Interview: The Year Abroad Low-Down

As a third-year languages student, the prospect of a year abroad has been a major stress point of 2020 – impacted, of course by the ‘C-word’. For that reason, I decided to delay the start of my year until January 2021 in the hopes that the global situation might be looking a bit better. A potentially naïve decision considering the way things are going, but we move. 

Some of my fellow course mates and friends, however, persevered on their year abroad adventures in September, and I decided to catch up with them to get an idea of how it’s all going.


1. To start off, can you confirm where you currently are in the world and what you’re doing there (e.g. study/work etc)?

Maria: Studying in Valencia!

Olly: I have just got back to the UK after working in Paris for the past few months… My placement advised me to come home and work remotely until the lockdown is over.


2. In general, how would you describe the start of your year abroad?

Maria (Valencia): It was very overwhelming yet exciting… I absolutely loved going around Valencia for the first time and discovering this beautiful city. At the same time, moving abroad during a pandemic knowing I probably wouldn’t be able to see my friends and family for almost four months, was a lot to deal with. 

Olly (Paris): The start was definitely the hardest part of the year abroad (so far)… Especially with COVID because travel restrictions mean people can’t go with you to help or come to visit, so you’re really doing it on your own. Also, your whole degree has been in anticipation of the year abroad and for a while this year we weren’t sure if we would be able to go at all, so being out there finally is very surreal… It’s definitely a rollercoaster and has lots of ups and downs. 


3. What types of activities/trips have you been able to do so far, if any? And what impact has the pandemic had on these experiences?

Maria (Valencia): I’ve been going on a lot of day trips planned by different Erasmus companies which were amazing, but today [30/10/20] Valencia closed its borders for at least a week… The one thing is that it’s been tougher to meet people and online learning in a foreign language is very challenging. However up until now, apart from clubs being closed and bars kicking you out at 1am, I don’t feel that COVID has impacted my experience as much as I expected, but that might change!  

Olly (Paris): I did manage to do a lot in spite of the restrictions – lots of sightseeing and tourist cliches, bars and restaurants when they were open! It definitely got more difficult to do things when the curfew was introduced but we adapted and got by.


4. Do you have any advice to people planning to travel to the area you’re in?

Maria (Valencia): Just enjoying walking around! Definitely don’t miss out on the food and (very) cheap wine. Going to restaurants and for drinks is a big part of Spanish life and there are so many nice places here, I haven’t had a bad meal or drink! 

Olly (Paris): For Paris, it’s definitely important to arrive there around a week before you start your placement so you can find accommodation because it's notoriously difficult to find accommodation there! I’d also suggest reaching out to whoever you can when you’re there (language students from Nottingham, other unis, people in Erasmus/International Facebook groups)... It’s a good way to make friends.


5. Any year abroad plans on the horizon in 2021?

Maria (Valencia): Hopefully I have a job lined up in Paris! 

Olly (Paris): I study German too, so I should be spending some time in Germany/Austria once I finish in Paris in February, but this is all dependent on the pandemic!


6. And finally, how are you holding up (be honest (or not, I won’t know if you lie))?

Maria (Valencia): I’m doing really well! There are ups and downs but overall doing a year abroad has been one of the best decisions. Getting into Spanish life is so much fun and I’ve met some really nice people. Everyone will tell you it’ll go quickly but it’s honestly unbelievable! I can already feel myself becoming one of those people who go on about how amazing and life-changing their year abroad was. 

Olly (Paris): The start is tough and overwhelming but after a while, I was having the time of my life, I have an amazing group of friends in Paris and I love my internship so I’m happy and I feel really lucky.


Huge thanks to my friends Maria and Olly for their participation and honesty in this article!