I didn’t expect my year abroad to be cut short by a global pandemic but, then again, there was very little of this year that I could have predicted.
Looking back now at my incredible year in Singapore, I’ve had some time to reflect on my experiences.
With the benefit of hindsight, these are the five pieces of advice I would give to myself if I did it all again:
1. Talk to EVERYONE
If there’s one thing I learned this year, it’s that you can never interact with too many people, especially when you’ve travelled alone to a new country! I could not have got through all of the challenges that come with doing a year abroad without all of the amazing friends I made along the way. It’s definitely nerve-wracking at first but the best thing you can possibly do is to introduce yourself to as many people as possible, and don’t be afraid to be the first person to say hello! Everyone is in the same boat and it is 100% worth the initial awkwardess if it means you have a new friend at the end of it.
2. Explore explore explore
It is so important to make the most of your time abroad and see as much as you possibly can. You didn’t do this so that you could stay inside and observe the four walls of a library, you did this for the EXPERIENCE. Of course, if you choose to study somewhere like Singapore the workload is inevitably going to feel intense, but I think the most important thing is to maintain balance. Get the work out the way as efficiently as you can to leave yourself time to make the absolute most of all the amazing opportunities around you.
3. Try. Everything.
Try the food. All of it. However weird and wonderful it may be.
Try a new sport, or learn a language, or go hiking or paint or sing karaoke.
Make this a year of enthusiastically saying YES to EVERYTHING. You never know where it might take you.
4. Get to know the locals
It’s tempting and often easier to stick within your exchange group when you’re studying abroad, and you probably don’t feel at all like you’re missing out because your friends are from all over the world. BUT failing to get to know at least some of the locals will prevent you from making the most of your host country! Local friends are going to be your survival guide and your best resource for food/clubbing/sightseeing recommendations while you’re away.
5. Use this opportunity to learn about yourself
As cliche as it sounds, both the good and the bad experiences you have this year are ultimately going to teach you a hell of a lot about yourself. This is the perfect opportunity to test the limits of your resilience and challenge yourself. Take this year to re-evaluate what you want your life to look like and assess whether you’re doing the right things to get you there.
Most of all, be f****ng proud of yourself for doing something scary and new and amazing. It might just change your life.