La Puerta de Alcalá by Annie Streek (Winner YA Photo Competition)

Hola! My name is Annie, and I spent my Year Abroad in Madrid, Spain, where I worked in Recruitment for the first half, followed by Investment Strategies in Private Equity in the second. I also worked during the evenings as an English tutor to three young children to earn some extra money, by the end they were like family to me and helped me with my Spanish and taught me how to cook typical Spanish food. This photo was taken by Puerta de Alcalá, one of my favourite spots in Madrid, not only because it is right next to the Prado and Retiro, but because when I first arrived in the city, it immediately caught my attention. Choosing to go to Madrid was the best decision I made for my year abroad, not only because it is a bustling city, but because I was able to travel around Spain and Europe to visit my friends who were also on their year abroad. Before coronavirus hit, I was lucky enough to have went to Malaga, Venice, Paris, Bilbao and Milan. I would say to students going on their year abroad, travel travel travel! You will never have this time again and it will go by so quickly, that is what the student loan is for anyway!

Seville is truly enchanting by Alexandra Tilley (2nd Place YA Photo Competition)

‘Hi everyone, I’m Alexandra and I’m a final year Italian and Spanish student here at the University of Reading. My year abroad was split into two semester so I spent September to December in Bologna, Italy and February to July in Seville, Spain.

My photo is a partial skyline of Seville from the view over the Guadalquivir river. I wish I could capture the feeling I had taking that photo and the many times I walked over the bridges in Seville. The city completely captures you in it’s beauty and I was always completely mesmerised.

During my time in Seville, I studied at the University of Seville until quarantine was announced on March 14th, however, I made the, now, best decision of my life to stay there during the strict regulations of the lockdown. University abroad is always a whirlwind, there will certainly be times when you feel like pulling your hair out, especially when it comes to scheduling your own timetable (which was a massive surprise to me). In the end, I managed to find modules that didn’t all clash and I was interested in. Despite the tricky times and trying to get yourself understood, it pays off massively. The students in Seville were so welcoming and a couple offered to help me by sending me their notes of the classes!

Of course, we go on our year abroad to study/work and it is very rewarding, however the true Erasmus experience comes from making international connections. I was in a flat with 10 other Erasmus students from all over the world and, it’s safe to say, I have made friends for life. We all went through the struggles together of attempting to understand our teachers, waiters/waitresses and any person who tried to communicate with us in the thickest Andalucian accent! But once we got the hang of it, we felt so proud of ourselves

My first night in Seville, I went for a walk by the river at sunset whilst I called my mum and cried. They were tears from being so overwhelmed as I could not believe how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place, it was nothing like anything I had ever seen before. Coming from a low income background, spending time abroad is not something I was widely exposed to and it really changed my life.

Seville is truly enchanting and I, normally, wouldn’t be so poetic but the city really takes hold of you. It is full of vibrant culture, stunning buildings and citizens who are always willing to help you. Every corner you turn, there is something new to look at or to learn about and there are a million places for impressive photo opportunities. My greatest advice, if you plan on going to Seville, would be to lose yourself in the city – go in the morning when it’s not a million degrees, and just walk around all the streets as you will discover so much, you will hear the natives communicating and just immerse yourself in the culture.’

Sevilla tiene un color especial by Harry West (3rd Place YA Photo Competition)

Hey, I’m Harry West and I study Spanish and Economics. I was in Seville studying Filología Hispánica. It was something of a shock, Spanish taught in the classroom is something else to what is spoken on the street, and I remember thinking to myself “what on earth has 6 years of Spanish done for me?!”. But 12 months later here I am, with a great group of friends from all sides of the globe, from Mexico to Poland; and a Mexican-Sevilla-argentine accent. I wouldn’t look back and regret a thing.

Sevilla tiene un color especial

Sevilla, the capital of Andalucía, is renowned for its flamenco, La Feria (a huge festival celebrated every May) and of course, Cristobal Colón. It is a city full of things to see and do, aquariums, a replica of the first ship to circumnavigate the globe is moored on the Guadalquivir, Las Setas gives you a panoramic view of the city, and of course, FC Sevilla, champions of the Europa league have its stadium there.

I lived just outside of the old town, so the Giralda was only 15 minutes away. I would recommend trying to live somewhere near the centre as this is where I spent most of my time with friends, in local bars and restaurants, and under normal circumstances, the nightclubs. Sevilla is well connected to the rest of the country, AVE can take you to Cordoba within 40 minutes, a bus can take you to the beach within an hour, and through ESN, you can get to Morocco within 4 hours.

