Placement blogs

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

Year Abroad VI – culture shock and different ways of life

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized

Siena, Italy                                                                  April, 2017

Salve! I’m back with a new post, this time about culture shock, which is a term many of you who have lived abroad or are soon going to have definitely encountered. Here’s a little break-down of what culture shock is, how to recognize it and deal with it, and how I have personally experienced it.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (1), culture shock is “a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation”. Basically, when you move abroad it takes some time to feel comfortable in the new country, and this period of adaptation is when you generally feel the culture shock. Everybody experiences it different as it depends on where you are from, where you are going, previous experience of living abroad, preparation before moving… Some people don’t really go through culture shock, or suffer it later on (it can hit at any point, even well into your time abroad), some are very vulnerable to it – everybody is different.

cultural_shock

 

General consensus is that culture shock has three to five different phases:

·         Honeymoon Phase: you’ve just arrived in the new place and everything is different and exciting, new food, new people, new places – you’re loving life!

·         Post-Honeymoon Phase: you start to notice the little (and not-so-little) differences between your culture and the new one, and you’re not too keen on them. Maybe you dislike how people act in a certain situation or you are missing your mum’s food, so you start feeling upset and unhappy.

·         Negotiation Phase: probably the most important as it is the turning point, you decide to give into the negativity and unhappiness or to adapt and make the most of the experience. Hopefully the latter.

·         ‘Everything will be fine’ Phase: you finally feel more comfortable in the new culture, enjoying the differences. It doesn’t mean you have to adopt all of the different traits, but you can recognize them and act accordingly. You no longer feel unhappy or upset and you might even decide to immerse yourself completely in the new way of life and actually end up loving it.

·         Reverse Culture Shock Phase: you can actually go through the whole process of culture shock again once you return home, particularly after a long period of time. Just pointing that out, because it’s a possibility even though it might sound crazy!

Culture Shock final. jpg

 

How to deal with culture shock

The best way of dealing with culture shock is to educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the new country in preparation for it – before you go and after arriving. This can range from knowing how the political system works or how to go to the GP, to smaller things like knowing if you can drink tap water.

Other things you can do are to be open-minded and eager to learn; I’ve found that most locals are happy to explain how and why things are done a certain way in their country, so don’t be afraid to ask questions (speaking the local language helps a tonne – and this is relevant even if you have all your courses in English or aren’t necessarily a language student!). Also, try to be as involved in the community as possible, don’t lock yourself in your room because this will encourage homesickness and limit your opportunities of meeting new people and making friends who will help you settle in. Finally, it’s ok to bring things that remind you of home and will comfort you when you are feeling down, as well as keeping in contact with your family and friends back home – the point is getting over culture shock, not completely separating from your previous life-style!

My experience

Here’s a little background knowledge about me. I’m Spanish, I grew up and spent all of my childhood and teenage years in the Canary Islands (save for one year back when I was 7, when I lived in Portsmouth with my family). So the most distinguishable experience of culture shock that I can fully remember was moving to Bath in 2014 to start my degree in Modern Languages. Yes, I’d lived in the UK before (even though I couldn’t remember a lot of it), so I already had a fairly precise idea of what living in the UK is like: the weather, the way people act, the different food, the different language,… but I still had to deal with culture shock. As much a fan of English life-style as I may be. It was indeed a drastic change: first time I was living on my own, in a new country, with a new language, where I didn’t really know anybody. Culture shock hit me a little after Freshers’, when I was still settling into the routine and figuring out the new place. I remember one of the most clear examples of culture shock for me was the way young British people approach drinking – I was definitely not prepared for drinking games or binge drinking. The drinking culture I had experienced in Spain was different and it took me a while to understand (still trying, actually), this cultural difference. I had a positive attitude and was adamant on making the most of the opportunity of studying abroad, even though dealing with culture shock and homesickness was pretty hard at times, but following the advice mentioned earlier helped me cope. Eventually I ended up feeling at ease in England and now I love both my homeland in Tenerife and studying in Bath, each for their own unique reasons.

This year, as part of my Year Abroad, I’ve had to live in France and Italy. Sounds like a chore but it really hasn’t been. I’ve had (and am having) a blast. Fortunately for me, the information sessions in Bath in preparation for the YA are quite extensive and I already had experienced moving abroad once before. It was just a matter of doing the same thing with the two new countries. So far it has been alright. I was in Fécamp, France, for four months and fortunately for me I was so busy I had little to no time to dwell on culture shock or homesickness. I think the fact that my colleagues were British and I lived in a small town was also helpful as I felt really welcomed and supported. When it comes to Italy, I’ve noticed Spanish and Italian cultures are pretty similar, so I feel quite at home in Siena. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t noticed cultural differences, by any means. Here is a short list of anecdotes.

·         Greetings - it might sound silly but I’ve experienced quite a lot of awkward situations in all of the countries I’ve lived in because the way you greet someone when you see them varies not only from culture to culture but also from person to person. In Tenerife, men shake their hands or hug if they are close, while women will either shake hands with men or give one kiss on the cheek, leaning into the left. In other parts of Spain you give two kisses, one on each cheek, again starting from the left. In Britain there is less physical contact and the hand shake or wave is usually the norm, whereas the bisou is big in France; you give two, one on each cheek starting from the right. In some regions you only give one or you might even give three! The fact that you lean first to the right confused me so much when I first arrived in France, and still towards the end of my placement I would forget to start on the other side which would result in a weird moment avoiding the mouth and changing to the right side – I’d laugh it off but it was quite embarrassing! Same in Italy, usually when you first meet people you shake hands, and later on you give two kisses on the cheek starting on the right. I still find myself caught off guard sometimes – fortunately I’m quite short so I don’t usually have to make the first move.

