What we learnt at uni #2: The Year Abroad

Lizzie Fane, 25, founded ThirdYearAbroad.com in November 2006 and launched in January 2010. ThirdYearAbroad.com helps students before, during and after their year abroad from university to make the whole process less scary and overwhelming, while promoting and supporting the study of Modern Languages in the UK.

Lizzie regularly speaks at university Study Abroad Fairs and pre-departure talks about making the most of the year abroad, and has recently founded LANGSA, the Language Graduates’ and Students’ Association, to give young language enthusiasts the opportunity to come together and inspire other people to learn languages, based on their experiences.

Who is Third Year Abroad for?

ThirdYearAbroad.com is for students before, during and after they study or work abroad during their degree course. They can choose their UK university based on its year abroad offering, they can read case studies, research their destination, get advice from other students and find out about exciting career opportunities.

With the increased tuition fees, students are likely to become more aware of the employability value of their degree choice. Do you think a degree that includes a year abroad will become more popular?

Yes, I think it will. The year abroad is offered to students of many, many disciplines – not just language students – and as employers reiterate the importance of new recruits being able to speak foreign languages and work within an international team, I think that students will understand that the benefits of a year abroad outweigh the expense. On that note, David Willetts has just pledged a grant which will be available to students going abroad from 2014-15 (i.e. 2012 entry) and will reduce year abroad fees from a maximum of £9,000 to max. £1,350. Students who opt for an Erasmus work placement will receive a grant (an average of €375 per month) AND a salary, plus Student Finance maintenance and tuition fee loans, so I encourage you not to be put off a year abroad by concern for the expense. On top of fantastic work experience, a network of international contacts and the most fun you can imagine, the year abroad gives you confidence, independence and opportunities: just check out these year abroad graduate case studies to see how! As a final note, If you’re worried that the UK job market will have nothing for you when you graduate but you speak Spanish, then don’t forget about the job markets in Latin America, Menorca or Cuba, for a start! The opportunities are endless.

Can you take a guess at the most popular destination for a year abroad?

Spanish is the most widely-spoken foreign language (not including English) in Europe, and Valencia is the most popular destination for European students who study abroad; the city is hot and sunny and has two particularly excellent universities, so it’s not surprising!

We are seeing more and more niche online communities starting up – did these inspire your idea?

No, the idea was one of those ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ situations; I needed an information resource on my year abroad (the community aspect came later), so I decided I was in a good position to set it up myself.

Presumably the idea came from your own experience. What do you think you would have found most helpful?

I think our Mole Diaries are the most useful articles on the site: they are insider guides to settling into a new city, written by students who’ve been through it themselves. The articles include everything previous students wish they’d known before they left – where to find accommodation, what to take with you, student discount cards and offers, registering at the University and taking exams, understanding local dialects, shopping, eating out and secret discoveries they want to pass on to future students. I love the fact that these articles have been written by students from universities across the UK

Finally, we ask everyone ‘Is this generation startup?’

This is definitely generation startup! I think year abroad students in particular are in a very good position to start a business during or after their year abroad; they encounter a lot of problems which they could be in a position to solve, they understand another language and culture which effectively makes them a bridge between two (or more) countries and as 19-24 year old students who are well-travelled, speak a foreign language, have had 2 or 3 years of Higher Education, understand the internet, worked in an international team and developed independence, self-confidence, determination, enthusiasm and resilience through living abroad, they are already showing key entrepreneurial characteristics. Here’s an article about it. There is amazing support for student startups now, especially with NACUE the National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs, and each university’s innovation/entrepreneurial office which provides free advice, support and events for young entrepreneurs. Living in London now, I definitely feel part of a young startup community. I have met some incredibly inspiring young people who have spurred me on, which makes me so happy that I chose to bite the bullet and run a startup instead of getting “a proper job”.

Find them on facebook and twitter.

Go South West

Image courtesy of Heathrow Airport

By Caz Parra

“This is the decade of Latin America” says Colombian Ambassador Mauricio Rodriguez Munera.

Mr Munera, founder and former director of Portafolio, Colombia’s most prominent financial newspaper, who has also held director positions at Dow Chemicals, bases this claim on the World Development Report published last year. Speaking at a New Turn event, he outlined 12 factors that have contributed to the progress in the region, one of which is investment.

Investing in Latin America is a win-win situation. The investor gets to break into a new market and the country gets… well, your taxes. If things work as Mr Munera describes them ,this means that the country can also do better: “Investment generates employment, can potentially substitute imports, gives the opportunity to raise taxes from businesses and consumers in order to be able to invest in social priorities, without this there is no way of improving the area” says Munera, “to think otherwise is probably naive”.

Branding the region as a “ land of opportunity” Munera said that young Europeans should “go south west”, declaring that the possibilities provided by the “energy and enthusiasm” of Latin America far outstrip those found in Europe.

But how is the UK responding to this new reality? Mr Munera tells us that the UK are not only aware but working to strengthen their ties with Latin America. “I think the solution to Europe’s economic problems is outside of Europe” says Mr Munera, he believes that by breaking into new markets like Latin America, China or India, the UK can achieve the economic growth it needs.

We’re live!

So now that we’re live here’s how we’re going to organise things:

Offshore - a look at the business and startup world outside the UK

In Focus – the freshest, youngest business idea we could find, from the people behind them

Tools for Trade - reviews of some of the many resources out there for entrepreneurs

Social StartUp - startups that are social, simple

Business Class – ok so it’s not all about us, what can we learn from those that have done it before?

Talking Shop – news, business talk, debate and discussion or just what we happen to be thinking about…

What do you think?