How to juggle your Year Abroad: a guide for Joint Honours students
Sophie Baggs is a student from the University of Nottingham studying French and Hispanic studies and is currently on her year abroad in Rennes, France. At the moment, she is taking part in the British Council Language Assistantship.
For Year Abroad students studying more than one language at degree level, it is undeniably an underlying concern that at some point one language could suffer, or even be forgotten, during a stay in another country. But never fear, as these are my top tips to ensure your languages survive wherever you are!
1. Make full use of both summers in addition to the academic year.
There are plenty of seasonal opportunities in the form of internships working with children on summer camps, teaching English or working in tourism. Alternatively, you could sign up to a language school to give you the confidence you need in consolidating and expanding your knowledge of the target language and culture.
2. Weigh up your options and priorities.
There are generally 3 options to consider when planning your Year Abroad:
taking a Language Course in a country where the target language is spoken taking part in the British Council Assistantship programme undertaking an internship.
It is essential to work out how you can best divide the time available to you in the way which appeals to you most. Priorities to consider include economic viability, for example, whether you will pay fees, be paid, or work as a volunteer. Also, take into account personal preferences and opportunities for socialising, travelling, and linguistic and cultural immersion. And finally, don't rely on your university to find you a placement - do your own research!
3. Choosing the right environment.
Some people opt to spend part of their year abroad in a city, which can be full of like-minded university students and fellow internationals, whilst others select smaller, more rural areas so as to completely submerge themselves in the language and culture and feel part of a community.
So far, I have spent all my time in cities and have been fortunate in meeting Spanish-speakers in France and francophones in Spain. This has given me the chance to practice both languages simultaneously. For me, making friends has been a great opportunity to keep up both French and Spanish despite the occasional odd concoction of 'franish' (French and Spanish) at first.
4. Put yourself out there!
First of all speak to people! Work colleagues, teachers in the staff room, and if you choose to do the assistantship definitely make the most of your training day when you arrive to meet all the other assistants. Get everyone's contact details and arrange to meet up in your free time. It's so reassuring to share your experiences with others who are in the same boat, especially during the first few weeks. Practice speaking in the target language together and you can also swap into conversation in each other's native tongue to keep up those other languages!
Tandems and language exchanges are perfect for a more relaxed opportunity to speak the language. In Rennes there's an event called Langomatic which runs every Monday evening in the local Irish pub and Franglish organise language exchange events in several French and English cities for native speakers of French, Spanish and English. Once you've met people go for it and try new things! This week alone I found myself in a cinema watching an American film dubbed in French, a Latin bar dancing Salsa and a university-run Zumba class!
5. Don't stop studying!
If you can, take a grammar book with you and work through the chapters in your free time. When I'm at school waiting in the staff room whilst all the other staff are busy, I have a read and make some notes in the time I have before my next class. Word Reference is still my saviour, especially when it comes to filling out all the paperwork that comes with living abroad. Also, check if your uni run online modules for Year Abroad students to practice grammar and vocab. See if you still have access to module content from previous years (lecture slides etc) to refresh all that stuff you should know but is hiding somewhere in a random corner at the back of your mind.
6. Enjoy it!
The time flies by so quickly and before you know it you'll be back at uni studying for your finals.