One of the best opportunities for developing as a Language Student at the University of Reading is offered by the Year Abroad. All full-time students studying for a single or joint Honours degree in a modern language spend their Third Year abroad. It is an integral and exciting part of your university career, during which you gain practical experience of living and studying or of working in another country, meet new friends, immerse yourself in a new culture and perfect your language skills.
Students following a single language degree programme, or combining a language with a non-language subject, spend their third year entirely in a country where their language of study is spoken, while those students studying two languages split the year equally between two countries.
Different ways in which students can spend their Year Abroad
The majority of students spend their Year Abroad studying at a university. However, depending on which programme you do, there may also be the opportunity to work as a School Assistant or in a Work Placement.
Studying at a university in another country
The Department of Modern Languages and European studies has developed an extensive network of ERASMUS exchanges with institutions in France, Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. Students at Reading can apply to a wide range of institutions, including universities and business schools, allowing them the opportunity to tailor their Year Abroad to their interests.
If you choose to spend your Year Abroad at a university you will be studying alongside full-time local students, giving you even more opportunity to build friendships and practice your oral language skills.
As a School Assistant
For French and German students studying a single modern foreign language there is the opportunity to spend your Year Abroad working as a School Language Assistant. Although you apply through and are fully supported by the Modern Languages Department at Reading, the Language Assistantships are recruited and administered by the British Council who offer posts of either seven or nine months. To be eligible for an Assistantship you must be a British National and be under thirty years of age. In addition, the Assistantship option is not available at present for those students enrolled on a degree programme in which Management Studies or International Management and Business Administration are combined with French/German/Italian, or on a degree combining two languages. School Language Assistant positions are salaried to cover living expenses, and students are expected to teach English for approximately twelve hours per week.
On a Work Placement
Students who choose to spend their Year Abroad on a work placement are responsible for finding a job in the relevant country. Students at Reading often find such jobs through personal contacts, friends, and relatives, as well as through the normal channels and through agencies. This can be a good option for students considering using their foreign language within a work environment.
Students who opt to work as Assistants will receive a salary from their employers, and those on Work Placements may receive a stipend. Whichever option students choose, they are eligible to participate in the ERAMUS programme and to receive a small 'cost of living' grant from the European Union. In addition students are entitled to their standard student loan during their Year Abroad. Student accommodation is often cheaper on the continent, and overall students find that the Year Abroad is normally the cheapest year of their course, as well as the most enjoyable.
Preparation for your Year Abroad
Students will have the opportunity to start exploring their Year Abroad options right from their First Year, with access to a database of information on the universities with which we have exchange agreements, and through contact with students currently on their Year Abroad. Students are also encouraged to consult the web before deciding what they want to do and where they want to go.
Formal preparation starts right at the beginning of the Second Year, with a meeting that functions as an 'Introduction to the Year Abroad'. Further meetings are held throughout the Second Year, giving students information and guidance on the practicalities not just of studying or working abroad, but also of living abroad. These meetings also give students a chance to get answers to any questions, queries or worries they may have, and in particular to talk with students who have returned from their own Year Abroad to finish their degree. In addition, detailed guides to the Year Abroad for each language are distributed in the Second Year.
Support whilst abroad
While they are abroad, most students find that they are in frequent contact with staff at Reading over matters of life, work and study - much of the contact being via email, but also involving telephone calls and, where possible, visits by members of staff to the country where they are staying. In addition, all the documentation relating to their period abroad is posted on the University's dedicated bulletin board webpages called 'Blackboard', and students have access to the information and the necessary forms to be completed for the Erasmus programme from any computer wherever they are.
There have gradually been developing national and international websites dedicated to students going on a Year Abroad, and below are listed a few of them.
Information platform for students preparing to go abroad
Careers in Europe
(one of many sites, this one is endorsed by ESN Galaxy)
What the British Council has to say about ERASMUS (includes an informative promotional video, which includes interviews with former University of Reading students)