How a Year Abroad Can Make You More Employable

If you have chosen to study Modern Languages at university, it is likely that your future career is important to you. Fluency in a foreign language and an understanding of different cultures are among the most highly sought-after skills in today’s international job market.

Modern language students have another great advantage too: the year abroad element, which makes up a significant portion of most language degrees, can do wonders for your employability.

Whether you are embarking upon an Erasmus scheme, or whether your placement is more flexible, the time you spend away from your regular UK-based studies is a fertile source of CV gems waiting to be exploited.

Jobs on your year abroad

Students who have never lived abroad before may not be aware just how valuable it is to be a native English speaker. Whether as a tutor, a proof-reader or a freelance translator, English is the Brit’s number one asset abroad and, although you may be following a course of study, just one or two hours of additional evening work can add desirable skills and experience to your CV.

As a private tutor you will organise lesson schedules, prepare materials and tailor your services to meet the needs of your employer, all of which can teach valuable lessons in time management, personal organisation and client-facing work.

By taking on just a couple of students on weekday evenings, you are proving to future employers that you possess these skills, not to mention earning a little bit of cash on the side.

Freelance proof-reading and translation work demonstrate the same ability to manage yourself and your time, and also offer important experience in close work with text documents.

Many employers are looking for applicants with an eye for detail, and this is certainly a good (and lucrative) way of demonstrating this.

Moreover, in order to find this work you will usually have to put yourself out there and sell yourself to potential clients – much like the graduate job market, no?

Top tips:

–   Living in a big city? Find your local listings and post a short advertisement outlining the services you can offer.

–   If there is a local equivalent of the Yellow Pages, look up all translation/editing services. Compile their contact details and write to them individually offering your services. Expect a 10% success rate and avoid mass emails – everyone likes to feel special!

–   Living somewhere smaller? Word of mouth is often an effective way of finding pupils, so make it known to everyone and anyone that you are looking for pupils.

Plan ahead

If you are lucky enough to be given a choice in where your year abroad takes you, then the key is to plan well in advance. Recruitment websites regularly advertise international internships with a range of companies, from banks to fashion houses to newspapers and publishers.

The time to start looking for these is in the autumn and winter of the year before your departure – the very top employers often have lengthy application processes.

If you have a particular career in mind, then an international internship could be your opportunity to get yourself noticed by your dream firm.

At the very least, it will show employers that, in addition to excellent language and communication skills, you have the much-coveted capacity for teamwork and for working in an international environment. And which top employer could say no to that?

Top tips:

–   Sign up early to a careers website and set your profile to notify you of opportunities overseas.

–   Whatever your language is, you will have a range of options. Student studying more unusual languages, such as Northern European or Scandinavian languages, should particularly look at the financial and legal sectors; a number of major international firms have thriving offices in these areas.

– Check out our friends at An awesome site for those studying abroad.

Not a linguist?

All is not lost. Many universities offer the option of a semester abroad for students following other courses. Inquire as to whether this option is available to you, and earn CV brownie points by throwing yourself out of your comfort zone and all the while having a fantastic new experience.

Do you know what the 4 hardest languages to learn are? Click here to find out.


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