If we take a moment to rewind back a year to summer 2012, we’ll remember that we all dressed up in red, white and blue and had garden parties in the pouring rain to celebrate Queenie’s 60th anniversary on the throne, Murray just missed out on the Wimbledon title and everyone was glued to the TV watching GB rake in 29 gold medals in the London Olympics, making it one of the most patriotic summers of our generation! But whilst all this was going on, YA students spread across the UK were trying to figure out how best to pack up their life into a suitcase with an impossible weight limit, how to say goodbye to their friends and family for a year and hoping their dog wouldn’t suffer from abandonment issues in their absence…
Well, a year has passed.
You made some excruciating linguistic errors at horribly untimely moments, you thought YARP would kill you, and you may have put on a bit of ‘holiday weight’. However, you’ve also become a don in the target language, have made a tonne of incredible friends from all over the globe, and have lived through experiences, seen and done things you could never have even dreamed of a year ago: your worldview is different and in short, you feel changed. And now the fun sponge that is Southampton University wants you back for fourth year. How are you to deal with the reverse culture shock?
1. See friends and family – You may have made some friends for life abroad, but there’s nothing like coming home to the friends and family who have known you your whole life. Reunions and coming home celebrations are an excuse to see everyone you’ve missed for a year, to catch up on a year of missed birthdays and share your adventures and presents (that you definitely brought home with you) to show you that, well, there is life after YA!
2. Indulge – Having spent a year tucking into in all of the local cuisine, and with the mentality that you needed to ‘try everything’, new flavours and strange concoctions have become part of daily life. Whereas dipping churros in hot chocolate or chucking chilli and tomato juice in your beer may have become your new favourite indulgence, you’ve definitely had very frequent cravings for haribo, spaghetti bolognese the way mum does it or, like me, a massive roast dinner from Toby Carvery. Well, it’s time to get excited because all this will not be thousands of miles away anymore but right at your fingertips. And before coming home, you can always buy some of your favourite ingredients or recipes you mastered during the year to share (and show off) at home, as well as obviously bringing a taste of your year abroad back to England.
3. Explore your own country – You may have come back home with a wealth of knowledge of new cities, countries, cultures and histories but, sadly, that wealth doesn’t translate into actual money, and your bank account is looking pretty sorry for itself. Well, never fear: you don’t have to go abroad to travel. And really, how much have you actually travelled your own country? The UK has some incredible cities and nature reserves, as well as festivals going on all throughout the summer, so why not get a group of friends together and go exploring? My personal recommendation would be the Edinburgh Festival, a beautiful city who’s streets are filled throughout the month of August with comedy, music and theatre and maybe, if your lucky, a few men in skirts!
4. Keep busy and throw yourself into 4th year – 4th year is a scary prospect rearing it’s ugly face towards the horizon and every day seemingly getting closer. However, I have it confirmed from graduated language students that 4th year actually is amazing! Yes it’s hard work and no, the majority of it is not spent sipping margaritas on the beach, but all 4th year students are in the same metaphorical boat so there will always be a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. The year will fly by and when it’s time to graduate we’ll all want to rewind the year anyway, so let’s make the most of it while we can!
5. Plan your next adventure – Just because you’re back in England doesn’t mean your travelling days are over. Quite the opposite: now that you’ve got the travelling bug, why not start planning your next adventure now? You discovered some gems on your year abroad, so why not go back there? Or if you’ve got your heart set on a new destination, get yourself a lonelyplanet guide and start making plans and a wish list of future travels. It’ll be motivation to start saving too! Whether it’s getting a weekend job or just putting aside some of your loan, the next adventure will feel like it’s just around the corner.