Lucy was a Language Assistant in Marseille and is now on secondment to the European Commission
The opportunity to live and work in Marseille was of huge personal value: I lived with French speakers, met many other language assistants and friends, and loved the social and cultural aspects of living in the south of France. It is a fantastic city and a great antidote to Paris, which seemed to be the only destination chosen by students from my course.
Professionally, the working hours are short so your achievements can be limited unless you are proactive and keen to get heavily involved in the life of the school. I would have liked to have worked more with other teachers, to observe and learn from them, or to have been more involved in the extracurricular aspects of the school. This all depends on your relationships with colleagues and the type of school you are placed in. I used my free time to take language lessons and travel.
In 2009, I applied to the Civil Service European Fast Stream and am now in my second role on secondment to the European Commission, working on environmental policies and supporting the environment spokesperson. As part of the UK Civil Service European Fast Stream, I not only get to work in EU-facing policy roles in the UK (and go on secondment), I also receive individual language training and preparation for the European Concours. Success in the Concours enables you to find a permanent career within the European Institutions.
Following my year abroad, I took a TESOL qualification and have worked both full and part time teaching English language students in the UK. This has given me confidence that I am employable in any country in the world and is an excellent foundation for personal development. I feel I can cope in any situation with my spoken French after opening bank accounts, negotiating with landlords, checking rental agreements and dealing with French bureaucracy. I am confident that I can settle in foreign cities (I currently live and work in Brussels) and I enjoy getting to know places beyond a fortnight of being a tourist. I have also built lasting friendships with some brilliant people."
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.