·         Smoking – smoking is quite popular amongst young people all over Europe, but I was surprised by the fact that every single young (and not so young) person I met in France smoked. Might have been a coincidence as I know of other people with different experiences, but it surprised me nonetheless. I knew cigarettes were popular, but I didn’t expect people to leave the dinner table and go outside in order to fumer une clope!

·         Aperitivo/aperitif- this is a cultural difference I’ve grown to enjoy. In France it is custom to have a glass of some sort of strong alcohol – calvados, Campari or whatever takes your liking – with friends before you sit down for dinner. It is quite a social thing to do and something I was not aware of until I moved to France. In Italy it is also very popular- it is quite usual to go to a bar that does aperitivo, usually starting at 6 or 7pm, with some friends to have a drink (aperospritz and Negroni seem to be the most popular options), usually with access to a food buffet where they serve dishes like pasta, couscous, focaccia,… Aperitivo is a great invention!

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Aperitivo is great!

·         Finally, I think it’s worth mentioning Italian men from the point of view of a foreign girl living in Italy. Of course, not all Italian men are the same and I don’t want to generalize, but it did take me aback how straight-forward and adamant some Italians can be, particularly when going out, so be aware of that.

There are obviously many more cultural differences between these four countries than the ones mentioned above and I’m yet to discover even more but I hope you have found this post helpful. As a language student I love discovering new cultures, but it is fair to say this is not always positive so raising awareness about culture shock is a very important point for those planning to live abroad and if you’re currently going through it, just know you are not alone!

A presto!

Zoe

 

(1)    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture%20shock

Images: https://www.hastac.org/sites/default/files/upload/images/post/cultural_shock.jpg

https://eap.ucsb.edu/sites/default/files/Culture%20Shock%20final.%20jpg.jpg

My own.

 

Moving on Placement

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

Earlier on in the academic year, the Lifetime Service went through a tendering process - where the companies managing the service change hands. This was quite disruptive and ended up in two members of the team remaining with the original company (Sirona) and the rest of the team changing to Virgin Care. Splitting the team in two along the lines of where their caseloads were based. On top of this, the change of hands meant that the Lifetime Service had to move out to a new location.

But, no one knew what was happening. Not even those higher up in the service and Sirona knew where we would be moving to or what this meant for the staff and their jobs. So as you can imagine, everyone was really stressed and confused. We only found out a month before the move where we were moving to, and the moving date was only announced two weeks before we were due to have everything packed up in boxes and shipped off to the new location. No easy task as the Lifetime Service has a lot of stores and medical supplies for the various young people they care for and activity groups they run - so much that they take up three storage rooms!

So, after many months of enjoying the commute to the Royal United Hospital and my placement, the Lifetime Service found out they had to move to St Martins Hospital in Odd Down. With only two weeks to make sure everything was labelled and ready to go, whilst also continuing to provide a safe and effective service.

With all these changes going on, it gave me a chance to experience a very different work situation that most people would never have expected to happen whilst on their placement. The service was quite disrupted and overwhelmed with the move, so my role changed quite a lot from assisting the Psychology Team to also helping the Nurses with their work. I was also involved a lot in the moving process of packing up boxes and labelling them for the new office.

In the two weeks before the move, I spent my time going through old files and uploading useful information to our shared computer files that would be coming with us when we moved. - Most things had not been looked at since 2004 so there was a LOT of weird and random stuff buried in folders and boxes across Lifetime that people had forgotten existed. A lot of things were thrown out just to save on space, what wasn't thrown was squished into boxes and sent to the new offices or to an old abandoned church for storage.

With all of this going on, my role as an Assistant Psychologist took a back seat and I was not able to have as much contact with my supervisor. This was OK as it was only short term, but I had to be more aware of thinking of jobs to do and not asking to be given work. This was a little difficult at times but there was so much to go through and sort out to help with the move that coming up with tasks to do was easy.

What you are probably thinking is 'How on earth do you cope with moving during placement?'

I've come up with some top tips to help with moving placement locations:

  1. Check out Transport - As soon as you know where you are moving to look into how you will get to your new location (can you get there with your current bus pass or do you need another one? Can I cycle there 0r walk? Could someone give me a lift? Do I need to move? -hopefully not for the last one). Having a few options to get to your new location can really help take away some of the stress of the move.
  2. Supervision - Meet with your supervisor before the move and ask for a list of what they would like you to do to help the move. Your supervisor may want your help packing up different stores and offices or they might prefer you to work from home for a few days whilst things are most chaotic.
  3. Get all the Knowledge - Try to find out as much about the move as early on as you can, knowing what is going on is a huge relief for you and those around you (When is the move happening? Where can you find boxes to pack up your things? How should you label up the boxes?).
  4. Finance - If you know the move is changing your commute time or route it might be useful to have a look at whether the move will make things more expensive for you. Knowing whether you have to spend more money or not will help you to plan a new budget or organise some extra hours for a job to help fund the change. Some companies may even reimburse you for travel if it is more expensive than before, so have a look to see if this is possible for you!
  5. Be Aware - my last tip is to try and be aware that staff members are likely to be stressed with the move and tensions may be running high. With everyone preparing for the move your role may be side-lined a little, so make sure you ask around for some jobs and expect to do things that you would never normally do as part of your role. If there are not many tasks going, try having a think about other things you could be doing, like your dissertation or coursework - I spent a lot of time calling up different hospices and services to see if their staff could take part in my dissertation research.

