Does Your Year Abroad Have To Be The Best Year Of Your Life?

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Whenever I told anyone that I was doing my year abroad in Brazil they would get so excited.

They would tell me how great it was going to be and how much I would love it, then sigh and say how jealous they were. I would laugh, nod and say ‘you’re welcome to come visit’, while feeling slightly sick and wondering if I should feel more excited. Everyone said it was going to be amazing, and everyone who came back from their year abroad said it was great, so why did I feel like I was going to be sick every time I thought about going?

Finally, I had to go; on my way to the airport I begged my parents to turn the car around, I so wasn’t ready to cross the Atlantic on my own, let alone start living in Brazil. I had only studied Portuguese for two years, and I didn’t know how I was going to cope with speaking it 24/7. Goodbyes were emotional, and I cried most of the first leg of my journey.

I finally arrived, and spent the first few days exploring the area with my new flatmate, and it was great seeing somewhere new and meeting new people, even though I was confused most of the time as to what they were actually saying! Eventually, maybe two weeks in, homesickness hit and all I wanted was to be back in Europe where I had friends and family and I knew how things worked.

The homesickness lasted at least a month, and I didn’t really know what to do, I had never felt like this before. I was lucky to have friends I could Skype who understood, and two girls from Southampton here with me who understood what I was going through. All I could think was how much this sucked, and that I wanted to be at home where I wouldn’t feel like this, but I knew that was impossible so I tried to do things that would make me feel better.

Bit by bit I settled in, figured out my routine and now I sometimes even feel at home here.

I have been able to do and see things that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t come to Brazil, I have visited some amazing places, and plan to visit many more. I’ve met people from all over, and got to experience Brazilian university, which is very different to university in the UK.

I feel very lucky to have this opportunity, and it’s amazing, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy or that it’s the best year of my life. Maybe some people do have the best year of their lives from start to finish, but most people don’t. It’s very easy to enthuse over how amazing it will be if you’re not doing it yourself, or have already done it because you’ll be thinking of all the great times you had, but I would ignore the hype. It probably won’t be the best year of your life, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

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Spanish, Portuguese and European Studies student, on her year abroad in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

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