"I went to Milan as an Erasmus student for the academic year. I then spent the summer at the end of my year abroad interning in Milan for a fashion distribution company.
As a side note, the Erasmus scheme was excellent, because it gave me a certain amount of financial security and gave me the freedom to spend the year abroad the way I wanted to - studying at another university and experiencing its social life without having to worry overly about money.
It is absolutely not an exaggeration to say that the year abroad was not only the most valuable part of my degree in terms of enjoyment, but just as importantly for the huge impact it had on my Italian. I went to Milan with a very low level of confidence in my Italian and left feeling I could hold my own and thrive in a foreign environment. This was fundamental in encouraging me to find work in France in the year after I graduated. Had I not been able to go on a year abroad, I would not have had any confidence in completing my finals - and I would have felt a bit of a fraud claiming a degree in Italian, as before I went I did not speak it at anything like the level I did upon my return.
Academically, it was absolutely vital. It has also been important in making me stand out with employers - it validates the claim on my CV that I speak Italian fluently, and also shows that I am able to move out of my comfort zone.
Furthermore, mixing with people from varied backgrounds and cultures has made me more diplomatic in the way I work and especially in international business this has been invaluable. In every job interview I have had, it has always come up as being something that marked me out and which an employer saw as very attractive. It was a huge factor in getting me my current job.
On a personal level, the year abroad gave me huge self-belief. Knowing the challenges I overcame during the year has made me more assertive and self-assured in the different job roles I have fulfilled in the UK. I feel that, having been through the experience of moving to a city I didn't know, speaking a language I didn't initially know that well, I can do almost anything now.
It was not just the best year for my degree and for improving my language skills, but the best year of my life. It has had noticeable effects on my academic career, my employability and my personal life. I came back from the year encouraging everyone, whether language student or not, to go on a year abroad, because it was such an overwhelmingly positive experience."