Thinking about studying abroad?

By on

Should Modern Languages students be prioritised?

At first glance, the University’s Study Abroad programme looks fantastic. The St Andrews Abroad scheme features at least 14 participating universities in enticing English-speaking destinations including Australia and Singapore. Furthermore, some individual schools have their own exchanges, with placements including Denmark, Iceland and even Hong Kong. For those of us considering spending our third year abroad it’s an exciting (albeit slightly stressful) time.

However, as a Modern Languages student eagerly perusing the study abroad options, I was shocked to discover that there are far more placements abroad for those studying other subjects than those in Modern Languages. In order to become fluent in a foreign language it is essential to spend some time in a country where the language is spoken, in fact in many universities it is a compulsory part of the degree programme. Yet if you look at the tiny number of places available for Modern Languages students at foreign universities, gaining a place abroad seems unreasonably competitive.

There are currently six universities for Spanish, four for French, two universities each for German and Italian, and only one for Arabic (although to be fair, instability in the Middle East has admittedly made placements difficult). While this may seem like a good range, what they no longer tell you on the new Study Abroad website is that there are VERY limited places available at these universities (an average of two to four at each, if I remember correctly). If you’re studying Joint Honours your choices are even more restricted, with many subjects completely unavailable at foreign-language institutions, even when the partner university actually teaches that particular subject.


As an alternative to studying abroad (I say alternative, but it is the option that the majority end up doing) the University recommends applying to work for the British Council on a teaching assistantship. Yes, this is a fantastic opportunity and looks great on your CV etc, but it has two major drawbacks. One, it’s an extra year on top of your already expensive degree (whereas it counts towards your degree at other universities). Two, you have to hold an EU passport and be a native English speaker. So that rules out many of our international students. You are of course free to find your own work placement, but I think that’s a hassle that many of us just don’t have time for.

While I understand that a large proportion of students here are already abroad, I believe that the University needs to do something about the inflexibility and shortage of places on the Study Abroad programme.  Although a year working as a teaching assistant appeals to some, many of us were hoping to actually study abroad while still graduating in four years, and the lack of placements is disappointing.

Image courtesy of and

  • Questioner

    Can you show that there is actually a demand for such places for studying abroad?

    As someone in my final year who both studied languages and has plenty of friends who also do, I haven’t heard many complaining about the lack of places? Which implies that many of those who are eligible to teach in schools abroad choose to follow this option.

    You perhaps overlook a key factor here. Namely that the University places people for study abroad placements who have demonstrated that they have the capacity to study abroad and obtain the good grades.

    Many people, particularly those studying languages who have come directly from school seriously value the opportunity to take an extra year which does not count towards their degree. Those people who relish an ambitious challenge, who have already spent time in a country where their language is spoken and who have succeeded to a high level during their first two years can choose to apply for a study abroad placement. However, it has to be worth bearing in mind that this is not everyone and that for many people, teaching abroad and taking an extra year to complete their degree enables them to do return to University much better equipped for their final two years.

    Studying abroad might sound like an attractive option but it requires serious commitment and often a sacrifice of social life and extra curricular activities if you want to succeed academically and this quite simply isn’t something which a lot of people desire, nor something which they should enter into without thought.

    • Philipp Ahrend

      Of course we’d have to do a survey to show there is demand, but I know that applying for study abroad in general is very competitive. You may not have heard many complaining about the lack of places but this could mainly be because most people are unaware of the program and don’t even consider it. Whilst many may not want to study abroad for reasons like yours or others (which I mostly disagree with – unless you go to a really prestigious university you should have enough time for social and travelling), I think there could be a lot more demand if it just were advertised.

    • Author

      I have noticed that so many people don’t bother applying to study abroad as the process is so competitive that they just don’t think it’s worth it. In a university like this where there is already a lot of competition nobody wants to be seen trying and failing.

      The point of this article was to highlight that for many of us who would seriously value a year studying (rather than working) abroad, the option just isn’t open to us, due to joint honours programmes or simply lack of places. I am by no means suggesting that a year of working is somehow less valuable or prestigious.

      • Miriam

        I did this last year. We were all very worried by lack of places. But in the end everyone who wanted a place at a uni abroad got one. Most people CHOSE the language teaching option. The number uni placements is much more flexible than they say. Everyone who applied for one, and had the grades, got a place – at least in the German dept. (Arabic’s a mess, but that’s not really the dept’s fault.)

  • AU (thats ma mf name)

    yeh but sanders was just hunting, not being humane.

