Fancy a GAP year? Be prepared
By Nicole Correia,
Two words have never been so emotional. 'Year abroad' evokes excitement, nervousness, fear, and joy all bundled into two simple words that unfortunately you can only 'feel' if they are relevant to you.
Students who are not taking a GAP year will no doubt ask you where you are going, but they may not ask you the other questions that you need to know the answer for: 'Are you ready?' 'What are you going to do there?' 'How are you feeling?' 'Will you come back at all?' 'Where is that?!' Do not be offended by these non-linguistic students, and those not clued-up on the Erasmus schemes - the idea of a year abroad and all the preparation necessary is even more foreign to them as the subjunctive tense once was for you (if it is still foreign to you, you're not alone there either!).
Knowing everything there is to know about your year abroad before you go is more important than you might think, and by doing your homework, you'll be able to have the best experience and get some fantastic photos for Facebook. Now, that’s when the students back home will suddenly become very curious as to what you did for on your year abroad whilst they rushed to hand their essays in on rainy Monday mornings.
If your course is a 'sandwich degree' or if you have added the year abroad to your studies, you are no doubt hoping that during that year you are going to come back with some fantastic stories, that you'll have ‘found yourself’, and have lived life to the max. And I'm most certain that you will - if you prepare appropriately. Unfortunately we aren’t all Julia Roberts in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and we need to prepare not only our suitcases, but for things that may wrong, communication issues, culture shocks and a lack of shops that sell TWINNINGS tea bags whilst abroad.
My tip: lists. Make lists and don’t lose them. To buy lists. To do lists. To find-out lists. Contact lists. Make as many as you can and keep them in an envelope entitled ‘LISTS!’. Have them on your phone and email them to yourself. This will help you to organise yourself, and give you a place to go to when you need to ask someone an important question.
At the top of your ‘To Do List’ needs to be ‘Fill out forms and photocopy documents’. This is absolutely vital in ensuring you have the paper work necessary to actually get to your destination. Do you need a visa? Passport photocopies are essential, as is your vaccination record. ‘Medication’ could be worth of a list on its own, depending on your destination, and be sure to take along any prescription forms if needed.
Accommodation is fairly vital. Be sure that you know the dates of your rental agreement; arguing and negotiating in a foreign language isn’t as fun as telling jokes and ordering pizza. Once you’re there you’ll need a foreign sim card - as much as your parents love you they won’t be impressed with hefty bills on your arrival home from your English mobile number.
With all the important stressful things taken care of, be sure to enjoy yourself. Speak to as many people as you can, try new foods, and partake in as many social activities as possible. Immerse yourself in your new environment; you are already, officially, more cultured than everyone you know.
In your revelry, remember to stay safe and for the mornings after nights of revelry, remember that paracetemol often has a higher dosage in Europe. It is likely that you may encounter the odd hangover on your year abroad, especially if you love your wine as much as the French do, so just be sure to check this before you knock them down- the paracetemol that is.