Category Archives: Placements Abroad

Blog series (5): 6 months in …. The halfway line

Disclaimer: This post is an edited version of my previous post (6 months in) I am now way past the halfway line!

It seems like only yesterday I was on Aston Futures searching for a placement, yet here I am almost 6 months into my Placement Year, half the year done! Already I have begun preparing myself for my assignment and believe you me, it’s not as easy as you think it would be. When going on a placement at times you can feel disconnected from the university. Regardless of working in my place of study, for the longest time I have felt disconnected. This is not a bad thing, this is just a part of me growing up and working hard. It may come to a time where you feel as though, your placement has somewhat matured you, for me, this is exciting as I feel I have finally developed the mindset I need to delve into my final year.

6 months into my placement and I have established a range of skills, I never thought I could develop until after graduation, I have built up my confidence and self-esteem considerably and I have now learnt to trust myself more than any other person in this world, in the world of work, you are relied upon and in order to really succeed, you must also rely on yourself first and foremost to get the job done.

As the New Year approaches, I can truly say that my placement has made me proud of who I have become and the best part is that I still have 6 months to go. During this time, I have taken part in a range of networking events where I have had the opportunity to liaise with other employers and colleagues, I have contributed to several important meetings and will soon have the chance to chair a meeting of my own. I have also contributed to a few ‘employer away days’ where the team gets together to discuss progress, issues and future campaigns. This by far has been one of the most engaging factors for me, as during this period you are required to think critically about all that has been achieved in the past and how this can be improved in the short/long term. During this period of time you are required to analyse and communicate effectively with other members of the team, it is during this point you come to realise that in order to provide a seamless service, it is essential the team takes time away from the office to brainstorm and discuss a range of innovative ideas to
bring about great change.

Not only have I learnt a range of new things I have also met some great people and made a tonne of new memories with some new friends. Working in an environment where you are joined by other placement students not only provides you with the moral support you may need, but it just makes the placement all the more fun and interesting. As we all study at Aston I have made friends on my course who I never knew of before and the best part is that we can all help each other with our assignments! The past 6 months have been a treat and I cannot wait to come back in the New Year to see what it may bring.

Remember, don’t be afraid of success, now is the time to push yourselves, now is the time to really do great things – The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

Stay tuned to read about coming to the end of my placement journey next Monday.

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

Blog Series (4): The first day

 

Disclaimer: Take this with a pinch of salt, your day could be a little or very different! 

I got the ‘Yes’ in May and started in July which was still a little time away, I was nervous, to say the least. I got on the train and made my way to Aston, when working as staff the environment completely changes, you are no longer that student who gets late for their lectures, or who walks into the Main Building only to walk back out, you are staff and as staff you are required to be there on time, well dressed and ready for the day.

It is likely that your manager will greet you when you come in and help you get settled at your desk, you will then be taken around the department and be introduced to your colleagues, don’t worry if you forget names,  soon all will be familiar, after all the handshakes and formal introductions you will be taken back to your desk.

At this point, things get real, real quick! You’ll be given a timeline of plans and comms that the team have been working on, what you need to work on and what your targets will be. You will be given a handover, for instance, I will create a handover document for the next placement student so they know how I did things, what they need to do and just to give them that bit of advice from placement students to placement student and then you will be given a fairly easy task to help you get familiar with the role.

Oh, and of course you will be given your log-ins, an email account, a staff card and just to warn you, they do not give you a chance to smile coherently for the picture, so be sure to have your ‘I’m ready for a picture’ face on at all times and you will also need to create a message for your voicemail … mines is dreaded, thank god no one really calls me!

The first day was great I did not feel too overwhelmed, as I was eased into the role, at least for a good month! They really do give you the time to settle, you are also given a ‘buddy’ which is another colleague in the department who you can talk to if you do not feel ready to approach matters with your manager or do not know how to.

The first day now seems like a blur, I do remember feeling lonely, however, as I had not befriended any colleagues at this point and my friends had not moved back to university, it was a lonely time at the start as other placement students had not yet started either. However, in due to time I have met the best placement students, staff and made some great friends, make sure to integrate with your team and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your placement colleagues.   

Your first day will be great, it will be normal to feel nervous, but just remember like with anything you’ll adjust and feel at home before you know it!

Stay tuned to read about my journey 6 months in this Thursday

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

 

Towards The End of Placement

Almost a year on, and Placement is coming to an end… 🙁

I can definitively say it has been one of the best years of my life, and has really been a highlight of University so far. And to think I was questioning what the fuss about a Placement Year was all about!!!

