Survival Mode – Balancing your vie on your Year Abroad

As the Belgian singer Angèle asks Balance ton quoi ? Well, I say balance ta vie in response. 

Going on your Year Abroad and getting to the end all in one piece is by no means a small feat at all. It takes a strong mentality, an open mind, and lots of patience to reach the end, and to be able to be proud of all that you have achieved. Whether you are working or studying, it’s so important to remember to take care of yourself and your mental health as much as you can. Especially at the beginning, it’s very easy to get swept up in all the excitement, but also the stress of what you should be ticking off your initial “check-in” list. 

Of course, as soon as I set foot in Paris, the only things I wanted to do were to sightsee, go to the boulangerie and purchase many, many pastries. However, I was soon splashed over by the tidal wave that is réalité. Suddenly there were about fifty million things to sort out, but at the same time I was in this big city that I sort of knew as a tourist, but as a resident it was very daunting. Not to mention, my living situation for the semester had literally been sorted a week prior to moving to the city of love itself. 

Some of things that were bubbling around in the rather complicated potion that was in my head was: 

  • Confirming my arrival to the British Embassy so that I could validate my Visa 
  • Finding my way around – how did the transport system work? I should apply for the student metro card! But it has to be before the 1st of the month, otherwise I would waste a month on expensive travel…
  • Host University pre-arrival activities and admin 
  • Confirming courses 
  • Make sure I was even doing the right amount of credits (I was not)
  • Finding my way around campus 
  • Actually being able to converse with the university in French 
  • Making new friends with the other International students 
  • Making sure I had all the correct contacts for any issues 
  • Moving into my new accommodation and making sure I fully understood the landlord and the tenancy agreement 
  • Setting up a bank account (BNP Paribas gives you 80 euros for free when you set up an account with them)
  • Getting a French SIM card (Bouygues do the cheapest deals!!)

      As you can see there were so many things to sort out, and in another language which I will definitely admit at the start was not at the same level as I now reach the end of my year away. All of these tasks are essential and will only make your Year Abroad go much smoother, but if I could pass on one piece of advice, it would be to approach it in an organised manner and it does not have to be done all at once. Remember you are not alone!! There are fellow University of Edinburgh students there who are in the same position and you can always reach out to the University for any help. 

      If you are studying abroad, it can feel a bit isolating and sometimes you might even feel detached from University of Edinburgh. But fear not, there are plenty of resources so you do not have to feel this way. You have to remember, if anything, that this year abroad is super beneficial to you and it’s important you make the most of it. Whether that’s for improving a language, learning about a culture, making new friends or just the experience of living abroad, it should be something that you look back on with joy, and not feelings of isolation and anxiety. 

      Edinburgh counselling services are always available to you online. The Year Abroad Co-ordinators are very responsive, and although you will probably meet lovely, lovely people on your year abroad, please connect with fellow University of Edinburgh students! I promise it’s nice to have a familiar face, even if it’s just at the start, or it could be the start of a blossoming friendship.

      Don’t be afraid to jump into societies or groups that might help you feel more settled. And another piece of advice, do as the locals do! When in doubt, think of THE most stereotypical activity that one does in the country you are in and just do it. For me it was literally buying a whole baguette, du fromage, and une bouteille de vin and having it in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Felt very, very french and helped me feel like I fit in, even if it is a bit Emily in Paris-esque. Do all the touristy activities obviously, but the beauty of discovering a new city and living there for a year is that you have the time to discover petits bijoux here and there. Create your home away from home!

      So my summary: be organised, know and use the resources available to you, go one step at a time, and have fun! It does not have to be chaotic and stressful. Replace survival mode with thriving mode. Balance ta vie! 

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