It can't have all been difficult. What was the best part of the move?

Definitely having Thai Food delivered to work for a last lunch as a service, with lots of free cakes and chocolates being brought in by different teams to wave goodbye to the different teams in Bath NHS House.

Finally, congratulations to the Lifetime Service. We made it!

 

 

 

Year Abroad V – the Erasmus paperwork and Welcome Week

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Siena, Italy                                                           late March, 2017

Ciao! I’m back with a new post and this time it is all about the Erasmus paperwork. If you are going on your Year Abroad, then you will certainly be familiar with the Erasmus process to get that very much awaited grant. However, you will also know how much of a long process it is. Here is a breakdown.

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Living the Erasmus life #ESN

What is Erasmus?

Erasmus+ is a European Union programme which provides opportunities and supports to EU students who want to study or work abroad in Europe for up to one year (2 or 3 months minimum depending on the activity). The EU allocates a certain amount of money to the programme and, as a participant, you may be eligible to receive an Erasmus grant – quantity of which changes depending on where you are doing your placement, for how long, what sort of activity you will be doing, and internal matters from the University and EU itself (every year the amounts tend to vary, which is why you are asked not to rely on your Erasmus grant as a part of your Year Abroad budgeting!).

Follow this link for more information about the programme: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/node_en

One of the most important requirements, aside from being a registered student at University, is to complete all the paperwork within the set deadlines.

The Erasmus Paperwork

Probably the most tedious part of your Year Abroad. During the information sessions held by the University pre-Year Abroad we were clearly explained all about the Erasmus grant and paperwork. I must say, the Erasmus team at Bath are super-efficient and helpful with any doubts you might have – do approach them if something is not clear!

On Moodle you will find the basic spread of all the documents you have to go through in order to receive the grants (and probably sign up to modules in your receiving University since the Learning Agreement is pretty much your exchange contract!).

The University of Bath starts with the paperwork quite early on, which is great because then it doesn’t pile up or you are faced with having to deal with it once you are actually away from British soil. My biggest advice is to make a clear list of what documents you have to sign and hand-in but, above all, when they are due. Missing a deadline is the worst thing that can happen. It might sometimes not be the end of the world, but you definitely have to pay attention because missing a deadline can mean not getting the much needed grant…

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The Erasmus paperwork - you can find the chart on Moodle

Erasmus paperwork is different for both Traineeships and Erasmus+ Study. Again, you will find all the information and files on Moodle (your Holy Grail!), but roughly:

1.       Apply for either for a job or a study exchange.

2.       Complete an Online Language Assessment (OLS) – both before going on the exchange and after returning. The assessment is to check your language progress and is made to collect data for the EU. It’s a good way to track how much you’ve improved, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it!

3.       LEARNING AGREEMENT / TRAINEESHIP AGREEMENT – probably the most important documents because they are your ‘contracts’ with your receiving University where you will be doing your study placement or the agreement with your supervisor/company where you will be doing a placement. Keep this thing safe – I have a million copies of the document, all different versions and at different stages of completeness.

4.       Travel Insurance – I’d advice getting the one offered by Bath. It’s fairly cheap and comprehensive.

5.       Certificate of Arrival / Certificate of Departure – document certifying that you made it to sunny Italy or wherever your placement is, and the same after leaving. It seems like quite a trivial document but it’s very important in order to both receive your grant and the correct amount. It’s due two weeks after you arrive/leave, so don’t forget! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement/post-Erasmus blues!

6.       Changes form – during your mobility you might need to change modules, make changes to the agreement or extend or reduce your mobility dates; this is the form to do that. Don’t change the original Agreement!

7.       Finally, the online report /transcript from Host University/After Mobility section – after your placement you have to fill in a report about it. It is a fairly tedious document, but necessary. You will need the collaboration of your supervisor or Host University, so I’d advice leaving this either done and dusted or ready to be before you leave.

When it comes to receiving the grant itself, Bath have split the payment in two instalments, as an incentive for you to finish the paperwork. Believe me, you definitely need the incentive.

My experience

FRANCE

If you’ve read the rest of my posts, you will know I worked at a local language school in Normandy called The English Centre des Hautes-Falaises. Fortunately for me, I had access to a printer so I could print and scan the paperwork, and my supervisor was very efficient when it came to signing the paperwork and getting it sorted. I was lucky in my case, because I know of other students who have had to actually pester their supervisors to fill in the papers, particularly after the placement, so make sure you get it done asap!

ITALY

Now, studying in Italy is a whole different story. In Siena’s case, the Welcome Office deals with the arrival and departure certificates along with the transcript of records. The Ufficio Didattica deals with the actual Learning Agreement and any changes you might make, as well as signing you up to the modules you choose. And then there’s the Erasmus Coordinator. To be fair, after the induction it is fairly clear what steps you have to follow, however the nightmare arrives when your Coordinator is not where he or she should be according to their Office Hours… I had my LA signed back in February to avoid having to deal with it later on, as the deadline to hand it in at the office in Siena was the last day of March. I decided to wait until I made sure my modules didn’t clash before going to the office and, just as I did it, I was told I had to get the changes form signed. Yes, I was forced to change modules because we had to choose the options in Bath back in April when the 2016/2017 timetables were not yet available. Yes, I had to chase down the Coordinator. I went to his office a couple times as well as sent him emails. It felt like such a waste of time but, to be honest, it only made me appreciate the efficiency at Bath even more!

