Before I chose to study at the wonderful Università degli studi di Verona in Italy, I went through the arduous process of the deciding what to do for my year abroad.
When you first start the process of deciding what to do and where to go it is a very daunting time. You go to meeting after meeting about the different options and it can feel very overwhelming, but hopefully this post provides you with a helping hand and some tips for this exciting time.
The first obvious decision you need to make is whether to study or work.
When considering these options, it is so important to think about what you actually want to do and not what you think you should do, or what will look best on your CV. Anything you choose to do will enhance your CV and give you valuable experience, so look for something that interests and motivates you because you will be doing it for a long time. I know its cliché, but you get what you give in situations like this.
When choosing what to do for my year abroad, studying was the option that stood out most for me. Although I am busy during the week with lectures and more recently with revision, the studying option enables me to fill my free time with exploring Verona and the beautiful country of Italy that I get to call home for the next year.
The next question you must ask yourself is where should I go on my year abroad?
The best piece of advice I can give to help you make this decision is do your research. Make sure the place you want to go is actually the place you want to go. Find out what there is to see and do, what nearby places there are to visit, what the cost of living is, and if it’s student friendly. Another thing to look at is the culture of the country: see if it interests you and if you would be able to live there for a long period of time.
Verona is the home of Shakespeare’s famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet – a play that basically put Verona on the map. Having studied Shakespeare from GCSE to now at degree level, coming to the home of his most famous legends seemed like the appropriate choice for me.
If you ask someone what first comes to mind when they think about the city of Verona they will probably reply with Romeo and Juliet, but this should not take away from the beautiful architecture and rich history of this quaint city.
Verona is a small city known for its rich historic centre, the streets buzzing with tourists all year round. When choosing Verona, I took into account its size and its location. To see the touristy bits of Verona you need no more than a day or two, but living here I am able to discover hidden streets with authentic Italian bars and trattorias off the beaten track to tourists. The travel connections between Verona and other cities are second to none, so although the city of Verona itself may be small, I have the opportunity to travel and enjoy other parts of lovely Italy.
I want to end this post with some tips if you’re stressing about your year abroad.
I know you’ve probably heard this from your lecturers, tutors, parents, etc. but don’t panic. Don’t stress. Don’t worry. Every Erasmus student is in the same boat as you, so just persevere and work hard – that is all that is expected.
Another thing I cannot recommend highly enough is to keep a record of things. Take photos and videos, keep a journal or a vlog of your time abroad. Keep newspaper clippings, bus or train tickets, and brochures from the main attractions. You will be grateful for things like these to accompany your memories when you return. And it’s another thing to annoy your friends with when you talk about that time you lived abroad.
The final and most important tip I have is to have fun. Loads of it. This is an incredible opportunity that not everyone gets so make the most of it, whatever you end up doing.