Having had the initial fears and thinking about every possibility that could go wrong, I took that plunge and boarded my train…
I, like many students of languages are offered the opportunity to live abroad for year. This is the amazing chance to emerge yourself in the language you are studying and gain a more in depth view at the culture and language.
I had the opportunity to live in Belgium for six months and Austria for a further six.
I had, embarking on a journey to live in a country I didn’t know, to go to a university I had only recently begun to research. There was a certain rush of excitement, that sense of unknown and discovery that lay ahead.
I think the main challenges were faced in the initial weeks, the fear of not finding a place to stay, not knowing anyone and not knowing your way around. These quickly fade as you do inevitably find a solution to all these issues and before you know it, this new, scary life has become your norm.
Personally, the help of strangers and support from the university made it very easy to integrate. I quickly learned where the best pubs were, found a great social network and had settled into my new house.
In my situation there was the added element of the language barrier, however prepared I was for lectures back home didn’t quite prepare me for the nuances of a native speakers, speaking in dialectal French..
I was very fortunate to have been in a small town. The people there were friendly and the amusement of a Scotsman being in the town allowed me a certain leeway. I found on the whole that people were very accommodating and would take the time to help me understand and be understood. You get accustomed very quickly to the suddenly ever-present language and soon it is normal.
Having spent my six months in Belgium, I was feeling very settled into this life and had built up a very strong set of friendships. It was a strange thought that I would have to give all this up to start again in another country, with another language.. And as it turned out, another dialect, this time Austrian.
With this move came the change to a city, which in comparison to Belgium was huge and filled with distractions. Personally my German was always weaker and I definitely struggled to acclimatise. The one saving grace was that English was a bit more prevalent and being a touristy city, more widely used in the service industry, meaning my mistakes with the menu were few and far between.
Once again though, I had to set up my ‘home’, this time student accommodation., and try and establish a new circle of friends. Being a bigger city there were plenty of ways to meet new people and soon enough I found myself in that pleasant swing of things. With week after week passing quicker and quicker.
I was truly sad to leave that year by the end of it all. I had had my ups and downs, made a fool of myself linguistically and made new friends for life, bound by a common experience of life abroad.
In that year I saw a big transformation in my confidence. I had made that leap into the deep end and I found I could swim. University had previously been preparing me for talks about politics and the economy, which is very academic and sophisticated, however you realise that in the grand scheme of things that these aren’t very useful if you are actually in the country and you can’t think of the word for flea as your carpet starts to jump..
But all in all, the experience was rewarding and deeply fulfilling. My languages improved no end and I came back with an appreciation for new cultures, ways of life and I had gained independence and the ability to thrive in new situations.
So if you are thinking and worrying about life in a different country, don’t. It may seem scary now but when you are living it it is fun and afterwards you will wonder why you ever worried at all.
Still to this day I would go back and live abroad in a heartbeat.
By Roger, Think Global Recruitment