Study Abroad for Sussex Students

Language degree students

Find out about the Year Abroad if you're studying a language at Sussex.

About the year abroad

The year abroad for language students is an academic year spent studying, teaching or gaining work experience in a country where your target language is spoken. It is an integral part of the four-year BA language degree, taking place in the third year.

To be eligible to go on a year abroad, you must achieve an average mark of 50% across all modules taken during their first two years of study at Sussex.

You must achieve an average mark of at least 40% for your year abroad in order to progress to your final year at Sussex.

You can choose between three types of programme, with the approval of your department:

100% coursework plus portfolio

Students are registered for the full academic year at a partner institution abroad, taking modules alongside local students, taught in the host language (modules taught or assessed in English are not permitted, neither should modules already taken at Sussex be repeated). Modules in ab initio languages will only be authorised in exceptional circumstances. Students must select BA equivalent modules that are open to local students. The precise definition of a full course load depends on the norms established by Sussex in relation to each country.

Where possible, coursework is determined in relation to the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), first introduced in 1994-1995. ECTS are half the value of Sussex credits (60 ECTS credits for a full-time year of UG study). However, because the credit valuation varies somewhat among different national and local institutions, an estimate of workload in terms of teaching contact hours per week also operates, to ensure reasonable fairness across the year abroad destinations. The workload overall, however it is measured, is set at between ten and fifteen hours per week. Different measurements of workload include:

  • A minimum number of ECTS credits (European Credit Transfer System credits);
  • A minimum number of contact hours (taught hours) and completed assessments;
  • A minimum number of modules taken over the year;
  • A structured year-long qualification offered by the host institution, with  specified course content.

All subjects are now required to take a minimum of 40 ECTS in Europe (60% coursework) or 8 modules in Latin America, where ECTS do not apply, and a Reflective Portfolio (worth a third of the year abroad mark).

Students are strongly encouraged to exceed the minimum credits to give them the option of dropping any modules that turn out to be very difficult.

If at any time you are in doubt as to whether you are meeting the requirements of your subject in your destination, you should contact your LAR (Language Area Representative) without delay.

Types of modules

Students have a certain amount of freedom on their year abroad with regard to the make-up of their studies. They can study the foreign language itself, but they should mostly study other subjects taught in the foreign language, as if they were local students. Students are generally encouraged to take around 50% of modules that support their major subject at Sussex, with flexibility as to the other types of modules chosen (although sports and most other practical modules are not permitted).

Students may take language classes up to 25% of the overall load, or 50% in the case of dual-language students. These proportions may be exceeded, provided that (i) the student has the agreement of the relevant LAR, and (ii) any such additional language modules do not incur extra fees payable by the University of Sussex. Translation classes are also considered language modules. These limits on language classes include other languages besides the target language(s).

Classes taught or assessed in English will not be counted.

Assessment

Students are assessed for their modules as if they were local students, whether by exam, essay, or any other means of assessment in use at the host institution. At the end of the year abroad, a transcript of the grades obtained is sent back to Sussex by the partner institution or sometimes brought back in person by the student. These local marks are converted into Sussex percentages using an established conversion table and an average mark is produced, which goes into the student’s array for degree classification. Further information about this process can be found here.

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the mid-year Transcript of Grades (issued by the partner institution) is returned to the Study Abroad office by the end of March. Similarly, the final Transcript of Grades, showing the marks that the student has achieved throughout the year, should be sent to the Study Abroad office by the end of July.

It is strongly recommended that students keep a copy of syllabi and course outlines in case Sussex has to set an alternative assessment after the student has returned.

Reflective Portfolio

The portfolio (worth 40% of the students' year abroad mark) consist of 3 parts:

  • Presentation (uploaded to Study Direct, or, exceptionally, recorded orally) 10 minutes - worth 60% of the RP mark.
  • Power Point (or other) slides for presentation - worth 20% of the RP mark.
  • Reflective piece on the presentation (500 words) - worth 20% of the RP mark.

