Modern Languages Students and the Year Abroad

Languages and
the Year Abroad
Prof. Margaret Topping
Head of French
School of Modern
[email protected]
Why spend a year abroad?
What do ML students do on their year abroad?
How do we prepare students for the year abroad?
How do we support sudents during the year
A life-changing experience
Enhanced awareness of cultural diversity, difference,
Global citizens
Linguistic and cultural fluency
Acquisition of skills that are
attractive to employers
Flexibility and adaptability
Resilience and independence
Thinking ‘outside the box’
Communication skills
Ability to make connections
Go for it!! Don’t
be afraid to try
something new on
your year abroad and
take advantage of
every opportunity.”
Stephen McKenna,
BA French and
Spanish, ‘Scene From
On High’, AllevardlesBains, France
Here are some things I know about moving to a foreign country:
1. It is really hard and scary and exciting and hilarious. All of these will prove mutually inclusive.
2. Everything that you have filed away in a box in your brain labelled “I’ll cross that bridge when
I come to it” will suddenly burst forth unbidden, and you will spend at least a fortnight dealing
with the ensuing catastrophe that is now your life.
3. All the vocab you ever learned about racism, drugs, homelessness or any other scourge of
society will turn out to be quite shockingly useless. Learn how to say “direct debit.” Or “gas
4.Whatever the room, whoever the occupants, you will become rapidly accustomed to feeling
like the stupidest person in it.
Still want to go, then?
I hope so. The Erasmus experience is of course completely unique for all of
its thousands of participants across Europe each year; it is like a
kaleidoscope of moving parts, every combination all too brief, but each as
chaotic and colourful as the next. I can therefore speak only from my own
experience – but can say, without exaggeration or hesitation, that my time
spent as a law student in Bordeaux, France, was one of the best years of
my life.
Niamh Hargan – Law and French
“Going to university was amazing but going to Mexico
was the best experience in my entire life – it was
absolutely fantastic.
It was the Mexican culture and generally being in
such a fantastic country – it was just so different”
Final-year Spanish and Portuguese student
“Being able to speak another language in what is now a truly global
marketplace can be a key differentiator when it comes to
employability.”. Steve Shacklock, Managing Director of Euro London
“The value of [a student’s] international experience goes beyond purely the
acquisition of language - it lies in the ability to see business and
personal issues from other than your own cultural perspective.” Charles
Macleod, Head of Global Sourcing and UK Talent Leader,
“Rolls-Royce recruits graduates from a wide range of disciplines, not just
engineering. We are looking for graduates who can be our future
leaders who demonstrate qualities of courage, judgement
and breadth. Where do we find such qualities... linguists or
arts graduates.” Miles Cowdry, Director - Global Corporate
Development, Rolls-Royce plc
CBI Education Skills Survey 2011:
British Academy Languages Matter More and More
English-language assistant
8-9 month contracts organised via the British Council
From 5-20, village and city, Europe and beyond
Work placements
University-based Erasmus exchanges
Supplemented by intensive language courses
Staff-led briefings from Oct/Nov before placement
Preparation for living abroad embedded in the
Student networks of information via student
British Council/in-house TOEFL courses
Interim reports
Pastoral visits
Open communication
Student-led facebook sites

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