Exeter, Devon UK • May 28, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home International Breakdowns and Bicycles: Why I Chose to Do a Year Abroad

Breakdowns and Bicycles: Why I Chose to Do a Year Abroad

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Breakdowns & Bicycles: Why I Chose to Do a Year Abroad

Amsterdam without rain… for now
(Image by Ellie Klein)

Dealing with the difficulties posed by a year abroad can sometime be a hard task to surmount. Ellie Klein cover her main reasons for studying abroad and how keeping those in mind can help.

One cold Wednesday night back in October, I couldn’t find my way home. I was well into my second month of being in Amsterdam. I’d just been at a bar with a few people from my course, celebrating an exam we’d taken earlier that day. I was trying to find the metro station but it was dark, and it was raining, and my umbrella had broken as I was leaving the bar, and Google maps wasn’t working, and I was horribly lost. After a lot of panicked walking, I finally found the station.

But there’d been a moment when I was standing by the side of the road, my phone in one hand, my broken umbrella in the other, having nearly been run over by a number of different cyclists, and I had no idea what I was doing there.

…you’ll question every decision you’ve made that led you to that point. Why did I decide to do this? Why didn’t I just stay at home?

If you do a year abroad, you’ll have a lot of moments like that. Something will go wrong and you’ll question every decision you’ve made that’s led you to that point. Why did I decide to do this? Why didn’t I just stay at home?

In the face of these questions, you need some pretty good reasons for why you’re putting yourself through what, sometimes, seems like an absurd thing to have chosen to do. For the sake of brevity, I’ve broken my reasons down into three:

1) To get the chance to live abroad

Maybe this seems pretty self-explanatory, but it’s the truth. I knew doing an exchange year wasn’t the only chance I’d ever get to live abroad, but it was a good one. With support from both Exeter and my host university, this year offered a brilliant opportunity to experience life in a foreign country. After a year and a half of essentially being stuck inside, the idea of getting to live somewhere totally different where I could make a load of new friends and have some incredible experiences felt too good to pass up.

2) To push myself out of my comfort zone

I’ll be honest: I’m the kind of person who tends to take the easy route. If I know something’s going to stress me out and there’s no obligation to do it, chances are I won’t. In first year, even the idea of going to the cinema on my own terrified me. I would avoid doing things I knew would probably make me happy because I was scared to do them on my own. From this, then, you’d think an exchange year would be my worst nightmare, and it kind of is, but maybe that’s why I knew I needed to do it – because if I can get through this year (relatively) unscathed, then next year when I’m back home maybe going to the cinema on my own won’t feel so scary anymore.

3) To feel proud of myself

A bit cheesy, I know, but more than anything I wanted to finish this exchange year and say, Yeah, I did that. I wanted to look back on it in fifty years’ time and be glad I took that plunge, that I packed up all my things and moved to another country where I knew no one, where I didn’t speak the language, where I had no idea what I was doing but I was doing it anyway.

I guess what it really boils down to is this: does your desire to live abroad outweigh the fear and anxiety and discomfort that will inevitably go alongside that? If it doesn’t, then perhaps it’s not the right decision. But, if it does, then I promise all those things will be worth it in the end. Even getting lost in the rain with a broken umbrella.

Editor: Ryan Gerrett

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