52 weeks is a long time to be away

My friends are abandoning me and for once, I couldn’t be happier about it. Three of my good friends from way-back-when (that is, sixth form) are preparing for, or embarking on, their years abroad and all are planning on blogging the hell out of the experience:

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You might know about my beloved thespian Ellie, who’s studying German and Italian at the University of Bristol, and who has just spent her first week working at a prestigious theatre in Düsseldorf – it sounds absolutely incredible. After six months in the state of beer and lederhosen (and much else, thank goodness), she’ll be shifting southwards to Bella Italia, where she’ll hopefully also work in a theatre, though one with a distinctly more southern flair! You know you want to read all about it, so click here. I love her to bits and pieces so please do go give it a look.

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Victoria is off to Italy, but not as a student of language (or at least, not primarily, since I assume it will take a relatively prominent role!). She’s not just an incredible singer; this girl is a student of Music at the University of Newcastle and, for the coming year at least, a student of song itself at a conservatory in Parma. Interested? I know I am. Click here to read more. (She’s in Florence at the moment, learning Italiano.)

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And last but not least: Lucy, who studies German, Spanish and French (the crazy girl does three languages!) at the University of Southampton, will spend the coming year teaching English at a school in mid-northern Spain. If you want to read about her life in Soria, click here.

How do I know these girls? Believe it or not, three long years ago we were all in the same French class at school. Now look how far we’ve come. It brings a tear to my eye…

But enough of that. It’s interesting that they depict so clearly the three different options available to students in the UK who go abroad:

  1. Like Ellie, you could find a job or internship. The obvious benefit is that you can pretty much do whatever you please as long as you can arrange it yourself, which means you can do something that will further your future career, or just something you’ve always wanted to try. You even might get paid! The downside is the lack of stability, and the fact that you have to plan it all yourself. This is really the in-at-the-deep-end approach; not for the faint-hearted, but fun nonetheless.
  2. Like Victoria, you could study abroad at a foreign university. This is great because you can study without the academic pressure, and provided your home university is in agreement you can study pretty much whatever you want. This is probably the easiest way to meet people your own age, and because of the familiar format it’s not too daunting. There is one massive downside of course: you’re still a poor, unemployed student. But that’s what part-time jobs are for!
  3. Like Lucy, you could work as a language assistant with the British Council. A very popular option for many because there is a solid support network, it’s pretty much arranged for you (well, more so than the other two anyway) and you get a salary. It’s also great for people who are interested in teaching, and it’s common to stay with host families which really immerses you in the culture. The downside is that you won’t have total lingual immersion since you’ll spend a considerable amount of time teaching precisely that language which you’re trying to avoid; your own!

That brings us to Fiona, German and Linguistics, University of Oxford…

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Unsurprisingly, this has all got me thinking long and hard about what my plans for next year are, when I’ll be taking my year abroad. I’m somewhat torn between the freedom and independence of work and the comfort and opportunities of study. What isn’t unsure is that, as I’m a fluent native German speaker, I want to devote whatever I do in that year to my love of Scandinavia, not German.

Whether that means studying Scandinavian Studies at a university in Berlin; internship-hopping around Oslo and Stockholm; or finding a voluntary position in downtown Reykjavik, I’m not quite sure. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

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