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GENERAL ADVICE

·         Keep on top of it! Make sure you keep track of the documents you have to hand in, when they are due and have copies of them!

·         You need to hand-sign the Erasmus paperwork, which just makes it so much more complicated… This means you have to be able to print the forms, sign them, scan them, and send them back to the respective institution. Having a printer is ideal. I personally did not have one in either of my placements which made it slightly harder. I had access to the company printer during my placement in France, which was great. However, in Italy students generally don’t have/use printers. In this case, the copisterie or print shops will be your best friends. Bring a pendrive and shop around; expect to be spending a couple euros to get the whole paperwork process finished… Also, you can have scanning apps on your phone which turn photos into pdf documents and will save you money (life hack right there).

·         Make sure you know who has to sign what. Find out your Erasmus Coordinator’s Office Hours and contact details as soon as possible – you might have trouble finding the physical person like I did!

Studying in Italy: the ESN and Welcome Week

THE ESN

ESN Italia or Erasmus Student Network is an association of Italian university students who offer their help to foreign students and help them integrate into their Erasmus University. They are like the Erasmus club at a national, regional and local level and are in charge of organising different events – from formal inductions, guided tours and trips to fun events throughout the semester. As far as I’m aware, all of the Italian Universities that Bath has exchanges with have an ESN group.

The ESN group in Siena is amazing. All the volunteers are really friendly and helpful, which is great when you’ve just arrived. They also make sure to offer a variety of different events to take part in, great for meeting other Erasmus people and also some Italians! Definitely look for the ESN group when you arrive at your Italian university!

If you want to find out more, follow this link: http://www.esnitalia.org/it

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WELCOME WEEK

Welcome Week for the second semester in Siena took place during the last days of February/first few days of March. During that week you had to be here so make sure you check your dates when booking your flights!

During Welcome Week we had the formal induction to the Università degli Studi di Siena in which we were given general information about the city and University, such as where the buildings are, the sports facilities, the banking system,… Each faculty also had their own specific induction (mine is Scienze Sociale, Politiche e Cognitive, even though I don’t actually follow any modules within that department) – make sure you find out when yours is because it will be when they give you all the information you need about Erasmus paperwork, choosing modules and actually visiting the building where your lessons will take place.

Alongside the ‘official’ events, the ESN committee organized a tonne of different fun events so that Erasmus students could meet each other. On Monday there was Happy Hour which was great, then there were also a few club nights as well as beer competition, wine tasting, and guided tours of the city and even an outing to Chianti. There was an event for everybody. It was a little bit like Freshers’ Week but Italian style – everything a tad more disorganized and late! I really enjoyed it, so make sure you attend the events! The last night – la Festa al Rettorato – was a proper Erasmus student experience to start the exchange with a bang!

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I hope you found this post useful. Even though the Erasmus paperwork is quite tedious, the numerous opportunities and perks Erasmus+ gives you outnumber the drawbacks. As I said, make sure you keep track of dates but, above all, HAVE A GREAT YEAR ABROAD!

Alla prossima!

Zoe

 

 

Christmas Party, Free Coffees and Fifty Shades

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

As there’s so much to update on, I thought I’d go for four mini-posts! So without waiting any longer…

The Christmas Party

Now, the NBCUniversal Christmas party is an event that is hyped up to the point where you’re excited for Christmas from about mid-August. As the date approached, I found myself seriously considering the extent of which I was looking forward to this more than actual Christmas (sorry mum). Each year it happens in a different location, with plenty of music, food and drink. This year’s theme was “Night Circus” and took place in the Waterloo Vaults (a venue that stretches out under Waterloo train station).

All the NBCUniversal TV Research interns (and Matt, who just happened to also be in the lobby)

All the NBCUniversal TV Research interns (and Matt, who just happened to also be in the lobby)

Getting dressed up in the office was taken pretty seriously here in research, topped by one of the interns bringing in a light up mirror. The event itself definitely lived up to expectations, with room after room filled with something new. Highlights included challenging various people to an arcade dance machine, eating nitrogen ice-cream and subjecting my colleagues to my terrible dance moves.

The Digital Research team!

The Digital Research team!

M. Night Shyamalan and Free Coffee

This placement has led to a lot of slightly surreal showbiz moments, but up there has to be when M. Night Shyamalan was the reason for the café on the newly acquired floor of our building becoming completely free. It started with a business update at a theatre near the office, during which James McAvoy and M. Night Shyamalan answered questions about their new film Split (which I definitely recommend, even if I literally had to hide my eyes behind my hands for some of it). However, on the more logistical side of the business update, the prospect of a subsidised café with real-life baristas was raised. To cut a long story short, M. Night congratulated us on the cheap coffee which was enough to persuade the Chairman that we should actually be having this coffee for free. So thanks M. Night, can’t beat drinking an Americano whilst looking over London.

So close, yet so far.

So close, yet so far.

InterMedia

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am now a member of the committee for the LGBT+ employee resource group OUT London. Part of this has involved reaching out to the cross-media LGBT+ alliance InterMedia UK. Subsequently, I attend monthly steering committee meetings at offices across London (recently this has included Channel Four and ITV). Ultimately, the group’s aim is to make the media industry more LGBT+ friendly and getting to discuss issues with such a plethora of industry professionals has been incredibly insightful. It’s still early days, but there are some cracking events coming up.

