"I undertook my year abroad in Paris, France, in the year running 2001–2002. It was a 10-month teaching assistantship undertaken through the British Council. Two thirds of the time was spent teaching English to Primary school pupils, aged from 9 – 11, with the other third spent in Secondary schools, taking small groups outside of the main classroom for conversation work.
What did I get out of my year abroad...? Well, great friends, hugely improved language skills, confidence in myself and others, the ability to balance people’s interests, and an irreplaceable exposure to and understanding of a different culture. It truly was an extraordinary experience that shaped my personality considerably, and I know that the others I met out there felt the same effects as I saw their personalities and confidence develop first-hand.
In the end I made the decision to follow my other passion for (urban) geography, and started work as a Town Planner for my local Council (Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames) in 2003. After 4 years in this role I made the move into the private sector, and have been working as a planning consultant for Savills plc, a major Global property company, ever since. Although the language skills have not proved useful to me professionally, the communication and mediation skills acquired through the year abroad, and the confidence that developed, have proved invaluable.
I use the confidence that I developed and presentational skills acquired on a day-to-day basis in my professional life, and I am convinced that I would not have been able to get to where I am without this. The year abroad truly gave me significant transferable skills in the workplace, including the ability to get on with people from all walks of life.
Outside professional life, I have gained some great friends with whom I share many memories of our time in Paris. In addition, without the year abroad my language skills would never have got to the level that they have, there really is no substitute for actually using these skills in everyday life and I firmly believe that the majority of those who don’t undertake this life changing experience will never achieve the same levels of language or social skills of those that have.
I feel passionate about the importance of the year abroad, and would hate to see people not be given this opportunity to genuinely develop their personalities and change their lives!"