The photo

The photo which came in at third place is the town of Chefchaouen in Northern Morocco. It is a beautiful town with almost every surface painted this rich sky blue. It was inhabited by Jewish people after their expulsion from Spain back in 1492 so it´s rich in history. For any cat lovers, this is the place to be. You go into a restaurant in the central plaza and you will have cats playing all around you. I also wouldn’t be too surprised if a few of the locals ask to have photos taken with you either, as this happened to me on multiple occasions for whatever reason that was. I made some great friends on this organised trip to Morocco, we had beautiful food and we even got to ride camels in the Sahara. It was amazing.

Some advice I would give to students who are going on their year abroad would be to make sure you sign up to ESN ASAP. They have probably already organised events for other Erasmus students before you even arrived, and this is how I met most of my social group, and how I went on this fantastic trip to Morocco.
Another piece of advice would be, don’t get too comfortable with other English speakers. I know it can be stressful trying to get involved in a conversation with other speakers, but, just swallow your pride and get in there. Even though you will be making mistakes, calling a drawer a cojón, they will find it funny and it´s an ice breaker.

So, whilst on your year abroad, sign up to ESN or another group that organises events for students, and get involved with locals or other Erasmus students, this is the only way you will improve your Spanish! Finally, jump at every opportunity that comes your way, be it an invitation to grab a coffee, go to the beach, or to go to Morocco, you only get this year to have these opportunities, so make the most of it!

Danielle George – DLC 1st prize Year abroad competition

I took this photo on a freezing day in January, about halfway through my Year Abroad which I spent living in Padova. Living so close to Venice I spent a lot of weekends there and one day a friend suggested we take a tour of some of the smaller islands which I would really recommend to anyone who visits! This photo was taken on the island of Burano, which is famous for its painted houses.

To anyone going on a Year Abroad, I can’t stress enough how important it is to travel! You should obviously spend lots of time getting to know the city you’re living in, but I would really recommend using your free time to travel around and get to see some other places. In Italy, trains and coaches were reasonably priced and so I’d usually spend Monday to Friday working in Padova and then pretty much every weekend in a different place. Once you get back to the UK and have to pay for a flight to go see these places you’ll definitely regret not going while they were so close-by!

Blog Competition: Why study languages?

Join us for a Visit Day at the University of Reading. The next blog post we publish could be yours.

Join us for a Visit Day at the University of Reading. The next blog post we publish could be yours.

At University of Reading Visit Days, the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies invites all our visiting students to submit entries for a Blog Post Competition. This year’s topic was “Why study languages?”

The winning entry came from Max Davies. Here’s what he wrote:

Why study languages? A better question would be “why wouldn’t I want to study modern languages at university?”

Coming from a German background and having been brought up more-or-less bilingual, I have always found it strange that mainland Europeans have made such an effort to learn foreign languages. Here in Britain we offer a stark contrast as studying modern languages is widely considered to be unnecessary or too difficult and is thus abandoned by secondary school students as soon as possible. I never realised that this would lead to my friends asking me why I was capitalising nouns in my German essay or why I pronounce Cologne weirdly (because it’s pronounced “Köln”, whether you like it or not).


Cologne, Germany. Sorry about that, Max: Köln.

This is what drove me to appreciate just how enlightening languages can be. By learning how to speak in another tongue you develop an understanding of an entirely new world. While others are content living in their native country, those who study modern languages could quite comfortably live in two or three! One of my most driving motivations has to be the pursuit of this lifestyle; to reach the calibre of a person able to adapt to almost any culture. Of the people in my life, the most interesting and (on my part) idolised have been the individuals who have travelled and picked up new language along the way. I see being able to speak a foreign language as a sign of strong character, intelligence and broad horizons.

However, my motivations are not simply a romanticised dream. I understand that UK employers and the global job market see modern languages as a valuable transferable skill which reliably makes hardworking, determined employees. When I was 14 I travelled to Germany by myself and worked in a graphic design studio as part of my work experience. My view at the time was that it would

Max is right! Why wouldn't you want to study modern languages at the University of Reading?

Max is right! Why wouldn’t you want to study modern languages at the University of Reading?

show I was an adaptable worker who was confident in his language abilities. I can safely say that this view hasn’t changed and I now wish to study modern languages at university to make me stand out in Britain’s current job market. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working abroad as it allowed me to forget my native culture and embrace that of a new and vibrant nation. Everything, from the 20 minute commute to conversing with customers, felt natural and sparked a surprisingly strong feeling of wanting to stay just a few more weeks.

Ultimately, it is my ambition to study modern languages at university as I believe it will enhance almost every aspect of my life. I see mastering a foreign language as a key to innumerable new walks of life and may offer inspiration to others to study languages as well. After all, why wouldn’t they want to study modern languages?