Doing a Placement abroad can be very costly, depending on where you complete yours, but also on whether you’re working, or studying. However, it can also be relatively cheap, if you’re careful with your spending. I would not want any student, who has their heart set on doing a placement abroad, to be put off by the financial aspect that is involved. There are many forms of financial support available to students, primarily Student Finance, but also scholarships, and help from Aston. See what you are eligible for, and apply! These services are in place to help you, so utilise them. If ever in doubt about anything, just make an appointment to see the Careers + Placement Team, and air any concerns, or queries that you may have. They are very helpful, and will ensure that you are supported as much as possible.

As you start your Placement journey, do not forget to stay in touch will your friends from Aston, as you, or they, may be feeling a little homesick, and might want to speak to a familiar face. No one’s Placement goes smoothly for the whole year, but if yours is going well at the start, just remember that your friend’s might not be going as well, especially if they are working, as this could prove to be more difficult – physically, and mentally – than studying. So, just keep some sort of regular contact, so that you can exchange stories, and experiences of what has gone on so far.

Of course, they might not need any support, as their Placement could be going great. In fact, some of my friends are staying abroad for another month, or two, even after there Placement has ended, as they have enjoyed it so much.

loving madrid thus far!

Keep in touch with your family, so that they know that you are enjoying the experience of a Placement, but also to put their nerves at ease. Moving out, or living abroad can be stressful for you, but also for your family members, as they will be worrying about you non-stop. Whenever you get the opportunity, just allay their fears, so that they know that they do not have to worry about you so much. Although, if you are not enjoying any aspect of staying away from home, or living abroad, then let your family know, as there is always a solution.

Whilst on Placement, ensure that you keep on top of all your paperwork e.g. Erasmus forms, as problems with those documents will only add more headaches to your already hectic life! If ever unsure, just drop the Aston team an email. Personally, with my Placement coming to an end, I have reflected on the past year, and am so happy that I took this route. I know it will not be for everyone, but if you believe you could see yourself studying abroad, in an international environment, meeting people from all over the world, who will become lifelong friends, then do your research, and if you’re still interested – APPLY!!!

see you soon!

Till next time!

Blog Series (2): The interview

Now I am going to assume that you are in fact applying for my current role as a Marketing Assistant for Aston University (Careers+Placements department) so that I can talk to you in perspective. When applying for a role in Marketing, I decided to bring together my knowledge from various aspects of my life, yes I am an undergraduate and yes as an LSS student studying English and Social Policy I do in fact, hold the skills and qualities needed to be a Marketing Assistant, but is that all I have to offer? That’s the question, what more is there to you, other than your degree? Whilst important it is surely not the only thing that interests you. Think about things you do outside of the university, think about something that may have caught your eye, it could have been a campaign put together by Nike and did that persuade you to buy something? Or did Pepsi’s recently commercial spark an emotion within you? Marketing is around you and it always will be, so why not talk about how you perceive campaigns, or how you would have changed something about a particular campaign … think outside the box!

However, don’t point out the blatantly obvious ‘I study marketing and so that is why I will be good at it’ studying and working are practically two different things, are you familiar with Photoshop, Hootsuite, Survey Monkey, recording stats, excel, WordPress? Do you use social media? Do you blog? Do you vlog? When talking about modules don’t talk about the name of the module ‘oh I did a marketing module’ … that means nothing to an employer not even one at Aston, instead talk about what you perhaps learnt and how you can use that and apply it to real life work, talk about the skills you’ve learnt just studying at Aston, surely your writing would be adept, you would be a fairly good proofreader, you would have a knack for creativity, use that to your advantage.

Don’t be shy to showcase your talent! Can you draw? Bring in a portfolio! It’s all about bringing to light your key skills and talents and I bet, you have much more skills than you know. This is your time to shine, the person who is interviewing you is likely to be your manager … I was interviewed by my ‘potential’ manager and colleague, I used the interview to get to know them as they used it to get to know me!  

Now, the interview came after a group task (yes with other people who were applying for my role and various roles within the department) and an excel task. I was nervous to meet the people who would be deciding the fate of placement year, like most people my hands began to get clammy, I began to second guess myself and my heart started racing when I heard the words ‘Zahra it’s time for your interview’ but don’t quote me, my memory may have distorted the lines of the exact words used, but you get the jist. Once I entered the room for my interview I felt at ease, the department here at Aston is very friendly, there are no intimidating faces and no reason to be intimidated, at this point you are not a student, you are an adult, hoping to become staff! So let your confidence consume you … but don’t get cocky.

