The Bittersweet Reality of a Year Abroad!

Whilst in preparation for the year abroad, the concept of culture shock was mentioned, but I guess you never really know what to expect from it, until you are actually experiencing it for yourself.

Whether it’s not being able to find your favorite food, changes in the way people greet each other, or even the local lingo; there are many challenges that test you when settling into your year abroad! Now of course, I’m not trying to say that I don’t still love it here, because I absolutely do; but I just really wanted to do a post to make sure that people, especially future year-abroaders, don’t get the impression that everything always goes to plan or that there aren’t any bittersweet realities to the year abroad experience!

Most of my previous time abroad was spent on family holidays, where you are, more often than not, in a little English bubble, sunning oneself on the beach, not having to cope with learning a new language, being able to have a full English breakfast every morning, enjoying your favorite beverages all day long and not having to take a step out of your hotel complex from the minute you arrive to the minute you leave! This of course is great, and anyway who would deny such idyllic situations!? – The reason I mention this is because the first thing someone says to you when say you are going abroad for a year, is that it’s going to be like a year long holiday. In a way, I guess that’s how many of us tried to view it, in order to ease anxiety for the impending year, and in fact when I first got here that is exactly how it felt. The first couple of weeks, especially before classes started, was definitely my so called ‘honeymoon stage’. Unpacking my cases, settling in the flat, meeting so many new people and exploring my new city; I just felt like the most touristy person going! Map in hand, every other building I would be snapping pictures of, trying out all the new foods and just generally getting lost everywhere; it all seemed pretty surreal!

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First things first, food. Of course I have discovered many delicious things here that I can’t get at home, but I can’t help sitting here on a Friday evening thinking about the fact that I can’t pop down to the local chip-shop and get a bag of salt and vinegar soaked greasy chips. *salivation*. I have ordered takeaway and I have also endlessly walked the isles of the supermarkets, but in all honesty it’s very different to home, and if I want to buy products that I can get at home, like baked beans or even chicken nuggets for example, then it can be quite pricey. I found one tin of Heinz baked beans in a supermarket called Billa, and I think I paid the equivalent of about £2 for a single tin. (Yes, I was that desperate for beans..)

One obvious thing about the year abroad is that you are constantly surrounded by the language of which you are learning. Of course I know this is a great advantage for learning a language and that it is one of the best ways to practice your skills, but the past week I find myself thinking, I have to hear some English! I find myself coming home after a day of classes and immediately clicking onto catch up TV and spending copious amounts of time on an evening watching everything from ‘This Morning’, to ‘Come Dine with Me’, ‘Deal or No Deal’ to ‘Coronation Street’; and who can forget ‘Great British Bake Off’ Wednesday’s in which my whole evening became planned around. (Sheer devastation that it finished this week!) Catch-up TV has been a god-send, but I sure do miss heading home and curling up on the sofa with my cat in front of the TV!

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Owhhhh I miss my baby Albert so much! 😦

My university classes have also started for real this week, which has come as a bit of a shock to the system. I can honestly say that I have never had to concentrate so intently in my life! I am luckily not in everyday of the week, but still the days I am in classes, are sure hard work! Though something that really came as a bit of a surprise to me in lectures was that at the end, in order to thank the lecturer, everyone knocks on the table, almost in an applause type way. Oh my face was certainly a picture the first time this happened. My classes I have taken are mainly in linguistics, but I am continuing with a couple of language classes for German too, and also doing one specifically to do with the Austrian German language and dialects. All in all I have been quite happy with how my classes are going; I mean I stick out like a sore thumb there with my dictionary and vocab note book alongside all my lecture notes, but still have managed to get talking to a couple of people in the classes and everyone has been very welcoming. However there was only one class yesterday which I attended, a lecture on Psycholinguistics, something I am very interested in, but I really did find myself questioning what I was doing there. The lecturer was really hard to understand, I don’t know if it was their accent or dialect, but it sure didn’t make much sense to me, and actually the content of the class was very much like what I already learnt last year. So I decided to drop this class, because I took too many classes in the first place in order to allow myself to do this should this happen. I guess I did feel a little down about this, when you are sitting there in class and everyone else is intently listening and scribbling down notes and you are sat there scouring a dictionary for something the lecturer said 10 minutes ago, doesn’t make you feel like the most proficient linguist, yet I am trying to focus on the fact that most classes this week were seemingly okay. After all this will all get better with time! I sure can’t expect to understand everything within the first week!

All in all, I recognise that of course things are going to be different here; I guess it would be quite boring if it was all the same! Though the fact that shops are annoyingly not be open on a Sunday and I can’t get my weekly fix of mom’s roast dinner, are just a couple of the minor things that are beginning to get on my wick!

Apologies for the negative nature of this post, but I don’t want my year abroad blog to give the impression that everything goes so smoothingly! The whole year abroad is a big challenge! The second you step on the plane the challenges begin, but it’s all about embracing the change and accepting that there are hurdles to overcome!

” I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way” – Carl Sagan

Thanks for sharing my journey with me 🙂


– erasmusexplorer –

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2 thoughts on “The Bittersweet Reality of a Year Abroad!

  1. Sharon

    This is a really thought-provoking post. It made me wonder how well most British students really appreciate the enormity of the task facing international students at UK universities. It’s tiring, having to concentrate so hard all the time, isn’t it? The first few weeks of term are usually difficult because everything is new and it takes your ears/brain a little while to adjust to the speed, accents, etc with which people speak. But you’ll get there!

    1. It really has given me a new perspective of how difficult it is; and I agree I think many students won’t be able to fully comprehend this. It definitely is taking time indeed, but yes slowly but surely I will get there! 🙂

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