Graduate profile

Marilyn Johnston

"Studying abroad has given me the opportunity to learn in a different education system, a different language and meet new people."


English Literature with Creative Writing BA (Hons)

Graduation year


Study abroad location

Lyon, France

"The best things about my course were the creative writing modules. In particular, I enjoyed the workshops where we were given writing prompts and had to create a piece in a few minutes. I also really liked the workshops where we were asked to bring in writing and we listened to and commented on each other’s work. It was great to get my first real feedback on my writing.

Although I didn’t study languages, it was so exciting to be given this opportunity. I had studied French before so it was perfect to be given the chance to spend an extended period of time in France to see first-hand what it is like to live in a different country and of course practise my French. 

I spent two semesters studying a range of different topics in both French and English for example: French history, English literature, Indian culture and French translation.

Studying abroad has given me the opportunity to learn in a different education system, a different language and meet new people. Because I can study for free, I’ve taken advantage of classes that I haven’t had access to back in the UK, for example history and French civilisation. My spoken and written French is improving by being immersed in French every day. Jean Moulin University offers ‘god-parenting’ (which is a buddy system) and my ‘god-mother’ has become one of my best friends in Lyon. I have met some really nice people here too who have been happy to help with improving my French or are really genuinely interested to chat which is always nice!

Aside from the academic opportunities, Lyon has a lot of experiences on offer. When I first arrived in Lyon, nervous and friendless, I went along to a picnic organised by the ERASMUS association to meet people at Park Tête D’or. It is, in my opinion, one of Lyon’s must visit places. It is spread over 290 acres and there are many things to do there; cycle, sit by the lake or just lie on the grass. However, Park Tête D’or’s best feature is its free zoo! One minute I was strolling in the park and the next I was seeing giraffes, lions, bears, flamingos and hundreds of turtles! As turtles are my favourite animals I realised from the very beginning that I had picked the right city to study in!

I can’t talk about France without mentioning something about food. Lyon is known worldwide for its traditional Lyon Bouchons which are small restaurants offering typical Lyonnais delights. They provide a friendly atmosphere and the décor is themed around Lyon. It is a bit scary reading a menu and not understanding what a quenelle is (reading the English menu won't help either, as it is oh so helpfully just written ‘quenelle’ in air quotation marks), but in the land where snails are a delicacy, you just have to take the risk and pick. I can bear witness to this, and have been surprised with many delicious meals having absolutely no idea what they were.

"Choosing to do a year abroad of study in Lyon has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made."

Lyon lies next to the Fourvière hill, where the famous Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière cathedral watches over the city. It is a great tourist hotspot, not only because the inside of the cathedral is beautiful and colourful, but because of the incredible views over Lyon. I like to go up to Fourvière for an afternoon trip with friends as it’s a nice way to get out of my room and do something outdoors.

My favourite place in Lyon is the Roman theatre which is also on the Fourvière hill. It too has incredible views but I like it because it provides a break from of the hustle and bustle of city life. On a sunny day it is the perfect place to sit with a good book, a good friend, a good picnic or all three!

There are so many opportunities to go visiting, so many different places and events, but my favourite event in Lyon has to be the festival of lights or, La Fete Des Lumières. For three nights Lyon is transformed into a city bursting with luminescent colour. There a dozens of projects across the city designed by various artists. Some are artworks using light, whilst others are projections of lights or mini-films onto buildings. Accompanied by majestic music, no wonder tourists from all over the world descend upon Lyon to view these incredible projects.  

Studying abroad does of course have its difficult moments, but they are rare and if nothing else, make interesting stories to tell afterwards! I for example have encountered a lot of administrative problems at the University and the bank. Although it is frustrating, eventually the queuing and paperwork did end!

Choosing to do a year abroad of study in Lyon has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It boosted my confidence to realise that if I could survive, thrive, make friends and navigate day-to-day life in another country, I could do anything I put my mind to. It gave me a new perspective on a new and appealing area that I could explore career-wise, that is, working in another country. I’ve learnt so much, experienced incredible things and met very nice people; some whom I am sure will be my friends for life. To teach, or to work abroad I think the best thing is to make the most of the experiences on offer in the short time you’re at university. I joined societies and met friends I’d have not met otherwise. I took French, Spanish and Italian with the free Global Graduate Award in Languages and of course I went on the Erasmus exchange. These opportunities enriched my university experience outside of lectures and contributed to my career choices I made and the person I am now.

I’ve spent the last two years since graduation working as an English Teaching Assistant in France. I’ve taught pupils aged 5 to 15. The best part of the job is creating fun lessons and seeing students respond enthusiastically, learning English and wanting to learn more! 

There is the possibility you’ll never again be given the chance to spend several months discovering and exploring a new country, working or studying, meeting friends from all over the world and with free money (the Erasmus grant), so what are you waiting for? Go for it!"

Discover our English literature and creative writing courses, including our BA (Hons) English Literature and Creative Writing.