Reflecting on my first term abroad
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Reflecting on my first term abroad

It is about 8 degrees outside, already dark at 4 pm, grey and miserable. That’s right, I’m back in the UK! I know it sounds like I’m complaining here, but I’m not. Turns out that old adage, “there’s no place like home,” is absolutely true. I went on my first term a little earlier in August, and I came back in November, so I’ve been back from my placement at a daily newspaper in Mauritius for a while, but it’s taken me about a month to process everything anyway, so here’s a little reflection.

I’ve always been taught to start with the positives, so that’s what I’m about to do. It’s safe to say that I’m missing the weather and the beautiful landscape. Looking out the window to blue skies and picturesque landscapes for three months really hits you, especially when the British winter consists of rain and cold. Come on people, no contest there.

The face-to-face interviews were the best if I’m honest, because you can see that people are visibly excited to have their story heard and be included in the newspaper 

Another thing I quite miss is my job. And when I say my job, I mean the actual work. I miss the task of calling up people to verify news stories, checking in with my contacts to see if they’ve got any stories for me, or meeting the most amazing people, including a Michelin-starred chef and an 81-year-old man who wrote to our newspaper congratulating the person who takes photos of the Saturday races. The man also suggested an easier layout for the race results while professing that his only qualification when it came to horse-racing was that he’d followed it since he was 13.

The face-to-face interviews were the best if I’m honest, because you can see that people are visibly excited to have their story heard and be included in the newspaper. It’s possibly one of the most heartwarming things I have experienced.

Right, what didn’t go so well? Well the reason I went to Mauritius is because that’s where my family comes from which means free food and accommodation and all that. The flights are expensive enough, so you can’t blame me for wanting to save some money. However, I thought that the fact that I spoke the local language, Mauritian Creole, and had an understanding of the tradition and values, would’ve been enough for me to survive. I was wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, it was lovely to be with my family, but the Mauritian mentality, particularly when it came to my colleagues or people I met on the street, was very hard to get my head around. Also, while I’m aware of the tradition, I was born and raised here, so I’m a bit more relaxed or think differently in some areas, which was a bit difficult when it came to work, where I would be dismissed as “an English person who doesn’t get it.”

A year abroad is a way for you to discover another country, but it’s also an opportunity to learn more about yourself

However, that’s a very specific situation that stems from the fact that I originally come from Mauritius, and therefore, certain things are expected of me. What are some more general things that didn’t go well? For one, the homesickness. I’m now planning to do my second term in France, and I’m hoping this helps because whenever I missed home, it wasn’t helped by the fact that I was on the other side of the world. I couldn’t just jump on a flight for a weekend and go home because by the time I got there, the weekend would’ve been over anyway. I also have a very strong relationship with my mother, and it was very hard being away from her.

This was made worse by the fact that a combination of our respective working hours, the 4 hour time difference, and the poor WiFi where I was staying meant that it was very difficult to video chat on a regular basis. By moving to France for Term 2, I have the option to come home if the homesickness gets too intense. It also gives my mum an excuse to do something she’s always wanted to do, which is to explore France a little more. She can do this by occasionally visiting for the weekend.

For when you’re looking back on your year abroad years in the future, wouldn’t it be nice if you could easily pick out the positive bits, smile, and say with confidence that you had a great year?

This second point is an example of how you can adapt your situation sometimes and make things a bit easier for you. I want to drive this home for all those people doing a year abroad or those who will be doing one in the foreseeable future. A year abroad is a way for you to discover another country, but it’s also an opportunity to learn more about yourself. I certainly discovered another side of myself in Mauritius. If you’re not happy, you should try to see if you can adapt your situation at all to try and make it palatable. For when you’re looking back on your year abroad years in the future, wouldn’t it be nice if you could easily pick out the positive bits, smile, and say with confidence that you had a great year?

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