Not just for linguists: the advantages of taking a year abroad

Not just for linguists: the advantages of taking a year abroad by bolognesi marianna

This article was written by Jack Collins from AAC, published on 7th May 2011 and has been read 14339 times.

Jack Collins works at All About Careers, a brilliant website for students who would like some more info about what to get into, hear from experts in the field and loads more. What is the value of the year abroad for students and graduates? Who can apply? What do employers look for? Read on to find out more...
A huge amount of people don’t actually realise that they can take a year abroad. Right now, tons and tons of students are sitting around in their student unions, drinking coffee, trying to decipher their lecture notes and chatting about last night’s drunken escapades; all the while, blissfully unaware of the exciting opportunities available to them.

Why? Well, these students are studying subjects like Engineering, Biology, History, Law, Politics or Environmental Geoscience, and they probably think that the only students who get the chance to study or work abroad are the linguists in their midst. Wait a second though! You don’t have to study French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese or linguistics to get on a plane, jet across the world and experience an exciting and new culture for the next year of your university life. Forget all the stereotypes associated with Erasmus and disregard all the misconceptions that you have about studying or working abroad. You don’t need to be a linguistic legend to benefit from one...

Alright then, what other subjects would allow me to do a year abroad?

Literally any subject! It doesn’t matter if you’re studying Engineering, Chemistry, Sociology, Graphic Design, History or Law; you’ll be eligible to study or work abroad. Understandably though, it’s important that you check with your university department before you organise everything, as not every faculty or institution will support their students to take a year abroad as part of their course. 

Most people go to France, Germany or Spain right? Where else can I go?

Sure, many people do take advantage of the wealth of opportunities available in popular countries like France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal and Italy. However, you can also work or study in many other European countries, from Liechtenstein, Estonia and Norway to Turkey, Slovenia and Malta. 

Europe is certainly not the only option though! Many people explore opportunities all over the world. You could be starting an Asian adventure in Japan, China or South Korea; you could be flying over the pond and experiencing the frat house-fuelled excitement of studying in the USA; or you could be heading down under to undertake a work placement in Australia or New Zealand. Incidentally, many opportunities are available in countries where you won’t need to learn another language at all.

If I choose to study in a country which doesn’t speak English, will I have to learn the language before I go?

When most students arrive on their year abroad, they aren’t fluent in the language yet (not even the linguists), so don’t worry too much! Some courses might even be taught in English, depending on where you go. However, it’s a good idea to try and learn a handful of useful phrases before you arrive. You won’t get by for a whole year without learning the local lingo. After all, shouting in English and making silly hand gestures will only get you so far. If you put in a little bit of effort though, meet lots of locals and immerse yourself in the culture, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you pick up the language.

I am not keen on studying at a foreign university. What else can I do to boost my career prospects?

Rather than studying, many students choose to do a work placement. You could do this as part of the Erasmus programme, or if your course requires you to do an industrial placement (a.k.a. a sandwich year) anyway, you could opt to do this abroad. Placements of this nature tend to last between 3 and 12 months and will usually count towards a percentage of your overall degree results. 

If you’re studying Software Engineering, you could go to Tokyo or Silicon Valley and learn from the best. If you’re an Economics undergraduate, you could head over to Sydney or Hong Kong and work with an international bank. If you’re a budding pharmacologist, you could head over to the USA and work with one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical firms. If you’re studying Marketing, you could go to Los Angeles or Paris and gain experience with an international marketing agency. Your options are truly endless!

What are the benefits? How will this help my career prospects?

Taking a year abroad can be a great opportunity to meet new people, discover new cultures and have an awesome time partying in another city. However, more importantly, studying or working abroad can give you an edge over candidates in the highly-competitive graduate jobs market. The skills you learn, the experience you gain and the contacts you make can help you get the career you really want.
If you work or study in a non-English speaking country, you will get a fantastic opportunity to learn a new language. Developing fluency in a second language can improve your job prospects no end. If you’ve seen the film, L’Auberge Espagnole, you’ll remember that Xavier (the main character) goes to Barcelona to learn Spanish as part of the Erasmus programme, so that he can secure a government job when he returns to France. International communication skills can be vital for developing a scientific, financial or business-focused career. Indeed, multinational corporations and other organisations which have an international client base are always on the lookout for talented graduates who can speak more than one language. 

With increasing globalisation, employers are looking for confident, adaptable candidates with a proven ability to live and work in a foreign country. If you undertake a work placement during your year abroad, you will get the chance to gain experience in a foreign marketplace and develop a greater awareness of global business issues. Furthermore, your experience in this arena will give you the chance to build up a network of international contacts and thus expand your options for finding employment when you leave university. 

Experiencing a different culture, dealing with new challenges and meeting people from all over the world can help you develop vital skills that will help you throughout your career, such as confidence, patience, flexibility and the ability to thrive under pressure. All in all, studying or working abroad will help you to stand out from the crowd. You could just stay in the UK and finish your degree like everybody else, or you could do your sandwich placement year on home soil like the majority of university students; however, if you take a chance, do something different and go abroad, you’ll learn additional skills and, ultimately, you’ll have something much more interesting to talk about during job interviews.

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