Oliver was a Language Assistant in Extremadura and is now an International Management Consultant

Oliver was a Language Assistant in Extremadura and is now an International Management Consultant Cáceres, Extremadura. by Tomas Fano

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 12th March 2012 and has been read 34306 times.

Oliver studied French and Spanish at Oxford University and spent his year abroad as a Language Assistant in Extremadura and working in a kids' summer camp in Bordeaux on the Leonardo da Vinci scheme. He graduated in 2010 and is now a Management Consultant working in London, Madrid and Mexico.
"When I received the message as an exuberant and carefree second year that I had been given a placement in Cáceres, Extremadura, my heart sank. My misconception of the region as a backwards land famed for pigs and acorn liqueur was soon scotched as time after time I met kind, interesting locals who were more ‘genuinely Spanish’ than the international crowd in better known destinations such as Madrid, Seville and Salamanca. Well, I was at least right about the famed “jamón de pata negra” some of the most delicious ham around as farmers go to the lengths of feeding their livestock a diet of acorns to produce a unique flavour.

The year abroad gave me a real chance, and need, to grow up. Life amongst the dreaming spires had been pretty cushy so it was great to be forced to find a flat, go out of my way to try new things and meet new people. Within weeks I had joined the local squash ladder, got in on a weekly “auberge espagnole” style language exchange dinner and taken on a raft of pupils for private lessons to feed my newly acquired ham and acorn liqueur addictions!

All too soon it was time to say “adios España” and “bonjour Bordeaux”. I was lucky enough to obtain a place on the EU-sponsored Leonardo da Vinci programme, a scheme designed to increase intra-European professional mobility which organises unpaid internships and pays the majority of living expenses to boot. With my eye on the clock and barely 4 months to go before entering my final year I landed a job in a 100% French speaking environment – a kids summer camp! While the topics of conversation were rarely high-brow, I had a great opportunity to work on my language fluency and a great, active experience over the summer in a region renowned for its fine wines, stunning beaches and natural beauty.

On my return from the continent, I was faced with the harsh realities of hard graft, Finals and finding a job. I wanted to continue to use my language skills but in practical, “real world” scenarios and when I happened on management consulting, with its mixture of creativity, analysis and opportunities to live and work abroad, I knew it was for me. My first choice firm, at which I am now working, has not disappointed and in my first 10 months I have worked in London and Madrid, and I am now on a 7-month project in Mexico - ¡Qué maravilla!

The year abroad undoubtedly enhanced my personal and professional life no end. I now have an extensive network of friends in France, Spain and further afield as a result of my time spent abroad meeting people from far and wide and there is no question that the life experience and maturity, as well as improved language skills I acquired in my year away from Oxford have stood me in very good stead. I thoroughly endorse the system as a fun, productive and eye-opening experience, the benefit of which will be seen for many years 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.

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