Category Archives: France

All good things come to an end

So apologies for being out of the loop these last few months, my work has taken over and with a busy social schedule, so I haven’t really had the chance to write. I’ve kept my placement blogging to short and sweet top tip posts as I know there are always questions you want to ask from those who have been abroad and it’s great to see so many of the other bloggers sharing so many pics and memories so I thought I’d stick to a good ol’ theme.

Placement year has been amazing, it cannot be denied. It’s hard work, of course! But it also offers the chance to easily (for how much longer I don’t know) travel across the globe or at least central Europe to visit friends doing their placements too. With all this travelling, work, social life and even a little time for yourself if you can spare it, you need to be thinking ahead when it comes to things with deadlines and by this I mean your placement essay.

With all this travelling, work, social life and even a little time for yourself if you can spare it, you need to be thinking ahead when it comes to things with deadlines and by this I mean your placement essay.

Here are my top 5 tips for getting ahead and on a roll stress-free:

1) Plan early, if you’re thinking about doing interviews, questionnaires or anything that requires data collection, validation and formatting etc why not start early. It only has to start with a casual mention to your manager over lunch or coffee or a quick email to see if it’s possible and if it’s not then it’s no stress, you’ve got time to change tack! I know it sounds like every piece of advice you’ve ever heard, but remember there isn’t the possibility on a work placement to stay up until 4am (if you’re that type) to finish your report or nip into uni to catch your lecturer and you’ll often need permission and managers have a lot more on their plate than just your report, so don’t expect them to jump when you click your fingers at the last minute.

Think: Website has broken down vs. my intern needs my signature 2 days before their deadline – I think we all know what’s on top.

2) Figure when you like to work best and work around it, if you’re a daytime person you’ll only have your lunch break and weekends and if you’re night time person you’ll only have dinner time and the later evening alongside any social commitments and work do’s. This is much less time than you’d have at uni so your report will take longer overall if you spread it out realistically. You know how fast you write so just make sure this is planned for.

3) Find somewhere away from your room, I know in Paris the apartments are often super small and this was the case for me. Not only this, but it was my place to crash and relax after work so the last thing on my mind was doing a report! Centre Pompidou has a library open until 10pm so whatever time you finish work this should adapt to your needs. There are also other libraries in Paris, but most shut on random days of the week or much earlier – i.e. latest 7pm.

4) Do a final check of the dates and requirements in advance: does your report have to be posted? When is it due in? – Don’t do what I did and assume it was May 31st only to find out it was, in fact, the 13th May and that you’d flipped the numbers around – luckily I checked weeks in advice, but it’s a simple step to save a load of stress and panic.

5) Relax once you’ve submitted – book up your holidays and enjoy those final moments of time before you’re in final year – it really doesn’t last forever!

All the best for your placements year and journeys!

Here’s a few from my recent events, birthdays, Bastille day, Switzerland and more!

A la prochaine, Jessica

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The end of an era: a year abroad in pictures

As the academic year draws to a close and I find myself with my feet placed well and truly back on British soil, it’s hard to believe that I’ve just spent a whole year abroad, on my own, and survived – who’d have thought?!

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survived!

So this blog post is going to be my final one for Aston’s Placement blog (cry cry), and I thought it’d be rather fitting to do it in pictures, rather than ramblings. Pictures are always more interesting!

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But firstly, I must highlight something quite important. If you’re thinking of undertaking a Year Abroad, there’s one rule I followed. I first set off on my year abroad over a year ago, not having the slightest inkling of what awaited me: lions? the jungle? Goodness knows! But I was only going to France and Spain! Having never lived in a foreign country before, I didn’t have a clue about how to feel. So I shut off the “feeling” part and just got on with it. I did this for the whole year and it worked. This is quite possibly the best advice I can offer. I’ve learnt not to overthink things as it’s not worth the time nor energy, this did wonders for my panic issues. Your family and friends will support you no matter what. Smile, make the most of the opportunity and get on with it – no looking back. Not everyone gets to do what you do, so please, for your own sake, make the most!

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I am honestly so thankful to Air France, because, without them, I wouldn’t have got to experience and live in the most beautiful city in France. I miss working for them, they were honestly some of the kindest and friendliest faces and I’ve learnt so much from spending 6 months with them. They did so much for me and I honestly can’t thank them enough. They taught me discipline and focus, and how to make my work exciting. My love for Toulouse is beyond words. Of course, there are ups and downs to every experience, but I feel blessed to have been able to live there.

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Toulouse is such a beautiful place and I loved living there. It’s a small city with a massive heart and it felt like home. Aside from my horrendous landlady, I had the best time there, and lived a carefree life (outside of work of course 😉 ).

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I got to take quite a few trips from there too because of its fabulous geographical location.

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Toulouse and Valencia, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Be positive, be happy!

Amy

Workplace etiquette

Since I last posted, I’ve settled into my new Paris job, but some of my colleagues have really surprised me with office behaviour which consequently inspired this post. So here are my key tips to staying professional and not showing that you’re a young inexperienced intern – it really is important if you want to pull off that you really know what you’re doing.

