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Preparing for your year abroad

copy_of_254375_neatly_packed_suitcase.jpgSpending a year abroad on your modern languages course could be the time of your life, but you’ll need to spend some time making proper preparations first. Read on to find out more.

How does a year abroad work?

Most modern languages degrees require students to spend time in a foreign country where the language they’re learning is spoken. This can last for anything from a few months to a full year, and normally takes place in the third year. Students who are learning one language will go to one country, while those doing combined languages degrees might have the option of spending it in one or two places.

What will I do?

Most courses expect you to put together a proposal explaining how what you want to do will benefit your studies – so spending 12 months sunbathing isn’t going to be an option. You’ll be either working or studying, or a combination of the two.

  • Studying: You will attend classes at a foreign university, and complete a project, supervised by tutors there and in the UK.
  • Working: Many students work as English language teachers in their year abroad, whilst others get jobs or internships with foreign businesses.

How do I arrange it?

If you want to study in Europe, you can apply through the Erasmus programme, which arranges exchange programmes for foreign students. If you want to go further afield, your university could have contacts with other universities in places like Latin America.

For those who want to work, Erasmus can help you find work experience and internships in Europe. Your university might be able to help set you up with a job somewhere previous graduates have worked.

You could also try and find a job yourself if you’re interested in one particular area, by contacting companies to see if they take on foreign students. This might be a harder way to go about things, because you’ll have to do more research into your options and often fill in job application forms, but your university should be able to offer you advice and support.

Of course, once you’ve decided where you want to go and what you want to do, you’ll still have to find somewhere to live. If you’re on an exchange scheme with another university, you’ll probably be able to live in student accommodation. Students who are working might be able to get advice on accommodation from the company they’re working for. There’s also the option of arranging it yourself, by taking a look at one of these accommodation websites, many of which will also be able to help you find flatmates. Remember to be careful though, and don’t give away any money or too much information about yourself until you’re sure it’s legitimate.

What about funding?

You’ll still be able to claim your usual maintenance loan and grants to help you with your living costs for your year abroad. Students on the Erasmus programme also qualify for a grant, which is normally over 300 euros per month. Erasmus also offer extra grants for students on short-term work placements. Find out more about Erasmus funding.

Whether you have to pay tuition fees normally depends on how long you are going for. Students on the Erasmus programme who spend a full academic year – defined as 24 weeks – abroad do not have to pay any tuition fees. Students who go away for a full year on a different programme or outside of the EU might have to pay tuition fees to their university in the UK, although these might be at a reduced rate. Anyone going abroad for less than an academic year will normally have to pay full tuition fees for that year. You’ll still be able to claim a tuition fees loan to cover what you have to pay.

You’ll also need to draw up a budget before you go as well. Depending on the country, day-to-day living might be cheaper than the UK, but there are still other costs to think about – such as travel insurance and getting there in the first place. Some universities might subsidise travel and insurance costs for some students.

Although some work placements will pay you a salary, you might have to try and get a part-time job if you’re studying or doing an internship and you can fit it into your timetable. This is a great way of getting some extra cash – and getting experience using your language skills in the real world!

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