Humanities & Social Sciences placements

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Settling into the role (and Bristol)

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📥  Psychology

It's November! As of today, it has been exactly two months since I've started my placement. It is expected by now that I've got some idea of what my role within the team is. Safe to say, I think I've got a good sense of what a research assistant is all about. It is partly due to the number of times I've been asked: "So what do you do exactly?" when I told them what I'm doing on placement. I think I got tired of repeating "Oh, I assist someone with their research" that I started to really think about what my job is. So, here I am, attempting to coherently explain what I actually do as a research assistant.

First of all, the project that I am part of is looking at physical activity as a culture, in a primary school context. It is applying social practice theory and seeing how physical activity as a practice (day-to-day routine, in simple terms) can help shape/change children's behaviour and ultimately, their physical and mental well-being. It is more of a sociological take on physical activity and children. Now, as a psychology undergraduate, you might think that this really doesn't apply any psychology-related theories. Well, *puts one hand on the hip and points knowingly with another*, part of the project is looking at body image and children; specifically, positive body image. So, I've been given the task of reading through previous literature related to (positive) body image, children and physical activity. As it is a relatively new construct, I'm currently reading different strands in the body image research and also looking at just physical activity and children. I feel like I'm playing connect-the-dots with the journal articles and hopefully be able to end up with a whole picture. It is definitely a challenge; excited to see where it goes!

In short, my role as a research assistant on this placement is to be in a way, a body image 'expert', i.e. knowing what the literature has found and what is missing from it. I feel like I've given a tool to plough through a fresh piece of land. So that's my job, as for now. Oh, I also get to process fresh data which is always fun. I'm sort of a fan of SPSS, or stats in general because I like numbers. My mum used to say that I should've taken a Maths degree but after struggling with (read: failing) Advanced Maths (I) in high school, I know I'm better off relying on software programmes to do the calculation and I stick to the interpretation of the results. Also, this project will get me involved with a lot of qualitative data, which means learning how to use NVivo, which was fun. Always good to learn new things.

So that's all on the work side of things. I think I'm finally finding my feet here in Bristol. I've stopped being scared of the city and have made it a point to embrace what Bristol has to offer, which is a lot! Secret bars, screenings of Blue Planet II, interesting restaurants and stunning views like this:

Clifton suspension bridge at night.

This stunning piece of architecture was taken last night when my friend, Camilla and I went to the Clifton Observatory to see the fireworks. Unfortunately, my phone camera wasn't good enough to capture the fireworks on display so might have to leave that to the imagination. We also stopped by the Cori Tap before to try their famous Exhibition cider, which only comes in half pint glasses because it is too strong (8.5% alcohol content!). It was a good drink to sip when enjoying the pyrotechnics in 4°C.

The Coronation Tap in Clifton.

Doing more exploring soon! A perk of being on placement, we get weekends off, which gives me the flexibility to see and do more things.

 

Thanks for reading!

Liza x

 

Rotterdam or Anywhere ...

📥  Health

Getting Here:

Liv: Anytime that somebody asked me if I was excited to go on placement my face most likely said I'm not sure even though I was so excited!!! Obviously I was apprehensive and nervous!! Moving to a new city,  having an actual job, meeting new people, making new friends (again), not having my dinners cooked and my washing done for me like I’ve just got used to again living at home for 3 months and of course the big question, will there be a local Zara in this new city?

Kate: I am not afraid to confess I lack culture. Cheshire is renowned for footballers and their wives, although unfortunately I can’t claim to be either. As much as I love home, I will be the first to admit it is hardly a bright lights, big city. That had always suited me and before arriving in Rotterdam I wasn’t sure city life would be for me. I am not the most streetwise, even in Manchester I could only probably only direct you to the Arndale and back on a good day. But maybe that is all the more reason to take the chance and see what the next year holds.

Kate: My parents flew out with me, mainly just so I could utilise the extra baggage allowance. Flying to Schiphol in under one hour (taxiing the runway was definitely longer than the flight itself), we then had a short train ride to Rotterdam. This turned out to be stressful viewing as the Dutch apparently don’t feel the need to put all the station stops on the information board, only the final one. So unless you know that, you aren’t going anywhere quickly.