  • TN

    Crawl back into the Guardian

  • NL

    Wow….seriously…have you actually done any research at all before writing this drivel!!?? For a start, a large percentage of the population of the UK care deeply if their meat is halal or not. It is unacceptable for Hindu’s and Sikhs to eat Halal meat…so yes I think these people really do care if their meat has been “read a prayer whilst unconscious” as you so deftly put it…,much like a Muslim would care if their meat hadn’t been “read a prayer”.
    Also, you say that caged hens lead a short and shit life, well it may enlighten you to learn that free range hens live for exactly the same period of time! Free range hens are also more prone to catching diseases, being pecked and suffering horrific injuries from fighting with other hens and being torn ‘limb from limb’ by predators such as foxes. Caged hens however have an almost 0 chance of disease, actually a suprising amount of room to manoeuvre and no chance of having their feathers and eyes plucked out by other hens, and no that is not because they are in too small a cage to fight. Many caged hens are actually dramatically healthier than free range hens and therefore lead a much better quality of life, not to mention that when given the option to go outside, most ‘free range’ hens choose to stay in their sheds, ‘tightly’ packed…oh you probably didn’t know that most so called free range hens actually live in sheds, the doors of which are only opened for short periods of time each day.
    One of the major issues with Halal meat in this country is that a vast amount of it is not sourced from inside the UK, and therefore has not been stunned before being hung up and having its throat slit and being left to bleed out. Subway may well claim to source only stunned meat but that is only one company, and anyhow, a lot of stunned animals are not correctly stunned and so a lot are still very much conscious when their throat is slashed. This is not only hugely inhumane but due to the distress caused by this to the animal the meat becomes tainted, making for a much lower quality meat product, hence the lower price! The vast majority of non-halal slaughter houses take every effort to ensure the animal is as calm as it can be and stunning is done meticulously, the killing of the animal is also far quicker and much more humane than slitting its a throat. A bolt gun which kills the animal instantly is used, not a knife and gravity which can take minutes to kill the animal.

    Before you call me it, as I’m sure you will, I am not a BNP supporter, or a racist, or a bigot, I don’t even vote for UKIP. I am also not an animal rights campaigner. I do believe in animal rights in so much as animals (especially those bred for food) deserve the right to a ‘happy’ and painless existence. I am however a realist, who actually understands (and has knowledge of this topic and the area around it) that being given Halal meat actually means a LOT to some people (and I’m not talking about racists and bigots, I’m talking about other members of other religions) and that however much anyone wants to dress it up Halal killings are also quite possibly the single most barbaric way of killing an animal for food.

    So please, Michael Taylor, before you decide to write another piece of left wing sensationalist drivel (because don’t forget it’s not just the right wing that can be sensationalist), maybe do some research first and then take a long hard think about whether the ‘article’ you plan on writing is really worthwhile at all, or whether maybe, just maybe you’d be better off not wasting your time!

    • Michael Taylor

      Please give evidence for the eggs as it’d make me feel so much better buying 40 caged eggs a week!

      “For a start, a large percentage of the population of the UK care deeply if their meat is halal or not. It is unacceptable for Hindu’s and Sikhs to eat Halal meat.”

      It was easier me to ask the question rather than research every religion. Sikhs and Hindus do not make up “large percentage of the population of the UK”.

      I only spoke about Subway as the article mentioned Subway. The big four supermarkets all use non-stunned meat which I don’t agree with, but if it is stunned, then who actually cares (other than Sikhs, Hindus)? Actually one Hindu has just told me no one gives a shit about whether it is Halal or not and it is her religion, so maybe you should check your facts on that one. Also spoken to a Sikh and they didn’t care either.

      You are probably a BNP supporter, or a racist, or a bigot, and you probably voted UKIP.

  • NL

    Oh and your article is also horrifically inconsistent, with one part saying that halal meat is stunned (which by law it has to be in this country) but then lower down in your ‘What is Halal meat?’ box you clearly say that Halal meat means the animal has had it’s “throat cut while it is still conscious”….hmm, maybe the Tab needs to invest in some editors…

  • cam

    I think this is all very valid, an animal should probably be stunned, but it’s not having a particularly happy ending regardless. There is no denying the recent news about the Halal scandal is purely to stir racial hatred.

  • Poor

    ‘what’s the problem with reading an animal a prayer while they’re unconscious?’

    Spectacular lack of knowledge and research, insensitivity, and insulting flippancy all in one little sentence there.

  • f

    If you expected quality journalism and writing from the tab, you’re sorely mistaken. I’m surprised half of the ‘writers’ can even spell their own names, let alone smash out some poorly researched and obviously biased drivel.

  • cam

    And your name is ‘f’..

  • Michael Taylor

    Haters gonna hate.

  • guest

    Yeah I’m sure i’ve seen he’s pretty close with that labour chap. both polling in the low mid 30s

Heard something newsworthy?

By , The Stand Editor of The Tab on

The Other Guys are having a Christmas concert

Celebrate the end of classes with a cappella

By on

We went on the hunt for coke in St Andrews

Ma Bells sinks, really?

By , The Stand Editor of The Tab on

Murder most fowl: ABH students hunt and gut pheasants in halls

Only in St Andrews

By , Chief Reporter on

Your gluten free diet is killing the wheat industry

Bread just makes me bloat

By , Contributing Editor on

All things considered, doing DofE Gold is quite weird

So many blisters

By on

London’s plubs are the best thing about UK nightlife right now

(It’s a pub and a club mixed together)

By , Contributing Editor on

We asked guys whether they prefer thongs or french knickers

The finer things in life

By , Chief Reporter on

How to get into a Boiler Room DJ set

There are a few options

By , Head of Marketing on

There’s just something about girls who DJ

They exude coolness