Spending a year abroad is not a universal experience. There are a multitude of different ways to spend your year abroad that can benefit you based on your degree subject: from studying at Monash University in Melbourne, to interning for a Spanish newspaper. I chose to work as an English language assistant in a French school, (a popular option for language students as you earn a decent wage while working), working with students aged 15-20.
I also ended up living in a small French town rather than a city, meaning my year abroad experience was very different from someone placed in Paris, for example. Small town life can be difficult due to the lack of things to do and people to meet. If I was to live abroad again, I would prefer to live in a city.
Nevertheless, I got a slice of what it was like to live in a small French town, falling into the daily routine of a local, while learning the slang of the region, local foods, and local customs. Working in a school showed me the differences between the education system in France and England and how teaching differs in each country. Living in a foreign country as opposed to simply visiting it on holiday will really give you an insight that you would otherwise be unable to experience.
The other small-town frustration came from poor transport links. I realised early on I would have to pre-plan all my weekends and travel, but it worked; travelling was one of the highlights of my year abroad. I was able to visit the cities of my region, Nancy and Metz, as well as trips to Paris, Luxembourg City, Strasbourg, Antwerp, and Amsterdam. Utilising FlixBus and car-sharing services like BlaBlaCar made travelling significantly cheaper, combined with living in a small town with my assistantship wage and cheap rent.
This challenge is what makes the year abroad so valuable and shows employers that you are resilient and able to adapt
With frequent travelling across my region came meeting lots of new people who came from all corners of the world. I lived with the Spanish and German language assistants at my school, who came from Panama and Germany. I also met the other English assistants in my region who came from England, Scotland, Ireland, and the USA, as well as French university students and other German and Italian assistants. This huge international mix provided all sorts of entertainment, from learning about local food and traditions in Panama, to the endless discoveries of the differences between American and British vocabulary.
Living abroad can be a real challenge, as I’ve written about before. It provides similar challenges to starting a new job in the UK, with the added challenge of homesickness, culture shock, and sometimes a different language. Trying to settle somewhere new for a year while your established support network is in a different country is difficult. However, this challenge is what makes the year abroad so valuable and shows employers that you are resilient and able to adapt.
If you are a modern language student, a year abroad at Warwick is compulsory. This is because spending a year in a country that speaks your target language will do wonders. Although it may be daunting, immersion is the best way to improve your language skills. Of course, those studying other subjects but with outside language modules would benefit from a year or semester abroad too.
It will be the students from other disciplines such as maths or history who are offered a year abroad that will be wondering whether it is worth their while. Although I can only speak from the perspective of a French and history undergrad, my answer would be yes. Even if you have no interest in learning another language, a year abroad has so many benefits and has the potential to be an amazing experience.