Liv: Okay firstly, packing is stressful, but packing to live away from home for 10 months that is practically breakdown worthy. “Only the essentials”, “packing lightly” and “baggage allowance” are not words that work well with me so 6 suitcases later we’re eventually travelling the short and sweet 185 miles from my home to my new city: Rotterdam.

Views from the 8th

Let’s get this adventure started…

First Week at Work:

Liv: After a tearful goodbye on a sunny Sunday afternoon it was time to settle in, meet my flat mates and be prepared for our first day of work.

So, we are working at BeLife which is a specialist rehabilitation centre / human performance centre where we are working as Clinical Exercise Physiologists (we’re not quite sure what it means yet either). Our first day did not go quite as we had planned, BeLife had taken on one of their biggest projects to date, and no that wasn’t us! We had plenty of people to meet but just not quite the time to do it!

Day 2 went a little more smoothly and by day 3 we were proficient lab cleaners and had started with real work … kind of!

Modelling our lovely uniform

Understandably we were not let loose on the clients straight away, so we did some experimenting of our own in the lab…

Here’s the evidence, some went better than others….

When working 40 hours a week is too much...

Allergic to this working life!

A Little Bit of Culture:

Experimenting with the culture obviously means … FOOD!!!

A quick introduction to Dutch cuisine from the friendly faces at work include:

  • Stroopwafels
  • Chocolate sprinkles for breakfast - with bread and butter obviously?
  • Speculaas - basically a unbranded Lotus biscuit
  • Liquorice - affectionately known as 'drop'
  • Herring - which surprisingly enough we have chosen to avoid

Thank you to Stefany for supplying our first food parcel!

Shouldn't all food be bigger than your face?

Besides clogs, the colour orange and of course tulips, the Dutch are also renowned for their love of cycling! Something that we have fully embraced and actually become rather fond of! It took some of us more time than others… I’m sure you can figure out who!

Liv: Unfortunately I didn’t get the memo that helmets are a no go zone here, but it was ditched after a week (sorry Mum).

So all that was missing after our first few weeks was the Instagram to prove that we are officially living in the Netherlands!

CUE EXPLORING!

Travels:

Liv: So as you may have already guessed, this Essex girl and rain are not a very good combination and so a trip to the Hague in the pouring down rain was exactly what I did not have planned on my lovely day off! Especially after struggling to cope with working for 40 hours per week!

However, my personal tour guide Kate had different ideas…

Kate: Anyone who knows me knows I am stingy with my money, if I have paid for something I will get my money’s worth - even if that does mean traipsing round in the pouring rain! Ok yes it may have been nicer if it wasn’t torrential rain, but bit of water never hurt anyone right? Wrong … whoever said this clearly hadn't met Liv.

Smiling through the rain!

EUGH!!!!!

Finally though we stumbled across some culture Liv would get involved in! An inside shopping centre!!

And we even saw the girl with the pearl earring ...

 

The Netherlands is very similar to the UK in terms of its weather, it’s just that the people moan a lot less than we do!

But it does rain ALL THE TIME…

Liv: So on a rare but welcomed sunny Sunday Kate took it upon herself to take us exploring once again! This time I really couldn’t complain! We cycled to the local park where there is a lovely lake with sailing boats, watersports and lots of picture perfect families all enjoying a lovely late summer afternoon!

We cycled around the park (the excitement of finding 2 windmills was way too much for me) and stopped off for some lunch with a view, which topped off the end of a crazy month perfectly!

Could think of worse places to spend a Sunday!

Groetjes,

Kate and Liv

 

 

 

 

 

Roller-coaster Start

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📥  Psychology

Hello everyone!

Just thought I'd kick things off with an introduction about myself and what my placement is all about.

I'm Liza, a psychology undergraduate and I'm from Malaysia. I came to the UK to further my studies in 2014 and worked very hard to secure my spot in this university. The placement degree caught my attention because I thought a year working in the field would help me get a good idea of what career I'd want to have. In addition, it is a good break from all the studies.

So here I am. I'm currently a research intern/assistant at the Bristol Business School in University of West England (UWE). My placement supervisor is Dr. Fiona Spotswood and we're currently working on a project to understand how physical activity affects body image in primary-aged children. It is still in the early stages of research so there's plenty of exciting things to explore!

