David studied abroad in Granada and Aix-en-Provence and is now an international Sales Manager
I think the language aspect as well as life skills are fundamental in developing as a person. Learning a language and living abroad improves self confidence and the ability to communicate with others. From my year abroad I also gained more of an insight in the cultural and economical workings of the target countries, simply through living and experiencing day to day events. The completion of my year abroad and degree meant that I can now speak 5 languages (English, Portuguese, French, Spanish and Dutch), all to a level where I can read, write and listen in the languages.
My job upon graduation was working in a customer service centre in Nottingham, using Spanish and French. I searched for other jobs and subsequently moved to a Sheffield based company and landed a career in sales and marketing. I am now the regional sales manager for the UK, Ireland and Holland, Portugal and Spain. The role of my job means I get to travel to foreign countries and do business with native speakers in the target language. Being able to speak foreign languages automatically doubles your employability, if not triples it. It means you can work where others cannot due to language barriers, but it also commands a level of respect. Customers respond much better to someone who can speak their language, is interested in or has experienced their culture and is willing to learn new things. This makes business dealings a lot easier, as there is nearly always a light hearted aspect of making language mistakes or not knowing a word – we are constantly learning.
Going on a year abroad means that you can interact with foreign people and cultures – not just in the work place but also socialising and on holiday. There is nothing greater than going to a foreign country and being able to communicate fully with someone who doesn’t speak English. I think it displays a certain character, one which is not ignorant of the surroundings and is able to appreciate different aspects of life and culture around the world. Knowledge of languages is considered to be a great skill as it is something that not everyone can do. Through the use and knowledge of languages, I now have friends all around the world, which is very handy when choosing where to go on holiday!"
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.