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A Year Abroad: Expectations vs Realities

25/11/2016 13:59

Surprise surprise, you're not fluent in French yet.

A year abroad is supposedly the best experience you'll ever have. You've heard rumours of fresh croissants for breakfast in Paris, envisaged yourself becoming a pro-surfer in Australia, and you can't wait to update your Facebook status to "moved to Italy".

Unfortunately, there's a lot more to your year abroad than what you've been promised. Thought it was going to be the perfect dream? Think again.

Expectation: You're going to make loads of cool, foreign friends

Who needs your boring home friends when you have all these interesting French people to hang out with at the Sorbonne? Plus, it makes so much more sense to exclusively hang out with native speakers, because then magically (and impressively) you'll become fluent in the language.

Reality: Foreign people don't actually like you

Shit. You can't wait for your home friends to come and hang out.

You quickly realise that people already have their own friendship groups, and they don't need a temporary, year-long friend to join their clique. So instead, you become overwhelmed with excitement as soon as you hear somebody speaking English, and you always run to the nearest pub-esque drinking establishment.

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Expectation: Your love life is going to be amazing

You are going to date so many exciting new people. After all, foreign boys are far more romantic than English boys, so you'll probably have a boyfriend three months in.

But will you be able to make long-distance work when you return home? I guess you'll just have to cross that bridge when you get to it. But you always tell yourself: if it's meant to be, it will be.

Reality: You only attract creeps

You will get leered at by all the creepy men, but nobody normal will ever ask you for your phone number. Single for another year it is then...

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Expectation: You're basically going to be a native speaker at the end of the year

Naturally, you are confident you'll be fluent in the language of your new home. Watching Amélie in A-Level French that one time was definitely enough preparation.

In fact, you'll probably even forget how to speak English by the end of the year.

Reality: Nobody ever understands you

And this isn't just because of your poor accent - you actually just make zero sense.

Reality eventually hits you: becoming fluent is really quite hard. At first, you'll try to make sense of all the grammar, and try to improve your accent, but then you'll just give up and stick to pointing to things on the menu instead.

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Expectation: You're going to be so cultured

You're going to visit every single corner of your new city, and then some! There's so much more to Paris than the Eiffel Tower, and you're going to make sure you find everything possible. No street will be ignored, as obviously there's history everywhere.

Reality: You're too tired

You go outside the said location and take a picture, and then decide you've had enough of being Dora the Explorer for the day. But of course, you'll post your pics on Instagram with the location tagged, waiting for the likes to roll in. What your fans don't know won't hurt them...

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Expectation: You'll also explore everywhere else in the world

Because apparently you can't fly anywhere else when you're in England. Why stop at seeing the sights in your city? EXPLORE! Take a cheap flight, it's only 20 euro to the other side of Europe. Vive EasyJet!

Reality: You're too poor

You've hit the biggest financial low of your entire student life. Your Erasmus grant barely covers your ridiculous shoebox of an apartment, and you've spent 80 per cent of your student loan on baguettes and overpriced cocktails.

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Expectations: You will only eat the cuisine of your new city

No other food will suffice. You must have the true culinary experience whilst you can.

Reality: You'll eat the cuisine once

You'll have your snails and onion soup a grand total of one time. After that, the one Dominos in the whole town, and that lovely Italian at the bottom of your road, will be your most frequented dining establishments.

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Expectation: Your year abroad won't change anything

Whilst really great, you don't think it will change you at all, or impact anything else in your life.

Reality: You'll learn more about yourself than you originally thought

It may seem like a bunch of insignificant events all in the space of 10 months, but you genuinely will have a year to remember.

Keep Travel Aware on your year abroad by following the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Facebook and Twitter. Make sure you've got everything you need before you leave by checking the FCO travel checklist before you go, including travel insurance and EHIC cards.

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