"It was a valuable experience in terms of gaining independence and actually living the language being studied in its full context. Language doesn't exist in a bubble and study can only take you so far. Immersion in German life provided that final push towards mastery and fluency where everything falls into place and speaking the language becomes as natural as breathing. I lived German as an employee, friend, flatmate, neighbour, girlfriend, etc, and no longer just as a student. Opportunities for learning were everywhere and no longer confined to an academic setting.
Since graduation I've been living in Paris and for the past 10 years have been working in the translation department of a French pharmaceutical company, initially as an assistant working with freelance translators and checkers and more recently with a hands-on role in the translation/preparation of documents.
The documents and languages vary and we as a department do not master all of them, only French, English, German and Spanish out of the dozens that we work with. For the languages that we don't speak it is invaluable to have honed a certain instinct and self-confidence. My thorough grounding in German has helped me work with texts in other Germanic languages.
The skills gained during the year abroad were especially invaluable for the first couple of years in France. I didn't speak French very well but was hired on the strength of my degree with my employer no doubt assuming that if I can master one language then I can master another and that I can find my feel quickly in a new environment. I also feel that the sense of independence, self-confidence and self-knowledge gained from being immersed in a different culture is highly prized by employers, not to mention the resourcefulness required when in the early days one's vocabulary is limited and the other person doesn't speak English!
In the current climate of job insecurity and with the world opening up, access to this type of experience needs to be facilitated and not restricted. The year abroad has equipped me with everything I need to be able to make the most of this new era."