"As a compulsory part of the Modern Language degree programme at Aston University, the Year Abroad with its choice of either employment, assistantship or university placement was the determining factor for my choice of Aston. Two university years went by and the feelings of excitement, but also apprehension grew: the first extended time away from home, away from family and friends; living in a foreign country where I would be thrown in at the deep end to use my acquired language skills.
The preparation at Aston University was exceptional and prepared me for my placement: one year as a translator in a translation agency, firstly near Idstein and then after the relocation of our company to Bad Karlshafen on the river Weser, near Göttingen. Working for a small company and living in a small village meant that my German skills - rather than my English native skills - were called upon for most of the time. From small talk at the local Kneipe to dealing with customers and clients - my German saw a dramatic improvement in such a small space of time. It gave me communication, confidence and interpersonal skills that would serve me well, not just in my final year of University but beyond. The Year Abroad taught me tolerance and respect of other cultures; it made me aware of similarities and differences between the UK and Germany, ones that were rarely delivered in the lecture theatre at University or in the classroom at school, and ones that often contradicted normal stereotypes.
The Year Abroad, particularly when a work-based placement is undertaken, is one of the few exercises during University studies whereby you can apply the actual material and information delivered in the lecture theatre, where theory is transferred and translated into practice, day in day out. My Year Abroad gave me a mindset that enabled me to write a Bachelor thesis that propelled me to an MA and PhD, where my language skills not only helped me disseminated German language material, but also to deliver research papers to German audiences in the foreign language, and even impart German cultural knowledge through recent publications (Oxford University Press and Peter Lang publishing houses).
My Year Abroad and the experience of living in a German-speaking country gave me the skills, insights and confidence to set up my own business in Germany: my own English language school in Germany called English Conversation and Culture Oldenburg (recently renamed to “Academy of English"), specialising in the delivery of both English and German as a Foreign Language and in organising trips for German people - young and old - to the United Kingdom. The Year Abroad informs my own practices today in the creation of a partnership with a local school in the Black Country (a part of the country with little contact with Germany) and organising an internship for one lucky German University student from my school."