France: to study or to work?

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By Archie Cotterell, Fourth Year, French and Philosophy

The Croft Magazine//It's not very often that one lands on both sides of the coin, but luckily for Epigram, Archie Cotterell did just that. Here he looks back at his year abroad, spent in a lecture hall for one half and behind a desk for the other.

Given the fragility and ugliness of our current political and social landscape, as well as incessant rainfall, one’s mind wanders to sunnier and happier times. I feel a little lucky to have escaped this plagued rock in the North Atlantic as I headed to France for a year abroad. What to do though can seem a hard choice: to teach, to work, or to study? Shakespeare probably knew the answer…

First up for me was a semester at Jean Moulin III university in Lyon. The studying itself wasn’t too taxing as we were in with 1st years, and you could choose whichever modules you pleased, giving you the chance to indulge in subjects/interests that had been on the back burner for a while. I found the style of teaching and the infamous

French administration left a lot to be desired: 60-odd students crammed into a classroom every class with very little student participation was not brilliant. However, it is hard to ignore the overarching positives that studying abroad can bring: a chance to meet other young people and experience the country through their recommendations; an opportunity to improve in the foreign language without any repercussions that mistakes may bring; and a timetable that enables you to fully discover and make the most of the place you are living.

For the second half of the year, I worked in Paris. As much as certain stereotypes about rudeness, costs and cleanliness were confirmed, I do feel I wouldn’t have had as good a time there unless I was working. The professional environment for me was just the right amount of challenging, and brought about many new experiences, such as trade fairs and creation of international promotional material. The skills learnt will benefit me in both the short and long term, and my language skills developed far more quickly than any other time in my life.


Overall, both options have their merits. Studying is that bit more relaxed, and a better chance to meet young people. Yet working provides you with a professional experience that benefits both your language skills and future employment. So whichever you choose, just make sure you have the right mindset to make the most of it. It may seem daunting, but you’re as prepared as you need and if go at it full speed you’ll reap all of the benefits.

Featured Image credit: Lily Donnelly / Epigram


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