How to decide what to do on your international placement
Tanyel Kazim studies BA French and Management at King’s College London and is spending his year abroad at ESSEC Business School, Cergy-Pontoise, France. Here, he gives his tips for narrowing down the options for how to spend your year abroad.
The year abroad, or Erasmus+ programme as it is also now known in Europe, offers students the chance to open their minds to a world of international fun and cultural dynamism. The problem faced by some students is deciding exactly what to do with their time.
1. Break down your options
In essence, the year abroad offers three pathways - spending a chilled year as an English Language Assistant, studying at a partner institution, or working. You can find out more on the British Council's Study Work Create site.
Aiming to one day boss it in an international business context, naturally I jumped at the chance of avoiding another year of Medieval French poetry. Instead, I favoured an option more suited to my interests and long-term ambitions. With its struggling economy and tense political situation, I thought it would be interesting to understand how the French are educating its managers and CEOs of the future.
Hence, my first piece of advice: work out what you want to do in the future and pick your year abroad option to suit this.
As appealing as it may sound to do an exchange for the sake of travelling, sight-seeing and exploring local cultures, I’d really emphasise this advice. After all, the time you don’t spend doing the fun stuff is the time you’ll be doing the other stuff. Think about WHY you want to do it and HOW it will help you in the long run. Do you want to one day get into politics? Maybe an exchange in Brussels, the EU capital, could be for you. Into sustainable development? Working for an NGO in South America could be your calling. A friend of mine teaching on his year abroad in Vincennes chose to do so because he wants to pursue Teach First when he graduates. Although he also likes to freestyle rap in his free time, so we’ll see how that one turns out.
Once you’ve got the location sorted, it’s time to consider exactly where you’ll be studying or which company you’ll be working for.
2. Research, not necessarily with Google.
It’s no good picking the Sorbonne just because you know it’s a top university in France. In fact, a lot of students I know have ended up not having the best time there. You need to look beyond the rankings. This doesn’t mean half-hearted Googling. Remember, you’ll be here for at least 4 months. It’s important you enjoy it.
Talking to students in the year above on their exchanges is a highly recommend option. This really helped me decide to go to ESSEC. A huge selling point was the way they help students to settle, a common problem for foreign students in France. Being an international business school, they are very internationally friendly, offering events to integrate overseas students and services to minimise problems of paperwork. Plus, they believe in teaching relevant business skills. This means less focus on essays, and more so on group projects, interpersonal skills and presentations. Makes a nice change from analysing the role of the flâneur in Baudelaire.
3. Once you’ve chosen an option, make the most of it.
Really clichéd I know, but it applies. For some (like me) who have lived at home for their degree up until now, this is advice to live by. For those who have never lived abroad (many of us), it’s your one opportunity to fully explore and fully experience.
Say yes more and keep an open mind. Someone once said life is about good food, good company, and the means to travel widely; often. And never will this be truer than on your year abroad.