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The Third Year Abroad of University

[aka the best year of your life]

This is clearly a sweeping statement and there will be some people who disagree – luckily we all have different opinions and different experiences, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that a Year Abroad as part of your degree is immensely fun and even more immensely useful in the long run.

If you’re already enrolled on a degree course that includes a Year Abroad (such as all British language degrees) then you’ve made absolutely the right decision and you’re in for a treat.

If you’re enrolled on a degree that allows you to do a year, or even just a semester, abroad (for example, subjects that may have an international focus such as politics, international relations, geography, to name but a few), then you’re also in luck and you should seriously look into what your university can offer you in terms of links with other universities all over the world.

If you’re studying for a degree course that on the surface doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with other cultures, then a great way to include a Year Abroad in your degree is to take a language module. It only needs to be one module a year, and can even be started from scratch (known as ab initio), but it gives you an excellent excuse to take a year long holiday.

And if you’re just researching degree courses at the moment, without anything fixed in mind, then I seriously recommend you check what opportunities to take a Year Abroad exist at each university and for each course.

Thankfully, universities tend to have an office specifically dedicated to the Year Abroad so information is fairly easy to come by. You just need to ask.

There are so many benefits from doing a Year Abroad. Aside from how good it looks on your CV and how much employers love it, you’ll also get to meet so many different nationalities of people, you may get to learn or master a foreign language, you’ll become familiar with a new culture and you’ll be able to explore the entire country. And last but not least it’s just absolutely amazing fun.

As you may be able to tell from this post, I am extremely biased and I happily belong to that group of people who adored their Year Abroad and who left with tears in their eyes when the time came to step out of the fairytale and back into reality.

Now that you’ve (hopefully) realised why a Year Abroad is an essential cannot-miss life experience that you simply must do, it’s time to look at your options. On the whole you’ll have 3 options:

Each has its own pros and cons and it’s worth spending a fair bit of time musing over your options, but if you find planning a trip or holiday abroad anywhere near as exciting as I do, then it’ll be no hassle whatsoever.

In future posts I’ll look at each of these three options in more detail, proposing ideas, giving suggestions and links to useful websites. Having done a Year Abroad myself in two different countries and having incorporated all three of these options into my Year Abroad, feel free to ask me any questions, either by commenting below or by email, to


  1. I have family living in Chile and have been learning Spanish (incredibly sporadically, which means I’m not at all near-fluent) for almost 10 years, so I’m now considering taking up Spanish in uni to do an exchange in Spain. I know you had time in Cordoba, so I’m wondering what is the best/your favourite place in Spain? Or just what you think is the best place to go on exchange in Spain.


    • Hi Nicola, I suppose it depends on how long you’re going from? As a general rule, if your aim is to become fluent, then you should steer clear of any well-known city that has lots of tourists. Head to a smaller city, where there will be be fewer English speakers, and you’ll learn out of necessity to get by. Córdoba was like that too and it gave me a great opportunity to improve my Spanish. Good luck!


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