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What Can You Gain from an Erasmus Study Placement?

Kirsty King, a blogger from our MEDIA programme, sat down with fellow Erasmus Study alumna Rose Winter to exchange travel stories and memories.

Kirsty in Belgium

This time last year I had just packed my bags and jetted off to Belgium for an Erasmus Study Placement. Now looking back, I can safely say I’m a different person to the one that set off twelve months ago.  

I sat down with fellow Erasmus Alumna (Slovenia), Rose Winter, to chat about our experiences and think about the skills that we developed on our foreign adventures. The good news: we agreed that these skills will help us to stand out to any employer.If you are considering Erasmus, don’t miss the upcoming information session. Register here

Let’s talk: Organisation

Before you’ve even set off on your adventure, you will be developing your organisation skills, whether that’s by looking for accommodation, planning travel arrangements or doing other paperwork. While this may seem overwhelming at first, your ability to organise will stand you in great stead further down the line, believe me.

Rose says: “On my placement I had to study more modules each semester than I would normally study at Queen’s, and some of these were Master’s courses. This meant I had to have good time-management skills to get all my work done.” 

Like Rose, I also had to study more modules than I was used to, which meant I had to organise my time well too! While this may sound difficult, you’ll soon get used to the different size of workload, and what’s more, I’m definitely better at multi-tasking now.

Kirsty (centre) with friends in Belgium

Let’s talk: Resilience

Going abroad doesn’t come without its challenges, and things might not always go to plan. That’s where resilience comes into play.

When I landed in Belgium, one of the first things I had to do was register at the city hall. I didn’t get off to the best start when I turned up at the wrong city hall, but don’t worry, with the help of the Tourist Information Office I soon found the right one. Another new experience was having to open a Belgian bank account, which did take a while to set up but was worth it in the end!

Rose tells me: “When registering my accommodation in Slovenia, the police didn’t think my property existed. It was only when I told them the names of my housemates that they realised where I was staying was a real place!”

What Rose and I have both found is that when we ran into difficulties abroad, we showed resilience and were able to solve the problems we were faced with.

Let’s talk: Independence 

Travelling away from home means you have to work things out for yourself. This may seem like a tall order, but you’ll soon discover you’re able to figure out a lot more than you thought.

Rose says: “Going to university in a different country means you have to deal with new situations on your own such as getting used to a different teaching and assessment style – this gives you a lot of independence.”

I definitely agree. Since going abroad, I feel like I now have the confidence to ‘get on with things’ on my own, without having to ask for help every time I try something new!

Rose (right) with friends in Slovenia

Let’s talk: Communication

When you go abroad, you’ll meet A LOT of new people – flatmates, classmates and more. There’ll always be ways to meet others – you just have to find the right way for you! 

Rose explains: “There was a social group at my university that organised day trips and events such as beer pong and quizzes – it was a great way to meet other students.”

My host university in Belgium told us about the Erasmus Student Network, a group which organised loads of trips and events for Erasmus students throughout the year. These fun get-togethers were where I made some great pals! 

Rose and I both agree that going away by yourself really pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to get to know new people. And you never know – these people might become your best friends!

Let’s talk: Confidence

Heading to a new country by yourself for the first time sounds daunting, right? But imagine how you’ll feel when you take this jump – capable of anything, that’s what! 

Rose says: “Going away by yourself and being faced with a completely new system gives you the confidence to adapt to new environments more easily.”

Since going abroad, I’ve definitely found it much easier to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities, when in the past I would have been hesitant. Giving new opportunities a go will boost our employability – and we have Erasmus to thank for that!

Register here for our upcoming Erasmus Information session  

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Advent Calendar advice Career planning Covid-19 Erasmus graduation lockdown Mental Health Pandemic

Surviving final year in a global pandemic

Maeve in Madrid

In the summer of last year, I was adjusting to life in a new city having just started an Erasmus work placement in Madrid. I was enjoying my new independence, tapas, and post-work sunbathing. By March of 2020, a global pandemic had well and truly made itself known throughout Spain, and my international experience, like so many other things, came to an abrupt end.

Suddenly, I was back living at home, completing my final year online and coming to terms with the pending post-graduation panic. It was all a far cry from the pre-pandemic blissful ignorance I was enjoying this time last year. 

Final year is stressful at the best of times, with countless deadlines, exams, job applications and big decisions. Combine that with a switch to online classes and a global pandemic looming large in the backdrop, and it’s a recipe for final year fear.

Learning to adjust

The switch to online learning was something I, like many others, found very daunting.  Microsoft Teams classes and breakout rooms were not how I had imagined my final year of university to be, but I am learning to embrace the positives. For starters, I love avoiding early winter morning commutes to 9am classes. Moreover, I’m recognising that the skills I’ve gained by being thrown into the deep end of online working will be highly valued amongst future employers. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, the need for virtual work skills is no longer limited to telecommuters and global teams; it now extends to most office work. The virtual skills I’ve developed through being immersed into the world of online learning are truly indispensable and highly valuable to employers, so I’ll remember to show them off in my next interview. 