The portfolio is only taken by students doing full coursework (40 ECTS) at the host university and it must be a reflective and analyitical piece of work. It is recommended to students to keep notes from the beginning of the year on anything they notice on their year abroad.

50% coursework, 50% dissertation

50% coursework load plus 50% year abroad dissertation*

*Despite taking only a half-coursework load, students choosing this option must register for both semesters and are expected to remain at their host institution throughout the year abroad, using the library and other resources to write their dissertation. Students eligible for an Erasmus grant will need to prove they have stayed at the institution for the whole academic year in order to receive the full grant.

Restrictions

Some subjects do allow this option and others do not, as follows:

Dissertation allowed: Anthropology, Development Studies, International Relations.

Dissertation MAY be allowed: Philosophy, Politics.

Students in the subjects listed above must ensure that the Dissertation is indeed allowed in that subject and that they know who will supervise it well before they embark upon their Year Abroad.

Dissertation NOT allowed: American Studies, Art History, Cultural Studies, Drama Studies, Economics, English, English Language, English Language Teaching (ELT), Film Studies, French, Geography, History, Italian, Linguistics, Media Studies, Music, Sociology, Spanish.

Coursework

Students are registered for the full academic year at a partner institution abroad, taking modules alongside local students, taught in the host language. The number of credits the students are required to take is 30 ECTS or 4 modules in Latin America. They are strongly encouraged to exceed the minimum credits to give them the option of dropping any modules that turn out to be very difficult. Equally, they are strongly encouraged to spread their coursework and the writing of their dissertation over the whole year. N.B. Students following this option may not be allowed to take language classes for credit, and should check with their Language Area Representative before embarking on any such module.

Dissertation

The year abroad dissertation has a word length of 6000 words. Further guidance on writing the dissertation can be found here.

  • Language: The dissertation is written in the target language. Dual language students write their dissertation in their other (second) foreign language, not the language of the country where they are spending their year abroad.
  • Topic: The dissertation topic must be agreed upon and a Supervisor appointed by February of the second year when the Study Plan is handed in (this form must state the general topic and carry the signatures of both Department Representative and Supervisor). The topic normally relates to one of the student’s major subjects in conjunction with an aspect of the year abroad and is chosen by the student in consultation with their Department Representative (see list in the dissertation guidance) LINK and a Supervisor appointed by their Department Representative. The precise title of the dissertation can be settled on once the student is abroad.
  • Supervision: Students researching and preparing year abroad dissertations have a responsibility to make and maintain contact with their appointed Supervisor during their year abroad and to alert the Director of the Year Abroad for Language Students, Brigitte Diplock, if they are having any problems making progress with the exercise.
  • Department Representative: In all of the above – the organisation, management and supervision of the dissertation as an exercise for year abroad assessment - the Department Representative, not the Language Area Representative, has principal responsibility.
  • Dissertation guidelines covering the preparation and writing of the year abroad Dissertation can be consulted here. Students are strongly encouraged to spread the writing of their dissertation over the year.
  • The course code for the Year Abroad Dissertations is EU073. You must submit two copies of your Dissertation to the SCLS School Office – Arts A70. You must also attach both the informal cover sheet and the title registration sheet to your work.

Assessment

The final year abroad mark is composed of two elements: 50% based on the conversion of the host institution coursework marks (see ‘Assessment’ below) and 50% based on the year abroad dissertation, which is double-marked at Sussex. Results will be available in September 2016, at which time feedback will be provided. An average of these two marks goes forward to the student’s overall array for their degree classification.

100% British Council English Language Teaching Assistantship

Restrictions

Not all Departments accept the Language Assistantship as a year abroad assessed activity and students interested in this programme should check with the Academic Advisor for Work Placements and Language Assistantships whether an Assistantship is allowed in their particular case.

The British Council stipulates that applicants must be native level English speakers and must have completed their secondary education plus two years of higher education in the UK. There is also an upper age limit of 30 or 35 depending on the destination.

