Year Abroad

One of the most exciting elements of any degree in Modern Languages is the opportunity to spend your third year abroad, perfecting your language skills, developing a thorough appreciation of another culture and acquiring all manner of transferable skills

We have dedicated members of staff to support you with the organisation of your Year Abroad and you will also benefit from our “Insider’s guide to the Year Abroad” online resource, written by returning students.

While you’re away, we won’t forget about you. You have a named contact at your host University who is responsible for helping you integrate into the system and for dealing with any problems you may have. A member of staff from Birmingham will keep in regular contact with you.

The amount of countries you visit will mirror the number of languages you are studying. 

There are a variety of possible ways in which you can spend your Year Abroad, as described below.

Studying at a university

Studying at one of our partner institutions in a country where your target language is widely spoken is the most popular choice for the Year Abroad.  We have a large number of partner institutions across Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Portugal, as well as countries outside Europe such as Argentina, Mexico, China, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Uruguay and Canada.

By going to a University abroad, you will be amongst people of your own age offering you many opportunities to make friends and social contacts, further enhancing your language skills. You may also be eligible for financial support from bodies such as Erasmus or Universitas 21.

Teaching English

Some students prefer to spend their Year Abroad as a teaching assistant in a school. This is available to students who are studying French, German, Hispanic Studies and Italian, and are only studying one or two languages. 

This is a salaried placement of between six and nine months at a school in a country where your target language is widely spoken. This scheme is administered by the British Council.

Work Placement

Completing a Work Placement is available to students who are studying French, German, Hispanic Studies and Italian. Students who have secured work placements either independantly or through the Department have benefited from a significant improvement in their language skills, as well as gaining invaluable experience for their future careers. 

We will source a certain number of placements each year to which students can apply, but we will also provide support if you wish to find your own placement. According to the Department’s regulations, any placement should be in an authentic foreign-language-speaking environment and ‘must mirror as closely as possible the demands of a graduate-level position’. Bar work, for example, is not acceptable. 

Examples of recent placements include:

  • a top fashion brand in Italy
  • a European-wide fashion brand based in Dusseldorf
  • a PR agency in France
  • an IT start-up company in France
  • a football magazine in Germany
  • an online fashion retailer in France
  • a translation agency in France
  • a hotel in Chile that is part of a global chain of luxury resorts and hotels
  • a media communications company in Spain

To assess your progress, all students are required to submit an extended essay in English and a piece of work in their chosen language for progression to Year 4.

Vacation Course

The Vacation Courses are intensive language courses in a summer school abroad, subsidised by the University. You can join one of these if you are studying two languages and wish to complete a year-long study, teaching or work placement in one of your languages. If you are taking three languages, a vacation course will be compulsory alongside two study or work placements.


The Year Abroad will make up 6.25% of your degree. In terms of assessment, students going to a university or summer school will be assessed by their assessment marks abroad, and those undertaking a teaching or work placement will be required to submit a piece of work related to their experience, in order to progress into final year.