How being an Ambassador helped me on my year abroad

Outreach Tutor and Lead Ambassador, Ellie Tomlin, has returned to the Ambassador Scheme after a year abroad. She shares her experience and how being an Ambassador helped her prepare for her time in France

It’s safe to say, had I not been a student ambassador in my first two years at university, on the first day of my teaching abroad, I definitely would have crumbled when faced with a class of 25 13-year-old French students who I couldn’t understand (I’m sure they were thinking the same when I spoke English)!

Last year I set off on my year abroad as an English language assistant in two high schools in France teaching students aged 10-18. Having selected ‘no preference’ on the British Council form, I was placed in a small cute town named Auxerre, about a 90-minute train ride from Paris.  My year abroad was something I had been looking forward to since day one, indeed one of the biggest reasons why I came to university, so I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. It wasn’t easy to begin with. I arrived with loads of luggage and was met by a teacher at the train station. We travelled to the school to pick up the keys for the apartment I was renting with the other assistants only to find, there were no keys left! A three bed flat had been let out to four of us, so I spent 4 weeks sharing a room with a German assistant, who thankfully was lovely!

‘FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTABILITY’ – This still rings in my head since hearing Ruth and Jamie saying this in the first summer core team I took part in – two skills we learn and improve, sometimes unknowingly as ambassadors, which couldn’t have helped me more during my time abroad. How do you adapt a PowerPoint presentation you’ve prepared for a class on the royal family when there turns out to be no computer in the classroom? Game of guess the royal charades! How do you teach a class about Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes? This was a tricky one, but I had great fun designing a murder mystery with the original title of ‘who killed the English Assistant?’. How do you teach 30 ten-year-olds to make Christmas crackers without breaking it to them you’ve never made a Christmas cracker in your life?! Can’t lie, this was pure acting skills and I thanked my lucky stars I’d done GCSE Drama.

Overall, my year abroad teaching allowed me to work with students in big classes and mentor them in small groups, something I’ve always loved doing whilst being a student ambassador. It allowed me to build my confidence and improve my communication skills, again something which you have ample opportunity to do as an ambassador, so you are all already ahead of the game!

If any of you are planning a year abroad, looking into becoming an English language assistant, have ambassador-related questions, (or just want to speak French!), feel free to drop me an email. Best wishes for the month ahead. Stay positive and stay safe. Ellie