Article Details

Article Details

Valuing the year abroad

Author: British Academy
Date of Publication: 2012

Key messages:

  • The international experience of a year abroad has been shown to contribute both to students’ individual experience and employability with 86% of surveyed graduates considering the year abroad to be the most valuable part of the degree and 66% estimating the residence abroad to be a significant factor in getting their first and subsequent jobs
  • Direct work experience for those students on placements, together with enhanced interpersonal engagement and individual initiative and team-working skills, endow graduates with a portfolio which enhances their value to employers and to the national economy. Additional critical competencies for global graduates include a global mindset, global knowledge, advanced communication skills. These skills are developed by the year abroad.
  • Students on a year abroad learn to show respect for local values without abandoning their own.
  • The experience of living, working and studying abroad has a transformative effect, making students more reflective, self-reliant and self-confident individuals. Students grow in self-awareness and self-confidence.
  • The value of the year abroad is significant both for the individual and for the graduates that the UK produces. This value extends beyond modern languages, facilitating the development of vital personal and professional competencies and understanding necessary for most, if not all, disciplines and careers.
Key messages on language skills:
  • In non-English-speaking countries, UK students improve the fluency, accuracy and appropriateness of their language competence faster than in the university classroom. 
  • To learn a foreign language well is to acquire a wealth of culture beyond textbook knowledge. And to learn a language outside of its spoken environment is to learn it incompletely. The development of language skills in the environment in which the target language thrives opens up a world of encoded and tacit knowledge that must be experienced – and not simply taught.
  • There is no substitute for having to live in, cope with, and ultimately learn to function successfully within the rules and unwritten conventions of a foreign culture. This includes a great deal more than learning its language: it means living its culture, and understanding its history as the lived experience. This can only really be learnt through a substantial period of residence and work in the foreign environment. This provides a life experience unobtainable in the classroom. 


Posted in: Year abroad
University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages