For many students it is a dream: studying abroad for a year. I had the incredible opportunity to live in London for the past ten months. If someone asked me whether they should go abroad for a year, I would say: maybe.
One big factor that influences your experience during the year is your host family. Some exchange students I met were really lucky. Their host families became like a second family to them. That is also what most students expect before moving abroad. In reality it is often different. Especially in the United Kingdom, families often get paid for hosting students. In some cases that is one of the main reasons why a family might decide to host a student. In this scenario your relationship is probably more like a relationship between flatmates than family members. However, if you do not feel comfortable with your host family, you will always have the opportunity to change families.
You should also expect the education system to be completely different from the German one. School might become harder because of the language barrier but most exchange students usually do not feel very challenged. I personally had to take three subjects of which I had four lessons each week. The idea is that you only do a small amount of the required work at school and the rest of it at home. In reality, there was barely ever work we were required to do after school. That was the reason why I had a lot of free time which I used to explore London. The small number of subjects also makes it possible to focus on the things you are really interested in. I personally chose Business, History and Sociology. For each of the subjects I had to take two exams at the end of the year and a few days ago I got the news that I passed all of them. It was definitely nice to relax a little and experience another education system for a year.
Another important reason why my experience was largely positive was my placement in London. I used a lot of my time to explore the city with my friends and other exchange students. Even though living in a big city is very expensive, there were a lot of things that were cheap or even free, like most museums in London. At the weekends we sometimes used our time to visit other parts of the country. We visited different cities like Canterbury and Bournemouth and took a road trip to Stonehenge. Living in London is great because public transport is really reliable and there is always something new to discover. However, living in a city with eight million other people can get exhausting, and, like most cities, London has a problem with a high crime rate, bad air and overcrowding.
I definitely enjoyed my year abroad. I was really lucky in some aspects and had the possibility to go to a great school, make a lot of friends and live in London. On the other hand, I am also really happy to be home now because sometimes it was difficult to be far away from all of my friends and family and to live in a city over 300 times the size of Strausberg. I can recommend living a year abroad to everybody who is ready to become more independent, gain lots of new experience and meet a lot of people with different points of view; yet you have to be prepared to make the best of the situation even under conditions that are very different from what you expected.
Lena Redlich, 11/2