I was asked a number of questions during my interview, the questions were picked up and formed from what I had mentioned on my CV … so don’t lie, an employer can tell. The conversation flowed as I did my research and talked about the campaigns done at Aston, here’s a list …

Ah, let me let you research that one on your own!

As I did take the time out to research the campaigns put forward by Careers+Placements, it instantly conveyed my interest within the department and understanding of what ‘we’ are trying to sell as a team. I also talked about what I wanted to gain from my placement and why it was so important to me, it’s not about being the perfect candidate who knows everything already, it about being genuine, showing an interest, and room for progression.

The interview lasted perhaps 15-20 mins, or maybe it just felt that long, but don’t worry if the interview goes well then the conversation will come to a natural halt. An interview should feel like a conversation, pay heed to your body language, but don’t sit like you’re at home, dress well and practically so that the employer can envision you working actively as part of the team and speak with confidence, take your time and speak clearly.

Don’t devalue yourself, let your personality shine and if all goes well, then you could be Careers+Placements next Marketing Assistant.

Stay tuned to read about my experience handling the ‘You got the job’ news! This Thursday!

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student. 

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

Blog series (1): The application process

Hi there, my name is Zahra and I am currently working as a Marketing Assistant for Aston’s Careers+Placements zahra image 11department. Stay tuned for my blog series every Monday & Thursday to help YOU land my role, for your placement year!

Don’t know what’s worse when applying for a role,  the interview or the application process? For me it was the application process, as it can be a daunting experience, it can put you off a job before you’re even given a chance, it can even make you feel incompetent for the job, but if you do it right, then you can really give yourself a fighting chance to stand out from the crowd.

When applying for a role it is likely that you will be asked to submit a CV and Cover Letter, remember you can always get this checked before you apply, by uploading your documents on Aston Futures for your Placement Coordinator to check, this is exactly what I had done before my placement search began. But that’s a story for another time.

When writing up a CV specifically for marketing make sure to highlight ‘relevant’ details, get your thinking hats on or better yet use google to help you identify exactly what skills and qualities you need to work in marketing, once you have done that think about the skills and qualities you do have, and I bet you there are plenty and use that to highlight how you can contribute to the team.

Instead of just listing your skills and qualities, if you have space why not add a sentence to highlight how you have demonstrated the skill or quality in the past. For instance, the most common skill/quality that is listed in most CV’s is ‘effective communication skills’, brilliant, if you have that but so does everyone else or so they claim, if you do have ‘effective communication skills’ how do you know? Communication can come in the form of speaking and writingbrilliance, have you worked in a Call Centre? As a Sales Assistant? Do you blog? Tell us how and remember you don’t need to list every skill or quality, you need to highlight the one’s that make you stand out and are relevant to marketing, be a little different and don’t just stick with the most common skill/quality, do your research!

Another tip would be … and believe you me this is overlooked, take a look at the job description and pick out key buzz words from that description, 9/10 times if a job description is written well, employers will put in keywords that they want you to use, they are literally telling you exactly what they want to see in your CV and Cover Letter!

Be a little creative. Your Cover Letter, is a glimpse into your personality, from this employers, are able to see where your passion resides. When applying for a role at Aston be sure to mention what campaigns you have come across, how familiar you are with the department, if you are part of a society, do you follow their social media? Don’t forget to also mention what campaigns interest you in general, like any other employer Aston does not expect you to only be interested in Aston, we understand you have other interests, don’t shy away from those. Do mention how your modules may contribute to your role in marketing, but be sure to explain how or why, fair enough if you have covered marketing as a module, but what skills did you gain, or let’s say you haven’t, have you worked in a team or given a presentation if so pop that in.

And last, of all, do apply! If you are interested in Marketing then this is the role for you, I have learnt so much during my time here at Aston, it has prepared me well for a graduate job and has given me the confidence to do what I really want to do. Stay tuned, to read about my interview process and tips next Monday!

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

Mastering Madrid.

Greetings from Madrid!

I have now been studying here for roughly two and a half months, and have loved every bit of it. This post will mainly focus on what Madrid has to offer, so anyone aspiring to do their placement here, can receive a few hints, and tips of what might be in store for them. I will also briefly touch upon the finances of studying, and living abroad, as this is a big factor in the decision-making for most people, myself included.