As I'm settling well in the new Business and Law school on the Frenchay campus (just like 10W!), I struggled a little bit with adjusting to the busy city life in Bristol. I've decided to live in the city center because I'd figured it'll be easier for me to explore this vibrant place. It caught me off guard at how overwhelmed I was with all the hustle and bustle of Bristol. Despite being 20km away from Bath, it is a very stark contrast between these two cities. For the first few weeks, I felt a little bit lost. It was hard getting used to seeing the city still very much alive after 11pm. As I grew up in a fairly small town back in Malaysia, having lived in Bath for the past two years, Bristol is my first big city that I've actually lived in. I guess the shock was natural.

Some graffiti work around Bristol.

I am beyond thankful to have made a group of friends here who are mostly from Malaysia. They've welcomed me into their squad and made me feel at home. I think I can finally say that I'm slowly getting used to the pace here in Bristol thanks to them.

New friends in Bristol with a famous Malaysian dish, Nasi Kerabu.

I'm excited to share my journey here with you and thank you for reading my blog!

Here's to more,

Liza.

 

Why is a psychologist working with trains?

📥  Psychology

Writing a blog has never been something which particularly appealed to me as I didn’t quite see the point. However, now, over two months into my Industrial Placement the point has become a little more clear to me – it is the perfect platform to document my experiences and what I have learnt from them. And so that is why I have decided to write a blog for the next year. I will talk about the challenges and successes experienced on my placement and reflect on what I have been doing as a tool to not only monitor my own development, but also for use by others having similar experiences.

Introductions

I suppose a good place to start is introductions. My name is Harvey and I am a third-year psychology student at the University of Bath. Although I have an interest in a wide range of psychological topics, my main area of interest is Occupational psychology, sometimes alternatively known as Industrial Psychology. For those who don’t know, this involves applying psychological research and theory to the realms of work. When it came to looking for a placement this was the area I was looking in.

Getting a placement

The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) offer a placement within their Human Factors (HF) team. Now you may be thinking to yourself, what on earth do trains have to do with psychology? And quickly coming up with the answer, not very much. But don’t let first impressions deceive you. Not really understanding what HF was I was intrigued to learn a little more and so opened the placement advert. After some initial confusion and a little research (and I really don’t mean very much), it became apparent that HF was closely knit to Occupational Psychology, and that often Occupational Psychologists make up HF teams. HF is the study of how people interact physically and psychologically with their environment or items within that environment. In its entirety HF immediately appealed to me and was something I was desperate to find out more about. Fast forward nine months and I am sitting here as an HF Research Assistant writing this blog, taking part in just that learning.

This seems like a good time to give my first tip:

  1. Don’t limit your placement choices. It can be very easy to become set on what you want to do during your placement year. However, a vast majority of the placements offered are to a very high standard and so if you come across something which sparks your interest, just go for it! When again will you get the opportunity to test run a job for year?

On reflection, I was definitely that person who had gone into the placement process knowing exactly what I wanted. If I judged where I am now against those feelings I would not be very happy. But my intrigue allowed me to break the mould I was set in: and for the better. I am now in a job which I love despite being something I knew little about before. Being closed minded will reduce the number of opportunities open to you, and so it is important to give everything a chance.

My Role

This is all very well, but what exactly is my placement? As I have said above, I am working as a HF Research Assistant at RSSB. I sit within the HF team, a group of people made up of occupational psychologists and ergonomists. In my day-to-day job I provide (pretty much as the job title suggests) research assistance for projects currently being conducted in the department. As a snapshot this has so far included the following:

  • User experience testing on a new app developed by RSSB to house all of the standards they produce (it is actually called the Rulebook app, but without getting all nerdy about trains it is easier to think of it as the above description).
  • Conducting workshops with train passengers and rail dispatch staff about their understanding of platform safety markings. And yes, by that I do mean the yellow line. This has been a really interesting project and provided me with great research experience.
  • Working to classify HF present in SPADs (a railway incident where a train goes past a stop signal – similar to a car driving through a red traffic light).
  • Writing a conference report for a conference run by the RSSB HF team in November.

Although minimal detail, hopefully it is clear that my role is incredibly varied and has given me the opportunity to get involved in lots of different projects which have tapped into lots of different content and skills learnt at university. In a later blog I will go into some more detail about some of these projects and what I have learnt from them. In my next blog however, I will be discussing the ‘Big Move’ – that is my move from a small seaside town in Devon to London!

