While you have the opportunity to start your time at Southampton with a year abroad already in the works, chances are that if you’re not a language student, it isn’t something you’ve considered much. When I came to uni I was planning on spending three years getting my BA in Southampton and then travelling, but for the next academic year I’ll be residing in Hong Kong. If you’re reading this and think studying abroad might be a cool opportunity, it’s not too late!
At the University of Southampton you have the chance to spend either a year or a semester abroad with one of the university’s partner institutions. With places across the globe you’re bound to find somewhere that suits you, and the process isn’t that difficult. You have first year to decide if you want to add a year abroad to your degree. To switch you simply have to visit your student office and acquire a form for a change of degree programme. This sounds dramatic but all you’ll be doing is, in my case, going from a BA in English to a BA in English with a Year Abroad. Once the form is filled out and signed by your PAT, your student record should update within a week. For a semester abroad, you can choose to go either in the first or the second semester of your second year, meaning that the form must be filled out and processed earlier, within the first semester of first year, but otherwise the process remains the same.
Once the YA is officially a part of your degree is when the real work begins. Before you begin your year abroad, you must complete a YA preparation module with your department. This means a lot of very boring lectures about things you probably know and a disgusting amount of paperwork, but if you just buckle down you’ll get through it quickly. The amount of paperwork you need to complete also depends on where you’re going. Since I’m travelling to Asia, I had to complete a 15 page visa application, including a financial statement, a scanned picture of my mother’s passport, and a medical record, so it’s not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, depending on how Brexit goes, if you decide to go to Europe, you just have to pack your bags and leave after you’ve completed the compulsory risk assessments and learning agreements for the university.
When considering a YA you also need to recognise the financial aspects involved. While it’s only 15% of your tuition fees, a YA is far from cheap. I’ve not left yet and I’ve already spent well over £100 on application costs, deposits, doctors letters and much more. Not to mention living in a different country comes with a different cost of living. I’ve been working 50-hour weeks all summer to save up for my time in Hong Kong and while I’m sure it will be worth it, studying abroad is undoubtedly a financial stress. However, this is something the university is aware of and try to help with. With Erasmus schemes and the Southampton Opportunity Scholarship you can get some of your costs covered.
While it is a big decision, it is definitely something I think every student should consider. Not only does it look good on your CV, but studying abroad can be an amazing learning experience, and possibly the trip of a lifetime. I never thought I’d end up doing my year in Asia, but if you keep your mind and your options open, you are bound to find something that suits you.