Category Archives: Accommodation

The whos, whats, wheres, whens and whys…

Here goes a post to cover some of the practicalities of moving abroad to do a placement for a year, from the big things like finding somewhere to live, down to remembering to bring plug adaptors.

Accommodation

Originally the other intern and I had planned to live together, either just the two of us or with other students. For flatshares, we got told some sites to consult: leboncoin, appartager, housinganywhere, and some sites to avoid. In theory it seemed simple enough- we both needed to be in a similar area and had a similar budget in mind, however after many solid days of trailing through these sites we had still found nothing. For me the next logical step was to phone estate agencies in Toulouse and ask directly if they had any properties. This in fact proved very time consuming and everyone I spoke to (in my best very polite French) were unwilling to help. Another friend in Toulouse found this to be the case too- they don’t really cater to students, many only do rentals for a year or longer. The ones who were willing to help wanted enormous deposits- 9000€ for a three-month let, which of course had to be from a French bank account.

Thus, a dilemma was born. Paying for accommodation required a French bank account but acquiring a French bank account required a proof of a French address- I couldn’t get one without the other. (See: banking fiasco).

It seemed the only remaining solution was for us to split up and find separate living arrangements. I then resorted to Airbnb, feeling fresh out of other options. I booked flights to Toulouse, made appointments to visit several promising-looking Airbnb properties and went for a weekend-long property search. I eventually found a studio flat in a really nice area, visited it and booked it on the same day. Of course, another advantage of Airbnb is the security in terms of paying rent and deposits, and the fact that you don’t need a local bank account to pay.

Retrospectively, I can say up to this point all has gone well with the logistics of accommodation and would recommend using Airbnb for year abroad accommodation to anyone. In the three-month period I only hit one problem: the night before I was due to move out (how typical)- my flat was burgled. Other than this one-off, the rest of the stay was fantastic.

One thing I did learn is the importance of viewing the properties beforehand if you can. This does seem strange for Airbnb, but when I explained I would be staying for three months, most people were more than happy to show me round, and those who couldn’t kindly gave me the street address, so I could visit the area. This is not only to ensure the property does actually exist, but to get a feel for the area and to see what your journey to work will be like.

Bank

If you’re lucky enough to be doing a paid placement it is common to find that the receiving business will only pay into a local bank account, or if your placement is unpaid a local bank account is still the best way to avoid hefty conversion fees which can mount up if you use an English bank account overseas. This can be a tricky process.

In most banks it’s necessary to book an appointment in advance and take the following documentation with you:

Identification

Birth certificate

Convention de stage

Attestation d’herbegement (signed statement from your landlord to confirm you live with them)

Copy of your landlord’s identification

Proof that your landlord owns the address

After looking into this process and the previously-mentioned catch-22 situation regarding needing a local address, I opted to open account with Credit Agricole’s English speaking service Britline. All the registration is done online, with just a phone call to discuss what services you need, and you can receive all your documentation and cards etc to an English address before you go. So far I can’t fault the service and have found reassuring to know that if I experience any disasters that I can contact them in English.

Another product which came in handy at the start of my placement before my Britline account was set up was a Caxton card. Essentially the same as any foreign exchange card, you can top up the Caxton using a mobile app and convert into any currency you want. The charges are not bad and in some cases you can even get paid into your Caxton account as well. Another bonus is the super-simple registration process and small amount of documentation needed. The Caxton would be a great solution for anyone travelling, not only for stagiaires.

Insurance

Although your workplace and the university should definitely have you covered by insurance for your time away (of course check this), I decided to take out some insurance which would cover my phone, laptop, camera, debit cards, etc while I was away, as well as covering myself in case of illness, and which would insure me and my belongings for any other travelling in Europe during my year abroad. For this I used Endsleigh, who specialise in student insurance, and their Study Abroad Insurance. The policy I opted for was super cheap but covered everything I needed and thus far has been relatively stress-free, which is more than can be said about some other aspects of the move.

Paperwork

One really useful piece of advice I received was to make scans, photocopies and printouts of everything- especially as I had no access to a printer before starting work. This includes copies and scans of your convention de stage, passport, birth certificate, student card etc. As well as this, a set of passport photos was invaluable- I needed one handy as soon as I landed in Toulouse to buy a travel card and since then have got through another four for various bits and bobs.

Potentially forgotten things

  • Plug adaptors
  • Check if your accommodation includes bedding/ towels

I hope at least some of the above advice has been helpful, even if much of it is the same advice which has been repeated by everyone you mention your placement year to.

As always, get in touch if I can be of any help, and I’d love to hear other people’s experiences.

A la prochaine,

J

How I got my Placement | What my Placement is.

As promised, I’m going to tell you all about my Placement and how I got it.

During the summer holidays of summer 2014, I had already started thinking about placement and what exactly I wanted to do. I’ve been wanting to be a teacher for a very long time and with the help of working at KUMON for three years, I was able to comfortably decide on which field I wanted to get myself involved in – teaching. Originally, I had the idea of teaching in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is basically my second home – where my parents were born. I love the country. I spent a few weeks emailing International schools in HK asking whether they would take on an intern for one year. To my disappointment, all responses were negative. Nowhere in Hong Kong were looking for/taking on Undergraduates with no real qualifications… Which is fair enough. It was definitely worth asking! Even if I did get a ‘no’ from everyone. I then decided to stop looking as it was during our summer vacation so I didn’t really want to stress myself out before second year of University had even started!

