I want to talk about dealing with bad situations this week. Unfortunately, I kind of lost my creativity to write over the past couple of weeks as nothing particularly special happened and I was très busy.
I don’t really like writing negative posts but I’d like to write about the reality of a year abroad for those who are doing it in the future.
It’s inevitable that we worry before we move abroad. We worry about every little thing that could possibly happen. You could forget something really important, you could be in the middle of nowhere and even worse, you could have no friends.
Now, the chances of those things happening are pretty slim. You can always buy things in your country that you’ve forgotten, there will most likely be someone you can converse with no matter where you are, and there are always people willing to make friends. So, stop fretting but be realistic.
Everyone says that “it’s what you make of it” and whilst, yes, it’s a cliché, it’s very, very true. You have to go abroad and (try to) think positive thoughts. You have to grab every possible opportunity that comes your way in order to get the most out of your year. No matter how scary turning up to an Erasmus party on your own is, just do it. What have you got to lose? Everyone else is in the same position.
Today, I want to make you feel better by telling you three major times I was shit on during my year abroad. Despite the fact that I look on my year abroad in a (very) positive light, and it was just a blur of drinking with friends, there were, inevitably, the bad parts. So, here’s what happened to me, and what could happen to you, but try to learn from my mistakes. With each, I’ve attached two positive notes; what I learned from the experience, and why I’m glad it happened.
I was contacted by a family over the summer who needed an au pair during the school year. After some skype calls and some information, I accepted. I moved a month earlier than all the other assistants and started the work.
To cut a rather long story short, I never felt entirely comfortable in the house. Despite getting on very well with the kids, the parents were always a bit weird with me. As with most families who can afford to have an au pair, they were very rich and a bit pretentious.
In the end, my timetable clashed with the work they were expecting me to do and when I had to tell them that my hours would have to change or that it wasn’t going to work, the father sat me down and talked to me in the most condescending manner, judging every single part of my character.
It was one of the worst experiences of my life and I had nightmares for about a month after it. But…
What I learned from this: Never let anyone take advantage of you.
Why I’m glad this happened: I wouldn’t have been there earlier than the other assistants and therefore met some Erasmus students if I hadn’t joined the family. I also had more time to deal with all my administration issues to begin the year. And I learned that you have to be more careful about the choices to stay with people you don’t really know.
The second story is a lot further in to the school year and I’d mainly settled in to everything and I had my friends and my boyfriend’s support. This time, it was with the principal of one of the schools I was teaching in (also a rich male might I add).
Everything at the school had been going really great. I really liked the kids that I was teaching, and I’d only had one issue in the whole time of teaching that I’d lost control of a student, who was punished for what she had done by the principal.
Basically, randomly one day as I was leaving the school, the principal stumbled across me and took me in to his office to have a chat. As everything was going so smoothly, I didn’t really know what to expect. He was being really overpowering and trying to get me to talk about things that I had done wrong in the class, but I was unaware that I’d done anything wrong and so I lost my voice (and therefore my ability to speak French) and I had no idea what to do. He kept badgering me for information and he told me the teachers thought I was doing a bad job and I just sat there, listening to another person judge me.
After leaving the office in a complete mess, and crying all the way home, I decided I needed to clear the air as I was so confused. I emailed my teachers, completely pouring my heart out about how I loved the kids and how I received no help in how to teach and that I was very upset. Immediately, I received an email back telling me that, actually, I was doing a great job, and in actual fact, the principal does that to lots of people and he’s just a connard. All in all, this wasn’t the worst experience. But for the five hours in between the meeting in the principal’s office, and the reply from my teacher, my brain was mushy peas.
What I learned from this: don’t cry on buses.
Why I’m glad this happened: my teachers helped me more and tried to include me more after it.
The last experience is one that I regret to even have to write about and one that I don’t even want to write about. However, I think future year abroaders should be aware of it.
When you live with someone else, you have to make sure you know the person before you move in with them. Perhaps you could contact them before to discuss similar interests, and see if you get along. Otherwise, it might or might not work out.
Personally, I lived with another person and I wish I’d lived solo. You don’t really know someone until you live with them. However, on the other hand, living with someone does banish the loneliness and can help to force you to leave your apartment, if you’re not an outgoing person.
When there’s more than one of you living in a place, there’s double the amount of administration, obviously. It takes almost double the time to get everything done and everything is just a bit slower.
This is where my bad story comes in. In France, the administration is ridiculously lengthy and awful to do. When leaving the apartment, my flatmate abandoned me at the last minute, without much warning, to do pretty much everything. We had arranged to do different things, and after a month and a half of me asking, my flatmate finally did the one thing that was on her side. Also, on the days before the move and on the move-out day, I was left to do absolutely everything. To make matters worse, my family were visiting and the last day of their holiday was ruined, as was my whole perception of the whole year.
Unfortunately, this gives me such a bad view over the whole year in the apartment. It’s been very hard to focus on the good times that happened since this occurred, and it’s a huge shame, and my biggest regret from the whole situation. I hope you will learn from this mistake and make sure you make the best decision for YOU and no-one else.
It’s very difficult for me not to regret living with another person. I’m very much a solo person. I can spend two or three days alone and not really care. However, I can also go out all the time and see friends all the time if I want to. The benefit of living with someone else is that the rent tends to be smaller than if living by yourself and the apartment tends to be larger. This means you can have lots of soirées in your apartment as there’s enough space.
What I learned from this: I don’t like living with certain types of people and I will make decisions about housing more carefully in the future.
Why I’m glad this happened: I completely adored the apartment that we were living in, and without it, I wouldn’t have had so many good nights with my friends.
It’s easy to look back and either be positive or negative about your year abroad. I think it’s healthy to do both, for me anyway. There were so many great times and great travels during my period that I wouldn’t change anything. However, there were bound to be bad points. And, despite that these situations hurt me in so many ways, they are healthy for me to experience and for me to take what I’ve learnt in to the future.
Remember that your year abroad WILL be incredible if you make it incredible, but you can’t think that every day will be great and you will be 100% happy all of the time. I would say I was happy 95% of the time and these experiences are just a tiny part of what I take from my year abroad.