Tag Archives: placementabroad

Some Retrospection…

It’s now been over a month since I finished my placement with AirFrance and left Toulouse, so I have had some time to reflect on the quickest three months of my life!

A pic of my office from the first day

I was working in the Air France’s IT department across two sites, delivering English conversation classes to the staff.

The job itself entailed scheduling, planning and running hour-long conversation classes on different topics each week- usually articles or videos on topics from that week’s news.

For me, the people definitely made the job. Everyone was so fun to teach- the lessons are voluntary, so all the students are under no obligation to be there, they come because they want to learn. They were all so enthusiastic and it was fascinating to speak to everyone and hear their opinions and experiences.

One challenge of the job was thinking of original themes for each class which would be interesting and valuable for the students, as well as being adaptable to different levels of English speakers.

The only downside of the role is the almost exclusive speaking of English. Admittedly there were opportunities to speak French which I didn’t always exploit, such as with the other Aston intern, but after three months there I must say I was anxious about how little I felt my French had improved. Of course the experience has been valuable in many other ways, namely learning how to be a ~functioning adult~ working a full-time job and (mostly) coping with living alone. Another thing I’m grateful I learned from the job is the ability to be able to talk spontaneously in a professional environment with people much more senior to me whom I don’t know.

Overall the environment was so nurturing, and everyone was more than willing to help with any problems. It’s a scary thing to move to another country, start a new job and speak to all these new people, but as soon as I started, a lot of my students said that they in fact had children my age and would look after me should I ever need it.

All in all the people were wonderful, the job was fun and I’ve come away feeling like I experienced and learned a lot.

And a pic from when I was walking out on the last day

Of course, the highlight of the stay was being able to call such a gorgeous city home. More on this next time.  

A la prochaine,

J

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

My placement experience at Stanley Black & Decker

Hi guys, my name is Ryan Ball. I am now 7 months into my 13-month placement at Stanley Black & Decker and so far, it has been a valuable experience.

The first month was a crossover month; the old and the new intern undertake a transition period. I was taught by another Aston student from the previous year, this was useful to learn the tasks I would be undertaking throughout the year and made the start of the placement much less daunting. This was also a great month outside of work as there was a large group of us that could get together after work and on weekends to go and check out the neighbouring cities and see what Idstein (where I am living) had to offer. After this month, I felt well prepared to be able to handle the role on my own and I was less anxious speaking German to my colleagues. My team understood that I would struggle at certain points and let me sneak in the odd English word if I couldn’t articulate what I wanted to in German which was helpful to begin with! 

I’m the intern for the ‘Brand and Communication’ team, which means I get to complete tasks involving all brands under the Stanley Black & Decker conglomerate including Black+Decker, Bostitch, DEWALT, Facom, Irwin, Lenox and Stanley. My team are responsible for the development and distribution of POS materials, catalogues for each brand, managing merchandise/giveaways and conceptualising and organising company events. My line manager is responsible for events, so some of my work includes helping her to prepare for them. For example, I create preparatory documents for each event known as ‘Dispos’ that include information about our stand, a personnel plan, addresses for the event venue and the hotel as well as any other necessary information. I also organise the delivery of different items for the event, such as displays, catalogues and any products that will be shown on the stand. I got to visit Eurobaustoff in Cologne last year and I will also be helping to run a competition at Holzhandwerk at the end of March which will be a great opportunity to practice my spoken German.

More recently, I have been involved in the development of new catalogues. My tasks include checking that corrections have been made by the external media agent, sourcing any product pictures that our needed from our media library and checking that the correct product prices are being used. Once these catalogues go into print, I break down bulk orders and send them on to our sales representatives who pass them on to customers. My other main task regarding catalogues is to maintain an overview of the stock levels of catalogues for each brand. To do this I use SAP to check the current stock in our warehouse in Belgium. The report is then sent on to colleagues in different departments of the business so they can see how many of each catalogue are available and how to go about making any orders that they require.

Other tasks can range from translating E-Mails for my team from German to English, to creating ‘Etiketten’ (stickers with the barcodes and prices of our products) using Excel. My role often includes lots of short-term tasks to complete, therefore it is important to manage priorities and be aware of any deadlines that are upcoming and distributing time between tasks accordingly. Sometimes the role can become repetitive, but having the support of my team, the other interns (and a solid music playlist) makes these periods manageable! Overall, the placement is enjoyable and has helped me develop a lot of skills, especially my German competence. The crossover period and length of the placement makes it possible to learn as much as possible and gives me the maximum time to try and absorb as much German as I can before I head into final year.

The office is in Idstein, a small town, so it is slightly different to a lot of people I know who are in placement in large cities such as Munich and Nuremberg. It is quite quiet but there’s everything you need, plenty of supermarkets, restaurants and most importantly ‘Lokale’ (pubs) to enjoy. The nearest big city is Frankfurt which is about a 30-minute train journey away. It’s great to have such a big city nearby that you can go to for shopping, a night out or to visit the English shop so you can pick up some home comforts. Another one of the great things about the Stanley Black & Decker internship is that there’s a group of interns, this year there are 5 of us in Marketing and 1 in the Engineering department. This means that we can organise things to do together and helps to make the most out of the year abroad experience. For example, we’ve adopted Mainz as our German football team and we often go to games, most recently against Bayern (Mainz lost, but 15 Euros to watch Bayern play is a bargain!). Some of us also went down to Munich for Oktoberfest for a few days, which I would recommend. We are planning to visit Amsterdam as well as plenty of other German cities such as Berlin, Bonn and Hamburg so there’s plenty to still look forward to for the rest of this year!