Hi all, I’m Sauri and I study Politics and Spanish with a year abroad!

In this first blog post, I would like to address the preconceptions, stereotypes and expectations associated with the year abroad. I think the principal stereotype associated with the year abroad is the idea of it just being a sort of “gap yah” for languages students. The very term “year abroad” immediately evokes imagery of the typical generic Instagram photos, pictures of the Louvre and shamefully choreographed photographs of Barcelona’s city streets. However, I believe there is a massive difference between what is broadcasted and reality. The stereotypes of “students abroad” neglects the realities faced by students confronted with financial insecurity, especially those that come from working or lower middle-class backgrounds.

The purpose of the year abroad is supposed to be a chance to become immersed in your target language, culture and society. However, in truth, this goal is hard to satisfy for economically disadvantaged students facing the realities of the sheer cost of moving abroad. The fact is, moving abroad is expensive and incurs a lot of financial insecurity. For students who don’t have the luxury of the bank of mum and dad to depend upon, the year abroad can sometimes be less of a period of carefree self-discovery, and instead develop into an immensely stressful experience, with serious effects on mental health. For that reason, I want to break the stereotype of the student abroad that somehow, alongside working full time, manages to be brunching in a high-end restaurant in Marbella and lounging in Nikki Beach Ibiza after a long night in Amnesia the next. I hope that my experience as a placement student, living on a serious budget and working multiple jobs to make the ends meet, will be a relief for those that also don’t feel that they fit into the filtered photos of Morrocan beach trips or guided tours of the Chilean mountain ranges.

The first obstacle I encountered as I begun to plan my year abroad, was the lack of paid placements available. In Spain, after the economic crisis, youth employment remains at one of the lowest rates of the European Union. As such, a lot of the work offered to students on Erasmus is oftentimes low paid or not paid at all and marketed as volunteer work. This lends itself to my second issue when abroad on work placement (regardless of salary), the student loan is reduced by nearly 4x. This was a huge issue for me, as I rely on my student loan heavily alongside part-time employment to support myself at university. This combined with the stress of having to fork out your deposit from your own pocket and a month’s rent (oftentimes before you get to see the property) alongside flights to your host country is frankly incredibly disconcerting, the usual hardships of moving to another country notwithstanding.

Personally, I spent many nights anxiously searching the web for a guide written by someone who had been in a similar situation, but after a while, I realised that there were next to none. As such, let my experience be your guide to rising out of the swamp of debt (albeit slowly) and allowing yourself to begin your year abroad with kind of confidence that’s normally only enjoyed by people doing placements in investment banking, or whose parents form part of the 1%. My first piece of advice? Believe in your own abilities to persevere regardless of the situation.

Posted in: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Overseas opportunities - study or exchange, Placements

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  • Hey,
    Good luck with your placement. In my experience it can be either wonderful or a bit crap. I am sure you will have a wonderful time in Spain. If you are living in Madrid or Barcelona, you will surely notice in the budget department. On the flip side, you will also have more part-time opportunities, although it might not be what you want to be doing with your free time.
    I would recommend visiting the North; both the East (Bilbao, San Sebastian-where I'm from) and Galicia. Burgos, Leon, Logrono are also great (and cheap). On the South, obviously Granada and Sevilla are great destinations.
    I would also recommend you going skiing to the Pyrenees, if you are a fan of the sport. It will be cheaper than travelling from the UK.
    As for saving money, I would travel by bus or Blablacar (shared journeys). Eating out in some of the smaller places might not be so expensive, but if you learn how to cook legumes (Lentejas, Garbanzos, Alubias) you will get a lot of food for very little money. Vegetables are fairly cheap, too.
    If you are not a big fan of cooking I would recommend you looking at meal replacements (like Huel). I used them towards the later stages of my uni career in Bath and they really saved some me some money (Satislent is Spanish brand with free delivery https://latestfuels.com/satislent-review-brand-taking-the-bull-by-the-horns/).
    Going out is expensive. Even though, at least where I live people pre drink in bars (cheaper) I would recommend not buying many drinks in the clubs because they are really expensive.
    Hit me up if you come north, and I hope you all the best.

  • Eating well was a huge challenge for me until last year because I just didn't really put all that much thought into what I was eating or the nutrition it gave me. I've tried Huel like Enaut mentions but for me I much prefer bottles of things ready to drink so I can grab them in the morning as I left for the day and not have to worry about eating out midday. I found lots on a site called https://eatcomplete.co