Category Archives: Studying abroad

My top tips for dealing with homesickness whilst on a placement abroad

Yasmine Payne graduated from Aston University in July 2017 with a BSc in Business, Management and Public Policy and now works in the Careers+Placements team as International Projects Coordinator. During her undergraduate degree, she completed a study abroad placement in Spain at Universidad de Sevilla. Read through her tips for coping with the struggles of homesickness whilst you’re on your international placement.

Don’t panic!

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Homesickness is natural! Do not worry – of course, you will feel sad to be returning to your placement after spending the Christmas period with your loved ones. However, everyone is in the same boat and there are loads of things you can do to combat homesickness.

Join clubs and societies for international exchange students – not only will you meet new people, but you’ll be too busy having fun to feel homesick.

Take trips with your roommates and explore the countries around you, so when you do return to the UK you will be able to tell everyone your memories of visiting new places.

Skype your friends and family so you have a time in the day where you talk to your loved ones and most importantly have fun!

This year abroad is a time for you to learn new things, realise what you are good at and make friends for life!

Make a photo album!

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When I went abroad and started to feel homesick, I bought myself a nice photo album and printed off all the pictures I had taken so far. I made sure I kept tickets from football matches I had seen, trains I caught when I visited new cities and plane tickets when I travelled to new countries. Even menus from some of my favourite restaurants!

Putting things down onto paper helps you look at all you have achieved and will make you happy to see all the memories you have created so far! Plus this is a great way to show your creative side and when you return home after your placement you will be able to show your loved ones who will be eager to know all about your journey!

Be open-minded!

Moving to a new country is hard and the fact you have made it this far is an achievement in itself so you should be proud!

A new country comes with many challenges and adjusting to a new culture can have its drawbacks, but if you remain open-minded and eager to learn new things you will have a much more enjoyable experience – you would be surprised how much you can learn about yourself when immersed in a new culture! Believe me, there will be people who want to learn about you just the same way you want to learn about them.

Learn the language!

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When moving to a new country, you may also encounter a language you most likely have never spoken before!

When I felt homesick because no one spoke English, I found a Spanish speaking class and this way I met new people who were also on a placement abroad – this also helped me feel more comfortable in my new country as I could speak to people in their language. I was able to make new friends and we would socialise together outside of class. This allowed me to have something fun to add to my daily schedule outside of studying.

Also, having international experience and the ability to speak more than one language makes you look great to employers! Plus when you do move back to the UK, you can show off your new language skills to your family and friends who will be impressed!

I hope these tips have helped and I wish you all the best with your international placement!

Christmas at Grenoble Ecole de Management

The festive season has arrived! Getting to experience Christmas in France is one of the best things about placement year. I have done a few things during these last few weeks in France and I will be sharing these in this blog.

Christmas felt like it began in mid-November here in Grenoble, as the university I study at was filled with skis, boards, boots, poles and all sorts of snow accessories and clothing for an event. The event, known as “Bourse aux Skis” enables students to buy new and ex-display skis and snowboards for low prices. The event lasted for three days, and there was a real buzz around school as students excitedly picked out their gear for the year.

Christmas Market

 

Then at the end of November, the Christmas Market appeared in Victor Hugo. There are huge wooden chalets serving a lot of food, drinks and snacks. It is such a nice atmosphere because people head out in the early evening to share some food together, wrapped up in coats, scarves and gloves. Me and my friends have been a couple of times to enjoy crepes (pancakes) with mulled wine! The market is much smaller than the Birmingham one, but it has a cosy warm feel to it, surrounded by the beautiful mountains.

We got snow!

We woke up on December 1st to our first snowfall! Tonnes of snow had fallen overnight, and everything was glistening in the sunlight, it was beautiful! However, unlike Aston, we are sitting our exams before Christmas. I had to cycle in a snowstorm to get to school and to start my revision.  

Celebrations!

