The University of Kent is one of many universities that offer year abroad options to students in their third year. Kent has connections with universities in Europe, North America and Asia. Many of you may wonder why anyone would ever want to leave our beloved Canters for a whole year, let alone one semester, but let me tell you: it’s one hundred percent worth it.

I spent my year at Mount Holyoke College, a liberal arts women’s college in western Massachusetts less than a quarter of the size of UKC. Needless to say, it was nothing I’d ever experienced before. When I first arrived in South Hadley, or How Sadly as the students call it, I was worried that the year would not live up to my expectations. Now I can say that it was everything I wanted and more.

The grades from your year abroad do not count towards your degree. Instead, it’s a pass or fail system which really takes the pressure off when you’re dealing with jet lag and culture shock. Now, I’m not telling you that this gives you the right to slack off but…it kind of does… just a little bit. But for the more studious among you, the pass or fail system allows you to throw yourself into new subject areas without worrying that your lack of experience in them will result in a 2:2. I opted for classes in Islamic Art, American Film and the History of Journalism which, in hindsight, might have been trying too many new things at once, but no worries because I passed anyway. So there.

When you’re in a new place for a year you really want to take advantage of everything available to you. This can mean taking courses that aren’t offered at Kent or it can be signing up to societies you never thought you’d be able to. You could join an ice hockey team, a mountain climbing club, or learn to horse ride. Or you could do what I did and learn to tap dance. I don’t know why, it just sort of happened.

Hands down the best part of the year abroad is that it gives you the opportunity to travel. Depending on where you study you can plan trips to parts of the world you never thought you would go. On my year we took weekend trips to Boston and New York. I spent thanksgiving in Philadelphia and the winter holidays in Chicago. And of course, you can’t forget spring break! Picture yourself drinking cocktails out of a coconut on a beach in Cancun. I actually spent spring break snowed in in Boston, but hey at least that was an experience.

The year is also a chance to meet so many new people from the country you’re studying in, but also from other countries too. During the year I met people from Paris, Moscow and Amman all studying at Mount Holyoke. Even though I’m back at Kent, I still feel very connected with the friends I made in America and have plans to visit them soon.

I will admit that the year abroad will put a dent in your bank account, although if you do a full year then you only pay 15% of the tuition fees at Kent, which is a total bargain what with fees in the States being up to and over $31,000. But all the money you spend on your year abroad is worth it to experience a completely new environment and make friends with people from around the world.