"I studied a mixture of units, both directly related to my core degree studies and for interest. I acted in student theatre, made friends for life and my German improved immeasurably. I gained confidence in myself and my ability to thrive in another different environment. I had been to Germany as an Au Pair in my gap year but my student year gave me another totally different perspective.
I’m struggling to sum up the experience in 500 words because that year is such an enormous part of who I am and what I’ve achieved so far. I can’t subdivide it into what it meant personally/academically and professionally because it was so important. When I graduated, I moved to London with some friends and started a digital media business. I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to do that without my year abroad; I didn’t know anything about websites but I trusted my ability to get my head around another whole new world quickly – after all, I’d done a modern art course in Heidelberg which I joined without any experience, I then worked in the music industry for a short time and am now a senior recruitment consultant - all very different industries! I wasn’t a backpacker; I was more interested in learning how it was to interact in other culture over an extended period of time. I think that year has given me an enduring interest in other people and their world views. I also love reading German novels set in Heidelberg and knowing another town in another country so well that I can see the streets that the characters walk down.
One of the things that I love about learning German is that seeing the world through another language gives you a new perspective on yourself, your home and the world. The incredible luxury of being a full time student surrounded by full time students (international as well as German) is something that I still treasure. I learnt so much about myself, my capabilities, my ability to problem solve, my capacity to learn and adapt. It was an extension of my time at Manchester but I think that my degree without it would not have had as much impact.
Now working in recruitment I see graduates who have done a study year abroad; they are generally good problem solvers, good at working on their own initiative and have good communication skills. Whether they worked or studied it gives them something interesting to talk about at interview and they (often unconsciously) demonstrate exactly the qualities that the employer is looking for as they talk through their year. They are also typically more confident in their spoken language ability."