John worked in Marseille and is now on the Renault UK grad scheme
John studied Economics with French at the University of Nottingham and spent his year abroad working for a French marketing company near Marseille, and teaching English to disabled adults. He graduated in 2011 and is now on the Renault UK graduate scheme.
"My year abroad comprised of two placements. The first being the qualifying placement for my year (i.e. 30 weeks), and the second being my own decision to make the most of my year outside of university.
My first placement was with a sales team in a French company in the south of France, near Marseille. My role turned out to be varied; I called up many prospects in order to filter out good sales leads to the sales team, I visited many new clients to ensure the smooth running of our services, I trained the branch on the new email system and helped out with regional marketing projects. This placement lasted 7 months, and because I worked for 30 weeks without any holiday, it meant that I still had 5 months left of my year.
I made the most of this time by undertaking a second placement, teaching English to disabled adults at a training centre in Seine-et-Marne. In addition to teaching, I also helped out with the sports activities and the HR department.
The two placements enabled me to see both the public and private sector styles of working, and taught me a lot more than just French. I learnt about how companies work and how different people react in different situations. It meant that when I started applying for jobs in my final year of university, I had a much better idea of what it was like.
I graduated this summer, and I started on the graduate scheme with Renault UK at the beginning of October. My fluency in French was definitely an asset, alongside my knowledge of the French work culture and a desire to integrate with French colleagues, if only to give me opportunities to maintain my level of French! After 15 months of training, this scheme will place me into a junior managerial role. I am looking forward to a long career with Renault.
The skills I gained from the year abroad helped me to get the job in the first place as they were looking for someone with experience and today I use my French on an almost daily basis to talk to colleagues.
My time abroad really helped me to mature; setting up in a foreign country away from friends necessitates this. I learnt about the world beyond university and meant that I was less naïve about what life is like beyond graduation. I have also made some lifelong friends in France and it means I will be welcomed back there whenever I have the chance – in fact I’m going out to see my friends in Marseille this weekend!"
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.