Students who fail any second year assessments and have to take September re-sits at Sussex will automatically lose their Assistantship place, even if they have already been appointed to a school by the British Council. These students, if successful in their re-sits, will instead follow the 100% coursework study programme described above.

Language Assistantship

The main role of the Language Assistant is to help improve school pupils’ English language skills, particularly listening and speaking, and to present aspects of Anglophone culture to the class. Language Assistants usually work with the main class teacher in the classroom or sometimes on their own with smaller groups. Students who take this year abroad option tend to stress how much confidence they have gained, as well as teaching skills that can be applied to many different types of work, even if the student does not intend to follow a teaching career. Language Assistants are likely to have a very rewarding and unique year abroad in terms of integration into the local community.

British Council The international Language Assistantship scheme exchanges students between countries, giving them the opportunity to work alongside a local teacher in a primary or secondary school, or sometimes an institute of higher education. The scheme is administered in the UK by the British Council, who set the rules and regulations for UK candidates, select candidates for appointments and have the final say on who goes where. Choosing a specific location is therefore not possible. UK universities act as intermediaries in this process, advising their students about the scheme, explaining application procedures and collecting and posting off the application forms on the students’ behalf. Students do not usually deal directly with the British Council, at least until they are interviewed and/or appointed.

  • Length of the Language Assistantship placement: The placements vary in length according to country, generally beginning at the start of September or October and running to the end of April, May or June. Dates for specific countries are given in the British Council brochure, available in the Sussex Abroad office from mid-October onwards.
  • Hours: Language Assistants work around twelve teaching contact hours per week. They are expected to prepare for classes outside these hours, but do not normally mark homework or have other school duties outside the classroom. Where exceptions exist, this will be fully explained to you by the British Council before you accept the post in question.
  • Salary: Language Assistants are paid a fixed salary that is sufficient to cover their living costs. Details are given in the British Council brochure. Assistants in Europe may also be eligible to receive an Erasmus grant (see below).

Assessment

Language Assistants write a 6000-word Pedagogic Report and a 6000-word Dissertation, each worth 50% of their year abroad assessment and supervised and double-marked at Sussex. Results will be available in September, at which time feedback will be provided.

  • Language: Both the Dissertation and the Pedagogic Report are written in the target language. Dual language students must write their Pedagogic Report in the language of the country where they are spending their year abroad, and their dissertation in their other target language.
  • Pedagogic Report: The Pedagogic Report focuses on one or two aspects of the student’s experience as a Language Assistant and develops these ideas into a coherent piece of academic writing. More detail about preparing and writing this report is given in the Pedagogic Report guidelines. Language Assistants also attend a briefing session with the Academic Advisor for Work Placements and Language Assistantships at the Dossier Meeting in May of their second year, or soon afterwards, where academic requirements are explained. Further guidance on writing the pedagogic report can be found here.
  • Pedagogic report supervision:  The Supervisor for all Pedagogic Reports is the Academic Advisor for Work Placements and Language Assistantships, Dr. Andrew Blair. Students have a responsibility to make and maintain contact with their Supervisor during their year abroad.
  • The course code for the Pedagogic Report is EU070. You must submit two copies of your Report to the SCLS School Office – Arts A70. You must also attach both the informal cover sheet and the title registration sheet to your work.

There is also an option for law students:

Study programme for Law students

Coursework. Students must take a minimum of 30 ECTS of coursework at the partner institution, which will count for 50% of the year abroad mark. However, students are strongly encouraged to exceed the minimum credits to give them the option of dropping any modules that turn out to be very difficult. In the same way, if students complete extra modules and bring back more grades and credit than they need, the lowest grades can be removed from the array. At least one of the modules taken should be relevant to the year abroad Law dissertation.

