Does the course I want to take have a Year Abroad?
The courses in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Chinese and Japanese each have a compulsory Year Abroad in the country or region being studied. This takes place in the second year, after students have passed the first year exams (First Public Examination, or ‘Prelims’). These degree courses are therefore all four years.
In the case of Hebrew, a year in Israel is optional, so that there is the choice of a three or four year course, though students on the shorter course are encouraged to spend one or two summers on a language course in Israel.
Students taking the EMEL course (i.e. a European language along with a Middle Eastern language) generally spend their second year in a Middle Eastern country, and the previous and/or following summer in a European country. However, there are various ways of covering both languages, such as taking university classes in Hebrew while studying in Germany.
Where do I go to?
The students currently spend their year abroad in the following universities/institutes:
Arabic – Qasid Institute, Jordan
Chinese – Peking University, Beijing, China
Hebrew Studies (four year option) – Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. There are also possibilities for study in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beer Sheva.
Japanese – Kobe University, Kobe, Japan
Persian – Tehran University, International Centre for Persian Studies (ICPS). Due to visa restrictions, some students are unable to travel to Iran, in which case, separate individual arrangements are made.
Turkish – One term on an intensive language course at a Dilmer Institute, usually in Istanbul. This is followed by a term at Bosphorus (Bogazici) University in Istanbul.
The Faculty reserves the right to make alternative arrangements with other institutions. For some of the smaller courses such as Hebrew, Persian and Turkish, it may be possible for students to make their own arrangements to attend an alternative institution, but all courses require prior approval by the Faculty.
For students on the European and Middle Eastern Languages degree, the Year Abroad will generally be spent in a Middle Eastern country, and the previous and/or following summer in a European country. But because of the large number of combinations possible for this degree, arrangements tend to be more flexible. However, students usually spend most of their Year Abroad focussing on the Middle Eastern Language.
What is the point of a Year Abroad?
This is not a gap year! The Year Abroad is an integral part of the degree course, and provides the opportunity to be immersed in the language and culture being studied. The courses are academic and intensive, with the aim that students should become as fluent as possible in the modern language in order to prepare them for deeper study of the subject when they return to Oxford for their third and fourth years. Depending on the subject, the Year Abroad course may include the study of the classical language and/or a regional dialect, and general culture and history. Most courses require students to take a test (known as collections) on their return from the year abroad.
Do I have to make my own arrangements to find a course?
The larger subject groups (Arabic, Chinese and Japanese) identify the most appropriate institutions abroad and make arrangements for students to study there. In the case of smaller subject groups (Persian, Turkish and Hebrew), lecturers and language instructors will advise on approved courses. In any case, for each language there is a designated member of the teaching staff who acts as Year Abroad Coordinator.
How do I know whether the language course is a good one?
All the courses are approved by the Faculty. The Year Abroad Coordinator, is responsible for communication with the institutions concerned, and regularly checks the level, content and delivery of classes abroad while the students are there.
How safe is it to go and live in these countries?
Student safety is very important to the University. We monitor the political and social situation very carefully, and do not send undergraduates to places where they will be exposed to unacceptable risk. Briefing sessions by the teaching staff, and in some cases, the returned students and external experts, are held in the term before the Year Abroad. These include coverage of the cultural norms and laws of the host country, aimed at helping the students to stay safe. Students are also required to fill in a risk assessment form which is approved by the Faculty and the Year Abroad Coordinator. Students on the Year Abroad are covered by the University travel insurance scheme. The Year Abroad Coordinator, or another member of staff, will usually make at least one pastoral visit to the students during their Year Abroad, and stays in regular contact with them. In the event of any concern about student safety arising during the course of the Year Abroad, the Year Abroad Coordinator communicates with the students directly in order to advise them and assist them with any necessary arrangements to ensure their safety.
Do I require medical insurance?
Students are covered by the University’s travel insurance during their Year Abroad. This covers emergency medical care if a student falls ill while abroad. If a student has an existing medical condition, they are advised to consult their GP for advice and maybe required to take additional medical cover. The University's travel insurance is strictly for university business only, in this case for the purpose of study at the host institution. For other purposes, for example travelling during the holidays or weekends, students are advised to take out additional personal travel insurance. Students going to Japan are covered by the Japanese national health insurance.
Do I have to pay for tuition abroad?
During the Year Abroad fees are still payable to the University, but these are levied at a lower level than the fee charged when students are studying in Oxford. See the main University Fees and Funding website. Overseas and Islands students also have to pay 50% of the college fees. Home/EU students do not pay college fees.
The Oriental Institute covers the cost of language tuition abroad, but not living costs and flights. Students who are eligible for government maintenance support will also be assessed for an Oxford Bursary during their year abroad.
Some bursaries and scholarships are currently available for students of Chinese and Japanese, and a number of colleges have funds to support their students’ period of study abroad.
How do I find a place to live on my Year Abroad?
In some cases there will be accommodation available at the institution. In others, it is possible to room with local families or to rent a shared student house. Year Abroad Coordinators will be able to advise, and returning students from the year above may also have useful current information to pass on.