It’s been almost two years since I was frantically condensing my life into a 30kg suitcase ready for my year abroad in Hong Kong. As a language student you have to spend the third year of your degree in the country that speak the language you are learning. As Chinese Studies students do not have the option to work, we spend the year in a partner university studying the language intensively.
Thinking about my year abroad, and all the things that I learnt and did that were not necessarily related to learning the language, I wanted to share some tips on how to make the most of your time away.
If you do go to a host institution, chances are they will have some sort of orientation week where you get to meet the other international students and some local students who will be helping you settle in. It is tempting to give in to jet lag and have an early night instead of going to the welcome party, but I would fully recommend going as these can be invaluable in making contacts that may be useful later on. Also try to take part in as many trips and tours as you can in the first few weeks to get a real sense of what is around you without the worry of getting lost.
Build on your extra-curricular activities
Like The University of Manchester, most host institutions will also have societies specific for different activities such as sports and specific areas of interest such as debating or writing for the student newspaper. As well as helping your language skills, you will also develop and improve other transferable skills such as communication, problem solving and being tolerant of other cultures which are all fantastic CV enhancing skills.
Do some volunteering or part-time work
Before looking into working whilst studying, I would strongly advise checking the country specific visa regulations as you may not be able to take on any paid work off campus. For example in the US, if you are holding an F1 visa you can work part-time on campus only. Whilst in Hong Kong, I volunteered for an English teaching company, running open days and teaching some English classes (we mostly just played lots of different games). This experience improved useful transferable skills such as time management and organisational skills as well as building a network of contacts just in case I decide to return to Hong Kong later in life.
Marketing your year abroad to employers
Regardless of whether you get involved at every opportunity you can or you would rather spend a year dedicated to improving your language, the act of spending a year abroad is invaluable when it comes to applying for jobs. It may be that you have improved your cultural awareness and sensitivity to customs and cultural differences, or you have increased your confidence, initiative and independence. It is important to use your time abroad to set yourself apart from others that may not have had the opportunity to spend a year abroad.
To find out more about making the most of your year abroad and developing useful skills whilst there, you can visit our website and check out our skills section.
By Emily Fenlon
Careers Information Officer