Students are free to choose any law subject available to them but are encouraged to focus on first and second-year law modules. They may also choose 25% of their credit from another law-related discipline and are encouraged to take another 25% in language classes (French, Italian or Spanish as appropriate).

and

Dissertation. Students must also write a 6000-word dissertation in the foreign language. Research for and writing of the dissertation should be carried out over the entire year, making use of resources available at the host institution, including relevant coursework as mentioned above. Further guidance on writing the dissertation for students going abroad in 2017/18 can be found here: Guidelines for the Year Abroad Dissertation 2017/18 [PDF 159.35KB]. The dissertation is worth 40% of the year abroad mark.

and

Reflective statement. As part of the assessment for the year abroad law students are required to write a 1500-word reflective journal in the foreign language.  The objective of the reflective journal is to relate, critically and constructively, the learning experience abroad.

In preparing their reflective journal students are advised to keep a diary of their experiences during the course of the year and to use this when drafting their submission. This diary might typically include entries about the student’s arrival at the host University and destination country, the choice of modules, the teaching and learning style in the host University, the different modes of assessment, relationships with fellow students, cultural experiences, leisure time and thoughts on departure from the host country and the return to Sussex.

The aim is to enable the student to evaluate their experience of living and studying abroad and to compare this experience to living and studying in a UK University.  Students are encouraged to reflect critically and honestly on their experiences and to seek to convey their thoughts about the year abroad in a lucid, well argued and well structured manner and to the best of their linguistic ability.

Additional guidance on writing the reflective journal can be found here. The reflective statement is worth 10% of the year abroad mark.

For all these options, a collated mark is calculated for the year abroad. This mark counts for 20% of your final degree classification.

Applying and deadlines

You begin planning for your year abroad at the start of your second year. In October you're invited to attend a Year Abroad Afternoon where you can meet fourth-year students returning from the various destinations and discuss their programme options with academic staff.

If you want to study abroad at a partner institution you can express three institution preferences, with the outcome announced shortly before the end of the autumn term. Decisions are based on the suitability of the institution to your degree (some of the institutional links are department-specific). We work to give you your first choice where possible.

During the autumn term, we can also help you apply for the Language Assistantship scheme (deadline 19 December each year).

The final outcomes of these applications (destination, school type) are not usually known until April or May. For this reason, we also ask you to apply to a partner university at the same time.

Language assistants

The main role of the Language Assistant is to help improve school pupils' English language skills, particularly listening and speaking, and to present aspects of Anglophone culture to the class. Language Assistants usually work with the main class teacher in the classroom or sometimes on their own with smaller groups. Students who take this year abroad option tend to stress how much confidence they have gained, as well as teaching skills that can be applied to many different types of work, even if the student does not intend to follow a teaching career. Language Assistants are likely to have a very rewarding and unique year abroad in terms of integration into the local community, as opposed to the local student community.

Language assistantships are available in Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Central and South America, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Typically assistants will teach 12 hours a week and are paid a fixed salary.

For further information, please refer to the British Council's information on the scheme.

Support and guidance

Throughout the year abroad you retain your full Sussex student status and are supported by us. Academic staff stay in touch to answer questions about academic work, while the Sussex Abroad staff in the International and Study Abroad Office advise on practical matters such as housing and healthcare abroad.

While abroad you also have access to other Sussex services such as the Student Life Centre. These groups of staff are well acquainted with the different aspects of the student experience of studying abroad and are on-hand by email and phone to give help and advice where needed.

Background

We have been running year abroad programmes for over 40 years. Currently between 20 and 30 students depart annually on a language year abroad, going to Belgium, Chile, France, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Spain, Switzerland or Uruguay to perfect their language skills.

Sussex has student exchange partnerships with over fifty higher education institutions across this range of countries and many of our students spend their year abroad enrolled at one of these institutions, taking courses alongside local students and participating in local student life.

Contact

For more information on the year abroad in Europe or Latin America, contact Sussex Abroad:

International & Study Abroad Office
Hastings Building
Telephone: 01273 678002 
Email: sussexabroad@sussex.ac.uk.