It’s official. My year abroad is (pretty much) officially over. I’ve had the most amazing year of my life and now it’s time to get back to the normality (and scary prospect of final year) in Britain. I was in the UK for just under two weeks after getting back from Portugal, and now I’m back in Madrid, where it where it all started. I’m trying to make my year abroad last as long as possible, so now I’m back in Spain to au pair for the next 5 weeks. As I’m writing this post I have a 6 year old and a 9 year old doing my hair, “porque estamos en la pelú”.
In many ways, this whole year has been preparing me for my future. Firstly, I’ve seen that I can live abroad, on my own, coping with day to day life in a foreign country. I’ve opened a Spanish bank account, I’ve managed to set myself up with two new phone contracts, and I’ve found myself an apartment to live in, tried to work out Portuguese bureaucracy (or lack thereof) relating to living as an exchange student abroad. The amount of paperwork that I have had to complete over the course of the past 16 months has been scary, but I promise that it has been worth all of it, even though it didn’t feel like it would be at the time of me doing it.
Living abroad is something that I’ve wanted to do for almost 10 years, and now I know that I can do it. My dream job is working as an English teacher, what I did for the first 5 months I spent in Madrid, and now I know that it’s actually achievable. I have a certification to teach English as a foreign language, I have experience in it, and I know that I’m good at it too. Having this certificate and experience also means that I’m more employable, and I have this simple career in my head, and knowing what I want to do should hopefully mean that I’m less confused after I graduate (fingers crossed).
In Portugal, I also gained some valuable experience. It’s made me think that maybe I could do a masters degree abroad, as long as it’s in a subject that I’m sure I’m going to enjoy, unlike my Estudos Culturais (Cultural Studies) course in Portugal. The foreign university experience itself was a good one, despite the fact that I didn’t like the lack of organization at UMinho and the course, so I think I could do it again! I also think that studying abroad can be beneficial in terms of employability. If a company sees that you have studied in not just one but two, or maybe even three countries, they know that you are capable of living abroad, and coping with the challenges that studying in another language can throw at you, they know you can be trusted to work for them and deal well with the challenges that you will face in the workplace.
Challenge has been a big theme of the year abroad for everyone that has done one. For me, the moving away from my country and family thing wasn’t a big one, as I’m used to living far away from them and I’ve lived in Spain before, but the whole idea of a real job in another country was definitely a challenge, as was studying abroad. I’ve leant a lot from these challenges. I know that I can do anything I set my mind to, because I’ve come so far in the past 12 months (please excuse the cheesiness). These challenges mean that I never stop learning, and that I’m growing personally and professionally, two areas that go hand in hand.
One thing is certain, the entire year has made me want to travel more and see more of the world. I’ve made so many friends from all over Europe and I’d love to go and visit them in the future. I’ve read many travel blogs where the writers have worked in Asia on a temporary basis, teaching English so that they can get more money to spend whilst travelling. With the certificate that I received for teaching English, I too will hopefully be able to do this. Each experience is something new to add to the CV, which in turn increases your employability.
I don’t want to look at my year abroad from only a professional point of view, because it has contained the most amazing experiences that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life, and I doubt that anything I ever experience again will measure up to this. I have met some amazing friends, lived in beautiful cities, visited some great sights and gone through it with people that I love. It has been a kind of reassurance that I can and will do anything. I now eat everything, which is definitely something that I’ve had to work on. While I didn’t exactly go mega healthy when I was in Portugal, like I’d planned to do (my friend’s mum actually said that I looked mucho más gordita, which I think she meant as a compliment, but calling me fat doesn’t exactly feel like a compliment to me), I managed to do so much that I’d wanted to do.
The moral of the story is, my year abroad is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I’ve grown so much and become a different person because of it (I know it sounds like a cliché, but it really is true). Going back to university is going to be difficult, not just because of it being final year for me, but also because I’m so used to my life in Europe that it will be hard to adjust to Cardiff again. However, I am definitely looking forward to everyone sharing their adventures with me, and telling everyone about mine.