Here I am, just a couple of weeks away from setting off on my year abroad and only now beginning to realise how completely unprepared for it I am. My name is Jess and, getting the formalities out of the way, I’m doing a joint Modern European Languages degree in German and Spanish. As such, I’ve decided to divide my year equally between the two subjects and have Erasmus places lined up for one semester each at the University of Vienna and the University of Granada.
Now, from the moment you decide to take a degree in Languages, the one topic that comes up over and over again is the inevitable third year abroad. In fact, this was a major part of my motivation for taking languages in the first place. As a compulsory part of the degree, it is talked about endlessly by lecturers, tutors and students alike – to the point that it becomes some magical, distant concept that never seems quite real until you find yourself two weeks away from leaving with no real idea of how it is all going to work out. It’s something you dream about for years, but never really plan for. Well, that’s how I saw it anyway!
However, in the past month or so I’ve been forced to see it as a reality, and every day my parents confront me with the same questions: “When are you actually leaving for Vienna?” “Where are you going to be living?” “Do you know what you have to do once you arrive?” I am yet to answer any of them and time, as I am constantly being reminded, is starting to run short.
Still, I’m not panicking just yet. I took up Vienna’s offer of an “Erasmus Buddy” to help me out once I arrive and we’ve already been in contact. Much like any other exchange student, my main fear is that for the next year I am going to have to do everything in a foreign language, and although I have tried to motivate myself to revise some German before I leave, I’m far from fluent. As a result, I’m bound to miss every registration and matriculation deadline with the University, get myself tangled up in contracts and tenancy agreements I don’t understand, and (worst of all) never make a single friend out there.
That’s why I’ve found it so reassuring to know that I already have someone who has not only given me an excuse to practise my German (at least a little!) before I leave, but is also a ready-made friend waiting to help me out as soon as I arrive. She has given me advice on finding accommodation out there and offered to help with the infamously complicated registration system at the University of Vienna. I have to admit, it’s nice to feel like I’m not going into this completely on my own!
So, even though I am yet to find somewhere to live or finalise a date on which to leave, I’m not as stressed about it as I perhaps should be. Instead, I’m taking the advice of friends who have already done their year abroad, and simply looking forward to what I’m sure is going to turn into one of the best experiences of my life!