Year abroad

Studying abroad is an exciting and highly rewarding, though often challenging experience, and one that will remain with you for the rest of your life.

If I had to pick one highlight of my degree it would definitely have to be my year abroad. A year abroad has its ups and downs -mine certainly did- and it’s for that reason that I think it’s so important. The year abroad presents you with an opportunity to escape your university bubble without actually ever leaving it. I was able to take my language skills to the next level, while also gaining experiences that I’m sure will serve me for the rest of my life." Ishan Sanjay Deshpande (BA French and Spanish)

The experiences and skills developed while abroad further academic and personal development, cultural and social awareness, provide a foundation for further study and enhance career prospects (The GuardianThe Telegraph).

The Year Abroad is an integral, compulsory element of our four-year degree programmes, which enables students to:

•   Learn substantial new academic and, in some cases, professional skills
•   Develop spoken and written language skills to a near-native level of proficiency
•   Gain in-depth knowledge of the culture they are studying
•   Become independent and travel more widely
•   Get ready for an international workplace
•   Make new friends and contacts while learning


Preparations for the Year Abroad begin in Year 2. Students can apply to spend their Year Abroad studying at a partner university, assisting in teaching English in a school abroad via British Council, or organise a work placement for themselves (subject to approval).

Placement Options & Destinations

Study PlacementsBritish Council placementsWork placements

SELCS have student exchange programmes with universities in Europe and with Hispanic, Lusophone and Francophone universities in the Americas.

This most popular option offers several advantages, including: 
•   Being able to take classes not offered at UCL or by your current study programme (subject to availability and approval; all modules must be taught and assessed in target language)
•   Simplified application procedure
•   Help with, or local advice about, accommodation
•   Administrative support tailored for exchange students
  Students are exempt from paying tuition fees at partner universities

Students studying two languages and splitting their Year Abroad between two universities must check and ensure the semester dates of the two institutions do not overlap (including examinations).

Placements are allocated to students based on their preferences as well as their average on all Year 1 modules.

DESTINATIONS (by language):

•   Dutch
-   Belgium (Antwerp)
-   The Netherlands (Amsterdam, Leiden, Utrecht)

•   French
-   France (Bordeaux, Lyon, Montpellier, Paris, Strasbourg)
-   Canada (Montréal)

•   German
-   Austria (Innsbruck, Wien)
-   Germany (Berlin, Freiburg, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Köln)

•   Italian (Bologna, Firenze, Milano, Roma, Siena)

•   Portuguese
-   Portugal (Lisboa, Porto)
-   Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo)

•   Scandinavian languages
-   Denmark (Københavns)
-   Iceland (Reykjavík)
-   Norway (Oslo)
-   Sweden (Göteborgs, Uppsala)

•   Spanish
-   Spain (Barcelona, Córdoba, Granada, Madrid, Salamanca, Valencia)
-   Argentina (Buenos Aires)
-   Chile (Santiago)
-   Mexico (Mexico City)
-   Uruguay (Montevideo)

This option is available mostly to students studying one main language (assistantships are usually year-long, however, some placements can last one semester: in Argentina, Austria and Germany).

With paid placements and light teaching hours, becoming an English Language Assistant in a school abroad is a unique way to experience another country and develop essential transferable skills. The main source of information about this prestigious and internationally recognisable scheme is the British Council's Language Assistants website.

Applicants must be native or native-level speakers of English. Click here for eligibility criteria.

As part of their application to British Council, students should specify which country or regions they would prefer to teach in as well as which age-group. Placements may not match preferences exactly, so it is necessary to be flexible.

•   Assistantships are held either in one school or more than one school in the same vicinity. 
•   Assistants are not expected to undertake any unreasonable duties at school, such as teaching entire classes single-handed. 
•   There may be opportunities also to help with after-school clubs, music, sport, or on school trips (e.g., skiing). 
•   Help and teacher training is provided. 
•   You might be asked to complete a short residential course abroad before you take up your post. 
•   The British Council website has materials on teaching as an assistant. 
•   Employers often regard teaching abroad as valuable work experience.

DESTINATIONS (by language):

•   French (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Senegal)

•   German (Germany, Austria, Switzerland)

•   Italian (Italy)

•   Spanish (Spain, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico)

Depending on a degree programme and a proposed activity, the Year Abroad Tutor may permit a student to take up an independently arranged work placement during their Year Abroad. 

Work placements are usually voluntary internships (i.e., unpaid) or teaching placements in schools abroad (for example, via 'Teach Argentina' scheme).

  • Students must organise work placements themselves.
  • Year 2 students who don't have a confirmed work placement by 30th April, will be promptly allocated to one of the remaining study placements at our partner universities.
  • Placements can begin as early as the end of academic year in Year 2 and must end no later than 31st August in the following year.
  • All placements must be a worthwhile intellectual and professional challenge that will tax students as much as a year of university study might do.
  • Placements have to be risk-assessed to ensure that the workplace is safe and approved by the Year Abroad Tutor before students take up the post.
  • The language of the workplace must be student's target language (not English).
  • The minimum length for work placements is 8 months for students studying one language and 4 months for students studying two languages.
  • Students are not allowed to apply for work placements without authorisation from UCL (i.e., if they are allocated to a partner university, applied to British Council, or after 30th April).
  • UCL cannot intervene in case of problems. It is a contract between you and your employer.

Fees, Funding and Visas

The central UCL Study Abroad Team will advise students on UCL tuition fees, visa requirements and available funding for their Year Abroad. Please refer to UCL's 'Preparing to go abroad' webpage for more information.


The Year Abroad is Pass/Fail only. Although passing the Year Abroad is a programme requirement, it does not contribute towards overall degree classification.

Year Abroad Photo Competition

SELCS students have an opportunity to enter our Year Abroad Photography Competition, submitting photographs from their travels and encounters during the Year Abroad, for the chance to win a prize.

Main Programme Requirements

•   All Year Abroad placement arrangements must be finalised by 30th April in the preceding academic year (Year 2).
•   Students studying one language spend the whole Year Abroad in a country where the language is spoken.
•   Students studying two languages split the Year Abroad between two countries where their target languages are spoken.
•   'One language - one placement' rule: students cannot split their year (if studying one language) or semester (if studying two languages) between two institutions.
•   Students splitting their Year Abroad between two countries must check and ensure the dates of the two placements do not overlap.
•   Students are required to complete the full term of their allocated university placement, language assistantship or work placement.
•   BA Language & Culture and BA Comparative Literature students spend the whole year at a partner university where the main language they are studying is spoken or, if eligible, they may apply for a British Council placement.
•   Scandinavian Studies students spend their Year Abroad at a partner university where their target language is spoken.

Student Stories

Our SELCS Society students run a Year Abroad Podcast where they cover all types of placements (study exchange, work placements, British council). The podcast includes questions on how to find accommodation, how to deal with admin, how has Covid affected the Year Abroad, and general advice to students such as "things I wish I would've known before going on my Year Abroad".