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Is the Cambridge year abroad really worth the stress?

So many questions, so little time


According to the MMLL faculty, “the year abroad is a unique time during your term of study that offers up a range of opportunities for learning and growth.” Whilst teaching, studying, or working abroad for an entire year certainly gives you the opportunity to develop your language skills and experience personal growth, there is no doubt that organising your year abroad is a logistical nightmare.

Logistics, logistics, logistics

Now, as a lowly second year just starting to plan her year abroad, I must admit I cannot really come to a definite conclusion in this article. However, I can offer some insight into how the planning for my year abroad is going – spoiler alert: Not very well.

Hear the words ‘fun recreational reading’? Think YA handbook (Image credit: author’s own screenshot)

Unless you find 30-something page handbooks exciting, organising your year abroad is probably going to be a tedious experience. From visa applications to health insurance, the one unifying factor between all year abroad experiences seems to be the abundance of forms that need to be filled in.

For the last time, no I do not have any children (Image credit: author’s own screenshot)

If it wasn’t painful enough to have to fill in three different forms and pay €80 (alongside many other hidden processing fees), you’ll also be expected to navigate the foreign embassy website in the original language. No stress though, the only thing that can go wrong is your visa being denied x

Funding fright

Since Brexit, funding opportunities for years abroad in Europe have been few and far between. The UK’s withdrawal from the Erasmus Scheme due to its “extremely expensive” nature has complicated not only the allocation of study placements, but also funding for UK students studying in Europe. The replacement Turing Scheme has done little to ease the anxieties of UK universities and students due to its single-year funding model.

Thus, you can expect a lot of uncertainty concerning how much funding you will receive from the university and the government. In a lot of instances, you are expected to pay out of pocket and apply to be reimbursed by the year abroad Office. So unless you have piles of money you like to roll around in in your free time, I’d get saving.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Although all the organisation may seem like a drag, and a massive weight on your mind just as you’re settling into second year, it is certainly the case that “the more thorough your preparation, the more successful and satisfying your year will be.

When speaking to fourth years who have just returned from their year abroad, many claim that it has been the best part of their university experience, offering some much-needed diversity and a break from the intensity of the Cambridge system.

Just because you’re not physically with your friends doesn’t mean the YA can’t be a shared experience (Image credit: author’s own screenshot via MMLfess)

At the end of the day, what better coming-of-age experience can there be than getting lost in the Paris metro, losing your passport in Berlin, or accidentally ordering cheese with your coffee instead of milk in Rome.

So, bite the bullet and start filling in that visa application!