Posted by: rhiannonlong | February 17, 2015

Blind leading the blind?

As a second year languages student, I feel like I’ve been forced into thinking seriously about my career slightly earlier than with some other degrees. The looming prospect of a third year abroad is constantly lurking at the back of your mind, and unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much guidance on how to approach it.

At the start of the year, you’re given three rather broad options; study at a foreign university, teach English at a school abroad, or work in your chosen country. Now decide.

That’s pretty much it in terms of guidance, and when you’re talking about a rather considerable chunk of your degree, and a pretty important life experience, it can feel like you’re drowning in a decision far too big for you to make alone.

You’re instantly thrown into a frenzy of trying to consider EVERY option and research EVERY German university and find out the population and nightlife and crime rates in every single German city.

My first piece of advice? Stop, don’t panic, and work out what you want to do. It’s no use being convinced on how good a certain university is if you have no interest in studying. At the same time, there’s no point in starting to apply for jobs when you have absolutely no idea of which career path you want to go down.

This was where it was slightly easier for me than a lot of my friends. I know (or at least I think I know) what field I want to be working in, so the idea of working abroad appealed to me. I imagine teaching English would be very rewarding, but I’d heard a lot of reviews on how it benefits your social life more than improving your language skills. And when you’re paying nine grand a year for a foreign language degree, you’d hope to be pretty adept at your language by the end of it.

The same went for studying abroad. Again I’ve heard it’s pretty fun and a great cultural experience, but personally there was no course which stood out to me which was better than working. There’s no point going to the university for the sake of going to the university; make sure you actually take an interest in the courses they’re offering.

So I think before even looking into the details and specifics of every option, it’s worth considering what kind of a person you are and what you personally are looking to get out of your year abroad. The university can’t offer that much guidance, which is why I felt like it was the blind leading the blind; you find yourself asking your friends for advice when they’re in exactly the same position.

If you’re considering a future career where it’s extremely competitive and former experience is vital, a year abroad working will look great on your CV and demonstrates a certain degree of courage, (as well as the obvious second language skill).

If you’re looking for the more social option, or there’s something you’ve always been dying to study, then uni seems like a sensible choice.

Point is? Before you let yourself get overwhelmed and bogged down in the details of work placements, Erasmus funding and overseas uni courses, figure out what you want. It’s so much easier to make an informed and correct decision when you have a clear idea in your mind of what you’re looking to gain from the experience. And when you’ve decided? Then hopefully I’ll have some advice for you on knowing where to look to get what you want.
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  1. Hi Rhiannon
    What you have written reflects what we at the Careers Service would say in terms of career planning – as a starting point it’s wise to think about what really matters to you.

    What are your interests, ambitions, values, work preferences and motivations?
    To what extent do you want to use your expert knowledge and degree subject?

    However if you do ever want some impartial guidance don’t forget Careers Service staff can help you explore your ideas and are available without the need for an appointment.

    We also have resources for both studying and working abroad on our Careers Service website.

    The International Office also produces a list of Erasmus exchange partners,
    that might be of interest, as well as lots of other information for your year abroad.

    Hopefully this may be of help for anyone else thinking of doing a year abroad.
    Best of luck and enjoy your time in Germany! 🙂

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