Not a linguist? Diversify and take advantage of electives

Not a linguist? Diversify and take advantage of electives Archaeology field trip by David J. Thomas

This article was written by Lottie Mortimer, published on 26th November 2012 and has been read 3776 times.

Lottie is studying History with an International Year at Royal Holloway University of London, and is currently on her year abroad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Here is her advice about taking a year abroad when you're not a language student, and making the most of the new subject modules on offer to you.
I’m not a linguist, I wish I was. I dropped Modern Foreign Languages at the age of 14 and after two year struggle at university, I fell out with Latin too. Despite this, I jumped at the chance to take a third year abroad. 

Many universities in the UK offer the opportunity to take a third year abroad in English speaking universities. My university had places on offer from all around the world: in the USA, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. I took the opportunity to spend my third year at the University of Queensland in Australia.

People decide to take a third year abroad for many reasons. For me it was a combination of not feeling ready for my final year and the desire to learn new skills. I am a History student and in my third year I wanted to sample a few disciplines related to History, such as Archaeology and Art History, so that I could make the most of sources in my final year.

The Australian university system really appealed to me, especially since I was informed that only half of the modules taken on my year abroad needed to be ‘History-related.’ This meant that if I so wished, I could have taken Marine Biology and Maths modules.

In the UK university system, we apply for a specific subject, so I applied to study a History degree. In Australia, students apply for a specific Bachelors degree, for example whether they want to study a BSc or a BA or a BComm, and then decide on their major later. This gives students the flexibility to try new things and make sure that they like a discipline before committing to it. Furthermore, once they have decided on a major, students usually have the opportunity to take a few electives throughout their degree (course that aren’t related to their major.) This results in well-rounded graduates with a variety of skills.

As an exchange student I’ve taken advantage of this system. So far I’ve taken Archaeology and Religion courses as well as Public History and a film-related Classics course. Next semester I’m considering trying French and ancient Greek as well as sampling Art History and Biblical Interpretation. I feel what I have learnt so far has really made me think and I’ve learnt a variety of new skills which I know I will use at a later date. (Check out my blog post for a more in depth summary of the course I took in my first semester at UQ.) I feel that the UK university system could have a lot to learn from the Australian one.

If you’re still trying to justify a year abroad because you’re not a linguist, think about diversifying your degree, learning new skills and taking advantage of electives. A year abroad is the ideal opportunity to try something different.

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