A placement abroad can appear daunting: you don't know what will happen, nor what to expect. In my experience, especially as the first person in my family to go to university, this made me feel incredibly nervous. In hindsight, I really shouldn't have worried. This was why I decided to publish my book, Brit Abroad, to act as a guide for students going abroad, to reassure them that there is no need to be worried. At first, I had been writing down my experiences for my own pleasure, so I wouldn't forget any of the amazing memories. I then took a step back and thought: ‘Hang on a second, this could be really helpful for other people. It would've been great to know all of this before going away.’
My name is Abigail and I am a final year French and Spanish student at the University of Portsmouth. The first half my year abroad was in Spain in a beautiful town called Ronda, where I worked as a Translation and Marketing Assistant for a Spanish language school and cultural hub called Escuela Entrelenguas. I spent the second half in Tours, France studying at Université François-Rabelais.
Entrelenguas was a great way to kick off my year abroad. It is such a lovely and welcoming place, with such a sense of community spirit, that I felt as if I'd become part of the family. Every day was different, often I'd be translating their website, course brochures or emails. At other times I'd interpret during cooking courses in the vineyard or plan events that combined the school and its students with the local community.
After such a wonderful time working in Ronda, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy studying in Tours. In reality, I had nothing to worry about. Tours is a bigger city and this presented a new set of challenges and opportunities. The great thing about studying abroad is that you meet so many people from all over the world; yes, I had lots of French friends, but I also had friends from Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Spain and Sweden. It was like becoming part of an international community. It also gave me the chance to learn new things, I did units from French as a foreign language and French literature, all the way to beginners Italian.
The biggest thing I learnt, both in Spain and France, was just how different the cultures are. I've travelled quite a lot but going somewhere for two weeks is a different kettle of fish to spending six months abroad. I learnt so much about the Spanish siesta (with shops shutting in the afternoon for a few hours), the tapas, and that they even eat octopus. It's quite nice too! I learnt just as much in France: how great public transport can be, the love for going on strike and a lot about French food – any excuse to eat lots of pastries.
I was incredibly lucky to be able to go abroad with Erasmus, I received a grant to support me financially and did not have to pay additional fees at the host university. Every year, Erasmus allows thousands of students to go on exchange and have amazing experiences like my own. I had not anticipated the different opportunities I would encounter, and I therefore encourage any exchange student to make the most of everything that comes their way. This is why we should #SupportStudyAbroad to make sure that the Erasmus programme can continue in the UK after Brexit.
For anybody going abroad, who might be nervous or wants peace of mind from someone who's already done it, there is
my book. It's full of adventures, including my travels, do's and don'ts, cultural differences, recipes and lots of tips about how students can make the most of their time abroad. It's available on Amazon in paperback and as a kindle version.
- Abigail Nobes is a third year French and Spanish student at the University of Portsmouth and author of Brit Abroad: How to survive a Year Abroad.