Where to begin?! The University life here is somewhat similar to that of Aston, however, I found that there are some differences, mainly in the way you are examined, and in the way some of the courses are organised. First, and foremost, I got to choose my own modules here, something that you do not get the chance to do until final year, if you’re a joint-honours ABS, and LSS student like myself. This is something I feel is a benefit, as you are given more autonomy, and can focus on a field that you enjoy, or are good at, or both! At UC3M, which is the University I am studying at, there is a big emphasis on continuous evaluation, and mid-term tests. This is something we do not really encounter at Aston, but I have found that they are really not that bad, and can work out in your favour, as there is then less stress on you for the final exam.

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The social life is great, and there is so much to do. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) team here are really helpful, and arrange some great events. You should sign up for the ESN card, it’s only €5, and it great value for money. I would recommend everyone to take part in the early events, as it is a great way to get to know people, and to learn about Madrid, and all of it’s hotspots. The food is unbelievably cheap – especially compared to England! Madrid really is a sports-mad city, so for any football or basketball fans that are planning to study, or work here, they will not be disappointed.

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Generally, the city itself it relatively cheap. Accommodation is cheaper than the majority of anything that you will find in England. You can purchase a travel card, which is €20 a month for students, and with that, you can travel anywhere within the region of Madrid, on any mode of public transport. Flights back to the UK are also quite cheap, so you can return home, if you need to. So, for anyone that wants to do their placement abroad, but is put off by the expenses, should really look into it, as Madrid is relatively cheaper than most other European capital cities, and you will be guaranteed to have a great experience.

Thanks for reading!

Valle de los Caidos- The controversy of Franco’s tomb

I decided to revise my knowledge of Spanish history, so I bought the Ghosts of Spain written by historian Giles Tremlett. One morning during my daily commute to work I was reading about El Valle de los Caidos (the Valley of the Fallen), I hadn’t heard of this before. The book stated its location and I was stunned that it was located in the sierra of Guadaramma, very close to the Catholic school where I work, I had always wandered why it was there. It is 150-metre tall granite cross, located along a beautiful stretch of the sierra. Ostensibly erected to commemorate those who had died during Spain’s bloody clash of ideology; it is the biggest and most recent piece of fascist monumental architecture in Europe, Franco’s self proclaimed masterpiece. Beneath the cross is a dome shaped burial site of 40,000 deceased from both sides, lavishly decorated with gold mosaic and black marble.

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The disturbing thing about this grandiose monument is that this is also where the remains of dictator Francisco lie, and that many bodies of los ‘vencidos’ (the defeated) are buried in countless roadside graves in Madrid’s afueras, forgotten without a trace. Campaigners put the figure at 100,000 unrecovered bodies from the civil war. A further controversy being that an estimated 20,000 workers who constructed the monument were Republican prisoners, intent on reducing their sentences. Mayoress of Poyales del Hoyo Damiana González insists the monument remains a symbol of forgiveness and peace between two bitterly opposed identities of Spain’s past.

 el-escorial-valle-de-los-caidos

It is officially regarded as a depoliticised memorial, but there is still the contention of whether it should be demolished, or whether it should be maintained as a vital piece of Spain’s heritage, a historical lesson, allowing them to never return to their twisted past. One things for certain, Franco wanted a conspicuous and imposing presence in an attempt to cement his legacy, fortunately with the populations swift transition to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975, this wasn’t possible.

Hola Madrid!

Goodbye England, and hello Spain!

The second part of my placement journey has now begun. Besides looking forward to the food and weather that Spain has to offer, I was intrigued about how the University and the social side of things would compare to that of Finland, and the UK. So, far the social aspect really hasn’t disappointed, but I have found the academic side is a little different to that of Finland, and England as well, and it might take a little longer to get used to. There is so much going on in Madrid, that it’s not hard not to meet new people. The university itself, is a great campus, but the lectures, and classes are organised in a slightly contrasting manner to England, but it is really not that different.

This takes me back to one of my earlier entries in the Careers+Placements Blog, where I recommended that all students preparing to take a placement year, really think about the location that they want to study or work in. I have now seen through first-hand experience that the location is just as important as the job role/partner university. Students, myself included, usually don’t give the country or city a second thought, and are more worried about what they will be doing on a regular basis, whether it be studying or working. This might come back to haunt you in the future, once you’ve started your placement, and then it will be too late to do anything about it.

When I first landed here, it was difficult to converse with the locals, as few speak English. I have picked up a few words in Spanish, but this is a personal goal that I hope to work on in my time here. This is a good measurement to see how far you have come on your placement – before you start, give yourself some personal goals that you wish to work on during your placement, and then by the end of it, see if you have made any progress, and achieved your goal(s). Don’t think of your year abroad (or in the UK), as another year that you have to complete before you graduate, but embrace it as a chance to improve yourself, your skill-set, your experiences, and most importantly, your memories!