On December 5th we celebrated Noel at GEM. Everyone was off timetable from 4.45pm to 8pm. A huge proportion of the university (which has approximately 8000 students and 1000 staff) were enjoying a buffet (which consisted solely of chocolates and clementine!) and live music. It was impossible to move around the building, and hard to hear over all of the noise, but a fantastic celebration!

Following all of the Snow, we decided to take a ski trip to Alp d’Huez. This is a hour away from Grenoble, so we went on the bus and it was easy and cheap to rent skis in the city. Our university organised 12 buses of students one Saturday morning at 7.30 am to take us there for the opening of Folie Douce. We had a great day skiing, and partying at Apres after, and my friends and I decided to stay the night to make the most of the Sunday too – Alp d’Huez is also home to one of the longest pistes in Europe, claiming to be 16KM long!! We were also very fortunate to have over 1m of snowfall on the Saturday night, it was beautiful!

Lights

The run up to Christmas was completed with a trip to Lyon for the Fete des Lumieres which takes place over four days in mid-December. There are 50 light displays, cleverly composed alongside famous music which are shone across the city. Powerful projectors illuminate entire buildings, with dancing shapes, patterns and stories. Over one million visitors come to Lyon for the long weekend to marvel at the displays, and they are amazing! There are so many people and so many things to see, that you would probably have to attend each of the four evenings to see all of the displays!

If you happen to have a chance to visit in your lifetime, I would highly recommend an evening spent here in Lyon.

I have just 12 days to go until the end of my semester here in Grenoble, but I look forward to sharing my experiences from Paris with you in the New Year!

Merry Christmas to you all!

 

Why do a placement?

Hi, this is Hannah and I am currently doing a study abroad placement in France! Stay tuned as I will be blogging my placement experience throughout the year!

Why do a placement?

I went to Aston knowing that everyone is encouraged to do a placement year, yet even towards the end of second year, I still had no idea what I wanted to do.

So I’ve put together this list of useful reasons why you may want to consider a placement/study abroad:

 

It can help you to distinguish yourself from other people when you apply for jobs

Employers value students who have undertaken a placement. You will have gained some knowledge of the working world, developed new skills and adapted to a new culture (within your business or your new country) while becoming independent and mature. You will have made decisions for yourself, discovered how you work effectively and efficiently while developing new skills with new softwares or business practices. You can use your experiences as examples to the common interview questions: In what scenario have you been a team player? When have you shown management skills? How do you cope with stressful situations? I know that I can laugh with employers when I explain how I adapted to the French culture or how I overcame the language barrier when working in groups. In all honesty, a placement year is a valuable addition to your CV.

 

You will expand your network and could jumpstart your future career

Your placement could lead to a graduate job if you have impressed your managers throughout the year. If you are an asset to the team then your manager will remember this in the future. Alternatively, by studying abroad, you meet people from all over the world, who have heard of job opportunities across the globe that could interest you. You can use sites such as LinkedIn to connect with people that you meet so that in the future you can use this professional network to regain contact with them and remind them of opportunities for jobs that you discussed months or years ago. Since arriving in France, I have made friends on my course who are native speakers and can help with my CV’s and Cover Letters and who know of internships that are available for me to apply for – from Paris to Montreal.

 

It will be the first time in your life that you have earned a proper salary (or you have an Erasmus grant to spend if you’re studying abroad!)

You’ll finally have some money, and you can treat yourself with it – some people chose to live in nice accommodation for the year or treat themselves to regular meals out, but ultimately most people try to save some of their money. A lot of people decide to travel if they have time in summer before final year, or even after university. If you work or study abroad, then it is so easy and cheap to have multiple weekends away, visiting local towns and cities. I have spent two of my last three weekends in Marseille and in Geneva with new friends, and visiting old friends – I feel like I am on a mini gap year alongside my studies!

If you do decide to do a placement, you will be proving to yourself, your tutors (who most likely will write your first job reference when you leave Aston) and future employers that you are experienced, motivated and ambitious.

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!

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!

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!