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Work, Teach or Study - Talking Years Abroad


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With second years getting the names of their teaching abroad placements, I was taken back to my year abroad working as a language assistant in Germany.

As this academic year draws to a close, many first year language students will be weighing up their year abroad options whether to work, teach or study. So as someone who has gone through it all, here are my words of wisdom.


The Good

With more and more people graduating every year work experience is key in clinching that all important graduate job. Time spent working abroad looks great on a CV and the money earned in the process will go a long way towards exploring Europe and trips home. Not only this, but being placed in a company which uses the target language is the best option in terms of language acquisition.

The Bad

Work placements abroad are extremely competitive and a non-native speaker will have trouble securing one. Despite earning more, those who work also do not have much free time to travel or return home.

The Ugly

Moving abroad is stressful enough without the pressure of working in an environment where there is a language barrier. Workers can find themselves as outsiders and it can be difficult to break into a clique.


The Good

Teaching is amazing work experience, not just for the education sector, but all job sectors. Language assistants are forced into the foreign language speaking environment and will use their language every day. They also have the most free time out of all the language students, on average working 12 hours a week, and on top of that they normally earn the most.

The Bad

Teachers are often placed in a rural environment and their closest language assistant might live over an hour away by train. Only being able to meet up with friends at the weekends means that the evenings can be pretty boring.

The Ugly

Schools are rather hit and miss. Some assistants are placed in a school that whisks them away to Latvia, Mallorca or Hamburg every other weekend, and others end up at one where they never communicate and are forced to teach lessons unaided. If an assistant does not hit it off with their school, there is not much they can do. This can cause gaps in references and damage post University applications.


The Good

No one has a better social life than an Erasmus student. The Erasmus community encourages friendships between people from all over Europe, and indeed the world. University students also have less responsibility so they can take the morning off to travel longer, or more likely, nurse their heads.

The Bad

The thing that most Erasmus students complain about is money. Without the extra income that teachers and workers earn, they can find it hard to afford the same holidays and trips home. Also, as they require good attendance and need to write assignments, they have less time to travel.

The Ugly

University is usually the worst choice when it comes to language acquisition. More often than not students hang around with other Erasmus students where the common language is English. However, this is of course down to the individual. Despite some students best efforts, native students are sometimes reluctant to make friends with non-native speakers.

So now you’ve heard my advice remember: you have to make the decision that is right for you. Most important of all, have an amazing time; it really is the best year of your life. 

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