"I lived and worked with my pupils who were all older than me and from difficult backgrounds: school drop outs now on the dole; people just out of prison; African immigrants who could not speak French, read or write.
Aside from my French improving dramatically (I came home completely fluent), I worked and lived with people whose lives were very different to my own, learnt how to cope completely on my own (no friends until I made them and living in the suburbs of an unknown city), how to teach, organise classes, how to choose wine and how to cook (!), how to budget, get on with anything that was thrown at me, calm a class of arguing adults, command authority in classes where people were either (much) older, or the same age as me, gain confidence in my work and my abilities, travel alone, be open to conversation with absolutely anyone, enjoy what a new culture had to offer.
I left Manchester at the beginning of the year convinced it was the only place to be and I came back thinking that it was only one of many brilliant places to spend a part of my life.
Language benefits aside, a year abroad does wonders for your self-esteem, contacts and general view of the world. The latter is something I feel is something particularly valuable for British students.
Upon leaving university I got a 3-month internship with a subtitling and dubbing company who specialise in foreign language versions. At the end of the three months they employed me permanently, one of the reasons being my French language skills, another being my ability to have a go at anything they threw at me, even if I had no experience – both things I learnt from my year abroad.
Speaking from a more personal angle, I met my boyfriend who I now live with through friends I made in Lyon. I go back to France on a regular basis and plan to live there long-term. I see the friends I made that year, and the friends I met through them as just as great friends as my university friends.
Without my year abroad I believe that I would have been disappointed in what was offered as part of my degree and would definitely have opted for a course that did offer a year out. It was an important breathing point that gave me the perspective to give my final year and exams my all."