A) Do not speak or mention colleagues on work interfaces unless it is discussing work tasks or projects in a professional sense. This is just a big no no and I cannot believe people actually do this in the work place – it is worth remembering when working online that everything is trackable, therefore if you were to ever be pulled up for something else and it was found you were bad-mouthing a colleague or your manager, well you can guess what could happen.

B) Don’t moan about staying late or taking on extra tasks. Take them as a positive as you’re going to learn something from doing them and whoever gave them to you, should appreciate the fact you spent the time on them. Hours are important, but if you have do a little extra if and when needed over a 6 month internship (providing its not excessive) it can really show you in a good light.

C) Learn to frame suggestions in a good way when you want to oppose an idea. Don’t just huff and disagree. I’m a firm believer of – if you have something to moan about – suggest an alternative. It doesn’t sound great does it “I think that is an awful idea!” “Why? What would you suggest?” “Don’t know”.

D) Turn your phone on silent and place it face down whilst working with a colleague or during the working day unless you’re expecting an important call. There is nothing worse than going to speak to a colleague about work and then just as you’ve started they’re on their phone chatting to friend or replying to their mum while you’re waiting to continue with work.

E) Leave laptops and phones at your desks unless they are on silent or only used to take notes in the meeting. There is nothing more rude than someone tapping away, or their phone ringing whilst someone else is giving a presentation and all it shows is that you’re not really listening at all. If everyone else can wait to reply to messages during the meeting including the CEO, then you can too.

F) Half-hearted just doesn’t really cut it. How can you not see that saying “Nah I can’t be bothered with that”, “rgh this doesn’t work I’m going to leave it” “It’s not very good, but I’ve just done what I was asked to do” is a bad attitude to work. Just giving 100% which is what you should be doing shows up a mile away and makes you stand out.

If you can get these things straight (if you haven’t already) before a getting a full time job after uni you’ll progress quicker and open up more opportunities for yourself. I’ve heard time and time again, people wanting a really good career, but 5 minutes later they’re back at their desk moaning about a simple task or just simply complaining – if you’re going to work your way up its only going to get harder, so making it a piece of cake now will get you ready for that big move.

P.s. don’t forget to have fun and laugh with your colleagues too – this is just as important.

A la prochaine.

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Bonjour à tous!

If you’re interested in visiting or maybe even taking a placement in France, I’d recommend one city, and one city only: Toulouse.

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I lived in La Ville Rose for my first semester of my Year Abroad, where I undertook a Work Placement with Air France as an English Tutor. It was the most rewarding, challenging and enjoyable six months, and I’m dying to tell people about this small, beautiful and quirky city in Southern France.

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I first arrived in Toulouse at the beginning of July. My Dad drove all the way from my hometown (near Portsmouth) to Toulouse in one day. It was a journey that I thought would never end, firstly because it’s a 9 hour drive from Caen, Normandy to Toulouse; and secondly because I was so nervous to finally arrive, part of me wanted to stay in the car. But at the height of summer, the further south we drove, the hotter it became. When we finally arrived in Toulouse, the temperature was 36·c, and I really did want to get out of the car.

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The first thing that I noticed in Toulouse was pink. Everywhere. There’s a reason that the French refer to this as The Pink City: The architecture is superb and something exclusive to the Toulouse region. For the whole six months I was in Toulouse, I never stopped marveling at how beautiful the buildings all over the city were.

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The city is very well organised, with such friendly people (this is where Toulouse wins hands down against Paris). It has 2 metro lines, a tram and bus; and if you’re a student, you get to use unlimited transport for just 10€ a month! Even better: If you’re on a work placement with a big company, they pay for 50% of your transport… This made my fee just 5€!

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What’s more, I got to spend my summer discovering the south of France and even parts of Spain, seeing as Barcelona is only a 3 hour car journey away, it’d be rude not to hop down to sunny Spain! During my time in Toulouse, I managed to visit: Lourdes, Carcassonne, Agen, Albi, Montpellier, Béziers, Sitges, Barcelona, Madrid, Salamanca and Sevilla.

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My work placement with Air France taught me so many things. I absolutely cannot recommend this placement enough. The staff in Toulouse are an absolute delight. After a week, I felt right at home. Not only were they welcoming, but they were so enthusiastic to learn what I had to teach them about the English language, no matter their level of English.

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It taught me to be creative and really have fun with my work, because I knew how much it was appreciated by my students. Thanks to my placement there, I have become a lot more patient, organised and prepared. I was so happy to have a job that I looked forward to going to every day.

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I was the only Aston student out in Toulouse this year, which had both its advantages and disadvantages. I study French and Spanish, so my only objective was to improve my French, which is always easier when you’re not surrounded by English speakers. I also got to keep this little slice of French heaven to myself and it meant that I really had to throw myself in at the deep end. I was on a work placement, thus making it really difficult to meet other people my age. But I got there, after numerous tandems and erasmus events, I met people and made friends.

