MFL degree and year aboard

(33 Posts)
tiredwardsister Fri 04-Jan-19 19:54:58

My Dc does Italian and another subject at a RG uni, (I dont need to enter in any conversation about the use of Italian Ive already heard all the arguments) he has applied for his year abroad through the British Council. According to their website places in Italy are very limited, only 50 a year, you have to find your own accommodation, some often end up in Sicily and therefore learn little or no Italian, you only teach 12 hours a week and you're teaching English, you get paid but opening a bank account in Italy is a minefield and you wait months to get paid and often don't get paid in January/Feb due to some complicated Italian tax thing. Alternatively you can go to an Italian university his lectures have told him they're are awful, or at the better ones everything is taught in English and assignments are in English, you live with other foreign students (your common language is English so no guessing what you speak). He knows someone who's just done it through the British Council had a great time but learnt no Italian at all (in Sicily). I'm struggling to see what the point of it is!
We have some business connections in Italy and could try and get him a full time job in an Italian company speaking Italian all the time he wouldn't need a wage (we would fund him) and he would be given free board and lodgings in return for work (he is doing a joint honours and his other subject is very highly regarded by companies and he has excellent references from his previous employment as he's a real grafter) but apparently the universities are reluctant to support this as they feel they don't learn enough Italian.
Any one have any advise/experience?

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YahBasic Fri 04-Jan-19 20:02:07

Which university is he at? Mine provided a lot of support for this (albeit 9 years ago).

I ended up taking a placement through the British Council, but a friend had a university place in Venice. She ended up not attending university but getting a job in a theatre instead and her Italian was excellent.

If he can find himself a work placement, it would be regarded well by employers. I know that my university was reluctant to go down a similar route, as they felt the students would not be as engaged if they hadn’t organised aspects of it themselves, would have no motivation to work for what is basically pocket money from family and thus wouldn’t have the well-rounded experience.

You do learn a hell of a lot more than just the language - bank accounts are very difficult to open in many countries, it’s part of the challenge. I’d encourage him to look at both Language Asst and his own work placements if possible.

BlackLambAndGreyFalcon Fri 04-Jan-19 20:02:59

Does the uni offer (or help to facilitate) work placements (nom British council) at all? I work in a RG MFL department (we don't teach Italian though so I can't help on Italy specifically) and work placements are extremely popular for students' year abroad placements. Students also get an Erasmus grant (on top of their salary) for work placements in the Erasmus area (of course, whatever is going on with brexit is the question as to whether the UK will continue to benefit from this arrangement post march!)

LightDrizzle Fri 04-Jan-19 20:17:52

My DD1 did two languages at a RG university. Your idea of a business environment is great. My daughter split her year between her languages, the 3 months she spent living with other English students attending courses at a university were far less fulfilling than the 6 months she spent working in a translation agency in a massive city with no tourist appeal with majority native speakers and renting a room in a local neighbourhood from a local colleague. She was speaking her target language most of the time and it went from being her second, weakest language to being her strongest. She also made good local (as well as some international) friends.
I think the 6 months working abroad in a business environment also helped her when applying for jobs. Goldman Sachs asked her about it, although after a second interview she didn’t get a job offer, but she did get on a prestigious GTP with a household name company where she is very happy.
When she was living with fellow students, they were pleasant enough but only into bantz, sunbathing and the cheap beer. DD1 is a bit of a party animal herself but their lack of interest in the culture around them was disappointing. Enthusiasm was not cool apparently. Without being specific, the country/city she spent three months attending the university is a fascinating, exotic place that features high on many people’s wish list. I thought it would knock her socks off.
What does your son think?

tiredwardsister Fri 04-Jan-19 20:25:30

I dont wish to out him by saying which university. The university don't seem to encourage him to find his own placement putting lots of difficulties in the way. Thy demand proof that he'll speak enough Italian which seems ridiculous as we're talking about an Italian firm owned by Italians (with admittedly international connections) employing only Italians and he would be a general dogs body, if the alternative is ending up in Sicily speaking Sicilian. He is very widely travelled (on his own) is highly motivated to improve his Italian and is very good at it. He has also already worked abroad (as a teaching assistant but not in Italy) and one of his references is from this placement stating he was the most committed and dedicated work experience person they'd ever taken in the 20 years they'd been taking foreign students this was also an almost identical arrangement financially to that we would find him in Italy.
He's totally in love with everything Italian and has no problem going but is worried that its going to be total waste of time in terms of learning the language.
I agree that to my to my mind a work placement would be well regarded by employers and I as he wants to (rightly or wrongly) live and work in Italy I suspect that he hopes the work we would find him might lead onto something more permanent one day (the company does work for my DH's company).
Lastly you don't find out if you've even been successfulat getting a place through the British council until June and as places are very limited you may not be successful and if you not you end up in a university is this normal?

OP’s posts: |
tiredwardsister Fri 04-Jan-19 20:34:22

LightDrizzle he wants to work he didn't actually enjoy being a classroom assistant (see above). He's friendly but very mature and no party animal he is a total culture vulture he's just returned for Italy and spent most of his time visiting museums. Needless to say he wants to be in Rome or Florence (that's not where we have connections) but everything Ive read (Ive researched this extensively) implies you often end up in a village in the back of the beyond or up a mountain students often say they're lonely (Italians are very family orientated) and advise learning to drive before you go purchasing a car and living in bigger town and driving to your allocated school. They also advise that you tutor English (to make money to pay for your accomodation whist waiting to get paid ) but he has no interest in doing this.

