How (Not) To Prepare For a Year Abroad

I’m naturally super anxious, so having everything prepared puts me (at least a little bit) ease. I’m moving to France in a week and the topic of preparation has come up a lot recently. Quite a few friends have already moved abroad for the year, so my time seems to be coming round very quickly! I’ve read endless blogs about “what to remember for your year abroad!” and there’s absolutely no way I’m going to remember it all. I’m bound to forget something, but I think that’s almost a year-abroad-rite-of-passage! Instead of writing a cliché blog about how to prepare, here’s a few things I’ve realised are best not to do:

1) Leave it all to the week before you go

I’m literally leaving in 9 days and I’ve yet to sort out all of my documents, where I’m living, or a lot of the paperwork to do with money. I guarantee I would have saved myself a lot of stress if I’d actually completed the things uni told me to do *at the time*, instead of thinking “oh that’s months away” (and then forgetting about them!).

2) Get annoyed at everyone telling you how theirs were

Every person that you tell you’re going abroad for a year will tell you all about theirs or their friend’s/brother’s/uncle’s/cousin’s/mother’s. They will offer you advice, mainly about trying the local food, or something obscure about “finding yourself”, but the trick is no matter how samey it gets, it’s worth listening. There will only be so many times you can hear “you’ve got it much better than us cause you have facebook”, but stick through it. They’ve usually got some pretty useful tips!

3) Isolate yourself

I think the worst thing I could possibly do this year is to not see people. Joining a sports club, taking up a dance class, or even just joining the gym can have really positive impacts for your mental health, which is super important to look after in a new place. Having people to chat to can be a life-saver.

4) Panic!

Honestly, I’ve tried this and it won’t get you anywhere. I really like the Message’s translation of Jesus’s advice in Matthew 6, and I think it’s a good way to think about a year abroad, or anything you might be worrying about in general:

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Written by Louise Dover, SCM Member studying at Southampton University.