In early 2020, I accepted my offer from the University of Manchester to study History of Art and Spanish, a degree which included a mandatory year abroad. Almost three years later, I am sitting in my flat in Madrid, Spain, after a day of work as an English Language Assistant in a local high school, struggling to narrow down just five reasons why I would recommend a year overseas.
Whether you are currently applying to Uni or deciding whether to undertake one on your current course, here are a few reasons I would encourage everyone to choose a year abroad placement.
After having my travel confidence knocked by pandemic restrictions and settling comfortably into life in Manchester, by the end of my second year, the thought of uprooting myself and ‘starting again’ in a new country did not appeal. To be truthful, I would’ve been perfectly happy completing my third year in the same house, with the same friends, continuing as I had been.
While there’s nothing wrong with this, I didn’t have that option, and I look back so relieved that that was the case. Moving abroad alone is extremely daunting and challenging, but knowing that I can navigate this reassures me that I am capable of anything I put my mind to. In just two months here, I have learnt so much about myself and become much more independent, confident and resilient than I could’ve imagined, as cliche as that may sound.
After just two months here, I can already think of endless answers to the inevitable ‘describe an obstacle you faced and how you overcame it’ interview question I know I will hear when looking for a graduate job. Not only am I so proud of the skills I have developed whilst being here, but I know they will be invaluable after graduation when entering the world of work in many ways.
As well as this, I’m spending my year abroad working through the British Council as an English Language Assistant, meaning I can add nine months of paid teaching experience to my CV. This takes the pressure off trying to squeeze internships or jobs into summer and has given me a great opportunity to sample this career sector, network with professionals and take on responsibilities similar to full-time work.
Live abroad with financial and logistical support.
One thing I am really grateful for is that by living abroad through University, I have access to student loans, grants, insurance and support that I wouldn’t have if I’d moved here independently. Personally, this meant living abroad became more financially viable and logistically straightforward than if I’d decided to do so after graduation, though this will be different for everyone.
These reasons mean that in my experience, if you want to live abroad at any time throughout your life, now is the time to do it.
Learn a language.
This is a pretty obvious one, but there is no better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in it. This is true whether you’re like me and looking to build on your existing language skills, or are a complete beginner looking to learn from scratch. By just going to the supermarket, riding the bus or going to an event, you will practice your language skills much more efficiently than you ever could in a lecture hall or on Duolingo.
Overall, my experience so far has granted me more free time than I ever have at University, as well as ample opportunity to travel, meet new people, discover a new place and just generally relax. In many cases, your grades won’t count if you decide to study abroad, operating only on a pass/fail basis, meaning you really can take a year to recuperate. By the end of my second year, I was starting to feel a sense of academic burnout that I know would’ve been amplified by my dissertation year had I not had this break to breathe a little.
It is so exciting to discover a whole new country, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my year has in store.
If, after reading Imogen’s experiences you’re interested in finding out more about your options for studying or working abroad, take a look at My Placements, the University portal for exploring and managing off-campus opportunities, including work placements and study abroad opportunities.