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One thing that I regret about Toulouse is my living arrangements. I feel this is too important to leave out of my Toulouse experience, and I’d say to anyone to meet the people you live with before moving in. My flat was in a beautiful quarter of Toulouse, in the centre. However, the devil does exist; it wears orange leggings and was my landlady who lived with me. I’m not joking when I say that I was chased out of my own house, shouted at, and generally been taken for a complete and utter idiot. “The nightmare” stole my keys, didn’t care if I couldn’t get in at night, asked me to clean a toilet with my bare hands, and even went as far as washing my baguette. So please, if a lady called Martine offers you residence in Toulouse, say NO. But she has equipped me with enough storytelling for a lifetime, I’ll thank her for that!

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But as far as Toulouse goes, it’s an incredible city, there’s always something happening: from quirky little markets to gatherings at Capitole. This is my favourite French city for a reason. It has the buzz of any big city, yet a local, familiar atmosphere, which is what made it feel like a second home to me.

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Even though I haven’t been back to Toulouse since December, I still feel like I’m going back tomorrow. It felt so much like home. I seemed to know this foreign, French city 100 times better than my university city of Birmingham… That really does say something about how welcoming TLS is.

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Thanks to my time in the most beautiful city in France, my French speaking has dramatically improved, I’ve made some friends for life, and I discovered a truly French atmosphere.

Toulouse, it’s been a pleasure.

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À bientôt,

Amy Hares

 

Nailing the French Culture

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Stand by some Dior branding and they’ll always think you’re French… or even Parisienne!

Sorry, I’m back again to give some more of the French low downs. So, I thought seeing as it is such a crucial part of moving to any country you might want to know a little bit about the real Parisien culture.

So let’s break it down.

1) Be sure to get some coffee down you at least 15 times per day – I know the British Tea culture is pretty big, but by god it is nothing compared to the French coffee culture. It is not frowned upon to leave your desk for twenty minutes at a time to take a coffee with some chums or colleges, so capitalise on the petite pauses to give your eyes a screen break – even if you’re only a water-drinking freak like myself. Plus its great for practising some French.

2) People running down the métro stations to catch a métro that they don’t even know exists, and sprinting into half-closing doors and getting stuck is completely normal and they won’t even be embarrassed. Sure its fun to try get the train before the buzzer goes, but with my stiff upper English lip I’m not prepared to get stuck in-between the doors when the next one is only ever 3 minutes away.

3) The next culture tip is one that I have come to love. Saying ‘Bonjour’ and shaking/kissing the cheeks of everyone in your office is normal (I mean every morning to each person. I have a team of 30 to kiss or shake hands with). It sounds like a massive effort, but it is a brilliant way to get to know everybody, get some exercise and pass a few minutes before you’ve even set up your work space. Trust me, they also talk about who does and doesn’t do it and asses how rude it is over lunch so it’s worth the effort.

4) Swearing in French chat or to yourself is perfectly acceptable. This doesn’t mean you should follow suit though, I just don’t want you to be surprised. The amount of ‘M’ and ‘P’ words I have heard thrown around the office in casual conversation or when someone is muttering to themselves is quite profound. I mean in the UK if I sat at my desk at said the ‘S’ and ‘F’ word every five minutes people would both look and consider if I had turrets.

5) Casual dress – luckily you can take this as you please, it can be literally t-shirt and jeans right up to smart casual for women. There is truly no pressure to dress up. It is, it seems, more common for men to wear suits in the big offices – sorry boys, no jeans for you unless it is dress-down Friday and even then a shirt, jeans and jacket works best.

6) Smoking is bigger than in the UK, but nowhere near what is was just a few years ago, so you shouldn’t feel any pressure to smoke. If you’re worried you’re missing out on socialising and can bear the smoke fumes, go outside with colleges on their smoking breaks and absorb the chat as well as some lovely odours whilst your at it. Just as an example, in my team of 30, 3/4 people smoke.

7) Literally no ‘cares’ are given in most situations. This is doesn’t count for everyone, but it is more common to look and walk on here, so don’t be shocked if you fell over and no one ran to your rescue. This is however different when it comes to striking – there has been at least one a month since I came in August and they can be pretty rowdy.

8) The French love you to use their language rather than English, but don’t be surprised even so if they laugh, correct or tell you they have no idea what your on about – they do, but you either haven’t used the right colloquialism or specific word that only a French person would know. We are far more relaxed with foreigners making mistakes with their English whilst they learn. You just have to let it go in and try and remember for next time, whilst not correcting their English too much – they don’t like that either!

9) Say bonjour to people you don’t know in the toilets – its the done thing and you don’t want to stand out. You can also add a Bonne journée when you leave too, even it is a complete stranger you have never seen before. I mean imagine if in the UK you said Hello to stranger in the toilets and told them to have a nice day, they will either appreciate your kind words, know that you’re French, or think you’re a complete nutter.

10) Figure out several routes to get to work and back! The transport won’t always tell you why a service is delayed or the specific details of where it stops etc, it’s not to say you have no idea, but it’s best to be prepared as we know how much they love a good old strike over here in la belle France.

That should help you get by for now I think.

Have fun with your adventures.

A la prochaine,

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