Second year had started and that was when the real search began. I turned to Aston Futures. I’m sure you are very familiar with Aston Futures by now…and if you’re not, what are you waiting for? Get yourself in there with the website! I actually began looking for teaching internships in Asia… There were many on offer in China, Vietnam, but they weren’t quite what I was looking for! So after a while, I gave up                  …on looking for teaching placements in HK.

My next option would be to do my year abroad somewhere in Europe and to my luck, there were several teaching opportunities in Spain – I guess you could say I was spoilt for choice! So in November 2014, I applied for a TA – teaching assistant role at a Spanish International School called SEK El Castillo, Madrid. I was nervous to apply because it was my first placement application but with the ever so useful help from the Blackboard resources, I was able to update my pretty non-existent CV and write up a well-written cover letter. A few days later of applying to this placement, I received an email offering an interview! I was quite surprised at how quickly the process was going – of course, I didn’t know what to expect, being my first application.

The Interview
My interview was held via Skype and was not as formal as I thought it would be. I had prepared by researching the institution and practiced speaking with a confidence attitude. Again, I used Blackboard to help me with what I should expect during the interview.
The questions asked weren’t as ‘serious’ as they could have been. I’ve heard about job interviews and the random questions they ask you to catch you out but my interview was more of a ‘get to know you better’ one. My employer asked several questions from my first year grades to what I want to do in the future to do you like to clean. (Quite a selection, eh?)
I think my interview went fairly well and I was even told that I was ‘beautifully spoken’!
I was told that I’d get told whether I’d been shortlisted in a couple of months so it was a pure waiting game from then on.

On January 23rd 2015, I was offered the role. I received an email of congratulations in the afternoon and I was ecstatic! I didn’t stop applying for other placements after this one – I think I applied for 4 or 5 in total so it felt amazing to be offered the job by the first application!

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 14.59.47

What is my placement? 
My job role is an English Teaching Assistant at a Spanish International School called SEK El Castillo, Madrid. I live next to the school in University halls with full board – this means, I have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the school canteen.

I assist two classes of 20 students (40 in total) and I work with Primary 1 (kids aged 5-7). Some of my responsibilities are;

  • marking work
  • checking their diaries
  • playground and lunch duty
  • preparing classroom materials
  • creating presentations for the school blog
  • taking/picking them up from swimming

I actually don’t speak much Spanish myself but I’ve found that I’ve picked up some words and phrases during my first 4 months here in Spain, so I feel like I can understand a little more than I did before. It also helps that the majority of my students can speak English, despite being so young.

Sometimes I teach the classes alone when the teachers are off sick or busy with some other job – this is a great opportunity for me to gain some teaching experience! After all, I’m just an assistant. But saying that, my teacher treats me like another teacher and my students give me full respect of that role.

Working with young children is rewarding and fun…they always know how to make you smile and your relationship with the students grow ever so quickly. I feel like I’ve grown closer to all of them so much and I know that they appreciate my presence (they tell me off when I am not there haha).

If you’re someone who enjoys working with children and being creative, then teaching could be the role for you. You’re not restricted to one role… you play a big part within the classroom and you’re always occupied.

Feel free to comment with any questions!

– Tiffany

My Class

My Class11903460_10155996912050424_56454141_n      11992207_10156015283560424_1514607772_n (1)

11949589_10155996912020424_1884508556_n

 

Germany: Looking for accommodation

Okay so you’ve done the most challenging/rewarding part and secured yourself a work/study placement in GERMANY….

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYY!!!

giphy

So now you’re like okay.. “Where am I going to live…………”

Confused-Cat-Meme-2

Don’t worry chilee, I’m here to help you!

In regards to accommodation, 1 bed student en-suite rooms/apartments aren’t too popular in Germany like they are in the UK (Unite, Canalside etc) and they are really expensive like the link I share with you below:

1-bed Apartments – Smartments:

SMM-WEB“Smartments” offers one bed apartments: http://www.smartments-student.de/smartments-standort-hamburg.html. The rent and deposit is a bit pricey, but hey if you got the money go for it!

They have apartments around Germany!

WG – Wohngemeinschaft

wg-gesucht-logo

So usually students/interns look for WG’s. WG is the German abbreviation for Wohngemeinschaft which means “shared flat” in English(flat share between maybe 2-5 people) and it ranges from 300 euros and above.

Here is the website I used to find my flat share: http://www.wg-gesucht.de/  I chose Hamburg for the city and WG-Zimmer (Room in a shared flat).

Other WG links I used:

http://www.homecompany.de/en/index

http://www.medici-living.com/

http://www.studenten-wg.de/

http://www.easywg.de/

https://www.wg-suche.de/

http://www.christophorus-haus-ev.de/ (Just in Hamburg)

There are loaddddss more, these are just the ones I have experience using!

 

Student accommodation provider:

Studierendenwerk_Hamburg_logo.svg

http://www.studierendenwerk-hamburg.de/studierendenwerk/en/wohnen/aktuelle_infos/

I believe you have to be a student in one of the universities in Hamburg to get a long term accommodation. However they do offer short term rentals to students/trainees doing internships for 6 months of less. These rooms go SO SO FAST so its best to apply early!

 

Different cities will also have a student accommodation provider so you could change Hamburg to the city your in i.e “Studierendenwerk Berlin/Cologne etc etc.”

Google search:

If you search “WG Hamburg/Berlin/Stuggart/Cologne/Munich etc etc” “Studenten Wohnheim” then you should also get other search engines too.

QUICK TIP!!!!!

DO NOT not to send any personal details (Card details & Passport) because there are a few “frauds” on these websites.

 

Please feel free to message me if you have any other questions or help searching!

Peace and love x