In the German department, we passionately believe that the Year Abroad plays a key role in helping our students develop excellent language skills, as well as acquire a whole range of professional experience and transferable skills that enhance their employability and prepare them well for their future careers. Talk to our current finalists and they will tell you that the year abroad has improved their confidence, maturity, resilience, and helped them learn more about themselves and how they see their futures developing.
To help students get the most out of their degree, the SMLC offers flexibility about if, when, and how students go abroad. Most will opt to spend the third year of their degree abroad in Germany and Austria. However, on some degree programmes (e.g. if you are studying German AND Italian, or German AND Hispanic Studies, and starting your other language from scratch), you may instead choose to go abroad in your second year.
For some people, spending a year abroad can be quite a daunting prospect; for others spending time in Germany, France, Spain, Latin America, or Italy is the very reason they decided to study modern languages in the first place. Have a look at what some of our recent graduates had to say on the matter. A number of our students have also written about their experiences studying and working in Germany for our blog - scroll down to read their inspiring stories!
If you choose to undertake a year abroad, you currently have three possibilities:
Students can tailor their experience in a way that best supports their learning and their career plans. You can spend the whole year in one country or split it between two countries. Students on three-language degrees can spend time in a third country over the summer. You can choose to study, work, or combine the two.
Spend time at a German university as an exchange student:
At present, we have partnerships with a range of diverse and prestigious universities, from Mannheim (a centre for business excellence) and the leading research institution at Konstanz, to the vibrant campuses of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Free University in Berlin. Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to develop your aural, writing, and speaking skills in an academic setting, get a taste of student life in a different country, and continue honing your language by participating in language classes or tandem exchanges with other students. Study placements are ideal for students studying multiple languages as part of their degree: you may be able to continue this aspect of your studies while abroad, or, indeed, take up a brand new language. Some of our students take the opportunity to try a new subject and to get a grounding in and taste for fields that they want to pursue after their degree, for example law, business, media or marketing.
Working as a ‘language assistant,’ teaching English in a secondary school
We have an excellent success rate placing students in a wide range of schools throughout Germany and Austria, in urban and rural locations, and in primary, secondary, and adult education settings. We coach you through the process of applying through the British Council, which coordinates the assistants programme and offers administrative assistance for students as they prepare to move and work abroad. Students working as assistants support English-language classes, may deliver their own lessons with the assistance of their mentor teacher, and frequently have the opportunity to run extra-curricular activities that correspond to their own interests. Assistants are paid a reasonable salary, embedded in a local community, and get the opportunity to combine their modest work schedule with a variety of other pursuits. Students also develop transferable skills that will be vital in later life, whether or not they choose to become teachers. Before beginning your placement, you will take part in an orientation course abroad with other language assistants, allowing you to make friends and form a network before you start your job. While most students will spend an entire academic year (September-May) as an assistant, there are limited posts for half of the year.
Apply for an independent work placement
An increasing number of our students choose to search for their own work placements during the year abroad. These placements are subject to approval by SMLC and we can help you to navigate this process: from guiding you to the appropriate job portals to linking you up with our connections and supporting you as you write your applications. Whilst the impetus for finding a placement lies with you, we help and advise you in negotiating a contract and living allowance with your employer and ensure you are truly immersed in a German-speaking environment. In recent years, students have successfully won placements with major multinational companies from BMW and Lufthansa to Elle magazine and Framatome nuclear energy. Their roles have fallen in a variety of sectors, including logistics, revenue management, journalism, sports advertising, social work, translation services, and internet marketing. Keep an eye on the SMLC blog to read about what they get up to and how the year abroad has helped prepare them for graduate job applications.
During the Year Abroad
Whichever option you choose, during the year abroad you will continue to have a Personal Tutor at Warwick and receive support from the Year Abroad Team. If you go to Schloss Dhaun (see the right hand column), you will also get the opportunity to see your tutors in person.
Over the course of the year, you will also submit academic work, which is designed to prepare you for your final-year studies in spoken and written German, as well as to understand how to present the experiences you have gained during the year abroad effectively in future job applications and interviews.
In addition to the year abroad, all students are encouraged to spend further time abroad during vacations. The School is able to offer advice and information about the ways in which this can be done (paid work, voluntary work, language courses, etc.). Students usually find vacation residence to be a particularly rewarding way of 'trying out' living in a German-speaking country as it allows them to be immersed in a different way of life, while gaining extra confidence in the language.
If you are an international student, you may not be eligible for the teaching assistant scheme (see the British Council website). You will, however, be able to study at a German university of your choice or find work. Please contact the School if you have any queries about this.
If you are studying a degree with the German department and have opted for a year abroad, you could meet up with your cohort and staff at our annual Easter Residential School, which takes place most years at Schloss Dhaun. Many students find this opportunity invaluable. It's a chance to catch up with friends, swap stories, see how you are progressing, check in with tutors and get some face-to-face academic and pastoral support, as well as to get a head start on preparations for final year. Schloss Dhaun also has its own website which you might want to look at.