"I went to Pisa, Italy for my year abroad. I stayed there from September 2009 to July 2010. When I first arrived in Pisa I was enrolled at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, however, after my first term (so after Christmas) I also enrolled onto a course at the Università di Pisa.
The most obvious and perhaps important thing that I got out of my year abroad was that my Italian improved immensely. When I first arrived I had a loose grasp of the grammar and very little vocabulary, when I left I could converse confidently in Italian and can honestly say that I had attained a certain level of fluency.
The vast majority of my friends in Pisa were either native Italian or Italian speaking so that was the dominant language. It was fantastic experience to make friends in a foreign language and I believe that the friends I made there will remain close for a long time to come.
A large part of speaking a foreign language fluently comes down to confidence and I gained a lot of self confidence from my year abroad. Going to a foreign country for an extended time on your own, particularly a country where the national language isn’t English, is daunting for anyone. Successfully overcoming the various little trials on your own is incredibly empowering. Even if that just means small victories against Italian bureaucracy!
This experience really took me out of my comfort zone and that was a very positive thing. Making friends and socialising in a foreign country and foreign language helped my social skills beyond belief and I am truly thankful for this. I am fast learning that this is very important in terms of professional development and am really thankful for my experience of the year abroad.
The job I am currently doing is the first one I have had since graduating. It is an internship with an online media company in Berlin. It is a small step as far as a career path but it is only for 6 months and it is a step forward! I strongly believe that my year abroad helped me get this position as living abroad looks great on the CV when applying for jobs outside the UK. I also think that the self confidence and social skills I gained from my year abroad has made me much more employable and better equipped for interviews.
During my time in Pisa I joined the local triathlon team. It was great to feel like part of the local society. It was also an excellent time to complete a personal “life goal” that of completing a half-Ironman distance triathlon. I did this in the last month of my time in Pisa and I am really grateful to the year abroad making this a possibility. It capped of a fantastic year!"