Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne
Students relaxing on the beach - studying abroad could see you living in an exotic locationIf you fancy improving your language skills, doing a spot of travelling and meeting people from all over the world – all as part of your degree at a UK university – spending some time on a study-abroad programme might be for you.

But with the whole world out there, where do you start? Never fear: British Council's 'Study Work Create' is here to help. We sat down with Colm McGivern, the British Council's regional director for the UK, to find out just what's on offer.

First of all, a little reassurance: you have lots of choice and there's no fixed period you need to be away for. “There are short term opportunities, summer courses or single semester programmes that can be immensely beneficial,” says Colm. “It doesn't have to be for a year, or be a difficult process.”

A few options

So what sort of things can you do? British Council Study Work Create has information on everything from epic globe-trotting escapades to more boutique brief encounters. You might be interested in Generation UK, which looks to send British students to China for anything from a semester to a whole academic year, for example.

Or what about Erasmus, which lets you spend between three and 12 months studying in one of 33 European countries? If studying abroad doesn’t take your fancy, you might consider working abroad on a programme such as the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE),This is designed to enable science, engineering, technology or applied arts students to spend eight to 12 weeks working abroad in one of 86 countries. And that's just the tip of the iceberg – there's lots more to explore on the site.

What's in it for you?

Apart from the chance to see if the beer really is cheaper in some parts of Europe, the benefits to studying abroad are many and varied. “You'll develop cultural sensitivity and awareness,” says Colm, “and there are benefits to you individually through seeing more of the world and enjoying different cultures.”

This can help your job prospects, as you'll learn what makes people from other nations tick. “We live in an increasingly interconnected world – digital working has brought us into closer contact with one another,” explains Colm. “The people who will be most successful in the future will be those who can maintain close contact with people from other cultures and remain sensitive to their needs.”

Live and learn

You'll also encounter different ways of being a student, says Colm. “You might be taught by people who have a very different approach to teaching, or at institutions that have a very different approach to learning than the ones we're used to in the UK.”

What does that mean in practice? Well, college and campus life in the US is very different to the UK, for example. “Or there's the difference between studying in a vast Chinese city compared with a provincial town in the UK,” says Colm. “These experiences can really open your eyes.”

Look at me

There's no doubt that it takes courage to go overseas, but it will help you gain more self-confidence and maybe even help you stand out when it comes to job hunting. “The very fact that a student has taken the bold step of taking an international opportunity says a lot about them, their character and their motivation,” says Colm.

Research by the British Council suggests that employers like candidates with some international experience, he adds, and with so few UK students currently taking the chance to study abroad, you'll have a good chance of catching their eye. “The experience you can get may be a real point of difference between you and other candidates during a recruitment process,” suggests Colm.

What next?

Thanks to British Council Study Work Create, researching studying abroad just got a whole lot simpler – the site gives you the basics, quickly, so you can start finding things out, and you can follow @StudyWorkCreate for regular updates on programmes, deadlines and more.

“We'll tell you if you're eligible, where you can go, a bit more about the different opportunities … and then I'd encourage you to delve deeper, using our site and resources like The Student Room,” says Colm.

So if you're intrigued, it's easier than ever to start your study abroad journey. It's not just about helping you get a job, either, as Colm points out. “I think that study abroad can change you for the better,” he says. And perhaps even more importantly, you'll have a great time. “It's an immensely enjoyable experience!”

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