Selina studied abroad in Brazil and Mainz and now works in international aid
My next stop was to Universität Mainz, Germany, studying translation and interpreting from March until August 2008. The cultural shock moving from Brazil to Germany made the transition difficult but rewarding, as my two very different placements showed me the true variety of human experience. Universität Mainz had students from all over the globe and my daily interaction with people from all walks of life helped me appreciate the necessity of cross-cultural exchange and collaboration in both academic and non-academic capacities. Not only did I learn to speak German and Portuguese confidently and fairly fluently, my year abroad taught me about samba, currywurst, political movements, social inclusion and exclusion, the spirit of sports and most importantly, about how much there is out there waiting to be discovered. More than any other aspect of my university experience, my year abroad ignited in me a passion for knowledge in all its forms.
Having completed my undergraduate degree in 2009, I decided to continue my academic studies, embarking on a Master’s degree in Brazilian history. Without my experience of Brazil and my refined linguistic skills in Portuguese, it would have been almost impossible for me to conduct archival research out in São Paulo, analysing eighteenth-century documents. The year abroad fed my thirst for knowledge and gave me the confidence to organise a month-long trip to Brazil to collect data for my degree. Not only am I more confident in travelling, I seek to travel abroad at every opportunity, taking something new away with me from every trip.
Before I had even completed my MA, I had been offered a position by a London-based financial services group to create and manage a corporate foundation for them. This exciting opportunity allowed me to research and plan international aid projects focusing on delivering educational resources for impoverished children in Asia. Once again, my year abroad was a crucial factor in planning and managing these projects. My awareness of social inequalities, the unique nature of power structures within individual communities and the sensitivity with which such projects must be implemented are a direct consequence of my year abroad. Having witnessed and experienced quotidian life in so many different societies has shown me my interest in social improvement internationally, and I hope to continue my future career building on my experiences from the year abroad to help deliver quality education for those less fortunate than myself. I truly loved my academic experience and I wish to help others to feel the same."
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.