Category Archives: Spain

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!

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.

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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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October trip to Malaga

This was one of the many long weekends we get off in España, I get about 14 days off during the year due to the ambiguous reasoning of ‘fiesta’. Any excuse for a day off in Spain!

My girlfriend and I Liz set off to Spain via Bla Bla car, a website that connects drivers with spare seats to passengers who want to make the same journey, you can book a seat and pay a fee. It’s dead cheap, we saved over a hundred pounds getting to Malaga, also it’s a good way to practice Spanish.

Whilst the spaniards were grabbing their coats in late October us Brits were still reaching for the sun lotion. Temperatures in October were as hot as 25 degrees in Malaga so we spent a fair bit of time on the Costa Del Sol beaches. We stayed at my Nan and her partner Mike’s lovely place in central Marbella, we were also accompanied by their dear Russian maltese terrier pup, Scruffy!

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This is a video I took of the tranquil Cabopino beach, my favourite beach, it also has a lovely Chiringuito (small restaurant) called Las Dunas, I recommend the Paella and Cinnamon rice pudding.

A lot of people have the assumption that Marbella is basically the Essex of Spain, lacking culture and appeal in comparison to places like Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Valencia,  I feel that it’s unique charm as a city is often overlooked. We explored the narrow, whitewashed and picturesque Old town of Marbella, we observed practically the whole town in attendance at the Sunday mass and saw some Salvador Dali Sculptures on the way!

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Not to mention the food there was amazing!

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On a final note we visited Puerto Banús, which is a scenic port, stretch of bars, restaurants and designer shops. Full of big boats, big cars and big egos, a real spectacle of grandeur.

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Start of Your Placement Journey!

Hi guys, thanks for taking the time to read my first Careers+Placements Blog post.

I’m Reece, and I am a 3rd year BSc Business and International Relations student, where I am currently studying in Helsinki for the first semester of my placement, and Madrid for the second semester.

When I first started at Aston, I was really looking forward to the placement year, and what it would hold for me. When 2nd year came around, it was quite easy to see that me, and everybody in the same boat, would need to put a lot of effort into securing a good placement.

This is why I will just give my thoughts on some hints and tips for all 2nd year students at Aston:

  • Utilise all of the help – There is so much going on around campus to help you secure a great placement: take advantage of all of the services that the Careers+Placements office offer e.g. going through your CV with you, providing mock interviews, help with assessment centres. All of this will help you when you apply for jobs/study placements, as you will be able to stand out, and offer more than other students from universities all over the UK. It is important to remember that there are thousands of students looking for a placement, so anything that can give you an advantage over them could be pivotal.
  • Work on your CV and Cover Letter – I repeat do NOT have one cover letter for all of your applications. Tailor your CV and cover letter for each position you apply for. You might think this is a waste of time, but 10 well written CVs and cover letters will bring you more success than 50 badly written ones. It is highly beneficial if you work on them both in the summer, as this could be vital in you being able to apply early on.
  • Take the Role/Placement AND Location into consideration – You might have your heart set on a specific industry, but I would definitely encourage you to think about the location, as this is just as important. I have really enjoyed Finland so far, so I would say to anyone thinking of doing a placement abroad, to grab the chance with both hands, as this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you should take full advantage of the all links and contacts that Aston has. Before you know it, you will be graduating, so you may as well have some great memories to take with you into your working life.

Thanks for reading, I will be posting again soon!

Maybe choose somewhere warmer than Finland!

Maybe choose somewhere warmer than Finland!

Hasta Luego No Adios

It feels like yesterday that I vacated my apartment in Getafe, Madrid. It still did not hit me that I was leaving Spain, until I said ADIOS to the lady at the British Airways check in counter at T4 Madrid Barajas International Airport. A year of flashbacks followed that, where the emotional departure commenced.It has been a couple of weeks since I have returned home, and although it has taken time to adjust,  the memories of Spain are still fresh in the head.  I can proudly say that I have established a connection with Spain, with many of my new amigos demanding I return in the near future especially when I still have some regions to explore. Knowing I now have friends from around the world also shows a successful year and  I would not have had the amazing year I would have had without them. My choices in January proved successful as well, so I was able to end on a high note.

Saying Hasta Luego….

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Being a student of Aston University, I was fortunate to have many options for my 3rd year, and I’m 100% certain study abroad was the best decision I made. Although it was amazing,  it was not a year to doss around, it required hard work, like every stage in life. Once you see your accomplishments, you soon forget the hurdles you came across and feel proud of yourself.

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studying for finals is so fun….

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There were times were I may have envied work placements because of the perks they obtained from their work placement, even some bragging was noticable, especially when I was studying for midterms, but at the end of the day I was grateful for the opportunity because when else am I going to have the opportunity to study abroad, Aqui o Nunca. Any option that makes you change for the better is the perfect choice, whether it is home or away, work or study.  I had the opportunity to develop my soft skills such as learning Spanish which too date I am still practicing, it is one skill I am not prepared to lose.

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Viva Espana

This experience also allowed me to travel to places I would have never have thought of visiting, which I am grateful for. I was able to add Granada to the list, in the future I would like to visit North of Spain and Barcelona.

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Spain has a large Latino population, and they have contributed to the social influence in Spain. I find this interesting, and thanks to this experience, it has lead to my ambition to visit Latin America in the near future. I now LOVE the music as well, so its questionable to say i am turning into a wannabe Latino/Hispanic/Espanol, watch out family and friends 😉 

I could go on and on and on, but we would be here all year, so we will keep this short now…..

