Thinking of taking a year abroad as part of your degree? Hannah-Clare Akitt, a student who is currently on her year abroad, gives her advice on things to bear in mind.
Whether you’re studying languages and a year abroad is compulsory, or you’ve just decided it might be a good idea, there are a few things you need to think about before you apply.
For me, as a language student, the year abroad was inevitable, and preparations began at the beginning of my second year. We were given three options:
1. Find your own placement, within a company or sector of work you’re interested in.
2. Become a British Council Language Assistant, which gives you the experience of a work placement.
3. Continue student life as normal… but in another country.
For me, the answer was the British Council Language Assistant programme. I had no clear idea at the start of my second year of university which way I really wanted to go career-wise, and wasn’t confident enough in my french speaking ability to try and find my own placement in a French company . I had thought of teaching as a possible career choice, so I thought, ‘what better way to get some teaching experience?’ and signed up.
The next few months were a waiting game. Once those forms are sent off your fate is in the hands of the British Council, and after applying before Christmas, there’s a long wait until you find out where your posting will be. Some people didn’t know where they would be living until way into the summer holidays. So be prepared to feel like you don’t know what’s going on, as it turns out you do a lot of that as a Language Assistant. I found it difficult not knowing where I was going to live and not being able to prepare myself, but for me everything changed last minute, so it didn’t really make much difference.
I don’t know many people who have opted for a privately found work placement, but I do have one friend who is enjoying herself in an investment banking firm in Paris. If finding a work placement is something that interests you, the Careers Centre offers help and guidance into finding the perfect placement for you, they have a lot of fantastic placements available all over the world and will help you apply to one, or many!
With the study abroad option you will experience uni life in a whole new way. I have friends that have really enjoyed studying abroad and who would strongly recommend it. It’s a great way to improve language skills and to further your studies, and there are hundreds of universities around the globe that take on erasmus students. So pick a point on a map and let your learning go global!
The Language Assistant program requires that you work twelve hours a week, giving you lots of free time to enjoy living abroad, whereas in a privately found position, you may be required to work full time hours. It is important that you think about what you want from your year abroad. Do you want full time, intense work experience, or do you want to spend your time getting to know another culture and learning a language? Both are great additions to your CV, but you need to do what is best for you. A year abroad has its difficulties, so you need to make sure you’re happy with what you’re planning to do before you leave for another country.
So, my best advice is to take your time to mull over all of your options. Do a lot of research and speak to people who have taken a year abroad already, their experience and advice will prove invaluable. It can be the best year of your life, but to make it so you need to be sure that what you’re doing is something that will not only help your career prospects, but something that you will really enjoy.