By: Lucy Yarde

Decisions, decisions…

Are you undecided as to whether to take a year out and go travelling or take the plunge and begin your university journey? Perhaps – like me at aged 17 – you feel both compelled to travel and yet don’t want to miss out on your friends’ first-year experiences as freshers. Eventually, I decided that I didn’t want to risk not applying the following year after a year of no formal study, no shared-experience in applying with friends, and without the support and guidance of my teachers. I did, however, find a compromise in my choice of studies, choosing to do a joint-honours degree in French and Russian. A significant motivator behind this choice was knowing I would spend about a year and a half studying abroad as an integral part of my course.

You don’t have to speak a second language

Please don’t stop reading at this point if you’re not a ‘Languages Person’ – not all students who study abroad are language students. Many universities offer students from a range of disciplines the opportunity to study abroad. At the University of Manchester, for example, you can study subjects as varied as Chemical Engineering to Fashion Buying and Merchandising, and still be offered the chance to study abroad. Something also worth mentioning is that speaking another language is often not necessary. In fact, many universities across Europe and the world offer courses in English. If you do choose this route, make sure to check your chosen course includes a ‘Study Abroad’ option. Should you choose to study a language (or even several!) at university, many courses have study abroad as a compulsory element. Once again, make sure you look into this, as no university is the same.

In the vinyards on the ‘Voie des Vignes’ from Dijon to Nuits-St-Georges

Lower tuition fees and larger maintenance loan

So, if you’re reading this thinking – “This all sounds great, but how am I going to fund plane tickets, and all the other costs associated with travel abroad?” then don’t worry, lots of support is available for study abroad students. The first great thing about spending a year abroad is that you pay significantly less in tuition fees. In fact, you won’t pay any fees to the overseas institution. Instead, your university will set a reduced tuition fee rate (for example, £1387 for a year abroad at the University of Exeter), which can then be paid by Student Finance as would normally be the case for your course at home. If it doesn’t already seem good enough, you are often entitled to a larger maintenance loan if you do a year abroad. For the academic year 2019/20, for example, you can receive up to £10,242.

Erasmus and travel grants

Returning to the subject of European universities, studying at these institutions for a year entitles you to receive funding of up to €470 a month from a project called Erasmus +. This money is non-refundable and can be spent in any way you see fit. Applications for Erasmus + are made through your university, so make sure to use their advice and guidance services to help you with this. Whether you choose to stay in Europe, or go further afield, you may also be entitled to receive a government travel grant (i.e. money you won’t need to repay later). These grants can be used to fund up to three return journeys to and from your country of choice and can also be used for essential expenses, such as medical insurance and travel visas. The amount you get depends on your household income. Please also be aware that you will have to pay the first £303 of your travel costs. Unlike Erasmus+, these grants are issued by Student Finance. You will simply need to fill out a study abroad form with your application for the year and Student Finance will arrange for any payments to be made to you directly.

Outside Moscow State University – in which the flat I lived in for the academic year was situated.

When in Rome (or Russia)

So, apart from the draw of travel and adventure, why else would you want to study abroad? Perhaps one of the biggest benefits are the transferable skills the experience gives you. Some of the most significant for me were: tolerance (learning to accept that Russians/ French people don’t do things in the way that an English person might expect), adaptability (learning to modify habits that didn’t fit with the way of life abroad), and independence (spending six months in France without being able to rely on friends and family for constant support and advice). I could also talk about skills such as communication, resilience, cross-cultural understanding, willingness to learn and organisation. Even then, this list is not exhaustive. All these skills will stand you in good stead when it comes to finding a job post-graduation. In fact, according to Universities UK, 39% of current employers are dissatisfied with graduates’ intercultural awareness.[1] This is just one example of something which your time abroad will allow you to develop. On a personal level, I can’t count the number of times that – during an interview – I have been able to respond to a question such as, “Tell us about a time you have had to be adaptable”, with a story from my time abroad.

Having read all this, I hope you’re now feeling suitably inspired to look for a course which offers study abroad as an option. If you want to find out more, take a look at the helpful sites listed below.

The walk from Russian ‘Halls’ to university classes.

Useful links

Who can take part?

Where can I study?

Financing a Year Abroad:

Why study abroad?


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