Category Archives: Europe

My placement year as a Digital Marketing Intern in Spain

Shashi Lallu is currently working towards a Sociology BSc degree. Last year he completed an international placement in Madrid, Spain where he worked as a Digital Marketing Intern for King’s Group. Find out more about his placement experience here…

What did the work on your placement involve?

The work on my placement involved website development and support, social media content creation and management, market research, email marketing, digital design and event management.

What skills did you develop during your placement?

The skills I developed include attention to detail and various specific skills including using the website creation tool WordPress, social media tools like Hootsuite, the email marketing tool MailChimp, Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, and Power Editor for Social Media ads. I also learnt the importance of meeting targets and the value of keeping calm during stressful situations.

What was the highlight of your placement?

The highlight of my placement was receiving the Employee of the Month Award for my work on a new website for a sub group of the company.

Has doing an overseas placement helped or changed your plans for the future?

It’s definitely helped me for the future in the sense that I know that I can push myself and achieve a lot regardless of where I work in the world. I also think it’s made me more employable due to the fact I was willing to go abroad for work, which shows a degree of commitment and readiness for adaptation.

What advice would you give to other students thinking about doing a placement abroad?

I would recommend it 100% and would urge people to go abroad. I wasn’t sure beforehand, but I didn’t even know any Spanish when I arrived in Madrid, so if I can do it and have a great year, then they can too.

What tips would you give to other students to help them make the most out of their placement?

I would tell them to meet as many people as possible and visit as many places they can whilst abroad to make the experience unforgettable.

Do you have any other comments you would like to add?

Not only did I have a great time working on my placement, but I’ve also made great friends from the experience, and I would do it again if ever given the opportunity.

Has Shashi’s experience inspired you to undertake a placement abroad? Find out more about international placements, visit Aston Futures to search available opportunities or chat to us about your options. 

The whos, whats, wheres, whens and whys…

Here goes a post to cover some of the practicalities of moving abroad to do a placement for a year, from the big things like finding somewhere to live, down to remembering to bring plug adaptors.

Accommodation

Originally the other intern and I had planned to live together, either just the two of us or with other students. For flatshares, we got told some sites to consult: leboncoin, appartager, housinganywhere, and some sites to avoid. In theory it seemed simple enough- we both needed to be in a similar area and had a similar budget in mind, however after many solid days of trailing through these sites we had still found nothing. For me the next logical step was to phone estate agencies in Toulouse and ask directly if they had any properties. This in fact proved very time consuming and everyone I spoke to (in my best very polite French) were unwilling to help. Another friend in Toulouse found this to be the case too- they don’t really cater to students, many only do rentals for a year or longer. The ones who were willing to help wanted enormous deposits- 9000€ for a three-month let, which of course had to be from a French bank account.

Thus, a dilemma was born. Paying for accommodation required a French bank account but acquiring a French bank account required a proof of a French address- I couldn’t get one without the other. (See: banking fiasco).

It seemed the only remaining solution was for us to split up and find separate living arrangements. I then resorted to Airbnb, feeling fresh out of other options. I booked flights to Toulouse, made appointments to visit several promising-looking Airbnb properties and went for a weekend-long property search. I eventually found a studio flat in a really nice area, visited it and booked it on the same day. Of course, another advantage of Airbnb is the security in terms of paying rent and deposits, and the fact that you don’t need a local bank account to pay.

Retrospectively, I can say up to this point all has gone well with the logistics of accommodation and would recommend using Airbnb for year abroad accommodation to anyone. In the three-month period I only hit one problem: the night before I was due to move out (how typical)- my flat was burgled. Other than this one-off, the rest of the stay was fantastic.

One thing I did learn is the importance of viewing the properties beforehand if you can. This does seem strange for Airbnb, but when I explained I would be staying for three months, most people were more than happy to show me round, and those who couldn’t kindly gave me the street address, so I could visit the area. This is not only to ensure the property does actually exist, but to get a feel for the area and to see what your journey to work will be like.

Bank

If you’re lucky enough to be doing a paid placement it is common to find that the receiving business will only pay into a local bank account, or if your placement is unpaid a local bank account is still the best way to avoid hefty conversion fees which can mount up if you use an English bank account overseas. This can be a tricky process.

In most banks it’s necessary to book an appointment in advance and take the following documentation with you:

Identification

Birth certificate

Convention de stage

Attestation d’herbegement (signed statement from your landlord to confirm you live with them)

Copy of your landlord’s identification

Proof that your landlord owns the address

After looking into this process and the previously-mentioned catch-22 situation regarding needing a local address, I opted to open account with Credit Agricole’s English speaking service Britline. All the registration is done online, with just a phone call to discuss what services you need, and you can receive all your documentation and cards etc to an English address before you go. So far I can’t fault the service and have found reassuring to know that if I experience any disasters that I can contact them in English.

Another product which came in handy at the start of my placement before my Britline account was set up was a Caxton card. Essentially the same as any foreign exchange card, you can top up the Caxton using a mobile app and convert into any currency you want. The charges are not bad and in some cases you can even get paid into your Caxton account as well. Another bonus is the super-simple registration process and small amount of documentation needed. The Caxton would be a great solution for anyone travelling, not only for stagiaires.

Insurance

Although your workplace and the university should definitely have you covered by insurance for your time away (of course check this), I decided to take out some insurance which would cover my phone, laptop, camera, debit cards, etc while I was away, as well as covering myself in case of illness, and which would insure me and my belongings for any other travelling in Europe during my year abroad. For this I used Endsleigh, who specialise in student insurance, and their Study Abroad Insurance. The policy I opted for was super cheap but covered everything I needed and thus far has been relatively stress-free, which is more than can be said about some other aspects of the move.

Paperwork

One really useful piece of advice I received was to make scans, photocopies and printouts of everything- especially as I had no access to a printer before starting work. This includes copies and scans of your convention de stage, passport, birth certificate, student card etc. As well as this, a set of passport photos was invaluable- I needed one handy as soon as I landed in Toulouse to buy a travel card and since then have got through another four for various bits and bobs.

Potentially forgotten things

  • Plug adaptors
  • Check if your accommodation includes bedding/ towels

I hope at least some of the above advice has been helpful, even if much of it is the same advice which has been repeated by everyone you mention your placement year to.

As always, get in touch if I can be of any help, and I’d love to hear other people’s experiences.

A la prochaine,

J

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!

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!

TOULOUSE

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!

viva la vida

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