Found the Channel 4 logo IRL

Found the Channel 4 logo IRL

50 Shades Darker Premiere

I first read Fifty Shades of Grey when I realised that I could get it for free because I shared a Kindle account with my mum who had already bought it (a mixed blessing). It was therefore incredibly exciting to open my emails one Thursday and see that I had won an internal contest to attend the premiere that evening. Walking to Leicester Square, I could see the lights and hear the crowds as we approached the cinema. As luck would have it, we arrived on the red carpet at the same time as Jamie Dornan and the flash of cameras was unreal. Security moved us down the red carpet quickly, but we still were able to take lots of pictures. Before the film itself, we were treated to a glass of champagne and a quick introduction from E. L. James herself. It’s safe to say I could get used to that lifestyle!

Not pictured: me basically throwing my phone at another intern to get this photo before security moved us on.

Not pictured: me basically throwing my phone at another intern to get this photo before security moved us on.

 

I've officially reached the halfway point of my placement, but I know the next half will likely be just as eventful!

 

Year Abroad IV – moving to Siena, Italy

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Siena, Italy                                                    March, 2017

Buongiorno a tutti! Long time, no see. I have now started the second part of my Year Abroad – my study exchange in Siena, Italy.

Why Siena?

I decided I wanted to do a study exchange rather than a work placement in Italy because I wanted to try out both options. I felt quite confident with my Italian before coming to Italy but I thought spending the spring and summer months as a student in this beautiful country would be the dream – good weather, amazing food and a lot of young people.

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The University of Bath has study partnerships with five different Italian universities: Naples, Rome, Trento, Parma and Siena. When applying for a place, we had to shortlist the destinations to three, so I took it to the Internet and final years’ experience (pro tip – you should totally ask year abroad returners about their experiences, they will be happy to help you out retelling their [hopefully] amazing time abroad from a student’s point of view!) to narrow the list down to three. First of all, I was looking at the size of the destination. I did not want to go to Rome because, as a capital city, I deemed it too large and probably quite expensive for only six months. Remember, I come from a tiny island, Tenerife, and Bath isn’t what you’d describe as a big city either… Naples was a similar case. It seems to be renowned for not being the safest city in Italy which threw me off. In contrast, the location and fact that it is the only coastal place in the list was very appealing, but the cons outnumbered the pros. Then I looked at connections. Trento was soon discarded because I could not even find how to easily arrive there. I’ve been told it’s beautiful and picturesque, but I’m planning on travelling around the country so having good travel connections was very important. And then I was left with two options: Siena or Parma. Both cities quite student-y and of similar size; connections seemed to be equal too, so my choice came down to the region they were in. Eventually I went for Siena because of its history: a very ‘Italian’ looking city with lots of narrow alleys and a wall surrounding the historic centre.

Siena is a medieval town, Florence’s life-long enemy and UNESCO Wold Heritage Site just like Bath (cannot stay away from beautiful cities apparently), in the Italian region of Tuscany. It’s mostly famous for Il Palio, a horse race between the contradas or neighbourhoods of the Old City, held twice a year in the Piazza del Campo. There are two different Universities and it is a very touristy city with masses of tourists arriving each day (even now in the winter), which reminds me greatly of Bath. Inside the city walls, all the buildings have that typical Tuscan look: tall windows and red bricks, along with the laundry hanging to dry under the window sills. I must say I have fallen in love with this (extremely hilly) place and I’m quite happy with my choice.

I'm in love with the style of the houses!

I'm in love with the style of the houses!

My arrival & finding accommodation

I moved to Italy late January, since I was yet to find somewhere to live and had signed up for an intensive Italian course in February to pick up my Italian again, and will stay here until July. The trip to get to Siena was long but went fine. I was quite worried I’d lose my suitcase during the short layover at the airport in Madrid, but I was lucky and my luggage got here just fine. It was a long journey - two flights and a couple of buses and taxi ride-, but I feel like I’ve mastered travelling by now. I had to fly from Tenerife to Madrid and from there to Florence. To arrive in Siena from Florence there are two options: a bus or a train journey with change in Empoli, so I went for the easier bus option – make sure you get the one along the autostrada or highway, shorter and less curvy!

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I’d booked an Airbnb near the Duomo for the first two weeks while I looked for a flat; perfect location a minute from the Piazza and very comfortable since I had the apartment basically all to myself! I would recommend doing this when moving to a new place: find an Airbnb or hotel for a week at least while you look for long-term accommodation once you’ve arrived. Things look so much different in person and this way you’ll avoid scams (I was sadly victim of one before arriving, so please don’t make the same mistake and make sure you look at the place in person before paying anything). I must say, it was hard to find a flat. Since I’d arrived so early the first semester Erasmus students were still around with exams, so their places were not available yet. In addition, a lot of landlords do not seem to like Erasmus students because of the short-term contracts, which limited the options. It has been even worse for male students, as most adds I saw were for female student and camera doppia which means a room-share. I was looking for a central apartment where I could have a single room and I had been doing research from home, sending tonnes of messages to book viewings with little luck. I used webs like uniaffiti, easystanza and housinganywhere. Eventually I managed to get a viewing that was really promising and that ended up being my actual flat. I live in the centre, in the Contrada del Drago, and I couldn’t be happier! Siena is quite small so you can walk everywhere. I’d recommend looking for a place within the walls, because everything happens inside the historical centre, but if you end up outside it’s not much of a big deal either. Also, make sure you actively look for a place; not only messaging online but talking to everybody you meet in the street as I know of people who got lucky because they met someone who knew of an available room. And, above all, don’t give up!

Taking an intensive language course

Concerning the language course I took, I have mixed feelings. Before arriving here we were offered a mostly subsidised Italian language course (75euro) by the Universtà degli Studi: either intensive in February or ordinary between March and April. I went for the February one since I had the time and it would allow me to sort out accommodation before the start of the semester in March.