 

The winners of the 2016-17 blogging competition announced!

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📥  2016-17, Communication, Health, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Psychology

As our placement students are gradually returning back to Bath for their final year, it is time to announce the winners of our annual blogging competition!

The Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences thanks all students who dedicated their time to write so many fascinating and adventurous blog posts throughout the year they spent on placements both in the UK and all over the world. Their stories are a true testimonial of how challenging, rewarding and life-changing a year on placement can be. As a recognition of our bloggers´ commitment to report on their placement expecience, the Faculty has awarded following students a number on departmental prizes, and an overall Faculty Prize.

The Faculty Prize of £100 as well as the prize for the Best Health Department blog of £150 goes to Emily Fallon (Sport & Exercise Science) for her captivating and exciting blog posts from the South Australian Sports Institute (SASI). She spent her placement year supporting Australian Olympic athletes and discovering new talents in Adelaide.

Photo of blue sky and placement student

Emily and the kind of view you only get on a placement in Australia with SASI.

Charlotte Harris (Psychology) receives the departmental prize of £100 for her dedicated work as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist with the Lifetime Service (and a Cyclist of the Year) in Bath.

The Department of PoLIS awards Zoe Amador Martinez (French and ab ignition Italian) a prize of £100 for sharing her experience from her teaching placement in Fécamp, France as well as giving her fellow students authentic report from her Erasmus+ experience in Siena, Italy.

Group of students with Erasmus+ flag

Zoe and her friends on the Erasmus+ programme during their year abroad.

The next awardee of the PoLIS department is Katy Wallis (French and ab initio Italian). Katy spent one semester studying in Aix-en-Provence, France and the second in Naples, Italy. Katy also deserves a Blogger Dedication Award for posting every single day.

Natasha Jokic (Politics with Economics) spent her placement at NBCUniversal International as a New Media Research Intern. She met Jamie Dornan on the red carpet AND also receives the PoLIS departmental prize. Where do you go from there?

London Pride bus

Natasha and her NBCUniversal colleagues taking part London Pride.

Last but not least, Maighna Nanu (Spanish and Politics) also receives the PoLIS departmental prize for her adventurous and colourful blog from Guadalajara, Mexico. If you want to know how to get on a university-organised trip involving testing tequila, then read her posts.

Congratulations to all winners and thank you to all bloggers for their authentic and valuable insight provided to our first and second year students preparing for their placements. Soon, we will be also getting new and exciting reports from our current third year students. Do sign up if you're embarking on your placement year!

Written by Julie Fulepova, placement student and Marketing & Events Assistant within the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

 

Capilla del Monte and grub in my tum

📥  Uncategorized

Todays post will be focussed on my visit to Capilla del Monte which is a 3 hour bus journey away from Cordoba Capital. And secondly I love my food. A lot. So undoubtedly this is an important point to investigate while I'm here.

Capilla del Monte

My journey started early on a Sunday morning. It was a bank holiday this weekend so took advantage for a weekend trip. We arrived at midday and dropped off our bags in our quaint hostel before setting off on our walk to Las Gemelas (direct translation; the twins).

We trekked up the hill to a rest point and leisurely ate our lunch. Then we decided to hire some horses to go around the mountain. Mine was called Nochero (direct translation of Noche is night) as it was as dark as a nights sky. And thus we started clip cloppiting along. The views were particularly stunning as the light reflected of the lake. The mountains were sun bathed as we went through the narrow trail. At one point Nochero went off the path which is scary thanks to the unpredictable terrain of the mountain. As we went down steeply we had to put our legs out in front for stability and when going up we had to lean forwards. Overall it was a fun and exciting experience that brought out my inner Chinas (female version of a Gaucho).

On day two we journeyed to El Zapato (direct translation; the shoe) which is a rock famous for being the shape of a shoe. The surrounding rocks were a great viewpoint for the surrounding mountains.

We then walked to Parador El Paraiso (direct translation; paradise) which had a lucious river with some geese and sheep. Our trip ended here as we then collected our bags to get the bus home.

Why I need to return to Capilla del Monte: This area is famous for its special energy and the said aliens that accompany it!

Grub

Where to start¿¡ Lets start with the classics...and a basic introduction to Argentine cuisine.

