The year abroad has come to and end and I’m back in the UK. It’s a strange feeling. For months I’ve been complaining about French administration and about missing home, but now I’m actually home I’m feeling kinda nostalgic. Afterall, 10 months of my life was spent in Avignon with the people I met there. That’s what I’ll miss the most. Being pushed together for 10 months meant that we actually became close. Now we’re not forced together into a situation anymore will we continue to be friends? Well, I most certainly hope so.
I was told that the year abroad would be the best year of my life and that I’ll have all these wonderful once in a lifetime opportunities. The reality is quite different. The only real difference between my routine in Leicester and my routine in France was exactly that; one was in Leicester and one was in France. I went to uni, took notes in lectures, wrote essays, did presentations, sat exams. I went out with my friends on the student night, we ate out at restaurants. For me, that was actually quite comforting. Things weren’t too different to home. I did some travelling on the weekend and in my spare time, but I also visited home a lot. I remember one time I was waiting in the queue in TkMaxx and I turned to my mother and said ‘I live in the South of France. That sounds really glamorous doesn’t it?. But in reality it’s not, there were no yacht parties and French winter is just as cold as in the UK. What I’ve learnt is that the grass is definitely not greener on the other side, but I cannot deny that it’s been an incredible experience working that out. When I look back over the past 10 months, it’s all the good times that stand out.
Everyone’s year abroad is different, but there is one constant, and it’s pretty important. Your particular university experience will be very different to everyone else’s. While you’re abroad, your final year friends are continuing to live your university life without you, and while you may be enjoying your experience abroad, it’s difficult to accept change. When you come back for your final year, most people you knew from Freshers’ will have left. On the bright side, you can come back to another year of guilt free fun while they’re all off looking for grad jobs and worrying about what they’re going to do with their life.
So, to those of you doing a year abroad, I won’t tell you that it’s going to be the best year of your life. I can’t guarantee that. Some people thrive in these unfamiliar situations more than others. But I will say that it will be a memorable experience that will change your life for the better. The aim of my time abroad was to improve my French. I think I’ve achieved that, but even if I hadn’t, I’m proud of everything else I’ve achieved. I’m more confident and independent than I’ve ever been. I get on a plane as easily as catching a bus. I’m no longer scared of approaching people and speaking to them in a third language. Sounds cheesy, but these are proper life skills that are invaluable.