Before I began my year abroad, I had no idea what to expect. Five months later, and I am now about to embark on the second half of my German adventure. I’m a lot more aware of what my next semester in Mannheim will hold.
Most of the advice I have to offer is Germany-specific. My experience has been filled with never-ending admin, an abundance of Ritter Sport chocolate and a lip-cracking absence of Carmex. However, I’m sure my fellow Erasmus students have all still had very different experiences across Germany. Each of the European countries we’re lucky enough to study in is unique, therefore it can be hard to generalise a year abroad experience, let alone group it with the experience of those who have set off further afield to live la vida loca in South America.
Alongside agonising over what clothes to take, and whether my German vocab was sophisticated enough to handle Linguistics lectures, I contemplated starting a year abroad blog. As much as I fancied starting my own WordPress site and making posts about the colourful European experiences I dreamed of having, I was unsure about the potential narcissism such an activity could inspire. Plus, apart from my grandparents, who would actually want to read my blog? Would I even be doing anything worth writing about? I ended up setting the blog up anyway before heading off to Germany. Afterall, I didn’t have to follow through and use it, or share it with anyone even if I did.
However, after an interesting first fortnight in Mannheim I was itching to write about my experiences. So I threw caution to the WordPress and uploaded my first blog post. The response from Mannheim’s Erasmus student community, my Warwick pals, and (of course) my family was so overwhelmingly lovely that I continued to catalogue all of the weird and wonderful moments of my semester. From leading a conga line around a wine festival, to attending a masked ball, to flying to Venice, I wrote religiously about each event, day trip and weekend away, sharing them all with my Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
Now halfway through my year abroad, and with a handful of blog posts to show for it, I’m so happy I decided to begin and keep a year abroad blog. It encourages me to pay more attention to the smaller details of my travels, take tonnes of photos (don’t listen to the photo-sceptics, you can take a photo of your cake and eat it too!), and relive my favourite moments when I write them up. Even though it’s only been a few months, I still love reading over the adventures of my first semester. I hope that by cataloguing each special day carefully, the memories stay as fresh in my mind as newly-baked Brötchen, and that my time in Germany will remain with me forever.
So for anyone soon expecting to swap the Warwick campus for some pretty French town, buzzing German city, or exciting Latin American country, my advice is this: find a way to capture your year abroad. If, like me, you love weaving your experiences into words, start a blog or keep a handwritten diary. If social media is more your thing, start a year abroad Instagram account, set yourself a photo-a-day challenge, or start a vlog. For most people, a year abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so don’t let it slip by without recording the best bits, whether that’s by taking enough photos to create a chunky photo album to flick through when you’re older, or making sure your Instagram is on tip-top travel form.