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  • Frances Roberts

Five ways to cope with the post Year Abroad blues

Frances Roberts gives some insightful tips and tricks on how to navigate readjusting to familiar after life affirming adventures on your year abroad:

Artwork by Sophie Pywell (IG: @s.louise.pywell)

I recently returned from Melbourne, where I spent 5 months on a semester abroad placement. I travelled to some of Australia's most celebrated attractions, made friends from all over the world, and gained a new-found sense of independence by moving as far away as possible, completely on my own. While I was excited to return to Edinburgh, it has been challenging to readjust to a life without koalas and a constant need for suncream. I know I am very much not alone, so here are some tips and tricks to celebrate and harness your year abroad experience, rather than letting the sadness of it ending get you down.

1. Rediscover your city and beyond…

One of the many things I loved most about my study abroad placement was the passion and motivation you have to explore your new surroundings. Whether that be a cafe in your neighbourhood or a trip to a national park in a hire car, you develop this incredible sense of the infinite opportunities for adventure. It is natural to feel a sense of loss for this now that you are back in a city that you may feel you know inside out. However, there are so many great places in Edinburgh and beyond which are so accessible by public transport. Maybe a weekend trip to the Highlands during term time might feel a bit ambitious? But start small and you will be amazed at how your feeling towards the city shifts. Is there a bar or pub you’ve never had a pint in? Try an art gallery you’ve never wandered round, a beach you’ve never swam at, or an area you haven’t explored properly. Plan ahead to sample one new experience each week. A city that you thought didn’t have much new to offer, might just surprise you.

2. Connect with new communities

Embracing new opportunities doesn’t have to just involve visiting new places, as creating new networks through a sport or hobby that you’ve never got round to can be a really fulfilling way to spend your final year at university. Whether it’s writing, producing, learning a language or coaching a sport, the opportunities really are endless. It also gets you to start thinking about life post-university and will make your CV stand out in the crowded graduate job market.The richness and diversity of groups and societies to get stuck into is a unique aspect of universities, and Edinburgh is certainly no exception.

Having a role in a committee is a great way to confirm your commitment to something, helping you to feel a greater sense of achievement at the end of the year. It also expands your social networks, as you are much more likely to feel a stronger bond with people if you are all members of the same team working towards similar goals. Here are a few groups that are still recruiting for their committees: Enactus Edinburgh, Sanitree, The Rattlecap, Archeology Society, Literature Society.

3. Share Your Stories

Telling your flatmates, friends and family about your experience can be a great way to relive moments from your year abroad, whilst reconnecting with those who went away somewhere else or stayed in Edinburgh. Last week, I had a photo sharing evening with some friends who went to Spain and Jordan during their years abroad; It was amazing to be given a glimpse into their experiences whilst also being able to become slightly lost for a moment in my own nostalgic feeling. Having some time to reflect on the life-affirming intensity of your experience is vital in order to process everything and come to terms with the new person you have become. If you have friends who didn’t go abroad, it’s easy to feel worried that a sharing session might leave them feeling deflated about their own experience staying in Edinburgh, but invite them to share something too! Whether that’s some new places they discovered last year or somewhere exciting they went on holiday over summer, it is really important to make it feel like everyone has something to contribute. This is a great way to reconnect, and create closure from one experience so you can fully embrace the year ahead. Sharing your stories with prospective exchange applicants can also be really rewarding and there are opportunities for this at ongoing information sessions this semester.

4. Plan your next adventure

Looking ahead to the future instead of focusing on the past can be a great way to channel your enthusiasm into something productive. Applications for the University of Edinburgh’s Go Abroad Fund open in March and are a perfect opportunity to continue your passion for new experiences overseas, whilst not having to stress about covering the costs. If you’re unsure where to start in terms of finding global work or volunteering opportunities, My Career Hub is a good place to start. And if you’re thinking about continuing your study by doing a masters, there is also the possibility of doing another exchange as part of your course, an option definitely worth considering.

5. If you're still struggling, seek support

If you’ve got to this point in the article and you’re thinking, ‘that’s all well and good but I just want to be back on a beach in Costa Rica drinking Sangria,’ then I would strongly suggest reaching out to either friends or the University for support. The reality is, returning to your home university will be a major adjustment and an entirely personal journey. There is no set amount of time that this can take, so don’t feel any pressure to rush into slotting back into normal life. Your year abroad adventure will have undoubtedly changed you as a person and it can be strange fitting back into surroundings and routines which have remained largely the same. Sometimes dynamics will have shifted too so if this is something you’re struggling with, my tips above about embracing new opportunities could be really helpful.

If you still feel like you need a bit of extra guidance, the University counselling service is a great place to start, with four sessions offered a semester. I have used it myself and I had a really positive experience. Finally, the Study and Work Away team also have some great tips on their website and are holding a welcome back event over the next couple of weeks. You can also get in touch with your exchange coordinator if you are looking for further advice.

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