Combined Honours: Keeping up your second subject abroad
This article was written by Lucy Colclough from The University of Southampton, published on 4th August 2015 and has been read 3817 times.
Lucy studies Spanish and History at the University of Southampton. While on her year abroad in Madrid she worked for 6 months as a marketing intern in an art museum and then for the remaining 3 months as an intern bookseller in Casa del Libro. She also spent time creating a year abroad blog, travelling throughout Spain, practicing photography and learning to play the clarinet. This is how she kept up her second subject while she was away.
As a combined honours student I knew right from the start that my third year would be spent abroad and that most of my energy during that time would be devoted to improving my Spanish. I was determined to fully embrace my new life in Spain but, with the prospect of a history dissertation looming on my return, wasn't prepared to just leave my other subject behind. Here's how I managed to keep up my history while away in sunny Madrid.
I picked Madrid as my year abroad destination for many reasons; the ease of finding a job and the excitement of living in a capital city among them. Don't let the bright lights and shiny shop fronts of Gran Vía fool you though; Madrid has seen more than its fair share of history. The city is full of monuments to past kings and the battles of long ago - a walk around Retiro park or up through the old/royal quarter is a history lesson in itself. Being the capital also means that most of Spain's national museums and art galleries are there ready to be plundered on a baking hot summer's afternoon. The bigger the city, often the easier it will be to find resources to keep up your other subject.
If you've been placed in a rather out of the way location with British Council or simply couldn't find a job in a capital city - don't despair! A train ride into Paris or Berlin for a day spent sightseeing often isn't an impossibility. Who's to say that history is confined to a country's capital anyway? I was lucky enough to visit the south of Spain and journey through Granada, Córdoba and Sevilla - all places linked to momentous moments in Spanish history. Look at your home city as a base from which to explore the rest of your new country and everything it has to offer in terms of your other subject.
I chose to take a break from studying on my year abroad and worked as an intern in a museum and then a leading high street bookshop. I know it's difficult, and you may have to work unpaid as I did, but if you know you don't want to study or teach then it's a good idea to try and get a job/placement linked to your other subject. Whether you study politics, english, film or archaeology there may be an embassy, bookshop, production company or museum out there eager to take you on. You'll never know unless you ask!
Although I chose to work in Madrid, we all know that a year abroad isn't totally devoid of studying. Most universities set tasks to keep us busy and cement our improving language skills. In my case this took the form of a 6,000-word Year Abroad Project to be handed in in May. With free reign when it came to a topic for the essay I decided to tie in the history side of my degree. The resulting project on the Spanish café culture of the 1920s and its links to the Avant Garde movement had me writing a full length academic essay on a historical topic...in SPANISH. Something that definitely brushed away the cobwebs and required me to utilise all my old history research and analysis skills. If you can, definitely try and tie in your other subject to any work your university sets you while away.
5. Mix it up
Being combined honours students we're used to multi-tasking and bringing various different skills out of the bag at a moment's notice. The year abroad is the perfect setting to make the most of what the first two years of your degree have taught you. Why not subscribe to a philosophy journal in French? Join a historical re-enactment group in Germany, set yourself a goal to read the classics in Spanish or get up to date with politics on Italian TV? Whatever you do to keep up your other subject there's no better feeling than successfully combining your two skill sets; after all, as a combined honours student, it's what you do best.
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