Leaving on a Jet Plane (and then coming back for third year)
After having flashed a little over-excitement about my year abroad in my last post I deem it only appropriate to dedicate this one to those glorious months I spent becoming an insufferable, cosmopolitan stereotype (that’s only partly true).
Having Italian as my home department meant, for reasons about which to this day I am relatively unsure, that my year abroad was to be undertaken in my second year at university. From this ruling I took a number of pros and cons. The main con being that I had just settled into first year, made lots of friends etc. while then having to disappear for a year. While the main pro was that I would have two more years of study after my travels to refine the skills which I acquired when away. In hindsight, the second/third year abroad dilemma really isn’t as big of a deal as you think so don’t let that put you off. You can make friends any time or place.
From September to February I lived and worked in Paris as a “Teaching and Management Intern”. It looks great on a CV due to the whole range of tasks which I was employed to undertake – I got an unholy amount of teaching experience considering I was a second year university student but also a great deal of administrative skills which really benefitted me when applying for internships in the summer. Alongside teaching, the job also involved a great deal of office work, I dotted around departments a bit but found my main home with HR where I would recruit, interview and train teachers. It sounds like a lot of responsibility and in truth, it was but it was so enjoyable and is so beneficial for employment skills. I am very glad that I chose to work rather than study. I managed to find an apartment through a work colleague and I lived with another colleague who is now one of my closest friends. I could go on forever about my life in Paris but it does smack a little of self-indulgence so, if you have any questions just post them as a comment and I can reply.
From February to June I lived in Rome. Admittedly, Paris didn’t leave me with a ton of money (as you can imagine) and although accommodation in Rome was much more affordable I didn’t very much like the idea of being stuck in university halls with other international students with a common language of English. This is when I had the idea of au pairing. I used Aupairworld.com and within days was in touch with a lovely family based in Rome, I lived with them for the entirety of my time in Rome and it was perfect. Not only were the family lovely, with three children but also I had free accommodation and food and more importantly it was very useful for practicing my Italian at home. They have truly become my second family and I’m sure we will remain in contact for years to come. Due to the rules of the year abroad I had no choice but to study at an Italian university which didn’t turn out to be so bad. I must admit that a lot of the course content was the same as in my first year so I didn’t frequent every lecture but I still frequently showed my face to make some course friends and to indulge in social events. I found the most striking aspect of La Sapienza university is the level of independence required of the students, although English universities do demand a certain level of proactivity, Sapienza took this to a whole new level and admittedly, it has helped me in my return to Warwick. Same goes for Italy, just comment any questions.
As much as I would have loved to have stayed in Rome until the end of September I was very much aware that I studied three languages and had only lived in two of them. Now, the Erasmus scheme only permits for residence in a maximum of two countries during a year abroad and so I had to look independently for a means to live in Germany over summer. There are a whole host of internships, work placements and voluntary jobs which can be found both online and via the university but for most of these I had either already missed the application deadline, or I simply was not interested in the offered work. However, I did finally manage to find a position which worked for me and it made for the most unforgettable summer of my life. From June to September I worked for Camp Europe – a summer camp based in Germany with locations all around Europe. On a daily basis I would organise and lead activities, help out campers, do first aid or whatever else was required of me, the atmosphere is very difficult to understand without having experienced it but I assure you that not only was it amazing fun but it also did heaps and bounds for my personal development as virtually every employable skill imaginable is used at some point. Right now, it is easily the item on my CV which potential employers find the most interesting.
Then, in September, I came back to England and worked for a couple of weeks in order to prepare myself for the cruelties of the real world again. I just can’t wait to go back.
As a last piece of advice I am going to add a list of things which you should definitely consider doing on your year abroad to make the most of it: (sorry if it sounds lame and cliché but it’s pretty accurate)
– Use every opportunity to practice your language (it’s why you’re there)
– Try not to say no to invitations from natives
– Don’t worry loads about whether or not you’ll make friends, you will
– Make contacts, if not for anything else they can help you with translation work!
– Take a ton of photos (it’s just nice to have memories)
– Do work – earn some money and gain valuable experience while you’re still at uni
– Travel, it’s the best chance you’ll have to do it
– Don’t sit in your room all day – you can do that in England
– Don’t make it the only thing you talk about when you’re back (you will want to but it gets old real quick)