Residence abroad (7 May 2004)

Date: 7 May, 2004
Location: British Council, London
Event type: Workshop

Programme | Event report

Past event summary

more workshops
and events
like this please.

- Workshop attendee

This event examined a series of current issues in residence abroad including:

  • good practice in preparation and support for students
  • career planning, work placements and employability
  • issues of safety and risk
  • a case study description of residence abroad in Mexico


10.00 – 10.15 Coffee and registration
10.15 – 11.15 Preparing students for residence abroad
Robert Crawshaw, Lancaster University
Andrea Reiter, University of Southampton
11.15 – 11.30 Coffee
11.30 – 13.15 Supporting students during residence abroad:
  • Online PDPs
    Syd Donald, University of Leeds and Joan Hoggan, British Council
  • Career planning
    Diane Appleton, Careers Service, University of Liverpool
  • Work placements
    Uwe Zemke, University of Salford

  • Françoise Tidball, University of the West of England
13.15 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 14.30 The ultimate gap year in Mexico
Clare Mar Molinero, University of Southampton
14.30 – 15.30 Issues of safety and risk
John Canning and Vicky Wright, Subject Centre

Event report: residence abroad

by Angela Gallagher-Brett

Preparing students for residence abroad

Robert Crawshaw, Lancaster University

Robert Crawshaw highlighted the importance of preparing students thoroughly for periods of residence abroad and went on to provide details of the structured programme of activities which is timetabled and compulsory for students in Year 2 at Lancaster as follows:

Timing Activities Ingredients
October Information Structure, statistics, partner institutions, question and answer
October Internet Workshop Introduction to useful web-sites, e.g. British Council, LARA, RAPPORT, University web-sites
October - November Personal Guidance Structural decisions, partner institutions' curricula and course choices, meetings with returnees
March Teaching Practice Teacher Training Agency workshops and observation in schools
April - May Curriculum-based activities Simulations, culture quizzes, cross-cultural projects, mini ethnographic projects, NESSays, e.g. Frenchness
June 4-day preparation course Residence abroad handbook, British Council, intercultural incidents, assessment, logistical / administrative information, pedagogical workshops

Preparing students for residence abroad

Andrea Reiter, University of Southampton

Andrea Reiter provided details of the RA programmes for Year 2 students at her institution.

Download: Preparation for Residence Abroad (Powerpoint, 67Kb)

Very interesting, particularly worthwhile and will gladly come back again.

- Workshop attendee

Supporting students abroad: the role of year abroad logs and Personal Development Portfolios

Syd Donald, University of Leeds

Syd Donald introduced the contextual and theoretical background to the use of Progress Files in HE, which were recommended by Dearing (1997) and which, according to the Guidelines for HE Progress Files, 2000, support the idea that learning is a lifetime activity'. The institution-wide introduction of Progress Files should be planned in all HEIs by 2005-2006.

In terms of the year abroad, learning logs were originally devised to exploit the potential of RA for students' personal development. The log or PDP usually includes a record of experience abroad in the form of a diary and also an instrument for personal goal setting, measuring and reflecting on progress etc. However, some ML departments have experienced difficulty in integrating the logs into the year abroad for various reasons. It was stressed that in order for these to be overcome student placements need to be well-organised, the student needs to attend informative pre-departure briefings and the institution needs to follow up with regular contact while the student is away. For the PDP/log to be most effective, attention must be given to debriefing when students return. Final year students can contribute to the process of preparing the next cohort. Finally, it was argued that the ultimate success of PDPs/logs is dependent on staff enthusiasm and commitment.

Supporting students abroad: career planning

Diane Appleton, Careers Adviser University of Liverpool

Diane provided an outline of the support offered to RA students by the Careers Office. This begins in Year 2 with a compulsory session in which students are introduced to the following issues:

  • Identification of personal objectives for the year abroad
  • Skills wanted by employers
  • Reflection on their current skills and identification of gaps
  • Application forms and C.V. s
  • Introduction to LUSID Learning Log/PDP
  • Introduction to the British Council Project
  • Portsmouth Survey on Residence Abroad and Employability


Year 2 students are also introduced to the Liverpool Careers Service RA website ( This site was set up last year and includes advice on things to consider before going abroad, a series of country guides, advice on the best and worst bits about going abroad, details on the year abroad learning log, support while abroad as well as information on how to start planning a career and finding job vacancies.

During the year abroad the careers service maintains regular contact with students, reminding them about the website and encouraging them to start focusing on their careers. This is then followed up with a session on the first day of their final year in which students reflect on the skills gained while abroad and look at possible graduate destinations for linguists.

The year abroad website is believed to have brought about a number of benefits. Approximately 80% of students have maintained contact with the careers services and report greater confidence in their skills. Employability is also reported to have been improved since the website was introduced. The website is in the process of being developed further with the help of input from students.

Work placements

Uwe Zemke, University of Salford

Uwe Zemke provided an outline of practice at Salford.

Type of placement

  • The majority of placements are in offices.
  • Many placements are in international companies.
  • Placement length is usually 6-12 months as it can take a few months for students to be trained up by companies.
  • Rates of pay vary between different countries. Pay is notably good in Germany.
  • Conditions of service and holiday arrangements depend on both the company and the country.

Role of placement tutor

The tutor must have knowledge of both the individual students and the company in order to be able to match student expectations to the company profile. The tutor carries a great deal of responsibility for the success of the placement and needs to maintain good relationships with companies as well as decide on student suitability for a particular placement. This is particularly important, as the student is an ambassador for the university. Student suitability depends on a range of factors, including the following:

  • Knowledge of the target language and English
  • Computer literacy
  • Work experience
  • Reliability
  • Motivation
  • Enthusiasm
  • Social skills, including appearance and dress code.

Supervision of placements

  • Placements are vetted and structured
  • Students are monitored, supervised and visited.
  • A record of the student contract and details of all contacts between the university and the student, including phone conversations, is kept in the student file.


  • Assessment of the placement is carried out by the tutor in consultation with the employer

Benefits of placements

  • Benefits to the university include the fact that work placements give the institution a unique selling point, a competitive edge, publicity and opportunities for links with business sponsorship.
  • Benefits to companies include the fact that students are often able to answer their particular skill needs, students can be offered flexible contracts, they can act as stand-bys and gap fillers and are also a potential source of future employees.
  • Benefits to the student include increased language competence, acquisition of transferable skills, professional development, personal development, cross-cultural development and enhanced career prospects. Research evidence shows that employers value graduates with work experience.

The ultimate gap year in Mexico

Clare Mar Molinero, University of Southampton

Clare Mar Molinero adopted a case study approach and described the year abroad experience of one particular student who has spent the last year on an exchange programme in Guanajuato in Mexico. Prior to going to Mexico it was reported that this student was fairly unenthusiastic about the prospect of residence abroad and not relishing the thought of leaving friends and family. However, through the regular email contacts maintained with the home institution, Clare was able to demonstrate how the student had matured though the course of the year and become fully integrated into Mexican life and culture and had even adopted some local speech and writing customs. The student's experience in Mexico had proved to be so fulfilling that she was reluctant to come back to England, as could be seen from her last email entry:

"It's just such a shame it's so near the end of my stay".

Issues of safety and risk

John Canning, Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies

John Canning raised a series of issues which ML departments should take into consideration when preparing students for residence abroad. It should be stressed that this does not constitute legal advice. The Subject Centre advises that policies drawn up with respect to residence abroad are cleared by the person in charge of Health and Safety at your institution.

Download: Safety and Risk in Residence Abroad (Powerpoint, 74Kb)