I’m Hannah and I’m currently on my placement year abroad, so I thought I’d use my experiences so far to share some of my tips on why you should consider doing exactly the same – you won’t regret it!
You can conquer a new language!
The great thing about undertaking a placement abroad is that you can learn a new language. I am studying and working abroad with the sole intention of improving my French and have incorporated speaking French into my daily routine. I deal with my accommodation, banking, shopping and also my classes are in French, which helps to get in to the natural flow of conversing in French.
Don’t worry you still get to speak English! Most of my friends are outside of school and are international students. With them, I do speak a lot of English, but I’ve gone out of my comfort zone by attending buddy programmes without my international friends and through this, I’ve made some really goof friends who are in the local area..
Or you can learn the basics…
Alternatively, you can work or study in English in another country. I have friends across Europe who are working in English while living in cities from Amsterdam to Barcelona. Outside of work, they try to learn some of their local languages so that they can use public transport and buy their groceries. I know in France, French people really respect you if you try to speak French even if they realise that you’re not French or that your sentences are incorrect!
You can see the world!
Doing a placement year is such a great way to explore. I’ve been to Grenoble and my most recent trip was to Lake Annecy which is BEAUTIFUL! What I love most about being in France is that I have time and no real responsibilities tying me down, so I’m able to go out and explore what this beautiful place has to offer. It is your opportunity to make the most of every weekend, to visit other friends from Aston who are living abroad and to see some new places.
Learn about a new culture
Living in a country enables you to learn more about the culture and get a feel of the country rather than hearing it on social media. The most significant thing I have learnt so far is the difference between the French and English education systems. In France, most lectures are 3 hours and 15 minutes long, with a break after the first 90 minutes!
I am attending a business school, and it really does feel like I have gone back to school! I am in a class of 30 people, who remain the same in every lesson. Each group has a different timetable, so I follow my 30 friends from Group A for the semester. The classrooms are set out like you would imagine in a school, and our professor picks on individuals during the lesson to answer his or her questions. The class is mandatory and monitored, and missing lessons results in a mark of 0 for your midterm exams!
Other things you will discover are new foods, customs, traditions and social norms. I have learnt a lot about the local cheeses, wines and the local green liqueur “Chartreuse”.
Make new friends
In my class, all of the students come from French-speaking countries – places in France, Belgium, Chad, Congo, Madagascar and Senegal. I am taking a class to improve my French competencies, and everyone in this class is from China, all hoping to take the Desma exam to prove their fluency in French. My international friends stretch from Australia, Germany, Hungary, Denmark and many of them are American and Irish. I have made friends for life from various countries and have even been invited to visit some of these countries with my new found tourguides!
Have some life experiences
This could be your once in a lifetime opportunity to try living abroad for six or twelve months. You have no obligation to ever work abroad again if your experience is negative, or you may find somewhere that you absolutely adore and wish to work after university. However, you can only find out about life in a new country by going to live there. I think the first month was where I learnt the most about myself.
I moved into a studio on my own, I knew no-one in my new city and I had a ton of paperwork to do to settle into France. I had to find ways to make friends, speak French with as many people as possible and set up my bank, doctors, financial aid, water, electricity, accommodation without the help and advice of my parents and friends. I also lost my EHIC on the plane which seemed to be a huge problem to resolve and meant I was unable to complete some of my paperwork in the first few weeks – it felt like a weight was lifted when I finally (finally!) received a new card. You find yourself without your close usual support network for a few weeks, and this is when you realise you are strong enough to do anything if you put your mind to it!
I have had a handful of interviews for jobs in Paris last week and am awaiting a response. I already have friends in Paris and they have told me that they adore it so much that they are already considering working there after university. I can only hope that I will receive a job offer in the next few days so I can experience the excitement and joy of Paris for myself!