15 Things I Learnt On My Year Abroad.

The Roue De Paris The Roue De Paris

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y year abroad is very over. I’ve been home from Paris for about three weeks, or so. Damn. I’ll be honest, Paris seems like a long time ago, if it even happened at all. I feel like I’ve been on my sofa watching Jeremy Kyle for years and years, maybe even my whole life, and that the whole Paris thing was actually just a pretty intricate dream that I had a month or two ago. It’s a very surreal and uncomfortable feeling. Now I have to go back to university, something I’ve forgotten equally about, and get on with my life. Curse you, year abroad.

But, all that aside, what can I look back on, now that I’m out the other side? What can I say I’ve achieved, done, learnt and what mistakes have I made. Well, I’ve managed to pin-point 15 things. 15 little things that I’ve picked up on during the last 10 or so months.

Want to know what they are? Let’s go.

  1. FRENCH. Okay so this is an obvious one and I won’t dwell on it. I didn’t speak French. I moved to France. I now speak French. Done and dusted. (And really bloody cool.)
  2. ORGANISATION. I’ve had to organise my life way more than I ever had to organise my life before. Things that have always been organised for me, by university, landlords, friends and family, I now had to sort myself entirely. I had to set up a wifi contract, a bank account, a phone, electricity and television, as well as organise my entire uni timetable without anything to go on, from scratch, in a foreign language. Bite me.
  3. LOVING MY OWN COMPANY. I had to get pretty used to being by myself, both literally and mentally, for 90% of the time. Not only did I do that, but I loved it. Completely cut off, in my own little flat, loving life. I wrote a post about coping with living alone, here.
  4. THE UK ISN’T ALL THAT. I missed home and the UK for months. I literally spent months being a bit homesick and comparing everything to the UK like ‘ugh why don’t they do things like this’ and it was awful. One day I just stopped. Other countries are different and you just have to get over it. The supermarket is going to be laid out differently, and the paperwork is going to be different. Stop bitching about it and get over it, sooner rather than later. You might even start to prefer it all soon. I know I did. (In fact, right about the Brexit vote I actually considered marrying a random Frenchman just so I wouldn’t have to go back to the UK…)
  5. TECHNOLOGY IS GREAT. No matter how far away you are from home, you can always be in contact with the friends and family that you left behind. Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, twitter, instagram, whatever. Social media is your best friend (except when it comes to keeping up with the News at home because then it’s just a nightmare of different opinions). If you want to keep in contact, you can.
  6. EXCHANGE RATES. Okay so maybe not now that the Pound is going absolutely crazy, but overall I’m pretty good at guessing exchange rates. Mainly in Pounds, Euros and Dollars, but also in a few random currencies that I picked up on the way. As I say, it’s a bit hit and miss now, but I used to be really damn good. A British girl, living in France, with a number of American friends? Yeah, you need to get your currencies down.
  7. I CAN DO ANYTHING. I can literally do anything. I can move abroad and learn French and theology and change foreign phone-line plugs and set up a television and travel solo and do literally anything. Anything. Next year is going to be a breeze compared to how difficult the last year has been. I’d take a dissertation over 21 hours a week of lessons you can’t understand, any day of the week.
  8. IT GETS LONELY. That’s okay. Loneliness is okay. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Don’t think less of yourself because you can’t handle it. This is your year to make of it what you want, and that could mean being constantly surrounded by people. Go do that. I wish someone had told me, before I left, that you didn’t have to spend your year partying in France with a load of other British students. It got to me for ages and ages, wondering what I was doing wrong and why that wasn’t happening. It was awful. Once I realised that actually, that wasn’t what I wanted, it all clicked into place and I was so much happier. You’ll be happy, and sad, and busy and lonely, and that’s okay.
  9. IT’S OKAY TO SEEK OUT HOME COMFORTS. I’m looking at you, M&S. My little saving grace. Trips to M&S really did pick me up when I needed it. It’s okay to miss fruit packaged how you’re used to, and tea bags, and sausages. It’s okay to miss Percy Pigs and decent supermarket sandwiches. Don’t feel bad for needing a little bit of home now and again. It’s a year abroad, not a year in prison.
  10. SENSE OF DIRECTION. Lol, don’t worry. Not in a ‘finding myself’ kind of way. I mean literal sense of direction. I learnt, while in Paris, that I’m really bloody good at finding my way around, without any actual idea of where I am. Dump me at a random Metro station, tell me you want to get to the Louvre, and let me go. I’ll get you there, map free. We actually used to joke that I knew Paris better than my Parisian friends. It’s one of the easiest cities in the world to navigate – opinion, not fact.
  11. THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAVEL. With all this EU talk on at the moment, I’m going to put this right here in plain English. Travel, and specifically EU travel, is the best thing that I have ever done, and the best thing that I have ever had the fortune to experience. My life was enriched by the EU and by the freedom of movement offered to me on my year abroad. I have met amazing people, in amazing places. I am incredibly grateful to them all for being so welcoming. Britain can learn from each and every one of them.
  12. I AM ME. Lol brb finding myself. But actually I did learn a lot about myself on my year abroad, and not in a Thailand kind of way. I didn’t get drunk and high and see a few colours and think I’d discovered happiness. I learnt that I’m actually kind of a bitch, and that I can get very angry and frustrated, and that I’m strong and fierce and privileged. I’m also really funny. Cool.
  13. HOW BLOODY GOOD AN ACTUAL CUP OF TEA IS. I used to get visitors to bring me teabags and squash when they came out from the UK. Ollie, my parents, my friends, anyone. Bring me teabags and squash. My British friend and I used to head back to mine on the reg. and make up a brew each and it was just heaven on earth.
  14. IT’S OKAY TO STRUGGLE. Similar to it being okay if you get lonely, it’s okay if things on your year abroad are really bloody hard. I’ve cried all over Paris. I’ve cried in school, a few times. I’ve cried on the Metro. I’ve cried in the Louvre. I’ve cried in bed, on the sofa, in the kitchen and in the bathroom. I’ve cried on a street corner in the middle of tourist Paris. I’ve cried twice at Newcastle airport. I’ve cried at Gare du Nord. I’m not even bothered by it. Things got too much and I cried. Then they got better and everything was okay again. It’s okay to feel completely lost, for ages and ages. And it’s definitely okay to ask for help.
  15. PEOPLE ARE WONDERFUL. On my year abroad, I met people who I will be friends with forever. No lie. I turned up, alone, no French, and was immediately made to feel welcome by absolutely everyone. French, American and everyone else. I was treated entirely equally and with so much love and compassion. If I can ever repay them, it won’t be enough.

