"I was an Assistant in a college in Normandy, France, for one academic year. It was the most important part of my university education. It was hard, scary and life-changingly difficult. It made me grow up. It gave me skills that I now use everyday in my working profession: my intercultural awareness, sensitivity to others, team work, self-confidence and professional approach all developed in leaps and bounds during this time.
The combination of living in another country and of working in a professional environment demanded a maturity and independence that I struggled through adolescent development to deliver. Once you have shouted at three 14-year old kids to give your purse back, to not throw it out the window, and to sit down and do their English work - other things in life are not so scary.
I developed methods and approaches to dealing with situations that I have leant on time and time and again in my work life since. Being able to talk French fluently on my return from my assistantship gave me the competence to throw myself into my studies (both in French and in Maths) and succeed at university-level education afterwards. The friendships I formed during the year are life-long.
15 years later I am still very much in touch with the girls I spent the year with. We still giggle and reminisce about the things we were forced to do in the small country town for entertainment, like joining a Spanish choir even though we couldn't sing and couldn't speak Spanish....!
I now work for a European Programme. My language skills development, together with the confidence and adaptability that my year abroad taught me, have opened the doors to a career that I love and give my heart to. It was the best part of my education. It took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to grow up, to develop and to adapt to new challenges. I am very proud of what I did. Thank you for the opportunity."