Mapping Out Your Year Abroad: Key Things to Consider When Deciding on Destinations

With study abroad application season coming up, a new cohort of excited but nervous students will be making that life-changing decision of where they want to study. Wherever you want to go, there are some big things to consider first. Here are my top five tips for choosing your study abroad destination.

  1. A language barrier?

Although you may dream of eating croissants in Paris or tapas in Madrid, most universities in France, Spain and Germany require a certain level of language ability. Likewise, countries such as Italy or China may offer courses in English but the day-to-day language barrier in shops and bars may make living there challenging. If you don’t feel comfortable learning a new language or navigating a language barrier, English-speaking countries may be your best bet. Although, you could consider Nordic countries or The Netherlands; as the best speakers of English as a second language in the world they offer a good alternative.[1]

    2. Money, money, money…

A year abroad is a massive financial undertaking. It’s important to be realistic and figure out what income you have from your job, student finance, family or any other sources. Factor in the costs of everyday living whilst saving money for travelling around once you arrive. Europe is often more budget-friendly; it is cheap to get to, and to travel around, and offers the Erasmus+ grant. Depending on your parental income and country of choice, you may be eligible for a non-repayable grant of over 3000 euros. Just think of where you could go - or how many pints of beer you could buy - with that chunk of money…

    3. Remember that you are there to learn.

Whilst a year abroad may be advertised as a year-long holiday, you do actually have to study. It’s important to look at what modules are on offer and see if they fit in with your degree, interests and academic strengths. If you don’t like the modules, they are at the wrong level, or you hate the teaching style, your ‘dream’ year abroad destination may need a re-think.

    4. Check the small print.

There are a multitude of practical issues to think about before embarking on a year abroad, such as travel insurance, visas and vaccinations that may be needed for your potential new host country. You can search the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice website for advice specific to your destination country whilst their Travel Aware campaign has an abundance of advice on how to stay safe whilst travelling abroad.

    5. Expect that there may be disappointments…

Even if you read all of these tips and have spent hours painstakingly researching, you must be prepared for the fact that there may be disappointments. Year abroad placements are notoriously competitive, and you often need stellar grades to secure a spot in desirable destinations such as Australia or America. You may feel like it’s the end of the world, but getting your second, third or even last choice could be a blessing in disguise. It’s important to remember that a year abroad is about much more than the country you go to or the city you live in; it’s about the people you meet, the new experiences and the lessons you learn!

Above all, the best advice is to keep an open mind, be flexible and inquisitive and be prepared for anything. You may end up in a country you never even considered in a city you’d never even heard of before, and still have the time of your life.

For more information about the FCO Travel Aware Campaign, please visit: