First things first, if you ever get the chance to travel as part of your degree – go for it! I believe that every student should have the chance to experience a different culture, a different language, new friends and more importantly new food. During my year abroad, I had the chance to work as a language assistant at a school in Alicante, where I specialised in SEN work and became part of the PE department. This was not only a rewarding job as I had the chance to see the students’ progress but I had amazing work opportunities. These included going to the beach as part of PE lessons! I was amazed that surfing, stand up paddle and kayaking were part of the curriculum, as well as swimming, paddle and football – all of which were practised off site, which meant I got to join in too!
Working at an international school was an experience in itself, especially as many of the students had some hilarious stories to tell. One of these included a year 7 boy not being able to make it to his history exam as he was hanging out backstage with David Guetta in Ibiza; apparently his Mum designed part of his tour wardrobe! This same student also boasted at having stayed in the world’s most expensive Premier Suite in Dubai; my response – “I’ve stayed at the Premier Inn…” However, the list goes on to include Australian socialites, Spanish celebrities and the daughter of a Coca Cola CEO, which meant there was never a dull moment and plenty of really entertaining and interesting parent-teacher evenings.
However if you’re not thinking of working in a school in Spain then some great tips for anyone travelling abroad, whether you’re working or studying, is to tutor. It’s a brilliant way to earn extra cash, as the minimum wage isn’t brilliant in Spain and also just to gain experience, by meeting loads of different people. I used to tutor six year old Russian twins (it involved a lot of card and board games!), a thirteen year old boy who needed conversation classes and a woman who wanted to take the First Cambridge exam. It was a bizarre mix of students, of all ages and capabilities, but definitely an experience I thoroughly enjoyed – I even learnt a few Russian phrases! Furthermore the aim of a year abroad or even just travelling abroad, is just to enjoy yourself and have fun. Try and meet the locals by joining different Facebook groups, I joined a group called ‘Tandem’, where you were able to meet and have group language exchange evenings at a local café. This was a great way to not only learn a different language but also a way to meet people from all different backgrounds and cultures.
Although a year abroad is a really exciting time, it can also be very daunting and at times even lonely, as you’re in a new country for the first time and probably completely out of your comfort zone. This is completely normal. Don’t panic. Breathe. The best thing to do is see if there are any free walking tours in your city, this is a great way to experience the city on foot and also to get talking to other people who are new to the place. Furthermore, join Facebook groups that can connect you with other people your own age, who are also on a year abroad and a way to meet people from a wide variety of cultures. Most importantly, just explore the country and have fun. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and experience the local culture.
Go on your year abroad, experience new cultures, laugh, cry, travel and most importantly just have the time of your life!