Harriet studied abroad in Montpellier and now works in PR
From a language graduate’s point of view, I think it would be stating the obvious to say that learning a language up to a level of fluency is essentially impossible without being fully immersed in it for a prolonged period of time. I’m sure many of my ex-classroom comrades would agree with me when they consider how vastly the year abroad helped to improve their speaking and listening skills, and in my case, by studying the language as well, all areas of learning benefitted greatly. I can say with all confidence that without the year abroad, completing my final year would have been a great struggle.
On a personal level, and one which I believe has most greatly affected me, I would go as far as to say that the year abroad affected my personality and who I am today. Before living abroad I was quite shy and didn’t have much confidence in my ability. Indeed, initially, I found life in France a little bit difficult as I was far away from my family and friends and stuck in an unfamiliar place. However, after sticking it out a while I managed to settle in, my French started to flow and I met people from all walks of life - the weather wasn't bad either! I also happened to make some of the best friends I know I’ll ever make, with whom I am constantly still in touch. Personality-wise the year abroad made me more confident, creative and sure of myself.
Upon leaving university, I found myself yearning for more overseas experiences and after working in the UK for 6 months I came across an organisation which, based on my previous stint abroad, funded me to go to Peru for 6 months. There I taught English and learned another language, Spanish. This was another experience which helped me to further expand my skills and increase my confidence. Back in the UK, I now have a job in PR that I love, and incidentally it was my housemate from my year abroad in Montpellier who helped me get the job!
Overall, spending time abroad gives you the opportunity to discover new horizons, build up your confidence and skills, make great new friends and have an amazing and unique life experience that will stay with you forever. It certainly changed my life for the better."
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.