Sun, Sex and Suspicious University Tutors

Sun, Sex and Suspicious University Tutors by David Jones

This article was written by Nirankar Phull, published on 23rd April 2013 and has been read 6306 times.

Lying on the beach soaking up the Spanish sun with not a care in the world, but just as the sand starts to creep into your hair and you take a deep breath to inhale the sea-air, you remember that project you have to do for University. Suddenly the experience becomes nothing like you had envisaged when you chose your degree programme 3 years ago and were promised a fun-filled time abroad. The reality of an impending University deadline hits you and you’re forced to dump the beach towel, screw the lid back on the sun lotion and head inside to start the essay you thought would be a lot easier to churn out when the time came.

Thought you could escape University deadlines during your Year Abroad? Think again. For most Universities, it’s obligatory to submit at least one piece of University-assessed work during the third year abroad. For some, the work counts towards the final mark at the end of the degree, in some cases making up over 10% of the overall grade. For others, it doesn’t count towards anything and is seemingly a project imposed on us to make sure we haven’t forgotten how to write in the target language.

We all have that one friend that leaves the party early to make head-way on some pressing University work, but are they sacrificing their enjoyment on their Year Abroad? Do these deadlines enhance or ruin the overall experience?

Time spent cooped up in your room or in the library is time that could be spent wandering the streets of your new home, getting to know the locals and embracing the cultural experience. How are we supposed to write about our experiences if we aren’t out there living them and immersing ourselves in the language that we have moved several thousands of miles to improve?

If the piece of work assigned during the year is an important one and will the affect the outcome of your degree, then, of course, it’s important to do it right and put in the effort. Sometimes it can be helpful to reflect on your time away in a written text and make sure you are really making the most of the experience. If you don’t think your language skills have improved that much or that your Erasmus year isn’t making you a more employable person like it should be, then you have time to rectify this.

Maybe the university rule-makers are doing us a favour. Having to juggle a work placement or studying at a foreign University can be a good test of time-management and organisation. It can give you focus as well as encourage your own independent study. Doing it outside the confines of an academic institution and away from face-to-face feedback and interaction with lecturers is another barrier that can be easily overcome with a simple desire to do well and passion for the subject-matter you have chosen. These are the transferable skills that employers will want to hear about in the future.

Choosing a subject area that allows you to integrate with the natives and use local resources is a good way to ensure your University work and Year Abroad experience are not poles apart: they can complement each other whilst allowing you to be more cultural and well-informed about goings-on where you live.

Being in the penultimate year of our degree programmes means there is often a lot of life-sorting that needs to be done for the following year when everything counts. We have to spend a lot of time preparing for this important year, be it writing dissertation proposals, sorting out accommodation, applying for jobs or picking modules. Although some of these might not constitute work as such, it is still something that we have to make time for during our Year Abroad even though we are geographically separated from the source of all this decision-making.

If all we had to do during our Year Abroad was check our emails and fill in the odd questionnaire, it would be even harder to settle back into University life next year. As pointless as it may seem, doing work for University is a reminder why we are abroad: to continue studying and to learn some of life’s most valuable skills.

When the time comes for that final submission on your Year Abroad, you should feel a sense of achievement as well as relief that you don’t have as many exams as you would if you were back at home. Then when you go back to the beach, or whatever cultural activity you had postponed, the sun will feel that little bit sweeter.

About the author: Nirankar is studying English and Spanish at the University of Leeds, and is spending his year abroad as a Language Assistant at a secondary school in Soria, Castilla y Leon, in Spain. For his latest update, check out Espana in the Works or follow him on Twitter: @nphull_

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