Asado 10/10

The closest we have to it is a barbeque. But the Argentine Asado consists of pretty much just meat. In Argentina they use every bit of the animal. The equivalent of a Sunday Roast this is a very social activity and will take hours. In a future post I will go into detail of the different part that a asado consists of but for now just imagine mouthfuls of deliciously cooked meat. As a meat lover this was a kind of heaven but this is probably not for you if youre vegetarian...

Empanadas 8/10

These are little pastries filled with different ingredients. My replacement for a sandwich and a big part of my diet, I will eat different types of empanada almost every day. It´s difficult to choose a favourite but I like ones containting choclo (sweetcorn).

Criollos 11/10

These savoury little bread things (sorry my description is awful) are the joy of my life. I have to admit at first I wasn't a fan but now I wait for the 6.30pm merienda eagerly in order to devour my dear criollitos.

Mate 4/10

Admitedly this is not grub but such an integral part of Argentine food and drink, I couldn't miss it out. In every moment and opportunity the argentinians will pour the leaves and hot water and sip from the specially shaped metal straw. Not being a tea drinker did not help me accustom to this bitter drink. However this is such an essential part of life here that I think I will have to get used to it!

Fernet 6.5/10

Again another drink! Fernet is a herbal alcoholic drink which is mixed with coke. I did not find this Argetine alcoholic juice bad at all! It was bitter but quite alright!

 

Weekversary in Argentina!

📥  Uncategorized

Two days ago marked the weekversary of my move to Argentina! I have been met with new people, foods, behaviours, climates and much more! All these new experiences I will talk in greater detail in future posts however here I will focus on my whistle stop tour of Buenos Aires and dealing with homesickness.

Before moving to Cordoba to start my internship I visited Buenos Aires briefly. Here are a few things I got up to:

1.Plaza de Mayo

What is it?

Plaza de Mayo is a square named after the May Revolution of 1810, which started the process towards the country´s independence from Spain in 1816.

Why is it important?

This square has a lot of political importance throughout Argentinian history which I would recommend reading about however a particularly interesting little nugget of history that this square highlights, is the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Since 1977 mothers have congregated here every Thursdaz with signs and pictures of Desaparecidos [direct translation: the disappeared]. These pictures are of the "disappeared" children by the Argentine military in the Dirty War. Their wore white scarfs which symbolize the white dove of peace which can "unite all women". This symbol is painted on the square.

I recommend Plaza de Mayo as it is full of political and social messages.

2.Casa Rosada

What is it?

La Casa Rosada [direct transalation: the pink house) is the office of the President of Argentina. It is named so due to its pink exterior and is one of the most emblematic buildings in Buenos Aires.

Fun Fact

I read in my guide book that it is painted with a mixture of ox blood with lime!

My sweatied plane gear matched with La Casa Rosada!

3.Cafe Tortoni

What is it?

This beautifully decorated cafe was inaugurated in 1858. Famous for its art scene in the basement (La Peña) which was inaugurated in 1926. Among the visitors there were Jorge Luis Borges, Federico Garcia Lorca and Roberto Arlt.

I enjoyed some Churros con Chocolate (apparently a popular choice) while admiring "Poets corner" and the surroundings. However I must warn it is expensive and commercialised.

4.El Caminito

What is it?

This is an area of Buenos Aires that has a lot of character. It was started by immigrants who didn´t have a penny who used whatever materials they could get hold of to construct this neighbourhood. All the houses are very colourful as they did not have enough money to paint it all one colour. It is still very much a working class area as well as tourist destination which creates an interesting dynamic as many working class people resent the tourists and even try to spit on them as they walk past!

El Caminito is a symbol of the tango culture which developed in this port side neighbourhood and working class immigrants.

