You don’t have to be part of a scheme like Erasmus+ or the Language Assistantship to enjoy a year abroad. Instead, you can plan your own activities, like taking on full or part time work, or jobbing as you travel around different locations. While taking an Erasmus+ course or being a language assistant gives you invaluable transferable skills, you will get more immediate experience of a working environment if you choose to work ‘in the real world’, which will have direct impact on your employability.
So, what kind of employment could you take up?
This is a great opportunity to dramatically improve your language skills. You will be spending every day in a household that speaks only the foreign language. You will, therefore, quickly pick up a lot of essential vocabulary, plus many colloquialisms along the way. You will also be given lodgings, food and a basic salary – so it is a good value means of spending time in your foreign country. You will also have the support system of the family you are living with, who should hopefully be willing to help you make the most of your time abroad, as much as you should be willing to help their lives run a little smoother by providing childcare. Especially if you are au-pairing during the summer, chances are that you will get the opportunity to travel around with the family. This is an excellent way to see more of the country while being in the safe hands of a family that knows what they are doing.
You can search for au pair jobs on sites like AuPairWorld. Here you can see profiles of families looking for au pairs and you can advertise your interest in becoming an au pair. Make sure that you speak to your au pair family on the phone before agreeing to anything. Any sensible parents will be eager to speak to you, too. You should also agree to the terms of your employment – working hours, pay, sleeping arrangements, etc. – before you agree to becoming an au pair.
Working in the tourism industry
With your English language skills, you could be a real asset for businesses in the tourism industry. Whether as a tour guide or holiday rep, you could help fellow brits make the most of their time in your host country. In some areas, such work might be seasonal, but not so much in big cities that see plenty of tourists all year round. You have to assess, however, whether you will still have enough access to speakers of the foreign language, or whether you will end up speaking only English, most the time – which would largely negate the point of being in the foreign country.
If you are already proficient in the foreign language, you could find work with a translation or interpreting agency. If your location is a destination for ex pats, if may be fairly easy to find work as an interpreter, helping Brits to purchase a holiday home, for example. Translation agencies abroad may also offer internships, perfect for someone in your position. You will doubtless already have translation experience from your academic studies, and many agencies would be keen to have a native English speaker working closely beside them.
You don’t have to take up a language assistantship to teach English abroad. You could seek employment at an adult learning school in your local area, or could offer tuition in English on a freelance basis. This way you may be able to teach English to a higher level than you would in a school. Or, you could be teaching English to beginners. This option, then, gives you wider teaching experience and will look even better on your CV.
While many students would willingly spend their year abroad volunteering, worries about how to afford the cost of living would understandably put some people off. There are ways, however, to volunteer while still managing to house and feed yourself. The European Volunteer Scheme offers young people between 18 and 30 years of age the chance to volunteer for up to 12 months. The volunteer is provided with accommodation, insurance and most of the cost of travelling to and from the destination at the start and finish of the volunteering term. They are also given a small amount each month to help with the cost of food and other living expenses. While you won’t be building up your savings this way, the benefit of volunteering obviously comes from doing good where it is needed. You can also meet plenty of people while volunteering – both those you might be helping and fellow volunteers. This is another situation that will immerse you in the foreign language and will also look extremely good on your CV.
If you aren’t concerned about having a solid job for the length of your year abroad, and would rather use the time to visit several locations, you could try picking up casual work as you go. Seasonal work in holiday camps, resorts, as a tour guide or fruit picking could see you through the warmer months, but it may be more difficult to find work in winter. You could, however, combine seasonal work in summer with a short-term internship in winter. The lack of job security may not be for most people, but if that doesn’t bother you, or if you have some savings to fall back on, this may be the best way to truly experience all your host country has to offer, as well as travelling farther afield and experiencing a number of different cultures.
If you need to transport your possessions to Europe, Send My Bag can help. We can send your items to your chosen country and between different European countries if you decide to move around on your year abroad. This means you will always have your personal possessions nearby to help you create a home from home, whether you are in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, or anywhere else. See our student removals page to claim 10% student discount.
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Instead of studying at a European university as part of the Erasmus+ scheme, you could spend your third year abroad as a language assistant. Assistantships operate in numerous European countries, run by different organisations in different countries. If you are studying at a UK university, you will apply through the British Council for an assistantship position in another European country. The British Council Language Assistantship scheme allows you to spend an academic year abroad helping to teach English to schoolchildren, in either a secondary or primary school.