Most students planning on taking a year abroad will have to provide some form of coursework for their home university, as their term away ends. Some universities require a dissertation or thesis on a particular cultural aspect, whereas others will ask their students to produce a YAP (Year Abroad Project).
What is the Year Abroad Project?
This varies from uni to uni, though an essay in your target language of about 1500 words is usually what is expected of you. Though you may be able to go slightly over or under the limit, check with your tutor or the YAP guidelines first. Depending on your degree course (e.g French, Business Studies with Spanish, German and History etc), you may have varying degrees of leeway with your YAP topic. Some students are asked to pick a topic in keeping with their degree, e.g. a business venture in Southern Spain if you’re studying Business Studies with Spanish, whilst others are given relative freedom with the focus of their essay. Make sure you agree on a topic with your course coordinator or year abroad tutor before you start any extensive research though!
- current issues of national importance, with specific reference to its portrayal in your region/city.
- an important political issue
- an aspect of the local or regional industry, racial integration, commerce, agriculture, economy etc
- aspects of local dialect/slang
- a distinctive custom/tradition
- depiction of a town or region in literature
These are just a few ideas - the main focus should be on your region or city, regardless of whether you choose to tackle social, political, cultural or linguistic issues. You cannot afford to make your essay descriptive or narrative - there needs to be evidence of critical analysis and intellectual challenge. You should also consider undertaking an essay on a topic you wouldn’t necessarily study in any of your modules back home - this is your chance to research something new, though you should be careful to pick something you are able to cope with; don’t stray too far from your field of study (e.g. an analysis of a marketing strategy within France, if you have never studied Marketing).
How much is your YAP worth?
You should speak to your course coordinator or tutor to find out how much your YAP will be worth. Some students who decide to study on their year abroad may find that they do not need to supply a YAP, as their year’s credits will be taken from the assessment of foreign university modules. Others may find they need to supply their home university with their YAP, as well as passing their modules abroad. Students who choose to work abroad are generally asked to supply a YAP, as well as some information about their work placement. Make sure you check how much your YAP is worth for your entire degree, and if this is the only piece of uni work expected of you, as you return from your year abroad. Some universities ask their students to supply an essay, as well as take an oral exam on the same topic, once they return to the UK.
How will your YAP be assessed?
Generally speaking, marks are awarded for content (50%) and linguistic ability (50%). You should proofread your final draft, checking your grammatical accuracy, the vocabulary you use (choice of the right register and avoidance of repetition), your line of argument (demonstration of critical analysis within your work, as opposed to a narrative or descriptive essay). Avoid plagiarism by making sure your sources are referenced to when quoting and do not pad out your essay with long, irrelevant quotations. Your bibliography should also be in check, as you may be marked down if you fail to reference all your sources. You need to also demonstrate that you have read in your target language - you need to source texts not just on the internet, but also in journals and books at your local library. Some YAPs may include photographs and/or questionnaires; you must, however, make critical use of them and not just include them for the sake of it. You risk losing out on marks if you choose a topic that could be easily researched through English publications. As with any other essay, do not make sweeping statements and steer clear of points that aren’t illustrated with an example.