 

Homesickness

I am a person who gets quite homesick so it was no surprise that moving away for 4 months was going to be a challenge. This first week has been tough however here are a few things that have helped:

Social Butterfly yourself- I have the great fortune that not only have I met lots of warm and welcoming people but I already knew someone out there. This week I have been able to share my homesickness with people who are going through it at the same time as me as well as people who have already gone through it. The caring attitude I have recieved from many has relieved the homesickness greatly.
Busy Bee around- keeping your mind and body busy= less time to think about home. Being in a different country, everything is different, including shopping. I spent half a day exploring shops and supermarkets. I've found keeping the clogs in my brain chugging along has helped remove my thoughts straying to home.
Tick it off- setting yourself goals can generate a lot of motivation. When I am feeling homesick I find it difficult to achieve. Something that I have found that has really helped with my homesickness was having a to do list. Even more so having a calendar so that I can tick off the days and visualise journeys and events to look forward to and helps visualise my time here.
Home Sweet Home- personalising your new home helps give a feeling of permanence as well as bringing home memories as a comfort. Teddy bears are a great, Monica approved idea too.
The Internet generation- we are very lucky to be able to keep in touch with our loved ones so easily. And a few words with them over a video call can help calm a homesick self.
A new world- Writing a journal is a therapeutic way of dealing with homesickness as well as helping to document all the new experiences on this journey.
Well... I hope you have enjoyed my first post from this duck out of water and follow to get notifications of future posts or keep an eye on my facebook. Until next time, Ciao!

 

Light Up Shoes and Goodbyes

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Two days ago, it was finally time: laden down a heavy sense of sadness and three bags filled with DVDs, I left the NBCU building for my final time as an intern. However, I’m not entirely sure that it will truly be my last time there.

Initially, I applied for my Politics with Economics degree without a sandwhich year included. However, I quickly changed my mind after listening to former students’ experiences and switched courses within my first month (although my library card technically says that I graduate tomorrow). I know that the optional nature of the placement can be a challenging decision for some PwE students and I figured, as an absolute worst case scenario, that at least I would find out career I absolutely did not want.

Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case throughout the past thirteen months at NBCU. I applied for a role in the Research department because I hoped that it would give me insight into the workings of a large media company and the industry beyond. Without a doubt, he work I did in the Digital Research team gave me that. Through analysing networks’ websites, I was able to look into the performance of editorial content across different countries and consider what made a good article or video. With social media analytics, I was able to track the progress of company accounts and TV shows whilst gaining skills in reporting and presenting. Working with online transactional film and TV data made me consider how people like to consume their favourite content, with such a plethora of online options available. All of this  gave me day-to-day skills in industry standard software as well as the opportunity to attend conferences about the overall future of media.

My final lunch with the Digital Research team - where I received my stellar gifts

Throughout all this, I felt that one big question kept popping up - how do we make media continue to be engaging when technology is changing so fast? My placement has certainly given me a partial answer to this, whether it be through developing VR content or streaming events directly to Facebook live. I wasn’t anticipating to be so drawn in by the potential for media on different digital platforms, but what I’ve learnt already has inspired me to change the route that I initially wanted my career to take. I hope to continue to try and answer that question through a Masters in Digital Journalism, a step differing slightly from my placement in its focus on content creation rather than analytics.

Furthermore, I’m glad that I was able to undergo all of this whilst still a student. Whilst I’m sure the internship would have still been immensely valuable as a graduate, I feel that the placement has allowed me to gain a far clearer picture of my career options and will vastly improve my final year trajectory. I think it has added value to my degree and I would, without hesitation, recommend anyone to opt in for a work placement year.

The Research Interns' leaving drinks. Not pictured: amazing light up shoes.

Of course, all things must end - so on Thursday night the other Research interns and I hosted our leaving drinks and began to say our goodbyes. I was gifted a miniature drum kit for my desk, a pair of light up trainers and a collection of Keane’s greatest hits (apparently because I’m always so keen). Friday felt a bit like leaving school again; saying goodbye to all the people I saw every day whilst everyone wished me good luck for University. That being said, I know I’ll be seeing plenty of these people again (in some cases, at a BBQ in a week) and would absolutely love to work for the company again. For now at least, I know it’s the end of my placement year - and I couldn’t have wished for a better one.

 

Pride in London and Glitter Letters

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

It’s safe to say that when I first marched at Pride in London three years ago, I never anticipated that I would spend the parade on a giant purple NBCU bus whilst singing along to the Universal Pictures theme music in the wrong key. As it turns out, the Universal Pictures theme sounds a little like the Star Wars theme if you sing it badly enough – a thing I discovered when dancing on said bus at Pride this weekend.

Can you tell we like purple?

