If I was to give advice to anyone preparing for their year abroad I'd suggest the following:
- WRITE A LIST- and check off things as you go. This has recently greatly satisfied the OCD side of my personality and has massively calmed me down as I can see what I've achieved and what I've got left to do. On my list is things like “speak to bank”, “get insurance including winter sports”, “find somewhere to live”, “email responsable and previous assistant” and “decide what to pack”. Each time I manage to complete a task I cross it off and seeing the list begin to dwindle is not only reassuring, but serves to remind me how quickly to leaving the country I’m getting. Yes, it freaks me out a little bit, but more than anything it’s exciting to see how close I am to realising a dream.
- SORT INSURANCE- Always err on the side of caution. I'm paying extra to make sure I'm covered for winter sports as, knowing my luck, I'd be the one person who will fall off a sledge/skis/a mountain and not be covered by insurance, so I'm not taking the risk and will therefore be the one person who is covered to fall off a sledge/skis/a mountain and won't. I’ve looked around and decided to take take out my insurance with YearAbroad as they cater specifically for students going away on their year abroad. It’s also a little cheaper than the other options I looked at and covers me for exactly the same stuff.
- MONEY MONEY MONEY- Spoken to my bank and found out I get charged for transferring money from my English account to my French account. Pants. However, Caxton fx do a "Europe Traveller Card" which I can load up with money from my UK bank FREE OF CHARGE and use it just like a debit card. BRILLIANT! I can separate my money from the UK from my pay in France and therefore have money for bills in one account and money for fun in another. YAY! Secondly, getting my SFE application in early and making sure I met the Erasmus deadlines had also taken a weight off my mind. I’ve already set a reminder on my computer to get my SFE application in early for my final year as well, so I don’t have to worry about it when I get back, panicking that I’ve left it too late.
- BUCKET LISTS- I've written a list of things I'd like to achieve and do whilst away, including travelling and learning new hobbies. One of the things I'm looking forward to the most is the week before I actually arrive in Grenoble. Mum and Steve are going to be driving me down in order to make sure I have all of my home comforts and stuff that I'm going to need without having to pay to ship it over. We're going to spend the week visiting a couple of cities along the way in order to spend some quality time as a family and celebrate Mum's and my birthdays.
- LEARN FROM OTHERS- I've been in contact with both my responsable and the previous assistant who have helped me massively with what to expect and what to prepare for lessons. Most importantly, they've been the best people to give honest advice about phone and internet tariffs, bank accounts, accommodation and things to do in and around where I'm going to be living as well as getting around. My responsable has recommended some university style accommodation pretty much right next to the school, which whilst it’s not the cheapest option, it is ideal for work and saves me having to trawl through websites and look for something that I can’t physically view until I get out to France. With the uni accommodation, I kind of know what to expect and all my bills are included so I don’t have to worry about too much. Of course, if when I get out there and I don’t like the uni digs, I can always look for something else with a friend or find something closer to the centre of town. This is unlikely though, I like the idea of being so close to work!
I think I’m most nervous about my French skills not being good enough. This is completely irrational as I’ve spent a month on my own in France before and had no problems communicating and complaining! I think I’ll be fine at work talking to my colleagues as A) I know they can speak English, and B) I don’t think there’s much I can’t talk about that comes up in normal conversation. I’m most worried about having to set up bank accounts and sort out a phone contract, or anything where my lack of subject specific vocabulary will be evident and prevent me from communicating clearly and state what I want.
I’m not worrying about planning lessons or what to teach/do with the students. Having had experience of doing this –albeit for under 12s doing karate- I’m confident that I can design a lesson suited to their abilities and discipline when necessary. I’m looking forward to being in a real classroom situation as there’s only so much you can get out of a book and lectures on how to teach English. After all, nothing is a better educator that real life experience.
So 34 days to go, 34 days to get stuff together, 34 days to see the nearest and dearest and make them as jealous as possible and then au revoir angleterre and bonjour to pastries, fine wine, good food and smelly cheeses. Life couldn't be any better. =)