What I learnt on my year abroad

25 August 2023

Discover what you can gain from a year abroad as undergraduate student, Sabriyah Afzal, shares her experience studying at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. 

!Hola! My name is Sabriyah, and I have just returned from my year abroad studying at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. If you are debating whether you want to do a year abroad, I am here to tell you why this will be one of the best years of your life. So many people say this, and I didn’t believe it either. However, there is no denying that the memories, skills, and lessons learned during a year abroad are like no other.

Why would I recommend a year abroad?

During a year abroad, you learn so many new things about yourself. From sorting out admin to embarking on trips and new experiences, it is a great opportunity to step outside your comfort zone. Whilst it may seem frightening, it is true to say you come out a more self-confident person with life-long memories. I was terrified to go on my year aboard and I made many mistakes along the way. However, I would do anything to get the opportunity to repeat to do it all over again!

As well as personal development, a year abroad allows you to advance your language skills. Living in Madrid and also studying Spanish, I saw a drastic improvement in my Spanish throughout the year, which was something I was proud of. However, I would be lying if I said it was something that came easily! If I had to give one piece of advice to anyone going on a year abroad, it would be to learn the language and try to speak it as much as possible. Even if you make mistakes, it is greatly appreciated among locals and it is amazing to see the improvements you make throughout the year.

Lastly, the social and cultural aspects of the year are like no other. The people you meet and the opportunity to become engrossed in the culture are truly unforgettable from the typical Spanish late-night dining and party culture to the wide array of festivals taking place in Madrid. Making friends was also a lot easier than I thought! Not only did I meet lots of Warwick students also in Madrid, but many organisations arrange trips and activities all catered towards exchange students.

Five key skills I have acquired from my year abroad

Adaptability- During a year abroad, you are forced to adapt to a new language, culture, and way of life in a very short space of time. In an increasingly globalised world, this skill is becoming more and more important in the world of work. 

Problem-solving- From choosing modules to finding ways of travelling around a busy city, a year abroad forces you to make many practical and strategic choices. Today, employers appreciate this skill as it shows you are capable of making efficient and informed decisions. 

Communication- During the year, you will have to communicate with locals whether you can speak the language or not. You inevitably have to find alternate ways of communicating in many situations, and this is a very valuable skill that can be useful where overseas collaboration is essential. 

Intercultural awareness- Having the opportunity to live in a different country exposes you to new cultures, customs, and ways of life that you have never experienced before. After returning, I found myself with a greater appreciation for different cultures and what makes them special. In an increasingly diverse workplace, this is extremely important as it shows you are capable of being adaptable, respectful, and open-minded.

Organisation- As mentioned, during a year abroad there is a lot of preparation and admin that needs to be completed behind the scenes. This includes flights, accommodation, trips, experiences, and immigration, all of which need to be thoroughly organised in advance and this year allowed me to improve my organisation skills, and quickly learn how to allocate time efficiently.