Tag Archives: Lessons Learned

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?!



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!


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!


10 things to know about London

Since coming back from Christmas work has been quite quiet. Mainly because I have spent the past month or so laid up in bed sick but also because we’re just catching up from the madness of Christmas.

So I have put Aladdin on the TV and will give you a bit of an insight into what it is like to move to the capital city.. The big smog… LDN!

1. Zebra crossings just aren’t a thing. The cars, buses, cyclists or bin lorries don’t care for them and you actually risk your life on them every day. The scene where Regina George in Mean Girls is mowed down by the school bus is something I face every day!

2. The tubes aren’t that bad. They are convenient, when they are running, and are quite pleasant when you get a seat. Just make sure you anti bac your whole body after getting off.

3. Tourists spots become a bit of a no-go and the famous Oxford Street becomes a place you will do anything to avoid.

4. Going to the bar, pub, anywhere that serves alcohol is extremely normal after work and is actually just part of the day, like lunch time!

5. Housing is very expensive. I pay twice as much as what I did in halls and four times as much as what I did in 2nd year.

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If I were where you are now again – 5 top tips for working abroad

So, as second year students reading this blog, you’re probably being constantly bombarded with adverts for placements; advice from final years; and being badgered by your tutors to choose your placement!

I remember that situation. Now that I am here, in the middle of my placement (wow, have I been in Japan nearly six months already!?) I am looking back. Since hindsight is 20/20, I have been thinking about what I wish I knew before I left my comfy little flat in Birmingham!

1. Learn how to feed yourself.

What I mean by this is that you may know how to stick a ready meal in the oven; mix the contents of a can with some bread; or even bake a mean banana loaf (trust me, mine is to die for). All of your food knowledge so far is probably very UK-centric.

In Japan, space is a rare comodity

In Japan, space is a rare commodity


Less is more… right?







What if this were your kitchen? Would you know what things can be cooked in a toaster oven? Would you have any idea what ingredients to buy to make something edible with a hot plate? How about including fibre in your diet when a box of cereal is three times the price?

Doing a little bit of homework before embarking on the placement would have helped me be healthier in my first couple of months. I dove right in the deep end and learned the hard way!

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Placement lessons

The last few months since starting my placement have been a whirlwind of experiences. Some good and some not so good. Nevertheless, experiences are what we learn from and so far this is what I have learnt.

  • If you’re working on something that is taking up too much time, more often than not, there is a better way to do it! It makes sense to ask someone for help rather than wasting countless hours and from what I’ve experienced, if they don’t know the answer, they’ll know someone who does.
  • Networking and socialising is very important. Creating contacts and forming good working relationships could open up opportunities in the future, as well as having that good reference for when you’re looking to secure a graduate job. LinkedIn is the Facebook of the professional world and a great way to keep in contact with those people you meet during placement (or any working environment). Also, not to state the obvious but, networking and socialising not only helps create opportunities later in life but it also makes life a lot more fun in the work place
  • Prioritisation is key. Working in Sales Finance, there have been times where a lot was going on and I had been given tasks to complete by different people, my managers and Sales Team members. My lack of prioritisation skills got me into some trouble as I struggled to get everything done on time. Lesson learnt. I now try to complete work in order of importance and be more realistic about how much I can do at once.


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The First Step in My Placement Journey

When I started applying for placements, I had no idea what to expect and didn’t really know that much about going through the application process. Now looking back there are a lot of things I would have done differently, and I’m really grateful to have gone through the experience (I feel much more prepared for applying to Graduate Schemes now!).

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is that you should start applying early, not only because many of the bigger companies close early but to have time to get a feel for the process. It is beneficial to apply to some of the less competitive placements first; gaining invaluable experience on what companies look for in applications, how assessment centers work and how to prepare for interviews. All of this puts you on a better footing for when you are applying to placements that you’re really keen on getting!

When I first started looking for the placement, I made the most of the career services at Aston. They’re there to help with CV and Cover Letters as well as mock interviews. This is really worthwhile as they have some great advice and can really help you improve before the real thing. Some companies, including PWC, offer mock interviews, which isn’t something I made the most of at the time but I’m sure is a really great opportunity! Aston also have a lot of Career Fairs, which is a great chance to meet representatives from organisations you may be interested in and ask some valuable questions.

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Lessons Learned

Patience is a virtue.

Before I started my placement, I thought I was a moderately patient person. I get frustrated with self-checkout machines and their non-existent items in the bagging area but I’m totally cool with driving behind elderly citizens without feeling the need to tailgate. Just average patience levels, really. However, being a teaching assistant at a language immersion primary school can require patience on a Gandhi level. On days when you’re feeling a little ill, tired or hangry (hunger anger), spending a good 15 minutes miming what an alien is isn’t ideal. Kids can almost sense when patience has potential to be tested and oh, they do test!

Kids are hilarious.

Having said all that about patience, I do have to admit, it’s definitely not an effort going to work in a morning. I’ve never done a job before where I’m 100% sure I’ll belly laugh at least once throughout the day. Those hilarities can come from anything from being asked if you’re menopausal to songs about anti-bullying efforts to the suggestion of David Attenborough jumping out of a plane and plunging to his death. The minds of children are vast and amazing; you never know what’s going to come out of their mouth! DIY Although living in the Mediterranean sounds idyllic, and for the most part it is, the Med lifestyle can be somewhat displeasing whilst trying to get things done. For example, I’ve been waiting on a handyman for approximately two months. He appeared a couple of weeks ago, took a look at the issues, told me he’d be back the next day. Never saw him again. Due to these kinds of things, ingenious DIY ideas such as my window fixed by a spoon, are essential. (the spoon window was my finest hour, if I do say so myself). If something’s broken, I’ve found the best strategy is to attempt to fix it. You never know when it’s going to get done properly! Superglue is the best investment I’ve made while being out here, so far its fix list is: shoes, handbag strap, phone charger, sunglasses and my bathroom shelf. The possibilities are endless.

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