Category Archives: Madrid

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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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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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

 

 

Final semester at SEK

The third and final semester of my placement here in Madrid has been eventful. A lot has been going on at school and I’ve done some exciting activities during this time. Work has been busy because the academic year is coming to an end so we’re having to sort out all the end of year grades, evaluations etc. The weather has drastically changed and we’re not in out high 20 degrees every single day – so nice! This is probably the one thing I will miss the most when I leave! ^^’

El Escorial – farm school : 27.04 – 29.04 

So, I got rewarded a two night three day school trip to the farm school back in May for my consistent hard work. My teacher and co-ordinator suggested this idea and I couldn’t have been happier. I was thankful and grateful that they managed to do this for me. I had such a great few days spending time with my teachers outside of the classroom! We had good food and spent the days laughing at the talking parrots ^^’ I’ll always be grateful for this reward because it showed that hard work really does pay off and it never goes unnoticed.

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Madrid Zoo Aquarium : May 2nd 

Since the weather was getting better, I decided to take a trip to Madrid’s zoo/aquarium! It was only 20 euros for entrance to both the zoo AND aquarium – bargain right?! It’s definitely worth a visit… we saw lots of animals, including BEARS!

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Madrid Open 2016 QF : 05.05

One of the highlights of my placement is watching Nadal play tennis live! I watched him play in the Madrid Open semi finals and it was amazing. The atmosphere was amazing! It’s such a shame that he lost in the semi finals but nevertheless, I still got to see him play 🙂 the stadium was very cool.

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Faunia : 26.05

Last Thursday, I went on yet another school trip to Faunia which was like a small zoo for children! My class are currently learning about animals so it was perfect for them to go and investigate about all the different animals that exist. This was my final school trip with my class and it was bitter sweet. I’ve been on 4 trips with these kids and I’ve loved every single one. Nothing beats seeing them smile so much when they’re away from the class ^^’

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As you can see, I’ve had quite a busy final semester… and I’ve been having such a great time! It’s sad to think that it’ll all be over in a matter of days!

Tiffany

 

 

 

 

 

What it’s like living abroad / in Spain

Living abroad is a scary yet exciting decision to make. It’s slightly different from moving away to live out for University since you can just casually take the train home whenever you like and whenever you’re missing your mum’s home cooked food. It’s a whole different story when you live in another country. It’s a new experience that you will remember for the rest of your life and it’s the honestly the best opportunity to learn to be independent and to gain new experiences. You decide where you would like to go and ‘break free’ from your standard home routine.

One of the biggest perks of living in a country like Spain is definitely the weather. From August to late October, the weather is beautiful (still)… but from then on, it gets a colder. Most people (myself included) assume that Spain is ‘hot’ all year round… please do NOT make the mistake of thinking this! It is most definitely not good weather all year round as I have experienced heavy rain, strong winds …almost as bad as England! Ok, maybe that was slightly exaggerated.

If you live out for University then you’re pretty much half way there to living abroad. You’ve already entered the independent life and you’re fine to fend for yourself (kinda). If you’re lucky like me, you’ll meet great people on your placement and you’ll make lots of friends! But some aren’t as lucky and find themselves quite lonely – it’s really important to venture out and at least attempt to meet new people…otherwise you’ll be isolating yourself in a foreign country that barely speaks your language! Believe me, you don’t want this to happen to you.

Money is something you have to personally watch over when you’re living abroad because before you know it, 3/4 of your Erasmus has gone and you don’t realise what and where you’ve spent it all on! Most the times you will eat lunch or dinner out and eventually that will add up. If you have a kitchen, try and cook as much as possible! But that’s not saying you can’t go out and treat yourselves to a nice meal every so often. Thankfully, we have our Erasmus and Student Loan to rely on and think about getting a part time job whilst you’re out there. I currently tutor three students every Saturday for two hours for extra English classes. My placement is unpaid so I took the initiative to get myself a job to earn some income.

Transport is great in Madrid – I pay 20 euros a month for access to the metro and buses which saves SO much money. One journey to Madrid city centre from where I live costs 3 euros 60 alone. If you’re from London, then you’ll be more than used to using the underground or taking buses… if you’re not, you’ll learn to use the metro ever so quickly and nowadays, we have smartphone apps to help us get around on them! It’s all about learning and finding your way.

