The year abroad, that exciting but at the same time slightly scary part of a languages degree, is nearing its conclusion for me. So, having almost completed a full twelve months living and studying in a foreign country, I’m going to take some time to reflect upon how it has gone so far.
I’ve been spending this year studying in Florianópolis, Brazil, a fairly small city on an island in the south of the country. Having been here since last August I can honestly say that it has to be among the best places in the world to do an exchange! The island is resplendent with beautiful beaches, verdant green hills, and vast sand dunes. It is visually stunning and I feel very lucky to be able to spend a year of my life living in such an incredible place.
Study-wise it has been very nice to have a much more relaxed year before I start my final year in Southampton, with a lot less work and the pressure taken off by my modules at my Brazilian university not counting towards my degree. However, studying abroad this year has made me appreciate and realise just how good my courses in general are at Southampton because that has not really been the case here in Brazil. The classes have been mostly boring with the lecturers not engaging the students very well and I often come out of lectures feeling I have not learned a lot.
But now onto the much more exciting aspects of this year which I’m sure you’d all rather hear about. My year abroad has given me so many opportunities that I just wouldn’t normally get back at home. It’s a cliché but a year abroad really makes you step out of your comfort zone and try a whole host of different things. I’ve got to know the Brazilian culture and way of life as well as improving both my languages (Portuguese and Spanish) hugely to the point where I now feel completely comfortable having a conversation with any native speaker of the two. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel not just around Brazil but also to various other countries in South America, visiting some truly unforgettable places. Most importantly I’ve met so many people from all over the world with whom I’ve been able to share this year and made true friends for life. There are too many great memories to mention here.
Any year abroad will always have its ups and downs, and mine has been no different. Living in Brazil presents its own set of unique problems, whether it’s the seemingly endless bureaucracy or the general lack of haste in doing things, but getting through issues like these is all part of the process, part of the experience of adapting to a foreign culture. However, the positives far outweigh the negatives and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my year abroad. To people doing their year abroad in the near future, I would say just grab this amazing opportunity that we have as linguists and run with it; the year abroad is what you make of it. To students of other courses, I would recommend that you seriously consider doing a
n exchange, even just for one semester, as the life experiences you will gain are immeasurable and you won’t regret it.
Despite the rather cheesy title, the year abroad truly is the adventure of a lifetime and undoubtedly has been the most rewarding experience of my life so far.