"As a joint honours student, I was fortunate to be able to send my year abroad in two countries; I spent the first semester studying and teaching at a language school in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the second semester studying at the University in Pau. I can’t say I enjoyed every minute of it. At times I was very homesick and during the strikes in France I felt very frustrated. However it is an experience that shaped who I am today.
Spending time abroad gave me an education like no other. Not only was I able to learn the language and culture of a different culture, I also learnt what it was like to be in a minority. The experience gave me an understanding that behaviours in countries vary so much, and it taught me truly to appreciate the kindness of strangers.
Before I went away, I was a very shy and introverted person; I didn’t feel confident about speaking up or in my abilities. I’m a very different person now. I’m much more confident in myself and in my abilities, and this confidence has in turn enabled me to be better not only at my job, but it has also allowed me to go after the things I want most in life, and to feel like I deserve them. I can stand up for myself, which is something I couldn’t do before. It is one of the most valuable experiences I have had to date, and it is not something that anyone can put a price on.
With regards to my career, I now work as a direct marketing assistant for the LEGO Group, a company most people have heard of. I feel like the luckiest person alive, not only because I landed on my feet and managed not to spend any time unemployed after graduating, but also because I feel like I found my dream job. However, I know it would not be the same story had I not had the opportunity to spend time living abroad. Spending time living in France and Russia really gave my CV a point of difference out of the 200 that were submitted for my position. I’ve also found the innate understanding that the behaviour of people from varying cultures may be different from your own is something that is invaluable to my day-to-day job, as I work with and market to people from around the world.
I feel as though it’s impossible to paint a full picture of how my year abroad has enhanced my life. I made some fantastic friends who I’m still in touch with now, and I like myself a lot more. I definitely think it would be a great shame to take this opportunity away from future foreign language students, and that the university experience for them would be the poorer for it. I don’t think I would have achieved so much today had I not been fortunate enough to spend a year abroad."