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More in this section Year Abroad

Year Abroad

The Year Abroad is a fully integrated part of all BA degrees involving French, German, Italian or Hispanic Studies as a principal subject (Single, Major, Joint, European Studies), and one on which your academic progression depends. Students almost always find it an exciting and rewarding experience and return to their final year full of enthusiasm, having dramatically improved their language skills, made new friends and seen some more of the world. 

Aims of the Year Abroad

Aims of the Year Abroad

• to help you develop your proficiency in speaking, understanding, reading and writing your modern foreign language(s)

• to enable you to place your academic studies within an authentic cultural and social context

• to provide scope for consolidation of past work and preparation for the final year

• to encourage intellectual and personal self-reliance.

Year Abroad options

There are three possibilities available to you for your Year Abroad:

• as a student at a university (sometimes as part of an Erasmus+ exchange programme)

• as a teaching assistant in a school

• on a work placement with a company / organisation abroad.

You can take them in the following combinations:

• Full year study in Erasmus+ link  (we have 43 links) or other (e.g. Latin American Universities) - can be split between two countries

• Full year work placement(s) approved by Royal Holloway — can be split between two countries

• Half year study + half year work placement

• Full year British Council Assistantship.

Option 1: Studying at a university

Royal Holloway's School of Modern Languages currently has a large number of links with universities abroad in Austria, France and other Francophone countries, Germany, Italy, Spain and Latin America. Full lists are available online, including contact details.

If you choose the 'university' option for your Year Abroad, you will have the opportunity to study alongside native speakers of the language(s) you have chosen, in an authentic higher education atmosphere. 

You are encouraged to choose courses abroad that enhance your understanding of aspects of the subject areas relevant to your degree at Royal Holloway. 

You will gain new perspectives on your existing knowledge and new skills, and develop your ability to critically evaluate alternative approaches to your chosen subject and the various differences in the educational process and organisation.

You will certainly develop an enhanced understanding of intercultural issues in relation to aspects of selfhood (such as attitudes, behaviour and cultural expectations) and to how you adapt to life in a foreign culture.

As a university student abroad you will have help with your course choices: our aim is for the individual student, the host institution and the Year Abroad tutor at Royal Holloway to discuss and agree a proper study programme, including methods of assessment and any examinations to be taken.   

Option 2: Language assistantships

In a scheme administered by the British Council, British nationals may teach in a secondary school (pupils' age range: 11-14 or 14-19) for 12 hours per week for around €884 per month (gross).You may possibly be given a room in the school free of charge, or at favourable rates; at the very least you should get some help in finding one.

Your task will be to encourage students to speak English (you have to be British to apply), generally in small groups; you might alternatively be required to work alongside a teacher in bigger classes. You can indicate the age group you would like to teach, but may find you are allocated to more than one school. This might mean working in several different schools, or splitting timetables between two types of school.

You should be aware that the scheme is competitive and that the British Council has various selection criteria. It is also important to note that the number of places available in schools abroad varies from year to year. Not all applicants will, therefore, be successful, although Royal Holloway has a very high success rate in obtaining placements.

Application timetable

 October: The British Council sends details of the Assistantship scheme and application forms to the School.

• November: Time to  submit application forms (in triplicate) to us.

• End November: Deadline for submitting all necessary papers to us, we will then send them all to the British Council.

• December: Receipt of applications acknowledged by the British Council to us.

• April: The British Council inform us which candidates have been successful in obtaining a placement in the first round; provisional indication is also given of the location of the posting (only in terms of the region).

• May/June: Successful candidates are contacted directly. You should reply formally, accepting the offer.

• August: Prospective Assistants confirm their acceptance of the placement with the British Council and lodge details of their posting (name and address of school) with us.

The British Council receives a report on your performance as an Assistant from your school, and it forwards this to the School. This report is placed in your file and can be used in writing references for you. Reports are usually very positive, sometimes really glowing!

Option 3: Work placements

If you wish, you may spend the Year Abroad in paid or unpaid employment, gaining experience of a profession that interests you for future employment, in voluntary work of a challenging and rewarding nature, or in a stimulating work environment that tests and extends your skills.

The School requires there to be some link between the work you do and the course you are following here. It must be clear from the outset that you will acquire or develop skills appropriate to your studies and future plans - although in practical terms most intellectually challenging employment will satisfy this criterion. Also, the job must be roughly for the duration of nine months (or half of this if you are splitting the year between two countries).

