Studying Languages & Living Abroad

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students take part in the Erasmus exchange scheme across Europe, and many of them, as you might expect, are language students. In 2017, almost 800,000 people studied, worked or volunteered abroad thanks to the Erasmus scheme! Studying a language at university is helpful, but it’s no substitute for actually spending time in a country where a language is spoken and immersing yourself in the language and culture, and that’s why universities include a year spent in another country as a key part of their language degrees.

Types of placements

Students on their Erasmus year or semester take part in a variety of different placements, but they mainly fall into 3 main categories listed below.


One of the most popular options for Erasmus placements is to teach in a school (or multiple schools), giving lessons in your native language. In the UK, teaching placements are usually provided by the British Council. Teaching languages is fun and you’ll also have the chance to work alongside a team of staff at your school who should be happy to speak in your languages studied, giving you an opportunity to improve your language skills in the staffroom as well.


One of the easiest options available is to study at another university in your chosen country, taking courses in your target language. Universities normally have partner institutions in different European countries, making finding an appropriate university a lot simpler. Studying at a university is likely to lead to you meeting and living with fellow students, so as long as you do not stick to international, English-speaking circles, you should have plenty of opportunities to improve your language ability.


Finally, some students decide to work during their years abroad. Finding a job that is suitable requires a bit more work, but it is also a valuable opportunity to use the language you are learning in a professional environment and pick up useful new vocabulary you are not likely to learn within a university setting. As with the teaching placements, it provides an opportunity to do something different from the normal life you are used to at university back at home.


The Practical Details: Application & Funding:

The time abroad is funded, at least partially, by the Erasmus+ grant. Grants are provided (Brexit notwithstanding!) by the European Union scheme, for students who want to work study in another EU member state. After you’ve set everything up with your employer or university, the process for applying for funding is relatively straight-forward – you need to fill out the relevant application form, giving details on your placement or placements, and then complete a language test before the start of your time abroad. When you return, you are invited to take the test a second time, allowing you to see how far your language skills have improved throughout your Erasmus placement, which provides a very useful way to mark you progress.


Tips For Successful Erasmus Placements

  • Try not to set your expectations too high. Throughout the process of deciding your destination and applying for your placement, you’ll be confronted with a variety of people eager to stress that the time spent abroad will be the best time of your life. Whilst this is the case for many people, you will undoubtably experience ups and downs during your time abroad, and you’re likely to enjoy it more without the pressure of expecting to enjoy every minute!
  • Maximise the opportunities to speak in your studied languages. Whilst it can be incredibly tempting to socialise with people who are from your country, particularly if friends or course mates are spending their Erasmus placement in the same city or country, you’ll get lots more out of your year abroad if you spend it with native speakers. So if you can, choose housing where you’ll get the chance to live with people who are not all Erasmus students like you, and take part in any kind of sports, clubs or trips available that help you to meet new people!
  • Make the most of your freetime! Spending time in another country is a chance to visit different places, meet new people and try new things, so make the most of every opportunity you can to make the most out of your experience. Working or studying is just one part of the whole experience!
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