If you’re going on a study exchange, I’d recommend doing a language course if available just to make sure you’ll be able to follow the lectures. While I was in France I barely got to speak any Italian so my skills had become rusty from being out of use since June. I do think doing the course has eased me back into speaking Italian confidently and has definitely tuned my ear.

However, I found the quality of the course at the Università degli Stranieri (the course is in the other University; my exchange is with the Università degli Studi), to be quite disappointing. We had to do a language level placement test at the start, after which I was placed in C1 level. I was accurately placed since the OLS test results also classed me as C1. However, I don’t know if it was because of the higher level or the timing, the group I was assigned was a mix of international students out of which I was the only Erasmus, contrary to first semester students’ experience. Also, I believe we (the other Bath students and I) were put into ordinary lessons not the intensive course we’d signed up to. Anyhow, we had four and a half hours of Italian lessons a day for three weeks. In my class we did a lot of reading and debating, but not much grammar. I found some of the topics interesting, such as language and dialects in Italy or the economy. However, I do not feel like it was worth the money or the time overall. A week would’ve been enough for me. Everybody was really nice and I met quite a few people in the course, which was great, but if I were to condense the new things I learnt over the course, they’d come up to an hour and a half, maybe two hours-worth of lessons… I did the end test a couple of days ago and all it involved was writing a ‘for and against’ essay (250 words minimum) about social networks and we were given two hours and a half and a dictionary. Talk about challenging… Either this was really easy, or Bath is really demanding.

Overall, it will depend on who offers the language course. Here in Siena it could definitely improve. For lower levels like A2 or B1 I imagine it will be a lot more useful since you’ll be taught actual grammar along cultural topics. For higher levels like me, the experience might vary. I do nonetheless recommend searching for a short course before starting, particularly if you haven’t been able to practice the language during your other half of Year Abroad.

Day trip to Florence.

Day trip to Florence.

Despite the unsatisfactory experience of the course, I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Siena thus far. The place is smaller than I anticipated, but now that the lectures have started life has got busier.  I’ve been using my time to run errands and sort out most of the paperwork, as well as exploring the city and surrounding area. I feel like I’ve got a grasp on the situation by now thanks to that extra time. Since I had to change modules and send Erasmus paperwork, I’m glad I arrived earlier and have had plenty of time to sort it out before getting caught up in lectures and module work. I must say the Italian system is nothing like the English one. We’ve had to chase down quite a few people to get the papers signed – it has been quite an adventure – and I expect this is the usual process in this country. My piece of advice? Be patient but persistent, and don’t stress out.

I will be writing another blog entry on the Erasmus paperwork and Welcome Week in Siena because the whole process definitely deserves one on its own, so keep your eyes peeled!

Ci vediamo presto!

Zoe

Day trip to San Gimignano.

Day trip to San Gimignano.

 

Submitting Ethics

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

Hello all!

With March having just rolled in, signs of spring are everywhere. We have rain that never seems to end and rows of pretty daffodils covering just about every patch of soil and grass you can see.

bath uni daffodils

But, the beginning of spring marks the beginning of your official preparation for your dissertation. At the Psychology Placement Conference they suggested you should try to have your ethics submitted in March or April. Some people even had their ethics accepted before the Placement Conference! But DON'T WORRY if this isn't you, they were definitely in the minority. You should aim to try and start thinking about your dissertation before your Dissertation Topic Choice Form (late November) is due, having a general idea is really helpful when your department try to pair you up with a useful and relevant supervisor. I got my idea through a five minute brainstorm with colleagues when I was helping them with their research. It then developed by talking with my Placement Supervisor in our weekly supervision settings. Thinking ahead can help ease any anxiety of leaving things last minute - such as when your friends who didn't go on a placement are already talking about collecting data and ask you what you are planning.

Once you have your supervisor, try and book an appointment straight away. Most Dissertation Supervisors are really busy and so will not be able to see you if you drop in for a chat unannounced. Supervisors do have to put aside time on the day of the placements conference to see you, don't let this time go to waste! You have to be on campus anyway so put aside half an hour, it is a great way for you to start getting the dissertation ball rolling and to ask any questions you may have from the dissertation talks at the placement conference.

If you can, try to go into that meeting with a more concrete idea of what you would like to do and an idea of what literature exists in your research area. I found my meeting to be the perfect time to run through what I had planned and talk about some questions I had about the ethics form. We came up with some ideas for improvement, such as performing a power analysis to find out how many participants you need (this sounds scary but with help from MASH it was easy -they can even do online Skype support for placement students) and the possibility of doing a mixed methods study. You can find out more about maths and stats help at uni here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/study/mash/

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If you have a Dissertation Supervisor who isn't known for communicating well with students it might be a good idea to send them an outline of your ideas and how you want to test it before you meet, this way they are more likely to help you out as they will have already had a look at your idea and thought about what can be done to improve it. It also makes you look super organised and avoids any awkward silences where you might say 'ummm I have no idea how to test it, I just thought it was interesting' 'umm I hope it hasn't been done before as that would suck'. If this sounds like too much, go in with a brief list of what you want to talk about and with any questions you might have. This gives you something to work from as opposed to going in blind.

