Tom was a Language Assistant near Montréal and is now a Law student
The entire experience was extremely enriching. Not only was I able to hone a range of highly valuable skills through working in a school, I was also able to experience being part of a new and exciting culture. The Canadian way of life - or, more specifically, the Québécois way of life - was dramatically different to anything I had experienced before; I thoroughly enjoyed being exposed to something so new and exciting.
I was fortunate enough to meet some amazing people throughout my placement. Living with a local family had two very positive effects on my overall experience: firstly, it provided me with a great opportunity to practise my French on a daily basis, enabling me to attain a high level of proficiency by the end of the year; secondly -- and perhaps more importantly - it allowed me to forge a lasting connection with various people from the local community. I am still in regular contact with many of the Canadians with whom I interacted throughout the year; it is such a privilege to know that I will always be warmly welcomed by them should I choose to return. Similarly, I was able to form lasting friendships with a number of the other assistants, which was great. I think something about the uniqueness of the situation perhaps pushes you to build solid, lasting relationships somewhat more rapidly than you might do in other contexts. Needless to say, I consider myself very fortunate to have met many of the people I encountered during my time in Québec, and I know will be in contact with many of them for the rest of my life.
My placement was a frequent topic of conversation in almost every interview I had when I was applying for graduate jobs. My interviewers seemed genuinely excited and interested to hear that I had had the experience of working in a foreign culture, and much of our discussion was based around this fact. Even though I was applying for training contracts with commercial law firms, I found that many of the skills which I had developed during my teaching placement were highly relevant - namely the skill to communicate effectively in a range of different spheres, and the ability to manage my time well. More generally, however, I think that the whole experience of living and working in a culture that is different to your own is an extremely attractive prospect to potential employers, since it displays self-confidence, proactivity and determination. In so many jobs, employers are seeking well-rounded and confident individuals, who can adapt to a variety of situations; a teaching placement in a foreign country constitutes concrete proof that you embody all of these skills.
I would recommend the placement scheme to anyone: it is a highly formative experience, which opens your eyes to the diversity of the world, helping to you mature and develop - both socially and professionally - in an utterly unique setting. You have nothing to lose."
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.