Roughly three years ago I announced I would be moving abroad. I got accepted into The University of Sheffield for a master’s programme, so this was the direct reason for me to pack my bags. Fast-forward to 2019 and I am packing my bags again: this time for a one-way trip back to my home country. But before I leave, I want to share my experiences of living abroad with you.
ps. this blog post includes an incredibly embarrassing video from three years back, when I announced my plans and reasons for moving abroad. An excellent opportunity to laugh at 20-year-old Laura.
Things I wanted to do
In the vlog above, I officially broke the news that I was going to be moving abroad. I give a number of reasons for this new adventure: getting my master’s degree, “taking a break”, enjoying student life, and exploring British culture. Now, I would like to look back on these things and review what I have accomplished.
A master’s degree
My main reason for moving abroad was that I had been granted the opportunity to do a master’s degree at The University of Sheffield. I had always had plans to get my MA, but I had never dreamed to do so in a country abroad.
Honestly, I feel like I definitely underestimated the programme sometimes because I was so used to different methods from my bachelor’s course. Nevertheless, everything went ok. I passed all my modules in one go, though not always with grades that I felt proud of. On the other hand, I hardly care about the UK’s grading system of firsts, 2:1s and 2:2s or whatever. As an international student, this bears little meaning to me or people back home. I care more about what I get out of this personally.
My bachelor’s degree had been a bit of a wildfire at times, especially when we had to follow classes, do our internships, and keep up self-study all at the same time. It had made me a student who was resistant to large amounts of pressure and good at keeping overview of things. Compared to this, my MA course was no competition: I only ever needed to focus on one thing at the time, like writing essays.
Towards the end of my second semester, my mental health started quickly deteriorating. This, however, had nothing to do with the university work or living abroad. In fact, the university was actually a great help to me. My GP with the University Health Service has always been very understanding, and the university’s extra support services have stood by me throughout all my difficulties. The university granted me all the time I needed to get better and without any additional fees. This meant the world to me. In The Netherlands, I could never have done it this way. Therefore I have 0 regrets for doing this master abroad. It has sincerely been one of the best choices of my life.
Jessop West vs. The Diamond, Sheffield
Taking a break
Moving abroad with plans to do a 1-year master’s course definitely does not sound like taking a break, but it did to me. The truth is, I was burning out in The Netherlands. I can’t quite pinpoint why, but I always felt very stressed out there and I constantly held myself to impossible standards. I could not feel comfortable and safe in my own country. I needed a way out.
Despite my mental health problems, I became a much happier person in the UK. It was an opportunity to reset: a new environment with physical distance from prior experiences. I wouldn’t say I reinvented myself, but I would say I became truer to myself.
Still today, there are large parts of my country where I do not feel at ease. I am a little worried taking myself back will trigger past trauma, but fortunately I have had a lot time and space to figure out what is best for me. Hopefully this will help me set boundaries for self-protection in the future.
Enjoy student life
In The Netherlands, I went to a University of Applied Sciences. It was different from a “regular” university, most of all in that it didn’t have a Students’ Union. So, student experience was not a part of my bachelor course. If you wanted to explore student life, you had to do this outside university.
Towards the end of my BA, I felt like I was missing out on something. I had seen other people get involved with university societies, but I had no such place to go to. I was only 20 at the time and didn’t feel like I was finished with student life yet. So, the University of Sheffield seemed like the right place for me.
It was really only a coincidence I ended up studying with them and that they happened to run the #1 Students’ Union in the country. I hadn’t explored their facilities much, but it was clear to me that this university had lots to offer.
Once again, the University of Sheffield proved an excellent choice. I was impressed by the space and time they offered students to explore life. I got involved with music, became a member of the photography society, followed dance classes, participated in Local History Walks, and wrote for the student blog. I also practised several student jobs with the university. That, and the fact that the university has outstanding assistive services, has made this experience well worth the money.
Explore British culture
Another reason for me to go abroad was to become acquainted with UK society and British culture. What better way to do this than becoming part of it? As an English teacher, a lot of my knowledge came from textbooks, but textbooks simply cannot teach you everything. So, I wanted to learn from up-close and gain authentic experiences with language and culture.
Living in Sheffield would help me to do so, but I was also interested in travelling and seeing parts of the country I wouldn’t immediately visit on holiday. This, however, proved difficult. I think I am weary about spending money on experiences because they’re not something you can physically touch. On top of that, a lot of places aren’t cheap or easy to get to by public transport, especially if you live just a bit up north.
Places I have visited include The Lake District, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Whitby, The Peaks, and Chatsworth. In the end it is London that I explored the most, and I don’t even like London that much. So, I must admit I am a little disappointed at how little travelling I eventually ended up doing.
But it’s not too late to fix things! This week I travel to Llandudno in North Wales for a day, and at the end of April I have booked a 5-day trip to Scotland as a celebration for finishing up here.
Besides, I plan to come back for holidays lots of times 🇬🇧
What about you?
Have you lived abroad or are you considering it? Please share your thoughts and experiences! I am also available to answer your questions, if you have any.