Anyway, I came away from my first dissertation meeting feeling a lot more positive than I thought I would feel because I had made that effort before hand. It is difficult but worth it.

ethics

After finalising details of my study with my placement and dissertation supervisor, I started my ethics application in the second week of Feb. This wasn't too hard as I had already gone through most of the information with my supervisors. The hardest part is writing the short background section on why this is an important area to research - which is where looking at articles before your first dissertation meeting comes in handy. But the most fiddly part is designing your information, consent and debrief forms which take a lot of time and tweaking before they are ready to send off. It took me a good two weeks to get everything in a good enough state to submit. It was a frustrating process as the tiniest of details were changed - such as saying psychological wellbeing instead of just wellbeing.

Some tips for writing the debrief, information and consent sheets -look at other studies, like questionnaires online, what have they done? What have they covered? Should I provide helplines for people if my study is about wellbeing or a similar topic? You can then use those ones as a basic template for what you need to talk about. Different Universities can also provide a really easy checklist and examples of what to include in these -I used Nottingham University and The University of Kent.

The next key part of the Ethics form is getting your dissertation supervisor to sign it. Give them plenty of time to do this, especially if you haven't been keeping in touch with them. It is better that they have the time to read it thoroughly and give you feedback on what to improve then just send it back to you in a rush and you have your application rejected. Try and send it to them two weeks before the ethics deadline. If you change anything whilst you are waiting for a reply, send them the updated version of the application immediately!

My dissertation supervisor didn't give mine back until two days before the deadline, even though I had been talking to him about my ideas for a long time, had been keeping him informed of how my planning etc was going and had sent it two weeks before. So, your department are really not joking when they say you need those two weeks.

When it comes to actually submitting your forms, triple check you have attached all of the questionnaires, information sheets and anything else you may need. Make sure your ethics form is as detailed as possible. Most importantly, make sure you have signed two copies and have had your supervisor sign both too! Give yourself at least two hours (if you are submitting it in person) to find the submission box, check through, print and change things if needed. If you are not doing this in person then aim to send it to the appropriate member of staff the day before after checking it through, this gives the person who is printing off your form plenty of time to receive your email and print the form off. If you send it on the day, you might just end up waiting another month to submit as the staff member might be off sick or too busy to make time for the application- a huge pain if you are eager to start collecting data.

And finally, do not be put off if, after all this work, your ethics form comes back to you asking you to make changes before they can accept it. This is really common, my friend said she doesn't know one person who got theirs accepted straight away. If you make these changes quickly, you might not have to wait for the next ethics deadline either. So, please don't feel disheartened as it is completely normal to be asked to make changes with your first application. Don't forget, this is the first time you have ever filled out an ethics application!

Best of luck!

 

Accident in the Ice

📥  Uncategorized

So soon after the rest of the Christmas break I found myself back at home for a week, nursing a very sore head, a lovely black eye and balancing a pair of broken glasses on my head. The one thing so many people fear will happen to them whilst they are on placement happened. However, the bad news did not stop there.

On Wednesday the 25th of January I ended up in A&E after cycling to my placement and going down in a crash. I turned onto one icy road going down a steep hill, braked and my back wheel went out from under me. I landed head first on the cold road, with my glasses cutting deeply into my head. What I first thought were tears from the pain turned out to be a torrent of blood. I ended up needing 17 stitches, with five of those being deep ones where my glasses had cut so deeply. They even pulled out a bit of metal from the wound that had snapped off of my glasses.

Accident in the Ice

(Resting at home a week later)

Thankfully, a mum stopped her car to help me, she called an ambulance whilst I sat there clutching my head feeling very dazed. Her son walked around picking up bits of my glasses and bike that had fallen off. Conveniently, she worked at the RUH and said she would drop my bike there so I could pick it up later. My thoughts then turned to my placement: 'Oh No! I am going to let them down, they were counting on me organising their sibling group today, everyone else is too busy to do it'. I started worrying about that and asked the lady to call the Lifetime Service and let them know about it.

But I needn't have worried.

One of my colleagues came to see me in A&E and sat with me until my flatmates arrived to look after me. She reassured me that everything would be fine and another colleague would sort out the sibling group, telling me that because they had started organising it so late I should not worry about getting it done. My colleague even told me that I should take the rest of the week off. My placement was so understanding, they encouraged me to take as much time as I needed. They even called to check up on me later on, on the day and during my recovery time to make sure the wound was healing ok.

Unfortunately, on the evening of the day of my accident another bad event happened. My Great Grandma passed away at the age of 97, after suffering a stroke caused by her Dementia. The following week, my dad was hospitalised with three kidney stones and my mum went in for a planned operation. Those two weeks were really the hardest in my life. So many bad events happened.

I called my placement supervisor the following morning, to let her know about what had happened to my Grandma and ask if I could have the following week off to attend her funeral (and nurse my mum and dad back to health as I found out on the Monday, whilst looking after my own injuries!). My supervisor told me to take as long as I needed, there was no rush and no pressure for me to return any sooner than I was ready. One of my colleagues even got me a little get well gift and left it in my tray for when I got back. They were all so supportive and it helped me realise that if you do suffer an event like this during your time on placement you shouldn't worry or feel like you have to return to work in a couple of days. Yes, being on placement is like having a full time job, but the pressure of having to come back right away or put the job first is certainly not a similarity.

And this isn't just my experience. A friend's best friend passed away after a long battle with cancer near the start of her placement, she is still struggling with this, having grown up with her friend. When she found out what happened she asked if her placement could be postponed to give her some time to recover, her supervisor said that was absolutely fine and moved her start date to a month later. After my friend had started the placement, she was continuing to struggle with her loss, and broke down in tears to her supervisor one day telling her everything. Her supervisor arranged for psychological support around bereavement to be given to my friend and also changed her working hours so that she could have shorter weeks, giving her much needed time. My friend has told me her placement were 'Amazing' and that she has no idea what she would do without her supervisor who has been so supportive with her on-going difficulty.

