Undergraduate student, Octavia Gu, shares how her placement year abroad enhanced her university experience by providing an opportunity to learn and improve key skills.
Why should you do a placement year? There are many different reasons. Since I was little, I have always wanted to visit Granada, Spain. That is partly why I chose to study International Business with Spanish at WBS. Although the placement year is mandatory for my degree, I would recommend it to students from other degrees who are not required to but have the option to spend a year away from Warwick.
A new adventure
I cannot think of a better opportunity where you can go to somewhere new where nobody knows you and start fresh whilst still having access to student services and support. As a dynamic person, I sometimes experience restlessness and monotony if I live in the same environment for too long. Living in a place where everyone, including myself, already has a fixed perception of me can create obstacles to making changes. However, when I arrive in a new place my life becomes more exciting with infinite possibilities; it is easy to pick up new hobbies and cultivate new habits. I can reflect on areas where I can improve, like the way I treat others or how I can manage my schedule, and make positive changes to foster personal growth. Temporarily escaping from my current environment and moving somewhere new has been good for my well-being, especially when seeking to make changes or a fresh start.
High mobility and freedom
The placement year was also the right moment to explore what I liked and what I wanted for my life. Since I had less academic stress, I had more time to travel, experience different lifestyles and make new friends. I grew up in a big city in China, so I am used to skyscrapers and crowded metros. In Granada, a city different from my hometown and Warwick, I discovered a different way of living that made me incredibly happy. I went to the beach almost every weekend in Spring and Summer, had picnics with friends on the grass, and watched the sunset from rooftop cafes. These experiences have shaped my vision for the future. It is was like a gap year but better because I retained my identity as a Warwick student.
There is no need to worry about graduating one year later and how it might impact future employability. During my year abroad, I perfected my Spanish, practiced French and even started learning German. I also developed my communication skills and intercultural mindset by living, studying, and working with people from different backgrounds. Moving abroad was challenging, but it strengthened my independence, self-motivation, problem-solving skills, creativity, resilience, and adaptability. All of these skills are highly valued by future employers across all industries.
A piece of advice
A keyword I would say for the placement year is 'balance' because you simply cannot have it all. You cannot go to all parties, attend all lectures, meet everyone in the city, get a good sleep every night, travel to all the places, and be happy all the time. It's essential to set priorities as you only have limited time and energy. It is okay to have different priorities at different times—sometimes you want to go out and have fun, while other times you need to focus on studying or personal well-being. There is no need to fear missing out or be jealous of what other people are doing. Also, you are likely to experience cultural shock or see something that goes against your values. You do not have to make any judgement right away; you can simply accept that there are different ways of living and find the one that is most suitable for you. This placement year is a part of your life and you need to make sure you maintain a good balance and do what makes you feel good.