Et voila! 15 things that I’ve been fortunate to realise about myself and the world, while faffing about in Europe on my year abroad. I’ve been very lucky. I can’t even begin to explain how lucky I have been.

What have you learnt lately?
Would you/have you taken a year abroad?

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16 Comments

  1. 19th July 2016 / 8:33 am

    It sounds like you learnt a lot from your time abroad 🙂 I wish I could have taken a year abroad. I think it would have been a wonderful experience. I’ve just lived vicariously through your blog posts though 😉 lol! x http://www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk x

  2. 19th July 2016 / 10:33 am

    Wow that’s amazing that you went on your year abroad without knowing any French! I’d love to learn another language fluently, and I guess if you fully immerse yourself in a situation where you have no choice, of course you’ll learn it! I definitely do not have your sense of direction and can easily get very lost in a city given half a chance! Do they actually have M&S?! Alice xx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

  3. Caroline Malone
    19th July 2016 / 11:52 am

    I contemplated doing a year abroad, and I guess because my parents do live in Switzerland I kind of did that all of uni in the UK! I totally get missing home comforts, for me i was always asking them to bring me back Swiss specialties! Also being away from home really does allow you to grow being your own person (without getting too deep here 😉 ) you learn that you really can do so much more! Sounds like you had a lovely time and welcome back to the UK! xx

    http://www.iridescentplaces.com

  4. 19th July 2016 / 1:07 pm

    i loved reading this! i’m actually planning to get my masters in london next year and i’m a bit scared but it’s something i’ve always wanted to do and i think i’ll be better off for it in the end. good luck back at uni 🙂

    http://www.avecdanielle.com

  5. 19th July 2016 / 3:24 pm

    So cool that you lived abroad for a year, honestly sounds like such a good experience – loved reading through this (and I don’t blame you with the whole brexit vote thing haha)!

    Lucy | Forever September

  6. 19th July 2016 / 6:33 pm

    Great post! I’m still experiencing severe post-year abroad blues, I was in Spain for 9 months and I absolutely loved it! I like yourself had some really tough months when I just wanted to go home because I missed family a lot, but boy am I missing the Spanish lifestyle now! Glad you learnt so much from yours!

    http://www.trafficjamoflife.blogspot.com

  7. RickNSB
    19th July 2016 / 9:45 pm

    You have done well, Grasshopper.

  8. Laura Torninoja
    19th July 2016 / 9:47 pm

    Lovely post! I’ve now lived abroad (in the UK that is) for 3.5 years and I definitely recognize a lot of these things! Even after a longer time of being here, I still get so lonely sometimes – I wish I could just bring my friends and family here and get it over with it! That said I’m also in awe of London, of this whole country, and of me being brave enough to move here, even after all these years. You’re so right – everything else seems so easy when you just compare it to the fact that you have relocated to a completely new country and made it through that as a winner 🙂

    Sounds like you had a lovely time in France – hopefully you will get to visit lots in the future as well! x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

  9. 20th July 2016 / 4:36 pm

    I spent a semester in Germany and loved every minute of it! I’m so glad that you enjoyed your time in France-especially PARIS! what an amazing place to live. Exchange teaches you so much, you’ll remember it for years to come xx

  10. sophie
    20th July 2016 / 5:12 pm

    This sounds so amazing, well done you for actually going on your own and sticking it out! I would love to go away for a few months and experience life somewhere else for a while but the idea of going alone is kind of scary! I guess you’re right about social media though, you are never really on your own when you’ve got your phone next to you haha x

    http://www.sophieblxck.com

  11. Yasmin Rebecca
    20th July 2016 / 9:38 pm

    Awesome post! Living in another country definitely changes your perspective and meeting new people in a different setting that you’ve ever experienced is lovely, especially when everyone makes you feel super welcome! Great posttt 🙂 xx

    Y x | http://www.thesweetsevenfive.com

  12. 21st July 2016 / 2:54 am

    I know exactly how you feel. I lived in paris only for a few months but learned so much about myself. You do realize how technology is amazing when you are in a different time zone from family and friends too =o)

    http://dreamofadventures.blogspot.com/

  13. Margaux White
    23rd July 2016 / 10:39 am

    This blog post is super inspiring. You sound like you cried a lot and at times were not particularly happy, but you must have had a wonderful time haha! I am in the UK right now and I can totally relate to your words – sometimes I just need to pop by a supermarket and buy some French bread and cheese, and that’s okay (I still can’t understand the packaged fruits though). You’re right, living in another country really makes us stronger. Love the way you write btw x
    Margaux ∙ http://www.bonjourwhite.com

  14. 26th July 2016 / 12:55 pm

    Ah, such an amazing list of things. I’m sad you had to come home to England haha – it just sounds like you’ve had such a good year and although there’s been downs like you said, you’ve learnt so much.