Andy was a Language Assistant in France and Germany and is now an Assistant Headteacher
Spending eight months in France enabled me to gain invaluable insight to what being French is all about. Furthermore, I was able to smell, feel and live life in France for real; making the “foreign country” truly feel like a second home. Developing friendships with colleagues not only gave me the opportunity to practise my language skills but also to widen my cultural knowledge further and most importantly establish true friendships which remain today. My passion for France strengthened during the placement to the point that I questioned whether I would prefer to live in France permanently, rather than return to the UK.
Living in Germany for two months gave me similar insight, but this time to the German culture and I was able to compare and contrast two very different countries one after another.
Being an English Language Assistant allowed me to experience the life of a teaching professional, this being my preferred career path, which later proved important when I embarked on my teacher training placement during the PGCE year. Currently fulfilling the role of Assistant Headteacher and Head of Modern Foreign Languages in a British grammar school I refer to my year abroad almost daily; recalling experiences and using links to remain up to date with current lifestyles particularly in France which have proven invaluable to my students. I have also been able to lead high quality and personalised school visits which enthuse and inspire my own students during their own foreign language studies. I trained as a teacher directly after graduation and have not looked back since.
Living abroad ensured that I appreciated better the world’s diversity and that most issues can be seen in so many different ways. It further enabled me to gain in self-confidence and to question and challenge ideas with intrigue. Without the year abroad I honestly do not believe that my understanding and love for languages and culture would be what it is today. Furthermore, my linguistic ability would be much weaker; however good one’s teachers may be, living in and experiencing the country really is the best way to become truly proficient in a foreign language.
As a modern foreign languages teacher, clearly the year abroad and degree programme were crucial to my success, however the year abroad is worth so much more due to the true friendships I developed and the ability to discover my true passions in life: education, internationalism and in particular, France. This in turn has led to some fantastic travel experiences both in Europe and further afield."
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.