1. Live with locals
You’ll pick up the accent and become fluent more quickly if you truly make the effort to join in. Use this as an opportunity to become a local yourself and to explore each other’s cultures: whip up a Sunday roast for your flatmates and expect something equally traditional in return.
The best example of this is cereal. If the locals breakfast on espresso and pastries, then do the same! Don’t hunt for your usual imported comfort food at the supermarket.
3. Vocab boost
When you don’t understand a foreign word, ask for a synonym and NOT an English translation. Leave your dictionary in your apartment during the day as a challenge, and write new words, expressions and their translations in a tiny credit card-sized notebook.
4. Get a bicycle
You will be able to fit SO much more into your day [see no. 5] if you can cross your new town/city in just a few minutes. Cycling will also keep you fit and healthy so you’ll feel you can indulge more on local delicacies!
You will quickly meet like-minded people (students and locals alike) while learning a new skill that you’re interested in and, in so doing, practising your foreign language skills! Think: salsa dancing in Spanish, pizza-making in Italian, life-drawing in French... the possibilities are endless!
6. English-speaking opportunities
Register as bilingual at your local British Institute. They get requests for English-speakers from casting directors, guidebook editors, voice-over coordinators and freelance journalists so you could get some really fun work experience on your CV!
7. Discover your city
Explore and keep a record! That’s what (bicycles) blogs, journals, TYA and blank Moleskine city guides are for [see no. 8/9]. Get off at a random bus stop and walk home, buy a guidebook and check places off as you visit, ask locals for their unmissable favourites... just get out and about!
Photos, sketchbooks, videos, blogs, journals, scrapbooks, memory boxes - find a way in which you like to express yourself and record all your adventures for posterity. Blurb is a great piece of software where you can combine photos, blog posts and journal scans into a beautiful dust jacketed hardback book. More ways to document your adventures.
9. Create a guide
If you create the ‘definitive guide’ to your city, you will be so grateful for it on your next return when you’re hazy on the details, and you can lend it to friends, family and future year abroaders. Don’t forget to include: tried-and-tested cafes and restaurants, the best things to do on a Sunday and things you’d never find in a normal guidebook.
10. Ship in friends
The best way to appreciate your year abroad destination is to invite ‘home friends’ to stay and then give them a guided tour of your absolute favourite things to see and do, especially hidden-away and off the tourist track secret finds. When you see their response, you’ll never want to leave!