The last post on this blog was all about my time in France as a language assistant (if you missed it, click here), but since I returned to the UK the focus has shifted onto another aspect of my third year: the Year Abroad Project. The Year Abroad Project, or YAP, is a project completed during and after your third year, and handed in just after you come back to Cambridge. It’s separate to the (optional) fourth year dissertation, but many people use it as an opportunity to develop their independent study skills ahead of (*dramatic music*) final year. And even though I’ve not finished mine yet, I can tell you without a doubt that it’s one of the best parts of my course so far.
But why is it so much fun? Well, firstly you get a great deal of choice in what kind of project you do. It’s not necessary to settle on a title until the end of second year, which gives you six whole terms at Cambridge to find out what interests you. You can also choose whether to do a linguistic inquiry (perfect for those with a linguistics bent); a translation piece (for budding translators); or a dissertation. While I don’t have anything against the first two options, I’d become particularly interested in a specific topic during my first two years: medieval French literature. That option lends itself most readily to a dissertation, so it wasn’t long until I was meeting with a potential supervisor and discussing reading.
Over the past year, I’ve been trying to work as steadily as possible, fitting reading and note-taking around working as a language assistant. Of course, things are starting to come to a head now, with my deadline (late September) fast approaching, but with the work I’ve done over the past eleven months, it should all be perfectly manageable. This is a fairly unique experience for me, since next year there won’t be anything like this amount of time to write 8,000 words, so I’m making sure that I relish every second of it! Then, of course, there’s the experience of writing an extended piece of academic work for the first time, which is also something of a thrill, as it’s a great taster of what a postgraduate degree might be like. (And yes: I’d like to do a postgraduate degree in medieval French. I’m just that cool.)
More to come from me soon – for now, though, the local university library beckons …