After a protracted period of procrastination, I finally bit the bullet today and booked my flights and accommodation for September. As of the 31st of August, I will officially be a student abroad! While having everything (more or less) sorted has eased my stress levels quite considerably, it has also made the fact that I will soon be living and studying in a foreign country a whole lot more real. So, I thought I would take this week’s blog entry to focus on the positives.
Perhaps because I knew from around Year 8 that I wanted to study Spanish and French at university, for me the concept of a year abroad has always been synonymous with a languages degree. However, this is no longer strictly the case. The year abroad has become more and more accessible across the entire catalogue of degrees. Despite this, I still believe that there are definite advantages of embarking on a year abroad as a languages student.
- The obvious- your language skills
This, I believe is two-fold. It is pretty clear that living, studying (and hopefully having a blast) while traversing a foreign language will aid your linguistic competences considerably- that is the whole point after all! Complete immersion is, perhaps, the only way to truly master a language to native level. Arguably, your languages skills will also aid your year abroad in turn. Arriving in a new country, ready prepared with a competent level of the language, means that you will be able to involve yourself fully into life and culture there. From siesta to fiesta, you will be better equipped to live like a local!
- You have no choice
This might sound counter-intuitive but, if you’re anything like me, a year abroad will be the most terrifying challenge you’ve faced since, well, moving to uni. Given half a choice, the coward in me would have probably opted out at the first opportunity and I would have later regretted it. As it is, I have no choice if I want to pass my degree (spoiler alert: I do). So, on the 31st of August, I will arrive at Birmingham airport, suitcase in hand, nervous but determined. This also means that our placements are all but guaranteed; every languages student receives one of their top five university choices.
Again, this is two-fold, but we’ll begin with the university itself. Because of the lack of choice discussed above, I believe that languages students begin the process earlier than other departments (I could be wrong here as I have only done my process). We also have the support of not only the university’s Erasmus team but also the Year Abroad coordinators within the languages department. I can tell you from personal experience (and I don’t think it would be much of an exaggeration to say that I have sent them hundreds of emails requesting meetings and advice) that they have the patience of saints and will go to any length to help.
Secondly, you have the support of your course-mates. From figuring out which form needs to be sent where to psyching each other up when it all seems a bit much, going through the process with your friends makes it a hundred times more manageable. Plus, it’s nice to know that everyone will still be together when we all get back!
So there you have it, my take on the benefits of embarking on a year abroad as a languages student! As we all know, linguists do it better! (Except for coming up with slogans that is..) As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please drop me a comment below.