Behind the workings of my year abroad.

Hey friends! ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

This is my first blog post about my big move to Sicily for a year! Before the fun begins and my adventure gains some momentum, I thought it would be useful to explain the programme I’m participating in and the application process so that these posts start with some sort of structure and purpose. I also thought it would be pretty useful, in case any of you are thinking about moving abroad, applying for the same programme, or are just plain nosey like I am! 

I am currently in my 3rd yr of university in Scotland, studying for a Latin and Italian undergraduate degree. As I am a modern language student, a year abroad was a must and in case it’s always been a dream of mine to live in Italy for a least part of my life.


If you are a modern language student at university who is thinking about completing a year abroad it is important that you know what your possible options are. So in this little segment I will be discussing the year abroad options I am acquainted with. 

The first type is your traditional study abroad which my university does in conjunction with the Erasmus exchange programmes. The Erasmus exchange programme is essentially a student exchange programme which runs within the EU (what about Brexit? who knows!) and allows universities which have a similar curriculum, style of teaching and grading system to partner up and allow their students to get a taste of another university’s culture, spending either a term or a full year at their host university. 

The second type of year abroad is a work placement, where instead of studying at your host university, you would instead take a year out from studying and would be working in a professional environment. The British council language assistantships are not the only work placements available, you can of course go ahead and arrange your own in another industries that may be more of interest (e.g. journalism, publicity, art galleries etc).  


The programme itself began in 1905 to provide an alternative way of learning a language for university students, which was not strictly in a university environment. In this programme assistants are required to work between 12-20 hours a week at their host school which can range from primary/secondary education to an adult educational institution. The main role of a language assistant is not only to support the teaching of the English language, but also to promote British culture within their educational institution and host community. Not all work placements are paid, however with the British council programme, you will definitely be paid! 


For me, the application process was quite long (over the span of 6 months!) and very competitive. It was made up of two main components; a written application, and an interview with a mini presentation–although I believe that this may differ, depending on which country you’re applying for.

The whole process started in the autumn term of last year (2015) where I was required to complete the written application in stage 1There were about 6 sub-sections ( UK culture, team working, leadership, adaptability, scenarios and your motivation for working abroad) for which I was asked to demonstrate my suitability to the programme either based on past experience or what course of action I would take in hypothetical situations.

Within the application you will be given the options to set our your preferences of: country, region:

 GROUP A: Bolzano, Basilicata, Calabria, Molise, Sardinia, Sicilia, Umbria

 GROUP B: Abruzzo, Campania, Friuli, Marche, Piemonte, Puglia

 GROUP C: Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardia, Toscana, Veneto

city/town/village and teaching ages. Definitely, definitely research! My first two preferences for placement were in the north: Friuli and Liguria. This is mainly because I’ve experienced a lot of the lifestyle and traditions in Southern Italy and would have liked to discover for my own cultural appreciation, the cultural discrepancies between southern and northern Italy. That said, I am also really pleased to be heading to Sicily. Its rich historical background, having been controlled by diverse empires, diverse influences yet distinct culture will be more than a treat to discover!


So post application, I received an email towards the end of February that I would be required to attend an assessment day in the middle of March. Since I was applying from a Scottish university, my interview was held in Edinburgh, but I believe if you’re applying in England / Wales it will be held in London- don’t hold me to that though!

The day itself began at 10am with a short presentation giving us more insight into the workings of the programmes and allowing the opportunity for any questions to be asked. There was then an hour spent on a group-based activity in which we had to plan an activity or competition based on the theme of language learning and then gave a short 5 minutes presentation about it afterwards. 

There was then an individual interview after that where we had to give a short presentation on sub-theme of UK culture and speak a little in Italian. I was really nervous for the interview, but the coordinators were so lovely and they put my mind at ease so don’t worry your socks off!

Around the end of April I received an email saying that I had been successful on the assessment day and my application was being now put under consideration with the Italian ministry of education, basically to place me in a post. From then, the next time I heard about my placement was the beginning of June, and I was told I had been placed in Sicily, although I didn’t actually find out the exact school placement until mid June, which is when I started to fill out my contract and communicate with the school.

And now less than a month to go before I’m heading over, it feels very surreal and I don’t think I’ve quite wrapped my head around the fact that I will be living in Sicily for a year!! If you’re interested in following me on this adventure, stay tuned to keep up to date with all that’s to come! 

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