All placements are subject to the approval of the School. Therefore, before any work placement is approved, a detailed job description signed by the employer and a contract must be submitted to the School office.


Applications (letter and CV in the appropriate language) need to be made early in the Autumn Term of the second year, and to be sent to (perhaps) 10-15 firms. We can supply addresses of major firms, and of companies with whom we have recently had successful dealings, and we can help you in preparing the documents. The Year Abroad tutor may want to check some correspondence before it is sent, and to take a copy for our files.

You may be interviewed by telephone at any point during the year; some firms will even pay the cost of travel for a personal interview.

What to expect

Conditions of employment and hours of work, and any matters of insurance or legal or personal liability, must be for you to settle directly with your employer.

Salaries are often by negotiation (you may well be asked what you expect to get), and they seem at present to lie in the range €550-1,000 per month. Accommodation is not usually provided, but employers should be able to help with advice and addresses. Information on income tax, social security contributions and health insurance should be obtained from your employer.

Firms vary immensely in their corporate ethos, structure, and procedures, so that it is difficult to generalise about any aspect. Find out as much as you can about your firm through the internet or other means. Talk to students who have already spent a year abroad in this way, or who are currently on their work placement.

Once abroad, be alert to the possibilities. From day one, grab opportunities for socialising, and build on them where appropriate. Be proactive and enthusiastic. 

Show interest in the workings of the firm as a whole. See your placement, not as a treadmill, but as a springboard, for example a way of making contacts that later could prove important or useful in personal or career terms, what is sometimes called 'networking'. 

With increasing globalisation, such international contacts could well be relevant later on, even if you do not plan to pursue a career outside the UK.


Please note the TWO key formal processes that all students on work placements must document:

1. The work placement must be approved by the relevant Year Abroad tutor. Upon confirmation and approval students must complete and submit to the School Office a Letter of Appointment. You also need to complete the Traineeship Erasmus forms which are all permanently available online as well.


The Summer Term of your first year is not too early to begin thinking about the year abroad, because if you want to be a Language Assistant you need to apply during the Autumn Term of your second year. The School holds detailed briefing sessions in the Autumn Term of the second year to help students choose which option suits them most and to give them detailed information on the procedures. Final-year students attend these briefings to share their recent first-hand experiences.

University applications are less urgent, but by the end of Autumn Term in your second year you should be clear as to which university you want to apply to. During that term, you have opportunities to gather information on various possibilities, from former students or from other sources.


The Year Abroad tutor will organise a series of briefing meetings from the Summer Term of your first year onwards, with the main emphasis on the Autumn Term of your second year. These will give details of the options you have, and final-year students will be invited to come along to pass on the tips they have picked up during their own Year Abroad.

Language-specific briefings are also offered to outline which university partnerships are in place and what regular employment / work placement opportunities the School can make available.

The timetable for these meetings is published on notice boards and all relevant students are alerted by email.

There are various forms to fill in for all students embarking on their year abroad. You will be advised of when to submit what, but they are available online as well.


There is also the online MOODLE forum for Royal Holloway students about to go abroad or actually abroad. It is a lively forum and many of your queries can be answered quickly there by other students with similar experiences.


When you return from your year abroad you will have an opportunity for a 'debriefing' - to pass on positive experiences, hints about shortcuts or potential glitches, share information on schools and work placements, advise the next year's students on accommodation, etc. - or simply to 'unload' some of the mass of experiences you will have had.

Exemption from the Year Abroad

Exemption from the Year Abroad is not normally granted as it is the penultimate year of the BA course: it is regarded as vital that your Year Abroad be spent in a way which prepares you as thoroughly as possible for the final year of your course. However, we recognize that there are sometimes circumstances that make the Year Abroad virtually impossible. For further information about these and the procedures to follow if you wish to apply for an exemption, please click here.


For answers to frequently asked questions relating to the Year Abroad please take a look at this:


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"I spent my year abroad in Almeria, Spain, where I taught in a Primary school as part of the British Council teaching assistantship scheme.

Teaching was one of the best experiences of my life. To see kids as young as 5 learning English was such an exhilarating feeling. The friendships I made with the teachers were amazing and I am still in contact with most of them regularly. The laidback Spanish lifestyle is one you will get used to quickly, not to mention the wonderful weather!"

- Roshni, Spanish


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