So, recently I came back from my Year Abroad in France and Japan, and got quite literally bombarded with question from students in my deparment preparing for their Year Abroad. And it came to me when I was answering their many question… there were actually quite a lot of things that no article online ever taught me!!
Here are 9 tips for your Year Abroad! (They can apply for countries other than France or Japan of course.)
1. Pack less! (really)
Honestly, I remember coming back from the first half of my Year Abroad in France and thinking to myself:
‘you know, there were some things I’d packed that I never actually wore or used!’
I then left for the second half of my Year Abroad in Japan, bearing in mind to pack a little less. However, even then, I found that I still only wore some clothes once. Well, this was admittedly because I ended up getting enthralled by the different fashion Japanese people wore and stocking up on that instead… Moral of the story:
Leave space in your luggage because going on a Year Abroad will be sure to trigger the hoarder in you.
In fact, take it as an opportunity to expand your own fashion sense and style when travelling to other countries!
In France, toileteries can be expensive so you could be forgiven for stuffing these in.
In Japan, they rarely have cotton buds and spray deodorant so if these are a must for you, throw these in.
As a rule I make sure I take a small suitcase with me as carry-on luggage in the plane which I can then use for when I tour a bit when I have free time and am not studying at my host university!
2. Apply for scholarships & grants
This was a lucky one for me actually… I was in Japan and a scholarship called JASSO was proposed to me (you can apply to MEXT instead if you are staying a year or longer). I was about to turn it down since I didn’t think I could really get it when I decided to just go for it. I ended up getting it and it really helped me keep in the green budget-wise.
Other universities may not broadcast it like they did in my case so…
Be aware that it’s possible to perhaps apply to scholarships or grants from your host country or host university!
Another one is to check out EU grants and also the grants you recieve from your own university and government. For example, I wasn’t aware of this till later and never actually applied to this (to my regret), but…
You can be reimbursed by SFE (in the UK) for any travel to your host country and any expense in commuting to and from your host university.
3. Choose flights with long layovers
Although not an attractive option, it not really as bad as it seems and I actually quite enjoyed it.
- You don’t need to stress about dragging yourself quickly over to catch your connecting flight because your first flight was delayed (it’s stressful to try sort it out if you miss your second flight).
- You can spend time to look around at some of the shops and enjoy exploring a bit of the airport itself. Some airports like South Korea’s Incheon International airport even have free showers, and others have museums!
- Granted a bit pricey, you can still try some of your stop-over country’s local food at the airport.
- Prepare in advance for your layovers and download some movies, TV series, spotify music/podcasts, and Ebooks. Pack some sealed snacks for your country if you’re super on a budget!
So, yeah, not that bad at all.
5. Travel with someone
If someone happens to travel with you to your host university this is great, if not make some friends or join a society and travel around with them in your free time!
- Split the price for food (sweets, etc.).
- Book airbnb apartment, splitting the price which turns out to be cheaper than travelling alone as well as just being more relaxing.
It also just kind of staves off the homesickness.
6. Be an aupair or workawayer
So although not for everyone, I would recommend doing aupairing or being a workawayer! Not all families or hosts will be able to work around your schedule if you are doing a study placement for your Year Abroad, so if you can’t find one then consider doing it during your free summer period instead.
- Experience the real culture in a family.
- Improve your conversational language skills.
- Save a bit of money.
- Add a bit to your CV!
If you do find a family or host, I would highly recommend not staying longer than 3 to 4 months as it can get complicated with the family dynamic after that period of time.
Be aware that if you opt in for this, then you will have a responsibility and a job so your free time to sightsee or go out with friends will be reduced there.
7. Take up a part-time job
Honestly, another one I definitely would suggest you do as working in another country is not only good for your CV, but it’s also adds another facet to the culture you are experiencing.
Depending on which country you’re in, you can normally find part-time jobs online but you can also find on bulletin boards in French universities for example, so keep your eyes peeled.
Keeping in mind your language abilities, maybe consider jobs like:
- Sales assistant
- Cram school teacher (can be reasonably easy in Japan)
- Convenience store worker
- Online jobs (e.g. moderator)
Check how many hours your student visa allows you to work in your host country and which jobs you can’t do; i.e. in Japan you can’t do any night industry jobs like being a host, working in a bar, being a sex worker.
8. Get a budgeting app
Unfortunately I didn’t actually make use of this, but I heard of many of my fellow classmates finding it invaluable. It helps to have an app you can quickly pull out and look at to see if you do indeed have enough money to splash out on a meal or day out with friends.
(It’s an app that basically shows the balance of your expenditure and revenue/income.)
Check out some of the best ones in 2020 here.
9. Share houses & airbnb
So, I know some of the students who were asking me questions were panicking about if they would be able to get good accommodation and not get scammed in the process…
If it’s really late minute and you can’t seem to find any good room, family, or apartment, and the university has not proposed you any dorms, I wouldn’t worry.
- You can always flick through Airbnb options! I actually know of at least 3 classmates that opted for this in Spain, France, and Japan.
- Another one, is sharehouses in Japan. It’s a great idea to perhaps stay with a family for 1 or 2 months then move out to live in a sharehouse, which is basically a dorm of sorts where you rent out a private room and share a kitchen and bathroom.
If you’re travelling your host country a little bit, then stay at hostels, capsule hostels, or even love hotels (in Japan)! Just make sure that you take anything valuable with you and don’t leave it in the room. In Japan it’s best to carry around your passport and Japanese residence card with you anyway.
Though I know this won’t fly in Japan, you can try couchsurfing at couchsurfing.com in other countries. It’s essentially free.
9. Choose overnight travel
This is just an extra little one. If you’re travelling around in the winter or summer holidays then try choose overnight travel on coaches as this is uncomfortable but ultimately cheaper.
To be completely honest with you, I couldn’t stomach long overnight journeys so I just worked a bit harder at my part time work! (I did use the bus or coach for shorter journeys though.)
Hope this helps!
Recommended further reading :
- ‘Budget Travel 101 – The World For Cheap’ in AffordableComfort.org, (31 Aug 2016)
- ‘Travel cheap – How to create affordable and memorable travel experiences’ in MyStead, (2 July 2019)
- ‘How can you travel the world for cheap (or free)’ in DreamingAndWandering.com