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Year abroad experience wins Adversity Award for final year student

4 April 2016

Emma in Italy on her year abroad

Spending a year abroad is a life changing experience for many modern languages students.

We were therefore thrilled to hear that one of our final year students has recently won an award for writing about her experiences on her year abroad in Italy.

Emma Findlay Wilson who studies Italian and English Literature has won the Adversity Award in the annual competition. The awards are designed to celebrate UK students that have spent time abroad, whether studying, working, or volunteering.

We spoke to Emma to find out more about her great achievement:

Congratulations Emma!  You were recently awarded the Adversity Award in the annual awards, tell us about the awards and how you found out about them?

I found out about the awards via an email from the School of Modern Languages. We got lots of information about competitions during our year abroad and in the months before and after but when I saw the email (about this competition) and read that it required writing and 'good storytelling skills' I was totally on board!

What did you have to do to enter and why did you decide to do so?

Entering was simple - I had to write a short piece about overcoming an obstacle on my year abroad, and include a positive and inspiring message. I wrote about how hard it was for me to leave my home country to live alone while struggling with severe anxiety (I cried on the plane over which was extremely embarrassing for both me and the poor air hostess!) and how I was able to settle into my year abroad and gradually overcome my problems.

Tell us about your time in Varese where you stayed on your year abroad?

Varese is a town in the north of Italy, about an hour from Milan. Because I was working in a school, instead of attending university, I lived on my own in a flat, which was quite lonely. But I loved it - there was a beautiful park nearby, and lots of my friends visited and went round Italy with me! I also enjoyed working with the school pupils. They were all very kind to me and immediately accepted me as a teacher/assistant into their classroom, and I got invited to family meals and to hang out with the teenagers in the park (an honour!). I also learned far more than I was expecting to at the school; I loved listening to Italian classes on Dante and Petrarch, and going through I Promessi Sposi with the GSCE-age group.

The best part about being in Italy was 100% the food. My English half missed cheddar and salt and vinegar crisps, but now I'm back here I miss the delicious Italian meals at the tiny restaurant down the road from me... and I don't even want to think about gelato!

How do you feel about winning the award?

I definitely didn't expect to win! I thought I was just ranting about problems that weren't that much of a big deal to anyone but me. But, I'm actually really glad that I entered because mental health is such a common setback for students, and there's a stigma about it that means it's very difficult to be open and to share your experiences, and even more so to ask for help. Hopefully people who read my story can realise that even if you are really struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health problems, it's still possible to be independent and to enjoy new experiences. I know many other students who have struggled with far greater setbacks than I have, and made it through - I think they're incredibly brave and strong, and it's important to recognise that.

After completing your year abroad, what’s next for you?

I'm midway through my final year, which is pretty stressful, but very interesting. I've accepted an offer for an MA in Creative Writing at Cardiff, and if (cross fingers!) I can get the funding for it, I'll be returning to the university for a year. Creative writing combines my skills in language with my love for writing, so I'm really looking forward to that. And, even more exciting, I'm getting married in August, and returning to Italy for my honeymoon! I can't wait! I'm going to eat as much icecream I possibly can!

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