Studying a Year in Languages – Abigail Shortland

A large amount of study on Abi Shortland’s Biological Anthropology degree took place during lockdown, but with an eye to travel on the horizon she used the time well by getting an extra language under her belt.

Why did you choose to study with a year in Italian? 

The opportunity to complete a ‘year in’ programme was offered to me in second year whilst in lockdown. Having most of my degree during the pandemic, I realised I wanted to extend my undergraduate course by doing something that will benefit me greatly in the future. It also allows a nice break between my undergraduate degree and a masters, whilst ensuring I was still actively learning and staying within education. I decided to choose a year in languages programme which I could complete after my third year of study to ensure I could fully dedicate my time toward learning the language, instead of having a break in-between my degree, so I had something to look forward to at the end of it! (Best decision I have made!).

How did you choose to study this?

Within lockdown and also from spending time thinking about what I would like to do after University, I had realised I would like to spend a few years after my degree, and hopefully after a master’s degree, travelling and spending some time living in Italy. I have Italian family members, and from already being able to speak Spanish at home with my mum, I thought it would be beneficial and fun to learn another language which I would need to know in the near future.

What are you doing during your year with a language?

Right now, I am currently completing 2 hours of lessons a day Monday- Friday. From being in a small class, it has become very easy to become good friends with my classmates! As the lessons and seminar leader are both fun and engaging, the environment has been amazing to work in. I feel as though I am learning the language at a great pace and also in ways that makes the content incredibly memorable, and this provides an enjoyable learning experience.

What is your favourite memory?

I think so far, my favourite memory would have to be the ability to explore the language with a native speaker where we are provided an insight into the culture and lifestyle. I have become very good friends with my classmates which makes every lesson interesting and interactive. As a class we like to meet up in our free time and practice what we have been learning recently, so overall it has been a very engaging and has definitely added to my university experience.

What about academic or study support?

During the ‘year in’ programmes there continues to be incredible academic support throughout the course of the year. Due to the intensive (but enjoyable) nature of the course, it can start to feel as though you could fall behind with retaining the content. However, the seminar leader has been amazing in providing extra revision and adapting the pace of lessons to cater to the students needs, as well as providing a safe and comfortable space to discuss any worries we would have about learning a language! Overall, I feel very supported.

What skills have you developed for the workplace?

I think one of the most important skills I have learnt so far this year, in addition to the ability to communicate in another language, is the importance of time management and teamwork. This is due to having to schedule in time outside of lessons to ensure I am practicing the language independently, as well as working with my classmates within lesson time (and outside) to make sure we are all getting as much out of the year as possible. Furthermore, the ability to openly communicate when you do not understand a task, or need something explained again, is incredibly important. This is not only for advancing your learning by ensuring you can understand the content, but also to practice key communication skills that are vital within a workplace environment.

How has your degree helped your career prospects?

Completing a Biological Anthropology degree at the University of Kent provided me with career opportunities that I never knew existed before I came to university. Before undertaking my undergraduate degree, I had little knowledge in what this discipline could lead onto. Now, 3 years later after been introduced to a vast list of possible career avenues and disciplines within the field of biological anthropology, I have acquired both the knowledge and skillset to be able to further explore my interests into Forensic Anthropology. Furthermore, completing a ‘year in Italian’ programme widens my ability to work within this field in other areas of the world, therefore expanding the work opportunities that can be available to me in future.

What do you want to do in the future?

At current, my plans are to complete this ‘year in’ programme and finish with the ability to speak a good level of Italian! After this programme, I would like to undertake a Masters in something related to my career aspirations, such as Forensic Osteology and Field Recovery Methods at Kent, or Forensic Anthropology elsewhere whilst utilising and expanding on the knowledge I had accumulated from my time at this University! After completing a Master’s degree, I hope to move to Italy to teach English for a year before continuing on with my future career prospects of becoming a Forensic Anthropologist or working within the field of forensic archaeology and osteology.

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering a year in a languages?

The advice I would give to prospective students is to make sure that choosing a ‘year in’ programme is right for you, your educational/career path and something that you feel you will benefit from. I would suggest making sure, if you were to choose a ‘year in’ programme, to ensure that it is something you are passionate about and willing to put in the time and energy into. The ‘year in’ programmes are fun, but also intensive, so although I strongly believe it is worth doing, you need to make sure it is something that is right for you and your own goals. I am having a great time completing my ‘year in’ languages, so I would 100% recommend giving it a go.

Abigail Shortland is currently studying Biological Anthropology BSc (Hons) with a Year in Languages (Italian).

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