Be open to trying new things…this is important. Wherever you end up, the country might not be 100% to your likings and it might not offer everything you’re used to having. Travel to different cities, try new food, meet new people – just have as much fun as possible and make the most of your time abroad. There are tons of different cuisines in Madrid – from the typical Spanish tapas to Japanese food, Chinese, Indian, Turkish etc.

The Spanish culture is very different from the English. In Spain, everyone is very laid back and some people are not so polite. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving involved on the metro and lack of personal space. But this is something that you get used to …eventually! Your normal dinner 6:30/7pm dinner routine will be pushed back to 8pm, sometimes 8:30pm. Again, something you have to adapt to and you learn about another culture whilst on your year abroad ~

The last thing you want to do is finish your year abroad regretting this and that – so make the most of it and choose your destination wisely 🙂

Tiffany

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Time Is Ticking.

This academic year has definitely been a rocky year for sure, and despite being homesick at the beginning, I know for a fact when I finish my study placement, I will miss Spain! (OK not the study part!).

Travelling is a must do. Spain may not be as big as the USA or India, but believe me there is a lot of cultural differences and a lot of adventuring to be done in Spain.

Having missed out on an ESN TRIP (Student Network), to Valencia , My friends and I, the KRAZY KRYSTAL and CRAZY CARA set of to Valencia, the home of Paella. I travelled separately there as I had classes earlier in the day. The first day was muddle, they missed their train and I got to Valencia all well, despite being sent to the outskirts of Valencia, Xativa by a train worker when mistaken for Xativa Metro Station. However,  I loved it, a city that was a mixture of new and old, had a beach but was cosmopolitan at the same time.  Public transport wasn’t as great as Madrid and a lot of walking was done, but I am glad that I can tick Valencia of the list! My favourite part of Valencia was the Life and Sciences Museum area:

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Life and Science Museum. Credit to Krystal, she clicked a better photo!

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Cara, Me, Krystal in the old town, Valencia. There were times when we wanted to kill each other, but there were lots of good times to look back on.

Krystal asked me to do this, so I did... She wasn't expecting it. Considering a career in modelling now HAHA

Krystal asked me to do this, so I did… She wasn’t expecting it. Considering a career in modelling now HAHA!!

I also visited Sevilla in term 2, on my own due to unforeseen circumstances and I was nervous. Sevilla is definitely more traditional compared to Madrid, but it is a beautiful city.  This trip made me realise that I have an independent characteristic and many were proud of my solo adventuring. (What I mean is that I can actually look after my passport 😉 ). The main advantage of solo trips is that you can do what you want, whenever you want and how you want! The Alcazar Gardens was definitely my favourite sight in the city, which also happens to be a setting of ‘Games of Thrones’.

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The Real Alcazar. Muy Bonita.

The Famous Plaza De Espana

The Famous Plaza De Espana

Metropol Parasol

Metropol Parasol

As I only have a few months left, I am eagerly awaiting to tick the boxes on my to-do list. It is important to remember that although I am here on a study placement, being able to balance leisure time with working time is crucial. You should not work all day. If you find yourself not being able to concentrate, go gallivanting. I was bored of revising one SUNNY SUNDAY, so I decided to go Retiro Park with some friends. Retiro Park is an amazing park, one of my favourites and the Sun makes it better 100x. The ambience is amazing and there’s always street performances occurring. You can also go rowing!

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Being Spontaneous is also a great way to find out many events. For example, that very same day, I found out that a few Bollywood stars were in Madrid promoting the IIFA awards as they were going to take place in Madrid in June, and I was ‘so gassed that I could have exploded‘ with excitement. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet them, but it was nice knowing a part of my culture was being spread in Madrid.

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Finally, I would like to end this post as a memorial. Every March, there is a festival in Valencia known as ‘Fallas’ and it very popular. Many student organisations organised trips there, and many returned safely,  but a bus of ESN Barcelona crashed and sadly some left the world. I would like to pay my respects to the victims as well as their families. It’s tragic that students who were given the same opportunity as me, on a year abroad, and events like this make you feel grateful for life. RIP x

Hasta Luego

 

Gagan