Eleanor was a Language Assistant in Andalucia and is now a PhD student
In terms of improving my Spanish, the experience was invaluable: I was forced to speak Spanish constantly as very few people in the village spoke English, and by the end of the year I was fluent. I also gained valuable teaching experience, travelled extensively throughout Andalucia, and made friends with whom I am still in contact and who I visit on occasion. I also proved to myself that I was able to move to a new place, in a new country, and make an enjoyable life for myself, and this has served to give me the confidence to spend the subsequent years moving between France, Spain and Portugal in an effort to achieve the highest possible level of fluency in these languages.
While still a student, I began to volunteer with asylum seeker groups in Swansea with the aim of continuing to use my languages, and quickly realised that this was the area in which I wanted to carve my career. I subsequently completed an MSc in Migration and International Development, spent a period working as a research assistant (I was recruited for one project on the basis of my fluency in Spanish), and am now working on a PhD in migration studies, as part of which I expect to use my contacts and knowledge of the Spanish language and culture to carry out fieldwork.
The fact that I taught English on my year abroad has also enabled me to earn a living teaching English on a freelance basis during subsequent periods in Spain, as well as gaining employment as a TEFL teacher in a language school in the UK for a while before commencing my PhD.
Employers have been interested not only in my fluency in Spanish, but also in the independence, confidence and adaptability which a successfully-completed year abroad demonstrates.
I can honestly say that my year abroad was a life-shaping experience, in terms of both skills and personal development, and I am certain that I will continue to draw on the experience in my career to come."
In partnership with the British Academy and University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) we gathered short reports from graduates on the importance that the year abroad has had for them, in terms of their skill set, their careers and their lives. These reports formed the basis of the Position Statement: Valuing the Year Abroad. Browse the reports below for inspiration, and select a tag within a report to read more on that theme.