Year Abroad Advice

oh lord, what I should have thought about or brought with me on my travels….

I know that it is guaranteed that I will leave something lying around, forget to print that all important bit of paper that means I can enter a country or check in to a hostel. So on this page I hope to share any useful wisdom I obtain to pass on to the future travellers and hope that they will have an amazing time without the same hiccups as me!

1. Don’t leave your passport at security, because when you’re name is called, you realise getting back can sometimes be a trauma. (The up escalator at LHR Terminal 5 was closed…). I would photocopy it twice and put each copy in a different location just in case! As well as any important documents that you have signed, or visas, or anything you feel is valuable.

2. If you’re going to Au Pair, wait until at least ten families are in contact with you, make a short-list and Skype them. If you’ve found one that seems perfect. Then, Skype them at least twice again so you get to meet all the members of the family. And to make sure you have the feeling that indicates that it is right for you. Always have a contract, even if you create one yourself and email it to them to agree on it. Then you won’t have any worries about expectations, problems or expenses.

3. If you’re unsure on what you want to do: email everyone you know to see if they know someone who could help you out, apply for tonnes of different jobs/internships or universities to study. Then you’ll get a gut feeling that indicates which one is right for you.

4. Budget: work out how much money you have and will receive from student finance, erasmus and any other appropriate grants, etc. Then divide most of it to create a monthly budget but allocate a certain amount to general living expenses specifically. The rest you can then use if opportunities of travelling or doing something exciting come up that you don’t anticipate for – or for any situations where you didn’t think you’d need money such as emergency flights home or places to stay.

My friend did say that if you are in a cheap country, say South America, India, China and other parts of Asia, don’t be a “penny pincher”. He means to say that we should make the most of our time abroad and if it’s cheaper to do things there, do them!

Even if you are not natural to working out your money and allocating it, if you do this at least once, you will have a faint (or clear) idea of what you do have to spend. Just so you don’t blow it all in one go! 😀

5.  Remember that it is your year abroad. It’s going to be scary, exhilarating, frustrating, amazing, and sometimes you won’t know what emotion to feel! Be prepared to have some exhilarating highs and awful lows. If you feel homesick, message everyone back home asking how they are doing. Even though it may make you miss more remember that their daily life is not much different at all. You are the one living it up, doing something different and everything will be there when you get back. Trust me 🙂

6. If you haven’t already done so, don’t book your flight home. With a year abroad it can be so unpredictable as to what you’re going to end up wanting to do by the end of it. In the end half of the eight of our Notts crew changed our flights home because of new information or wanting to do something extra or different. If you do want to book a return flight home, go to STA and buy a multiflex pass the same time you buy your flights through them. It may be £99 but it could save you sooo much more in the long run! It gives you the peace of mind and freedom to either head home earlier or later depending on what you choose to do!

7. The dreaded topic: packing. Luckily there is a company called Send My Bag which means (for UK students) you can send back an entire suitcase from many, many parts of the world. Even though it may cost up to £120, if you’re going travelling it saves you, one, having to drag your heavy suitcase around, two, any extra baggage fees for all flights or storage and three, the mental stress that accompanies all the above.

8. The simple mistakes one can make and how to avoid…

  • Insurance, get online, search for the best quote on or use a company you’ve been with before and get. it. done. If you forget, there is a company called World Nomad that will insure you if you have already left your home country.
  • Ensure you have the right plug adaptors for the country/countries you’re going to be living in. As arriving and being unable to charge your phone for a day can be torturous when you completely unfamiliar with your surroundings.
  • Make sure you book tickets for travelling on the CORRECT day & time. Double and triple check even if you think you are sure that everything is done right. Many of us have definitely had a few surprises!