Students who might be put off the idea of studying abroad, as they feel it will be very similar to life at Aston, will be very much mistaken. The experience is wholly different, and does not compare to anything that you will have ever done before. Madrid, has been great so far, and I am looking forward to the remaining four months or so!

So long for now!

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May Your Placement Be Interesting…

Hi again,

So my time in Finland is coming to an end, and it feels that it has done so at the perfect time. I have really enjoyed it thus far, but no place beats home! For students thinking of pursuing a study placement abroad, I would definitely encourage them to do so, but I would like to point out that, there will be some aspects that you might not enjoy to begin with.

When I first arrived in Helsinki, I knew that the Business School I would be attending – Aalto – had a great reputation. This made me wonder how it would compare to Aston, and how difficult the work would be. As Aston, the top five grades you achieve on placement from the modules you choose over the two semesters, contribute 50% to your overall grade for your placement year (the other 50% being two assignments that Aston set you, but we’ll come to this later).

In my first week here, all the way back in September, I had a lecture for a module called ‘Corporate Finance’, finance being the area I want to work in once I graduate. So, I was looking forward to it, more so than any of my other classes. When that first lecture finished, the only thing I could think, was what have I gotten myself into?! To say the content was tricky, would be a grand understatement. It was covering areas that I had never even needed to touch upon at Aston. Before I arrived, I had felt that when it came to the fields of Finance/Accounting/Business, I would be able to do the work to a very good standard, once I applied myself. This lecture took it to a whole new level. I’m happy to say that once I started revising (which was the second I left the lecture after seeing that), I got to grips with the module, and got some good grades for the assignments.

This situation would lead me to tell all prospective students thinking of studying abroad, to really research the University that they will be attending. I later got chatting to a Finn, who said that Aalto Business School really takes their Finance courses seriously (no kidding!), and their degree in Finance is one of the best in the world. I would not want this to discourage anyone from studying abroad, but just make sure what you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Not all of the modules will be difficult, I have completed some courses that are actually quite easy compared to some of Aston’s courses, so it won’t be a one-way thing.

I think you’ll find when you first arrive, your placement will feel a lot like a holiday. I believe this goes for work, and study placements. You’ll have a lot time on your hands, and will be visiting the sites, landmarks etc. Make sure you do all of this, as your placement year is supposed to be fun, and enjoyable, as well as challenging. This brings me to your Aston assignments, for students studying abroad, they’re sort of like a journal, with personal aims, and goals you have set yourself before your placement begins. I would advise you to start these as soon as possible, while everything is still fresh in your mind.

To finish this entry of the Careers+Placement Blog, I would tell all Aston 2nd years to apply themselves as best they can, while on placement. Moreover, you won’t enjoy every single aspect of it, but it is up to you to make the best out of the situation. There will be times where you’ll be having great fun – cherish those moments, and there might be times where you’re wishing you did something else for your placement – these times will swiftly pass.

Good luck with your placement search.

Reece.

Have fun!

Have fun!

Settling in…

Welcome to my second post of the Aston University Careers+Placement Blog.

Actually settling into your placement can be a testing time, there’s so many new things to get used to. Namely, being away from family and friends, a completely new culture, new foods, and possibly a new language.

What I did before I came to Finland (and which I would highly recommend to all 2nd years), would be to do some research on the new culture that you will soon be facing. Just read up on transport, food and drink, and any other norms that will differ to the UK. This way you won’t be in for any nasty surprises, once you land.

Once settled, visit the local area, and find out what is located nearby, and get familiar with the city. Take the new environment, and atmosphere in – what I saw with Finland, was that it was a lot more relaxed, and laid-back than England. This can bring both pros and cons. For one, on the whole people are more friendly, but some simple jobs can take you a lot more time than you would expect. When I visited the biggest bank in Helsinki, I was waiting for two hours to pay my rent! Shocked would be an understatement.

Take full advantage of all the opportunities, and make as many new friends as you can. Treat your placement like you treated your first year at Aston. Try everything, visit as many places as possible, and photograph everything. This will provide memories for many years to come. A benefit of doing your placement abroad is that you can visit a number of countries a lot easier than from the UK, while you work or study. I have visited Sweden, and Estonia while in Finland, and hope to visit more European countries when in Madrid, for my 2nd semester.

Don’t count the days, make the days count!

Get out there and explore!

Get out there and explore!