My role on the OUT London committee meant that I was plenty busy for the company’s Pride week celebrations, which involved a panel on LGBT+ representation in the media, a screening of Atomic Blonde and a party held on the 10th floor of our office. I was largely involved with the latter, initially motivated by a love of glitter and a good dance. After our first party-planning meeting, we were initially anticipating a struggle to get 100 guests. We were greatly proven wrong when the sign up page reached the 260 person capacity fairly quickly.

This year's company Pride slogan - "Love is Universal" - but in glitter.

One of the main issues was getting decorations on a tight budget (relatively speaking, certainly higher than my budgets when I was organising for MusicSoc) and so I had to go a touch DIY, spending lunchtimes sticking glitter onto heart canvases (Art GCSE clearly came in useful) and getting my team to help assemble a 5 metre balloon arch. Again, such a scale of event planning wasn’t something I had anticipated happening within my placement, and it was daunting but ultimately rewarding. Highlights including drinking an LGBT cocktail (Lemon Gin and Blackberry Tonic) and getting some incredibly unflattering photos in the photobooth I arranged.

 

I am so glad that this sits on my desk to watch me during work.

For the parade itself, my main role was to publish content on the NBCU International Twitter and Instagram pages. Whilst this wasn’t the first time I’d tweeted from a company account, the sheer volume of content expected from the event presented a challenge. However, it didn’t get in the way of me handing out branded flags, having a dance on the top deck of the bus and generally having a fantastic day.

It helps when your colleagues are willing to model for you.

This was my first march with a company, but it was honestly wonderful to spend the day with the people who have been such a big part of my life in the past year. I was also able to bring my sister with me for her first Pride ever – I think her enthusiasm is best shown in a photo where you can’t see my face because she is waving her rainbow flag too strongly – which meant that it was also the first time I spent Pride with family.

The snap my coworker took of the bus - I am second to the right at the corner of the bus. At least I can tell it's me.

All of this makes me think back to my second blogpost where I describe seeing the bus at the parade last year. In particular, how welcoming everyone has been throughout my time here. This makes the fact that this is my last week before my handover period with the next intern (another Bath student – the best option, of course) a little strange to me. Things are quickly becoming “lasts” when it often feels like my time with the company shouldn’t be winding down. Throughout my blogs, it might seem that I overuse phrases akin to “time has flown by” but it feels like this past year has simultaneously been immensely changing yet gone by in the blink of an eye.

My next post will be when I’ve fully finished my placement and I’ll give more of a wrap up of Digital Research. Until then, I’ll be enjoying my final three weeks to the fullest!

 

Year Abroad VIII – final thoughts

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

 

Siena, Italy                                                                                        June, 2017

Ciao!

Today marks a month until I leave Siena, where I have been doing my Erasmus study exchange for five months as part of my Year Abroad. I’m getting all the feels. I don’t want to leave. And I’m thinking of all the things this year has taught me. Here are some of them.

The Year Abroad is more about improving yourself than improving a language.

I feel like there is a lot of pressure on the Year Abroad and returning with close-to-native language skills when the reality is a lot different. Not just because each one of us is doing different activities or spending it in different locations, but because achieving native levels just by immersion is very hard, even if you try to be as active and engaged as you can. If you’ve never spoken the language before, it is easy to track the progress: being able to order at a restaurant or sort out paperwork feels like a milestone. But when you are a language student and have been learning the language for a couple of years, improving in a way that is noticeable is hard. I personally don’t find my French to be much better than when I left the UK. I have definitely improved in listening and reading comprehension and have expanded my vocabulary, but not as much as I thought I would. So don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself and just have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to talk and make mistakes, but also don’t centre on having to improve continuously. The Year Abroad and life are more than that.

Siena will now have a special place in my heart.

Siena will now have a special place in my heart.

The best things I’ve gained this year are more confidence in myself and greater independence.

More than the language side of things, I feel like my greatest achievement this year has been to discard my shyness and put myself out there. I had to do that when I first moved to England for university and that already felt like a massive milestone. This year I’ve had to do it twice, in completely different countries and I’m proud of myself for doing it (introverts, do you feel me?). I’ve learnt to make mistakes without being embarrassed about it because that is how you best learn in this life. I’ve learnt that there’s nothing to lose by approaching new people, the worst that might happen is that they won’t be interested, but you will have given it a shot and have no regrets about what could have happened. If you don’t try, you’ll never win! I really encourage you to try to socialize as much as possible as, if I’ve realized something (more like, completely confirmed) this year is that it’s not about the place you are in - ok, it does make a difference if you are in a big city than a little isolated town but hear me out-, it’s about the people you meet along the way.

