In exactly two months I will have moved to Paris and will be starting my first day at work.
The year abroad was my main motivation for studying languages, and what convinced me to pursue a career in them since the start of my GSCEs. Listening to people talk about their placement year, and how they took a year out of university to move to cities such as Paris and Montreal sounded perfect, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Now that I’m doing exactly that, it’s clear that they missed out a lot of important information.
My 13 year old self thought you’d study for two years, whilst the university would find you a job, a flat, sort out all the minor details and all you’d have to take care of is packing a suitcase and getting on the eurostar. I couldn’t have been more wrong, it’s tough. Really tough.
We were given the choice of three options- a full year at a partner university, six months in work and six months at a partner university or two six month placements.
Before you can even think about looking for a job, you have to master the application documents. The French version of a CV is completely different to what we know here; they have to include a photo of yourself and can only be one page… And oh yes, it’s in French.
Approximately ten drafts later, you’re finally ready to apply.
I’m not sure how it works in other universities, but at Bath, you’ll have an online database featuring the companies that are advertising vacancies for students. You are also encouraged to send speculative applications, however you then face the trouble of competing against native French students.
Fortunately, the offers we received as Bath students were great and sounded very appealing, but even if you like the sound of them, you still have to compete with your fellow coursemates. If you’ve been unsuccessful, you’ll be welcomed by the dreaded rejection email upon opening your inbox, and if you’ve been successful you’ll be asked for an interview of some sort- phone, skype or out in their office. Be prepared, these will be conducted purely through French, so as if interviews weren’t bad enough, you’ll have to do them in your second language.
You’ve got the job!!! What next?
First of all, celebrate. It’s a tough process which requires a lot of effort, especially when trying to juggle it with your deadlines, so make sure you grab a bottle of wine.
I was lucky to have received my offer back in November, so once I signed the contract, I had a little time to relax. Now I’ve got two months to go and the pressure is starting to hit and the to-do list is growing.
Finding accommodation, especially in Paris is horrible. With many estate agents not letting you put a deposit down without having visited, and the ones which do are most likely a scam. It goes without saying that Paris accommodation is pricey so you have to be realistic as to what you can afford. House shares are the most common option, however Paris also have “Foyers” which are similar to uni halls, and are only for international students who are working or studying in the city. These are the cheapest option, which you can apply for online, along with being the best option in terms of socialising with other students and security reasons.
Like I said, the prices of accommodation can seem a little scary at first, but students studying/working within Europe can receive an Erasmus grant, which is approximately £3000 and contributes towards rent/other living costs. All you need to do is fill out a form including your personal details, your plans for the year abroad and a few other minor details.
If you’re opting for a semester/year at an academic exchange, the application is slightly different.
The university will give you a form in which you give your reason for choosing this option, including your list of universities in order of preference and your mark from first year. These will all contribute to which university you will be allocated, so don’t fall into the trap of “first year doesn’t count”- for language students, it does.
I am truly excited for my year abroad, and would definitely encourage you to do the same, just make sure you’re aware of the amount of work that will be required of you. You can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen, otherwise it never will (trust me). You need to be proactive and send as many applications out as possible. We’ve been lucky, our placement team are incredible and are always available to give us a hand or offer us any advice, but having spoken to students from other universities, this isn’t always the case.
Have any more questions? Tweet me at @writtenbyh