Anna Wylie, a fourth year MML student at St Catharine’s College, recently returned from a year abroad in Paris. Read her top advice before planning and organising your own
Being back in Cambridge this year has given me lots of time to reflect on my year abroad, and I’d love to share my experience and advice with anyone starting to think about their upcoming time away! Here are my top tips…
After much deliberation, I eventually settled on going to Paris for the whole of the year abroad. I had thought about splitting the year – since I also study Spanish – but I had known for some time that I would end up focusing on French in my final year, so I decided not to split the year in two. This ended up being a great decision, not only because my French improved lots but also because I was able to get settled in one place and didn’t have to uproot myself after half a year. I highly recommend doing this if you think you’d like to focus on one language more than the other.
it’s always a good idea to get talking to people and to stay in touch – you never know what sorts of opportunities might crop up!
I stayed in two apartments over the course of my year in Paris, and I found that online rental agencies were the best and easiest way to find places to live (I used Chez Nestor and Lodgis). Since it’s more than likely that you won’t be able to go and check out the flat/neighbourhood before moving in, I found using trusted websites like these helped a lot and answered any questions or concerns I had about the accommodation and the area.
I completed two work placements over the course of the year – a six-month translation and proofreading internship at a translation firm, and a four-month sales and marketing internship at an interior design company. I secured the translation internship simply by searching online for translation jobs in Paris, but the company’s name was one that I recognised from previous interns’ reports that are all archived in the Year Abroad Office. The second internship I did, I organised through contacts that I had in Paris, so it’s always a good idea to get talking to people and to stay in touch – you never know what sorts of opportunities might crop up! Working was the best thing I could have done on my year abroad; I gained so much valuable experience that now helps a lot in job-hunting this year. I also ended up speaking so much French and becoming great friends with French-speaking people, so I couldn’t recommend it enough.
you’ll have a fantastic time, make some amazing memories and spend a lot of your final year wishing you could go back
From a practical point of view, there are a few things that I did or that I learned along the way that made my time abroad much easier, such as getting a Revolut card to help track my spending and, more importantly, to avoid transaction fees. I didn’t even have to go through the hassle of opening a French bank account – I was able to get paid directly into my Revolut account and just use this one card – but of course, this will depend on where you work.
Another thing that really helped me out was working somewhere where transport fees were reimbursed. The Navigo card that allows you to travel on the Paris Metro costs around 70 euros a month, which is a significant amount of money, especially when you’re making an intern’s salary! Most workplaces should reimburse you for at least half of this every month, and that’s definitely something to think about when doing your research because it helps a lot.
The year abroad is such an incredibly formative and fun time, so even if you’re nervous or a bit stressed out about it (like I was!), just know that you’ll have a fantastic time, make some amazing memories and spend a lot of your final year wishing you could go back.
At the minute, I’m really taking the time to decide what I want to do after graduation with the skills that I’ve acquired from MML. Having worked at a translation firm during my year abroad, translation is something that I would consider going into at this stage. Another area that interests me with my background in languages and literature is publishing, so I’m looking into this as well, and keeping my options open for the moment!