If you’re a languages fresher, the big compulsory YA is bound to be on your mind.
I’d always said I’d live in France “one day”, but I’m not sure how that would have panned out if I hadn’t been forced into the whole thing. Moving to different country is a big deal, but at the end of it the world now seems much more open and accessible. The year abroad is a possibility with a wide range of degree programmes at Exeter, and if you’re thinking about doing one – do it!
The preparatory stage is stressful: deciding what it is you want to do, finding a placement by means of endless applications and stuttered phone interviews, and then blindly searching for accommodation.
I was leaving behind many of my friends, as well as my boyfriend whom I’d known pretty much since the beginning of first year. The idea of returning to Exeter in fourth year without these people so central to my university experiences so far was hard to take in. Needless to say third term was emotional.
That September I moved to Brussels and spent a term at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. I loved it. It felt incredible to be living in and discovering this big new city and its culture. The capital of a country split between two languages, Brussels is heavily influenced by its Dutch and French neighbours with its Amsterdam-type buildings and love of pastries and espresso. Christmas there was really exciting, with plenty of snow, a huge Christmas market complete with ice skating rink and big wheel, and awesome light displays.
After the January exams I worked at a tiny French ski resort called La Joue du Loup for six weeks. When I say tiny, I was in the middle of nowhere. The only way out was on an irregular bus that had to be booked two days in advance, so supermarket trips had to be thoroughly planned out. I got to board every day and had a heated pool right outside my apartment, but six weeks was enough!
My final work placement was in Nice, in a modern art museum. It was my dream job. I discovered so many different artists – some in person – and got to see how an art museum was run. Living about 100m from the Promenade des Anglais, I got to bask in a proper three month long summer surrounded by palm trees and sunshine. I’ve never been so reluctant to book a flight home!
It really was an incredible year, and I’m so proud of myself for doing it. It wasn’t always easy: I missed people back home, especially my boyfriend, and I was horribly ill for two weeks in Brussels. I made mistakes at work and got shouted at for them, I had plenty of embarrassing moments linked to differences in cultures and I experienced my share of awkward language blunders throughout the year. I’ve come back with so much more confidence, independence and world awareness, and my language skills have really improved. I’ve met some genuinely lovely people, who I hope to remain in contact with, and I’ve got to live in and experience some fantastic places.
And when else are you going to get the chance to travel about and really experience new places, have one massive holiday abroad without being responsible for anything or anyone but yourself, and all funded by an Erasmus grant and supported by your university? Do it!
written by Kelly Robinson