Fécamp was such a lovely place to experience France.

Fécamp was such a lovely place to experience France (also, I cooked paella for the first time!).

It’s the people you meet during this adventure that will shape your experience of the Year Abroad.

Clearly, the place you end up in will have a lot to do in creating a good or bad experience of the Year Abroad. If you are a very active and outgoing person and end up in a town in the middle of nowhere, it might not be the best experience. However, at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make new friends and meet new people (in and around the area), but also to choose who you want to become closer with.

Shout-out to Manu, Gillian, Moni and Liam!

Shout-out to Manu, Gill, Moni and Liam!

In France I was in a little coastal town in Normandy and my fondest memories will always be of those I met, be at the school or elsewhere. Parties at the Mill, funny classroom anecdotes, long evening dinners and exploring the town with the other two stagiaires.

Thank-you everybody for making my Erasmus a great one!

Thank-you everybody for making my Erasmus a great one!

In Siena this is even more relevant as most of my friends are other Erasmus students who, like me, are only here for a limited amount of time. My image of Siena is an image in which I’m enjoying the city with all those people I’ve met over the past five months, and that is an image that belongs in this exact moment and will not repeat itself, which leads to my next point.

Ancora degli amici a Siena.

Ancora degli amici a Siena.

Enjoy every moment and grab each opportunity.

The Year Abroad is all about new experiences and learning first hand, so it’s up to you to challenge yourself. Make a list or just head out of the door and explore. Try new foods, new hobbies, go to new places, talk to strangers, get out of your comfort zone. The Year Abroad is an amazing opportunity to push your boundaries – you get to live abroad and meet a lot of new people and you’ll learn to adapt to different lifestyles, so try to make the most of it. You don’t have to become a party animal if you’re the type who enjoys staying in for a chill night, but don’t miss out on events that attract your interest. I ended up joining the student newspaper here in Siena because I saw a recruiting event on Facebook. At first I wasn’t sure because I didn’t really want to show up on my own, but I pulled it together and went anyway and I’ve met a lot of cool people through it and improved my Italian!

I've joined a student newspaper, acted in a French short film and given an improv speech in Italian!

I've joined a student newspaper, acted in a French short film and given an improv speech in Italian!

That being said, you’re allowed to say you’re not having or didn’t have a great Year Abroad.

Hopefully this will not be the case, because it would be a pity, but everybody feels down and questions what they are doing with their lives at some point. Battling homesickness and culture shock is hard and sometimes (especially with the British Council Assistantship), you have no control over where you will end up. Maybe the idea you had of your host country doesn’t live up to your expectations, maybe you don’t really feel like you fit in. And it’s ok. You can ask for support if you need it, but honestly try to battle through. It’s also about being counteractive, especially in cities full of people or small towns. Perhaps it will only be a phase and it will get better, but you have to battle through in order to find out.

And, lastly, you will learn to value your own country.

I only started truly valuing the good aspects of Spain when I moved to England to start my degree. Things like the warmer approach of people in everyday life, the food I can find in the supermarket or the amount of daylight and sun we get throughout the year in comparison to the United Kingdom. Here in Italy I have learnt to value British education even further; oral exams seem like such an inefficient way to go about examinations when a two hour exam would save us all the hassle and long hours of wait for our turn. A lot of my British friends have told me innumerable times how they now appreciate the UK in ways they didn’t before: politeness, the punctuality of transport and efficiency of bureaucracy, just to name a bunch. You never know what you have until you lose it, right?

Thank-you again!

Thank-you again!

All in all, the Year Abroad is an opportunity to grow and have fun before the stress of final year and I hope to have captured that in my blog posts. Hopefully you will also fall in love with the countries that host you and perhaps you will be back after you graduate.

Year Abroad, you have been a great eye and mind-opening experience, you have taught me many things about life and myself and have pushed my boundaries, you’ve been a blast and I am proud to know I’ve made the most of it. Hope all of those embarking on their own adventure do too.

Peace out.

Zoe