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A student abroad: Katherine Brown

Modern Languages Graduate Katherine Brown had only spent time in Germany and Spain, but she fancied a fresh challenge. Teaching English abroad and a scholarship helped Katherine to save enough money to Study for an MA in History and Culture at the London University Institute in Paris. The Graduate Guide talks to Katherine about her Parisian adventure.

How did the application and interview process work?

I applied online and there was no interview, I could have attended the Open Day but left it too late to travel to Paris.

How are you funding your studies?

I got the scholarship that was on offer, so that was lucky! I started teaching English to kids through a company I found in a magazine called “FUSAC” (for English speakers looking for jobs in Paris) and had some money saved from English teaching abroad before the MA.

How are you finding living in a foreign country?

It’s really exciting and daunting at the same time. With imperfect French it’s easy to feel excluded from French life, but I found that a lot of young people in Paris spoke great English.

Was it straightforward finding somewhere to live?

Everyone warns you it’s tough to find a place to live, so I was terrified and decided to take one week in August for a flat-hunt, booked a room so I had a base and treated finding a flat like a job-search! I found a really nice place within my budget after 4 days of looking hard.

What is the social life like?

Different to the UK, people’s flats are smaller in Paris so house parties are more low-key, and a lot of people prefer bars to clubbing in Paris. It’s much better to search on the internet for what’s on before heading on a night-out! Less spontaneity, but there’s lots on!

Do you think being immersed in the French lifestyle is the best way to learn the language?

Absolutely. It helped doing language classes at the Alliance Française. I spent two weeks learning the French language, but you need to speak the language to get your confidence up in it. Don’t be intimidated; French people always think they’re terrible at English.

Do you miss anything about university life in the UK?

It’s annoying French universities don’t make more of an effort to put on student nights and events, it would be nice for there to be an easier way to go out with other university students. You have to work harder to meet them, so it’s easier if you play a sport or be part of something outside of university.

Do you feel that you have developed academically from studying abroad?

I barely spoke French when I got here, so I’ve definitely improved loads with that. I think I really put a lot of effort into the MA, because I just found it so interesting and did all the background reading and went to different libraries in Paris to research. I think I really developed my research skills, even by not being daunted by signing up to big libraries or applying to use the archives of museums!

Do you think studying abroad enhances your chances of getting a job?

I think you get better at managing your life when you live abroad, you have to work slightly harder to get everything done, but this means that you learn to be more independent and self-reliant (because you have to!) and this gives you skills you need for the working world. Speaking another language fluently tends to look good on a CV too.

What advice would you give to those third year students who are thinking of studying abroad?

It should be about the course and how interested they are in the MA – getting to live in another country is what you make of it, but you need to enjoy what you’re studying and feel motivated. I did find the MA because I wanted to be able to write a dissertation in my mother-tongue and study abroad though!