Somehow it’s September again. I can say without doubt that the last year has flown past. It’s scary to think that 12 months ago I had just settled into Lyon and that I was at the start of my exchange. I’ve met a bunch of new people and been to villages, cities and countries I’d never been to before. But now it’s time to look forward. Now is the time to take my experiences from last and apply them to my final year at Glasgow.
Being taught in a different country gives you a different perspective on the subject you study or job you work. For instance, I’ve already studied about the make-up of Westminster parliament and how it works but having covered it again has made me review my own opinions given how French law professors (as well as many other European ones) look at the British system. Even with something like the English language, you begin to understand why beginners make common mistakes given their own language and structure. In English we use a different form for the subjunctive tense only with one verb – to be, for example ‘if I were…’ rather than ‘if I was…’ Likewise any native English speaker learning any other language (especially Latin based ones such as French, Spanish, Italian etc.) will always have trouble getting used to using this tense so often. Essentially, being in a new place presents you with a new angle to look at things. Furthermore the key thing when evaluating anything is to look at both sides of the argument.
With arguments come stress. However there is a difference between being stressed and being busy. Paperwork in France is stressful. Fourth at university is unquestionably busy but also usually stressful. I’ve known the difference for a long time but studying in Lyon gave me some great illustrations on the point. Most poignantly, learning a new language requires a hell of a lot of work though it doesn’t need to be too stressful. All you need to do is invest time in it. Of course, you will from time to time misinterpret something (such as calling a duck a connard instead of a canard) but you pick on the mistakes – hopefully. Another example is working, in France working in a pub/bar is very similar to anywhere else yet it would be easy to get mega worried about drunk and/or angry French speaking customers. But in reality the vast majority of drinks are called the same thing, you get used to the names for food and apply the skills you learned before in almost the exact same way but in Lyon not Glasgow. I think for fourth year, being able to identify tasks or things early as being potentially stressy or time consuming is key to getting the most out of your final year of your degree and to get the best grades possible.
There’s many reasons why studying abroad is fantastic. You will meet new people from all over the world, experience life in a fresh environment, try out new things and work/study with new colleagues. For me the very best thing about it is that it gives you opportunity to see more of the world and encourages you to do more so afterwards. Your exchange is just the beginning. Go and explore. Try out new things that you might have been afraid to do. I believe that’s the best way to enjoy yourself.