Like a phoenix rising from the ashes…

… or maybe, in my case, a turd (“Poo… -nix”?), I’ve decided to revive this blog! I suppose the phoenix analogy is actually fairly valid, given that my attempt at keeping a Year Abroad Blog really did go down in flames. I don’t think I managed more than about ten or eleven posts before I gave up, and some of them were really quite depressing. People who followed the blog – to whom I don’t know whether to apologise or express my gratitude – will probably remember that my last one was about how I wasn’t having a particularly amazing time, and that at least one post wasn’t actually about my time in France at all. In my defence, I did try hard to at least write a post about my time at the ENS de Lyon coming to a close, but I was so busy with leaving and then summer goings-on that it was suddenly October and I’d been back in the UK far too long for it really to be worth trying to think of something nice to say about Lyon. This isn’t to say that I had a horrible time, but it’s just quite a way in the past now, and although I do get nostalgic about certain aspects, especially about all the brilliant people I met, I feel perfectly happy and ready to carry on with my life post-Year-Abroad.

I realise that I’ve digressed a lot from my original point. But yes! I have decided to revive my Year Abroad Blog and turn it into something far less masturbatory: a blog! I’m actually quite pleased to not have to restrain myself now to those insufferable clichés iterated by every single native-anglophone student of foreign languages who goes abroad, but before I go on, I’m going to digress for a little while longer and air my feelings about the mentality of these blogs in general. For example, why is it interesting to write about how people in Country X do things differently to Country Y, if this comparison is made solely for comparison’s sake? Why do we feel the need to congratulate ourselves for flying our privileged (both socially and, I would argue, linguistically) selves to a country where, for once, we can’t just rely on English to get us by (though many still do), by writing blog posts about how we’re managing not to die in the months we spend out there? I do know a lot of people who aren’t like this, so I’m not trying to tar everyone with the same brush, but I’ve read a lot of blogs of people who seem to think they deserve a pat on the back because they’re on first-name terms with the baker on their street in Perpignan (who knew people in France were actually called François?!!?!???!1), or because it feels SO(seaux?) unnatural to eat dinner before 4am now that they’re back from Granada (increíble, I know).

Sadly, too, a lot of them probably wouldn’t write quite so annoyingly about their experiences if there weren’t websites like thirdyearabroad.com that egged them on. I appreciate a lot of what these websites do, because they can be very helpful when it comes to deciding where to go, finding fact files about countries and cities and first-person accounts of what it’s like to live in a place. However, they also draw most of their content from students doing their year abroad or who have just returned. These people may write about “their” Colmar as if they know it better than anyone else, and maybe they do know where to find the closest coffee you’ll get to a Pumpkin Spice Latte in Colmar, but the problem is that they’re given a platform and therefore assume that what they are saying is important or interesting. Third Year Abroad in particular exacerbates this false sense of importance by hosting annual “Year Abroad Awards”, as if the Year Abroad were something you can WIN. Personally, I can’t imagine a more ridiculous or harmful stance to take on this year abroad we do. Such competition only serves to add to the already-quite-present pressure put on a lot of UK languages students to have the “best year of their life”. Admittedly, many students may have a wonderful time abroad, but is it really fair to make students who don’t have the time of their life even more acutely aware that their contemporaries are enjoying their year so much more, doing the Year Abroad so much better than them? I think not.

To cut a long story short, I’ve used the premise of talking about developing my Year Abroad Blog into a more general blog as a springboard to actually relate how frustrating I find certain attitudes towards the Year Abroad. But luckily, for any potential readers, the original premise still rings true! I will be, from now on, using this blog for writing about anything I like, which will hopefully continue to be interesting for both me and anyone who fancies reading it. I imagine that I may post even more sporadically than I did while I was in France, but I might suddenly feel very inspired… we’ll see. But I do want to keep writing, because I enjoy it, so please watch this space! I’m in my fourth and final year of undergrad study at Cambridge, so if nothing else, I’ll surely, at some point or another, be procrastinating and end up writing something far more interesting but far less important than the essay I’m supposed to be doing. Until then!

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