We agree! Why wouldn’t  you want to study in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading?

To keep up with our students, staff, and alumni, and to learn about all of the Department’s other activities, follow this blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed.

If you would like to receive regular updates from our blog, with the latest news about languages at Reading, please enter your email address below:


Hard to choose a winner

Open_Day_Girls_BrandedAt University of Reading Open Days, the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies invites all our visitors to submit entries for a Blog Post Competition. This year’s topic was “Why study languages?”

There were so many great entries this year that our committee had a hard time choosing a winner.

Here’s an excellent submission from our runner-up, Emily Beckett.

I began to learn Italian as my second modern foreign language at GCSE. Instantly the language felt natural which ultimately led me to wanting to study it at university. This interest and passion for Italian was reflected in my GCSE result. Following this success at GCSE I went on to study Italian at “A” level. During the past two years this passion has developed into learning not only more about the language but also about the culture, traditions and history of the Italian nation.


I want to continue my study of the Italian language at University because I’m interested and excited for the new skills that it will allow me to acquire. Along with developing my communication skills, which will be a valuable asset when applying for jobs in today’s increasingly international working environment, it will enhance my fluency making me a more confident and independent Italian speaker. I would also like to further my study of Italian at University because I want to advance and mature my knowledge and understanding of not only the Italian language but the English as well. I feel the additional language will make me even more aware of my native language therefore helping me improve my general communication.


In addition, I think that learning a foreign language challenges your brain in ways which other subjects cannot as it requires you to comprehend the rules, structure and differences of the language. Studying a language at university will allow me to grow and mature as a learner.

Furthermore, learning a modern language will open up a world of opportunities for me. In the foreseeable future I wish to travel and explore the world with my language therefore having such a high level of fluency will not limit the boundaries I wish to explore. Likewise if I decide to move abroad after University the additional language will make it possible for me to integrate into the community with ease and experience the true local culture.

Panorama Siena Palazzo Pubblico

Finally, if we are to aspire to become a truly multi-cultural nation then I believe we should all aspire to learn a modern foreign language.  We now live in a global and ever shrinking society and learning about the life and cultures from beyond our shores is crucial.

A Winning Post!

Open DaysAt University of Reading Open Days, the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies invites all our visitors to submit entries for a Blog Post Competition. This year’s topic was “Why study languages?”

The winning entry came from Meili Ellison. Congratulations to Meili.

Here’s what she wrote:


For me, choosing to study languages at university was the easiest, most obvious decision I’ve had to make in a long time. I’ve always had a passion to experience new cultures, travel as much as I can, and be in new far away locations (or “Fernweh” as the Germans call it). Speaking the language of a country -or attempting to- shows respect to the people you meet, and gives us the opportunity to live down the “English people are lazy at speaking other languages” stereotype!

Hong KongBeing born abroad in Hong Kong and living in China for the first part of my life is where my curiosity for other countries and cultures stems from. It gave me a taste for adventure overseas that I have never lost. Rubbing shoulders with people of all different backgrounds and beliefs ignited an enduring interest and inspired me to learn and experience as much as I could! Many of our family friends had international backgrounds, and as I grew up I learnt that those with languages had the richest experiences and the most success at work and in life.

Not only are languages interesting and useful in day to day situations, but in our increasingly globalised commercial world, they set you apart from the crowd. They open doors in the struggle for scarce jobs and put you in a strong position for employment. Employers know that language speakers have to be determined and intellectually strong, to tackle what they know to be a demanding and testing subject. Above all, speaking a foreign language places you on the international market, potentially giving you the opportunity to live and work abroad. What more could you want?

Demmers TeehausLast year I spent some time in Vienna working for a renowned Viennese company. Demmers Teehaus, on the Christmas Market (Christkindlmarkt) at Schönbrunn Palace. Here I had the opportunity to converse in German with the locals, in English and pidgin French with the tourists, and even was able to pick up a few words of Japanese from some visitors. From then on, whenever a Japanese person came to my stall, I greeted them in their own language, which definitely caught them by surprise! Seeing the joy it brought to them, and how grateful they were to see someone attempting to speak Japanese to them so far from home, gave me pleasure and really inspired me.

With speaking languages comes patience and respect. After experiencing at first hand how difficult it can be working and living in a foreign country and speaking another language, I respect people who have moved to Britain for the job opportunities much more. I will never look down on someone because his language skills are not perfect as I know how  much effort it takes to learn a foreign language myself.  

I truly believe that languages are an invaluable gift, a skill for life, and a joy forever.