Snow, Stikes, and Second Year Study Abroad
In light of the barbaric weather, and the ongoing UCU strikes, last week was pretty quiet on campus for me. Of course, not all my lecturers are striking, however, the snow did a pretty excellent job of isolating the campus, making it difficult to continue with classes. As a result, with more free time, I was left with no choice but to attempt the administrative nightmare of planning my year abroad. (It’s not that much of a nightmare, I am just a drama queen who hates emails and filling in forms).
Like all students of languages at Warwick, I have the opportunity to study or work abroad for a year to improve my languages. Being a Modern Languages student, you have the tricky task of studying three languages, with only a year to go away. I study Spanish, Italian and Russian, so deciding where to go was tricky, however, because the Russian side of things is within the language centre, not a department of its own, the course is designed to accommodate students who don’t spend time in Russia. Moreover, with opportunities of internships and summer schools in Russia, it seemed nicer to avoid the snow, and use the wonderfully long summer holidays to improve my Russian.
Therefore, I decided to split my year abroad, going first to either Spain or Latin America and then to study from a range of universities in Italy. After decisions and applications, I have finalised my plans: between July and December, I will be studying at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, and then from February to July, I will go to the Università degli Studi di Siena in Italy.
Traditionally, the year abroad is done in your third year of study, however, I will be doing it in my second year… Why? You might ask? Even though my home department is Spanish, I was allowed to conduct my year abroad in either second or third year. This is thanks to Warwick’s lovely Italian department, who maintain that regardless of previous experience (so if you did A-Level/ GCSE Italian, have Italian family, or are a beginner, or anything in between) you should go away in your second year, so that when you return for your two final years (the ones that actually count for your degree) theoretically, you’ve set yourself up quite well. This persuaded me, as I am comfortable enough with my Spanish to go to Colombia, study Italian for another six months, and then move to Italy. Am I confident with my Italian? No. Truth be told, by the time you finish first-year beginners Italian, you are about GCSE standard, meaning the prospect of living in Italy next year is a bit scary. But, I figure if people years before me have done it, why not?
However, it is still quite common to wait until third year, given, to my knowledge, that is compulsory for the French and German departments to do the year abroad then. It’s a personal decision: you have to consider personal experience and confidence, language ability, and what you want out of your university experience. Considering that you have to apply for the year abroad at the end of Term 1, before the Christmas holiday, the prospect of leaving a place that you’ve only just settled into can be quite daunting. Similarly, I know that when I return, so many wonderful people that I have studied with this year will be on their year abroad, meaning I won’t see them until final year. It’s up to you, and how you want to shape your experience at university, but, for me, I think it’s great that my department at Warwick would support you regardless of what year you do it.