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BlackLambAndGreyFalcon Fri 04-Jan-19 20:38:30

My experience with the British council (and this is not with Italy so may be different in that country) is that if they reject you outright, you find out pretty quickly (within a month or two of application). What takes a while is the matching proces where they try to place students into available placements taking into account their preferences (but they obviously can't guarantee that students will get their first preference). So you do find out pretty late where you are going, but my advice with the British council was always "No news is good news" and just because you haven't heard, it doesn't mean that you don't have a place. As I say though this was not with Italy and procedures were different with certain countries (Latin America and Canada mainly).


tiredwardsister Fri 04-Jan-19 20:57:31

Thanks BlackLamb that’s good to know.

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tiredwardsister Fri 04-Jan-19 20:58:28

Is 12 hours teaching a week the norm?

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smerlin Fri 04-Jan-19 21:01:26

When I did my year abroad, we were positively encouraged to find our own placements such as work. Going to uni aboard or British Council were last resorts, precisely due to people speaking too much English. This was at Oxford.

Keep pushing - you definitely have the right idea.

recently Fri 04-Jan-19 21:12:40

I had a fantastic year abroad on an Erasmus placement and I chose a university which offered accommodation. Yes, there were a lot of English spsaking students too but I learnt a lot of Italian. Twenty five years later I am still here! (Did go back to the UK to graduate!)

Why is his university so negative about studying at an Italian university? confused Seems a bit bizarre!

BlackLambAndGreyFalcon Fri 04-Jan-19 21:12:55

Yes 12 hours a week is the norm. The students are language assistants, not teachers. On top of the 12 hours of actual teaching they have to plan and prepare for their lessons (which will at least in the beginning take them a substantial amount of time to do) and their home university will be setting them assignments which they will need to research and complete.

anniehm Fri 04-Jan-19 21:14:55

I don't understand why you say he would not experience Italian in Sicily? We've holidayed there are struggled due to not speaking hardly any Italian (think a lot of pointing and resorting to the set menu because it was printed in English!) yes our Sicilian friend has excellent English but only because he lives in the U.K. his family had passable English, but in shops and restaurants none.

BlackLambAndGreyFalcon Fri 04-Jan-19 21:17:49

anniehm they speak the Sicilian dialect I Sicily which is quite different to mainland Italian, which the OP's son is studying.

recently Fri 04-Jan-19 21:18:10

Anniehm - because a lot of Sicilians speak Sicilian rather than Italian. I dont think this would be a big problem - all my Sicilian friends can and do speak Italian to me!

tiredwardsister Fri 04-Jan-19 21:20:29

I understand they speak mainly Sicilian in Sicily (unsurprisingly) which has little in common with Italian as it’s derived from Arabic. He talked to an older student who ended up in a tony village in Sicily and now speaks passabke Sicilian and little Italian maybe I’m missing something here but I would have thought it makes more sense to be somewhere where Italian is the main language spoken if you want to learn Italian?

OP’s posts: |
recently Fri 04-Jan-19 21:26:12

Italy has a lot of dialects. Wherever you go, if you're in a tiny mountain village then you're likely to hear more dialect (or German or Latino!) However, that doesn't mean that Italian isn't spoken too. If you want to be sure, go to a bigger city or town and avoid German speaking areas!

recently Fri 04-Jan-19 21:26:39

Ladino - thanks autocorrect!

tiredwardsister Fri 04-Jan-19 21:27:06

I’m it sure why the uni is so against a work placement.
Recently his dream is to be live and work in Italy your story will give him hope!
I don’t think he realised he’d have to plan lessons this I know is not something despite previous work experience he is keen to do. I think he’ll have to really push the work placement thing with the university.

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tiredwardsister Fri 04-Jan-19 21:28:53

The work experience would be in a main city and not in the north so no German (he speaks German).

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recently Fri 04-Jan-19 21:35:23

The work experience sounds like a great opportunity- hope he can persuade his university! Maybe he could combine it with language lessons at an Italian university? That might help persuade them.

Gettingthroughtheweek Fri 04-Jan-19 22:27:06

DC1 spent last year as a British Council language assistant in Italy and had a brilliant year; despite being a German speaking area, the school was Italian speaking and improved both languages; the advantage of the German speaking areas is they are well run and you get paid more - as well as being stunningly beautiful. Didn’t hear until quite late about the posting but thinks all who needed placements got them.

RowenaCoxwell Fri 04-Jan-19 23:30:47

DD returned in August from her year abroad, her uni were more than happy for her work abroad rather than doing a course in a foreign uni, they needed details of the work beforehand but it could have been anything really, other than au pair work.

BareBum Fri 04-Jan-19 23:38:54

Working in your year abroad is waaaay more useful for your language skills than doing a uni course.

Chocolatedeficitdisorder Sat 05-Jan-19 13:05:19

My DD heads off this year to spend the 3rd year of her degree in China. She's got 4 choices of Uni to study at but she's hoping for Beijing.

She's lucky in that she's already had the experience of living in China as she give a year-long scholarship, available only to Scottish school pupils, and went there as soon as she finished school. It really sparked her interest and she came back home to continue to study Mandarin, although her course is at an RG Uni and is very heavy on history and culture as well as language.

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