5 things no one tells you about your Year Abroad

June 27, 2016

So officially, my year abroad in Italy has finished. I made a decision a few weeks ago to stay for another year (thankfully, since after that we'll be leaving the EU - but don't even get me started on that) but I'll be a fully-functioning, rent-paying, non-Erasmus Adult, so I'm still pretty gutted that the best year of my life so far is over. 

I had plenty of time to think about this post on Saturday as I waited out my eight hour delay in Bologna airport - cheers Ryanair - and decided to keep it as simple as possible. I could get very emotional but to avoid embarrassing everyone, including myself, I'll keep it short. 

1) You will put on weight...
... roll with it. (Geddit?). You only get one shot at eating as much pizza, pasta, schnitzel, Belgian waffles, baguettes etc as you can. Use it wisely. Because when you come home, the English versions just won't cut it.

2) You are not here to study 
Very important to remember this one. Because sometimes your professors will try to tell you that you are, and they are WRONG. You are here to drink excessive amounts of wine and have your bag stolen in a club at 3am whilst dancing to reggaeton.

(2.5. You will get your bag/phone/cards/ID stolen at some point. This is unavoidable, so make sure you have back up.)

3) You will crave 'normal' food 

Now, this ultimately depends on where your Year Abroad is. But if you're in Italy, normal things are pretty hard to come by - unless its pasta or pizza, good luck trying to find it. By this I mean that avocados, sweet potatoes, noodles, curry sauce, anything Heinz... is all off the cards. And god forbid you crave hummus at any point - that shit is practically contraband.

4) It's perfectly normal not to want to leave...

I mean, in my group of friends, its so normal that half of us aren't. Don't judge. Sometimes a year just isn't enough in a place that feels like home. Doing a year abroad makes you realise that there is more to life than your degree.

5) Saying goodbye will break your heart

I don't mean that in a poetic, figurative way. It hurts.

Nine months ago, we all arrived in a strange, hot, dusty city on our own. We waved goodbye to our families, took out some euros and attempted to fit in as Italians. But there's something about arriving in a new city on your own that bonds you inexplicably to the people you meet - the people you would normally call for help aren't even in the same country, so you have to rely on strangers. And if you're lucky, those strangers become people you can't live without. In the past nine months we've been through a lot; break-ups (and get-back-togethers), homesickness, post-pizza cramps, vino-induced bad decisions and (on my part) a severe Celine Dion addiction - there have been ups (many) and downs (a few) - but these strangers are now my family. I've never really had to say goodbye to people before - not in that definite, 'you live on the other side of the world' kind of way, so its hard to know they're not going to be available for cafe, gelato or a bitch at the drop of a hat. Thank God for Facebook chat, eh?

Going on your year abroad? My best piece of advice: always say yes. To everything. Drinks, coffee (if you don't like it, you will by the end of the year), day trips, night trips, one night stands. You never know where it'll lead you, and it's all part of it.

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