How to integrate and make the most of it
By making an effort you’ll meet some great people and they’ll will make the experience worthwhile. To make the most of your year abroad you need to let yourself be completely open to new experiences, discoveries and people. Everything feels foreign at first so use this opportunity to try things you wouldn’t normally do.
Sports and hobbies
There is no reason why you should give up sports if you do it regularly back at home. Finding a local sports club or team will help you meet people with the same common interest outside of your university/work environment. It is also a great way to improve your language skills as you’ll pick up specialist vocab as well as conversational language.
If you prefer to do other hobbies such as dancing, walking and singing, there are groups for them too. However, some universities in Europe don’t have as many societies as you are used to, so these groups may be a little harder to find.
If you don’t have a particular sport or hobby, then why not use this opportunity to find one? Use your open mind to try something new or to have a go at something you’ve always wanted to but never got the chance - there’s nothing stopping you now.
Clubs and societies
Towns and cities normally have clubs and societies for just about everything. There may be a language café or film club that meets on a regular basis which would be a great chance to meet locals and practise your lingo.
The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is a network of Erasmus societies all over Europe who organise activities and trips for students abroad. You don’t have to be an Erasmus student to join so see if you can find your local one.
There are people always looking to learn your language so why not put up a notice (or respond to one) offering an exchange between English and the language you’re learning. By arranging to meet every few weeks you’ll improve your spoken language but also, you’ll have someone on hand to ask (and answer) any questions you might have or to explain something you haven’t been able to quite get your head around. This is also a fantastic way to meet a group of people as by knowing one person you can be introduced to their friends, giving you more chance of making friends with native speakers.
Listening to the news, watching TV or reading the local paper are ways which can help you integrate into the society. Make sure you know what’s going on around the world so you’ve got something to talk about when you meet up with each other.
Try not to stick with English-speaking students in classes and get to know local students instead. This will help you improve your language skills and meet some friendly new people. Have a go at every opportunity and activity that comes your way and you could discover a new interest.
If there’s an activity or night out to be planned, why not take it upon yourself to arrange something between a group of you? This is a great way of meeting new people and discovering other people’s interests. You might find yourself flamenco dancing, playing pétanque or winning a caps tournament
Documenting your year abroad
This may not be a way to integrate but it will definitely make the most of your experience abroad. There are so many ways to keep a record of your year abroad and share it with all your friends and family.
- Keep a blog - Wordpress, Tumblr and Blogger are great websites to use as you can share the link with your friends, customise your page and it’s all completely free!
- Write a diary that you can look back on after your year abroad. It’s a nice way of keeping a record of the year just for yourself.
- Vlog - These are video blogs if writing’s not your thing. Why not upload them to YouTube and share your experiences with your family, friends and the rest of the world if you want to.
- Tweet! Use Twitter to update your followers with short messages if you don’t feel like writing a whole blog.
- Photos - these are invaluable when looking back on all the fun times and shenanigans. Upload them to sites like Facebook, Flickr and Instagram to show everyone back home what you're up to, and back them up safely too at the same time.
- Memorabilia - keep a little souvenir from places you go and things you do. You can make these into a scrap book to look over in years to come.