My advice for people who are about to embark a journey similar to myself:

  • Take some home comforts with you
  • Do as much as you can, balance your life
  • Find out if your area has transport discounts (Madrid was amazing 20 euros a month for public transport , yes be jealous)
  • Do as much research as you can prior to arrival in your destination
  • Stay Safe, be humble, have fun,  make memories.

Finally,

*Prepares Acceptance Award* To sum up this year, a study placement is just not about studying, its about leaving your comfort zone and making an adventure of new discovering , becoming a stronger person, establishing new connections, developing your personality, being more spontaneous and adapting to change. I definitely gained from this experience, and I have my family, friends, the La Cuidad de Madrid, Aston University and Universidad Carlos Tercero de Madrid to thank for this experience. I would also like to thank my blog readers for encouragement and being interested in my adventure.

Un brazo,

 

Gagan Grewal

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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

Hasta luego, Madrid!

It’s crazy to think that my time in Madrid has already come to an end. Two months into being home and I still miss my students, friends and colleagues very much…and of course, the weather! Honestly, I didn’t expect these special young children to make such an impact on my life – but they did and I hope they continue to grow as people and learn new things 🙂

Leaving my placement at SEK El Castillo was very emotional. I had already predicted that there would be a water work display but it really made me think about the amazing experience I had out there and what fantastic people I had met. I would like to thank all my teachers at SEK for making me feel so welcome and being so so kind to me over the past year. Although it was a sad departure, I hope I can visit again sometime in the future as requested by my students! ^^’ honestly, I don’t think I could have worked with better children and teachers. They never failed to make me smile…

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FOTO GRUPO 1ºAla foto de clase

I feel very happy being able to share my placement story with others because I had been lucky enough to work with such a great school. Ultimately, I must thank Aston University for this opportunity in my life that I’ll never forget. It’s amazing how well prepared Aston are and how much they support you inside and outside of education. Thank you for giving me this time to grow as a person!

My next step is to enjoy the rest of my summer holiday and mentally prepare myself to tackle final year in September – its going to be hard but so worth it in the end. Hard work really does pay off and I hope to continue this positivity through the last year of higher education!

To anyone who has been reading my blogposts, thank you for your interest and I hope you’ve enjoyed my journey to Madrid with me. I really appreciate everyone’s support and love I’ve received this year and I’d like to wish all perspective placement students good luck for your placement year, it’s going to be one you’ll never forget. Make the most of it and enjoy life to its fullest whilst you can 🙂

It’s time to officially sign off. Thank you all again for your time!

– Tiffany

 

 

How my year abroad changed my mindset :-)

So… Summer has finally hit Spain, and let me tell you, it’s ridiculously boiling!

I’m a person that doesn’t like having a tan, as I tend to go bright red and when you put that with my blonde hair, you’ve got a walking fruit salad. So, I’ve been spending the past few weeks either shade-bathing, or revising. But… With one exam left tomorrow that I’ve no clue about, seeing as nobody (even the lecturer) seems to know when or where it is.. It’s time to go cray. By “cray”, I mean lots of gym sessions and eating lots of salad and fruit and all the good stuff… That’s the life!

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In this post, I wanted to write about how my experience this year has helped shape me, without going into too much detail or being too corny. If you’re thinking of taking a year abroad or a similar experience, this could happen to you too!

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viva la vida

Before I left The UK, I was struggling with panic attacks up to twice a week. It was awful and it was getting out of hand. Sometimes, I didn’t know why I was having them, and other times, it would be in the middle of an exam (not very convenient…). This is a very real thing happening to a lot of other students. I am super dedicated to my studies at Aston, and I love what I do, but the pressure I put on myself back then was ridiculous. I’ll also mention that I haven’t had a single panic attack since June 2015! :-)

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It’s only looking back now that I realise how much calmer I am (not just because of the siestas), and how much more positive I am.

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Things are going to happen, good or bad, and you just learn to deal with that and look at the positives that may come out of that situation. Nothing is worth stressing yourself to oblivion about. If it makes you that stressed, you should probably take a step back.

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I’ve spent most of my university life unnecessarily panicking when I could have been having fun and making the most of it. So I decided to compensate this year and let loose a little more. I’ve done things I’d never have dreamed of doing. When I arrived in Toulouse I went out on my own all the time, met people whilst I was on my own, travelled across the country in blablacars (with strangers) went to bars on my own, etc. I’d have never done that at home! It’s all about risk-taking, and learning that you can do things, you just have to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

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I’ve just started to learn to not take myself so seriously and to take things as they come. Now I’m at a ridiculously disorganised uni in Spain, I’ve become a lot more laid back and I’ve realised that it’s not going to be the end of the world if something goes pear shaped, just do your best and you’ll get there. Never compare yourself to others. People are going to do better than you, just learn from them.

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The more positive you are about things, the less you’ll worry. If you work hard, at least you can say you tried with everything you had. Everyone likes a try-er. My Spanish has definitely improved during my time in Spain, and as long as it’s getting better and I’m trying hard, I’m happy with that, but still… My already Italian accent has become even more prominent since living with two Italians. But the positive side of this is, it makes for a good laugh.

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“try and look spanish…”

But there’s something else that I must mention which is something important to me: never forget where you come from. Living in a beautiful country of organised chaos (yep, I’m talking about Spain), has made me appreciate what we have in The UK, and to never take it for granted. Sure, there are bits that aren’t so great, but you’re going to get that wherever you go. Valencia is beautiful and I love living abroad, but it doesn’t mean the grass is greener. People might moan about the weather at home – why? Be happy. The UK is beautiful, we get 4 seasons that we get to witness and we are very fortunate. Nothing can change where you’re from, and being away has made me become proud of the uniqueness of being British. Whether it’s milk in your tea or funny accents, it doesn’t matter.

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Be happy and stay positive,

Amy