Thursday, 6 June 2013

Planning my Third Year Abroad - Part 1

pic from the fab site -
For anyone who doesn’t know, I’m currently in my second year studying a French and German degree, and a compulsory requirement of modern language degrees at British Universities is spending the third year abroad. I know, it’s such a hardship. Obviously it’s not just a gap yah though – you have to go to countries that speak the languages you’re studying, and you have to do something useful with your time.

I'd known for a long time that I might study languages at uni, so the prospect of the year abroad has been in the back of my mind for a long time. More recently, I went to visit my older brother on his, and I've been reading blogs/tweets/FB statuses from friends in the year above on theirs, vicariously living the life. I can't quite believe that now, in a mere few months, my year abroad is actually finally going to happen. It seems a bit mad.

I hope this blog post might be of some use to anyone doing or considering a languages degree, or generally curious people comme moi (told you I do French). There are three ways in which we’re allowed to spend our year:

1. Studying at a foreign uni – this is the easiest to organise as everything is basically done for you. After giving your preferences, you just get placed somewhere and that’s that. There are pros and cons to studying, but I’ve heard foreign students can often be quite segregated from “natives” (strange word to use, I agree - it conjures up images of red Indians in Pocahontas for me - but I can’t think of anything better… Can you?) Whether that’s the case or not, and I'm sure if you make the effort to hang out with locals (any better?) you can totally integrate, I knew I definitely wanted a break from studying. Being the keen bean that I am, I obviously wanted to spend my year abroad getting valuable work experience, which brings me on to…

2. Getting a job – this is arguably the hardest to organise, and requires the most effort on the part of the student. It’s basically all down to you to secure yourself a job, but it can’t just be something like working as an au pair or in a hotel/bar/shop. Most people say this option is the most hard-core of the three, mainly because you’re working full time which is a pretty intense contrast to the usual student lifestyle (oh, the exhaustion after three lectures in one day!) I also think it may be the most awesome, as if you put the effort in and are successful, you can spend your time doing your dream job and finding out about the industry in which you want to work after uni. Classic me. (See part 3 of this blog post...)

3. Working as an English Language Assistant – you may have had foreign language assistants at school, and the third option is basically doing that but abroad and for English. You go to a foreign school and work part-time (usually 12 hours a week) helping out with English teaching. Supposedly, the rest of the hours that would make up full-time work should be spent planning your lessons and the like, but everyone says that’s not the case. Apparently, working as a language assistant is the best option for students who’ve started their language from scratch at uni (like me!) Soon, I shall see if what people have told me is true...!

So, what am I doing? Well, dear readers, as of last week I now know where I’m going for both halves of my year abroad (split between countries), and it all suddenly feels very real. And scary. But exciting. But scary.

I’ve decided to split this blog post up, as otherwise it would be veeeery long. Pop back soon to read about what I’m doing, how I went about it all and how I feel now. (Hint: EEEEEEEEEEP!)

Read Part 2: Applying to be an English Language Assistant here, and then why not finish off with a bit of Part 3: Getting a Job. You know it makes sense.

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