Maeve in Madrid

Looking to the future

And as I begin to look at interviews and how my post-university career path will begin to take shape, I’m aware that my comfortable student bubble is about to burst and real adulthood and responsibilities are looming. 

‘What are your plans after university?’ is a question that rings throughout final year, and while some have a five-year career plan up their sleeve, I count myself among the many who haven’t figured out what I’m doing at the weekend, never mind next year. 

If you’re in a similar situation, and are finding your future really daunting, fear not. Here are some tips that have helped me: 

  1. Don’t get caught up on what your friends are doing. It’s easy to feel that just because everyone you know is applying for Big 4 grad schemes, you should too. It’s important to think about what’s best for you, and understand what you really want. Queen’s Careers Service is on hand to help support you in deciding what to do next. You can book a 1-1 appointment with a Careers Consultant to discuss any aspect of your career management or even receive feedback on your CV/LinkedIn profile. 

Book an appointment in MyFuture

  1. Explore your options! Research, research, research. Graduate jobs are not the only option. Think about postgraduate study – maybe a Master’s programme will be the next step for you? Or, with vaccine hope on the horizon and a slow shift back to normality looking increasingly promising, why not think about working, studying or volunteering abroad? Queen’s Global Opportunities Team can advise you about programmes available. You can arrange a virtual appointment with one of the team to chat about the travel options available to you through MyFuture.

Search Global Opportunities

  1. Leverage the new skills you’ve developed. Although this year has not been the most ideal in terms of academic experience, think about the skills you have developed through its challenges. Not only will employers love those new virtual working skills, but also the adaptability gained by facing a having to suddenly adapt to online classes, resilience gained by facing and persevering through your studies during a very difficult period, and undoubtedly problem-solving in overcoming various issues and problems brought about by the challenges of this year. Think about how to showcase this new skillset, considering how this relates to your ‘selling points’ for your next interview. Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills website has some great interview tips and advice to help you think about this.  
  2. Find comfort in the unknown. Be at ease with the fact that 2020 has been completely unprecedented. It is completely normal to feel anxious and unsure about what your next step is. It’s important to remember that your future isn’t a race or a competition, take your time and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your classmates or lecturers. If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, there is support available in the form of Queen’s Wellbeing who are on hand to help those struggling through these very strange times.

Contact Queen’s Wellbeing Service

If you are unsure about your next step after graduation, there are lots of tools and resources available to you on our website. 

Explore your options by School or Sector.

Categories
Asia Australia Canada Erasmus Europe Fairs Global Opportunities Go Global Study abroad Travel USA Work abroad

Five Amazing Places You Can Travel to From Queen’s

Go Global Week is almost upon us. To get you in the mood, we’ve rounded up five of the awe-inspiring places you can visit from Queen’s on a work or study abroad trip. Prepare to light up your ‘gram with #travel goals.

1.Canada 

You’ll need your camera at the ready in beautiful Canada

You can spend a semester or a year studying in Canada, just like Queen’s Land Use and Environmental Management student Stuart Best. 

“As a student in Canada, I did lots of interesting group projects, and there are so many good opportunities to network and develop, as well as making lots of Canadian friends!” 

Stuart with his Canadian friends on campus

Want more information on opportunities in Canada

2.USA

Start spreading the news…

Fancy sending a summer interning in New York? Project Children USA Internships are available in many fields ranging from law and politics, to medicine and engineering. Queen’s Law student Patrick Friel spent six weeks in the district office of Congressman Peter King

“Peter King made a huge contribution to the peace process in Northern Ireland and is still extremely interested in Irish affairs. My work mainly consisted of taking calls from constituents, helping them with the issues they were having with federal agencies and discussing any concerns that they had. I would like to thank Congressman King and everyone else in the office for making my internship incredibly enjoyable. I would also like to thank everyone from Project Children for giving me the opportunity to have an unforgettable summer!” 

Patrick with Congressman King

Want more information on opportunities in the USA

3.Asia

Want to explore Asia from Queen’s?

If you want to combine work experience with adventure then Generation UK China could be the programme for you. You can spend your summer interning in industry across China, like History student David Keenan who spent last summer in Shanghai. 

“For any student wanting to internationalise their career, and travel to an exotic country over the summer, I strongly urge you to consider the Generation UK – China Internship Programme!,” says David.

David exploring China

Want more information on opportunities in Asia

4. Europe

Spring time in Paris?

Erasmus Study & Work Programme has opportunities all over Europe. Law student Megan Edwards spent a semester studying at Pazmany Peter Catholic University (PPKE) in Budapest. “Studying in Budapest, Hungary as part of the Erasmus programme was the greatest experience of my life, she says.

Megan in Hungary

Want more information on opportunities in Europe

5. Australia

Fair dinkum

You can go as far afield as Australia from Queen’s and spend a year or a semester studying at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales. Check out their Instagram feed to see what your view of campus could look like!

Follow #YakMedia for a snapshot of campus life in New South Wales.

 If that has whetted your appetite for travel, don’t miss Go Global Week from 12-15 October. Register for the Go Global Fair here.