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Embarking on the year abroad

Phoebe Walls discusses her experiences preparing for her year abroad.

The year abroad takes third-year modern languages students away from the Oxford bubble and into the world of the unknown. As a seventeen-year-old fresher, this time felt like a distant, tropical idea. It was something fun to say to people I’d just met. Yet in second year, the reality began to sink in. Navigating job applications, and the nightmare that is obtaining a Visa post-Brexit all whilst juggling the notorious Oxford workload, proved a stressful time. 

The year abroad meeting from the languages faculty left us all shell shocked, frantically typing away. We all felt green with envy at those lucky enough to possess EU passports, the golden ticket to freedom of movement. The year abroad office told us that they are not able to offer support with Visa applications. The necessary websites and documentations proved a minefield. You’d think you were applying to MI6. When TLS purged my application because I hadn’t been able to book an appointment in 20 days, my friend peered her head through my basement window to find me weeping. 

Trinity was our final term as languages students to let loose and make the most of Oxford before waving it goodbye, with the knowledge that when we returned for our fourth year we’d have finals chaining us to library desks. The workload in our final term did not lighten, despite us drowning in year abroad admin. It was a hectic time, filling in form after form, whilst still churning out two essays a week – and having fun.  

Friendships and relationships also begin to feel fragile as moving away loomed. However exciting the prospect of meeting new people, leaving behind my close friends was bittersweet. For some year abroad students, relationships disintegrated before their year abroad. Heartbreak and Trinity seem to go well together. The sun can dry tears. 

Before we knew it we were running down the High Street in pyjamas for our final bop of the year and drunkenly confessing our love for each other in the toilets. 

After a week at home, I packed everything into one suitcase and arrived at the airport. I’ve never felt more like an adult. I was delighted to have found such a cheap hotel to break up my long journey across Germany, one of Booking.com’s hidden gems. I managed to accidentally walk up to the entrance of the next door mental hospital which had a creepy doll staring at me from the window, sending a shiver down my spine. The sign for a mother and child convent made me laugh. The converted convent hotel was indeed a peaceful haven. On my first night I enjoyed dinner, watching couples intertwined, waiting for heartbreak. I indulged in people-watching and the peace of my own company. 

I love writing postcards and sending frantic texts, a running commentary to my Mum of this rollercoaster ride. Despite all its flaws social media offers a chance to share the highlights of our lives online.  

Embarking on the year abroad is one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done, pushing me out of my comfort zone into a foreign culture. For us languages students, this summer marks the beginning of a brand new chapter and I’m excited to see what it holds in store.

Image credit: Phoebe Walls

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