jeremy Kyle as well as pubs! During the bit where you’re down on everything, just try and remind yourself of how great it is every time you do something you couldn’t at home.
  • It’s a long time to be away from home, are you prepared for this? Everyone I knew in France went home a maximum of once a term in Leicester and still got homesick whilst abroad. If anything it’s knowing that you can’t as much as that if you were in Leicester you actually would. If you do go home regularly when you’re in Leicester do think about how you will cope with having maybe a couple of weeks at home in 9 months.
  • If you’re in a relationship beware many are ended by the distance of a year abroad and lack of opportunities to see each other. If it’s going to last though you will get through it and be all the stronger for it. Also, our generation does have the luxury of Skype, BBM/Whatsapp and low cost airlines, so it’s easier to stay in contact today than it was in the past.
  • By taking a year abroad you may miss out on the last chance to live with all your friends from Leicester (as you did in second and likely first year) as they’ll all graduate. This can lead to you having to have what may be a less desirable accommodation option in your final year, such as living in halls again or with people you may not know as well. Saying that if you have a wide circle of friends you’ll find there are usually people to live with as many stay on for a Fourth year for reasons such as doing a Masters automatically (common for science subjects); staying for a separate Masters or course like the PGCE; coming back from a year in industry; having done a year abroad too and being medics. It is worth having a chat with your mates before you go to see how many people reckon they’ll still be in Leicester. I’m living with 5 mates next year and when we arrived at Leicester I was the only one who knew I’d do a Fourth year.
  • When you first arrive it can all feel a bit overwhelming and you sometimes need to just take a deep breath and remember that actually whether or not you get in some random piece of admin your life will not be over!

That’s all I can think of for now but I will update if/when I think of anything.

ERASMUS/Year Abroad is a one off experience and I would recommend it to anyone, however that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone; only you can decide if it is for you and hopefully this has helped a bit with that.

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Owen graduated from the University in Summer 2013.

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7 responses to “Pros and Cons of a Year Abroad”

  1. Owen

    What is it that’s worrying you in particular about going? I’ll be better able to answer in more detail than above about something specific.

    In terms of whether you’d regret it? Yes, I think there is a fair chance you would, it really is a rare opportunity which you’re unlikely to get again, at least once you’re over say 25 and possibly at all and you’re more likely to look back and say ‘what if?’ if you stay than if you go. However, obviously it’s personal decision and it does depend on personal circumstances.

  2. Sarah


    I’m a Law and French student from Ireland and I’m meant to be heading to France in September for 9 months. Trouble is, I really don’t think it will be for me and I’m worried I’m making a big mistake not going and will never get the chance to go again.
    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks 🙂

  3. Owen


    I had to go abroad as part of my course so it wasn’t really a choice for me, if I’d had the choice though I’d have done it anyway.

    Obviously you miss your friends and family, but so long as you throw yourself into things and don’t allow yourself to dwell on it it’s not too bad.

    The first weeks are fine, everything seems wonderful, it’s the period just after you may start to feel homesick but it’s still good.

  4. Daniel Albuja

    Hi Owen,

    I’m Daniel a highschool student from Ecuador that just by chances won a full paid one year scholarship to China, I’m kinda in shock right now about this news so I cannot think clearly and want an advise from someone that has already had a similar experience (sort of).
    I have some questions that i would like to ask you so here they go: how did you decided to go abroad for a year? Was there anything special that you missed about home? And how were those first weeks almost uncommunicated with your world? Please answer me I’m full of doubts and need seriously some advice.


  5. Owen

    Thanks, let me know if you have any questions 🙂

  6. Jesmine

    Thank you, this was really helpful 🙂

  7. Lucy

    Really good, informative post.

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