So, if you do have an accident, illness or an unfortunate event during your placement, please do not worry about asking for the time off or support you need. As you are working for free at most Psychology placements they really want to make sure your own wellbeing is put first and not the placement. After all, you will not perform well if you force yourself to work when you are ill or too stressed. You do not need to suffer alone whilst on placement. You can still access support through the university Counselling Service and most work places have access to psychological support for their employees (even unpaid ones like us). See more about the University Counselling Service here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/groups/counselling-mental-health/

RUH

Now that I am well on the road to recovery, with two new scars to adapt to. I joke that as the Lifetime Service is based at the RUH, I made it into work on time that day - but just in the wrong department!

 

Reality Stars and Living Digital

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

The big event of the past few months has hands down been getting to work at the National Reality TV Awards with hayu; a red carpet event which awards reality stars and TV shows for their work over the past year. This is, incidentally, how I ended up a few feet away from Bake Off (and general) queen Mary Berry. I was largely in the green room, where hayu interviewed stars directly after they had come off the stage. This was my first time working with “talent”, they seemed overwhelmingly glamourous (although I did get told by a stylist that my dress was very on trend, something tells me I was likely the only person wearing an outfit they got for £10 online).

Red Carpet!

I love making the most of NBCU’s employee perks, including watching free film screenings of  Universal Pictures theatrical releases. My favourite so far has been Nocturnal Animals, as it plays perfectly into my love of bold, colour-corrected landscape shots and Jake Gyllenhaal’s eyes. There’s also the office film club, which frequently streams releases in the company’s screening room– for free. That’s not to say that I didn’t watch a lot of film and TV before, it’s just that new releases can be a bit financially off limit as a student. Now, it quite literally comes with the job! The next film I hope to  see is Loving. Now, I must admit, I may have shed a tear when I recently saw the trailer for the second time. Yes, I knew exactly what was coming and yet two and a half minutes of footage still got me all emotional. I don’t have high hopes for my keeping it together during the actual film.

Capture2

I’ve recently seen my job title change from “New Media Intern” to “Digital Intern” amidst some restructures in the department. This is more reflective of the work that I do, as the number of my web and social media responsibilities have increased; including two new big projects. Firstly, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has launched in the UK and I have been tasked with tracking and reporting its performance on social media. This involved building a new, semi-automated report from scratch using systems that I frankly hadn’t heard of pre-placement.  Designing it has certainly been a learning curve; displaying data on Excel can be fiddly at the best of times, but it is certainly gratifying to see the time taken to complete the report sharply decreasing each week. Also on the social media front, I have designed the new social media section of the weekly hayu report and am responsible for updating it each week.

 

I can’t believe we’re already in February - time flies when you’re having fun!

 

Return to Placement

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

After a much appreciated Christmas break, I am now back working  as an Assistant Psychologist for the Lifetime Service. For those of you reading this blog for the first time, the Lifetime Service is based in Bath and offers support to children who have a life-limiting or life-threatening condition and their families.

Going home for Christmas was so nice, especially after two months apart from my pets. My cat was so pleased to see me, she ran up to my room and meowed at me as soon as I arrived, as if to say 'Where have you been? How could you come all the way up here without saying hello to me?'. Who says cats are heartless?

What I enjoyed most of all though was having absolutely no work to do over Christmas for the first time in FIVE YEARS! That's right, after years of revising for GCSE's, A-Levels and University Exams or doing coursework, I finally had a chance to experience a stress free Christmas. You have no idea how much you will have missed this! So make the most of your Placement year, it really is a year like no other. It is a wonderful chance to have a bit of a break from the stresses that have consumed your life for the past few years, whilst still doing something worthwhile.

Now I am back at work, after the sleepy first week after new years day, things have picked up once more. I have been allocated my dissertation supervisor, which was great news as it meant I can really start thinking about one of the aims of a Psychology Placement, collecting data for your dissertation. Unfortunately, the supervisor was not the one I hoped for, however I hope they will still be useful for my topic! They have already agreed to meet me for a first meeting about the dissertation. But if things really do not go well, they will be retiring at the end of the year, giving me the opportunity to start anew with someone else.

I am now busy planning for my dissertation and having a brainstorm of ideas. At first, I really wanted to do something with the people that Lifetime works for, however trying to do research with patients is very difficult. There are so many precautions and rules for patient contact, especially in a service involving children who are not well, even in a service not tied to the NHS; this idea was quickly forgotten. In its place came a new area of research using an easier to reach population: Staff. I am now hoping to do my dissertation on staff wellbeing in a paediatric palliative care setting and how this may compare to other Health Care Staff who work with children. Surprisingly, despite there being a legal requirement for organisations to look after their staff and research showing that staff wellbeing directly impacts patient care, no one has really looked into what staff wellbeing is like (Hill, Dempster, Donnelly, & McCorry, 2016). Moreover, very little has been done with paediatric staff, despite many staff saying that working with ill children is harder than working with ill adults; especially when they are not likely to recover (Mukherjee, Beresford, Glaser, & Sloper, 2009). I am so excited for this new research topic, especially as so little has seemed to have been done in this area giving me lots of room to explore. The best moment was when Hill et al. (2016) said we need more research in this area doing this, giving me a great starting point to think of the aims of the research. So do not be put off if your first ideas for dissertation do not work out, you will most likely find something else even better!

Since the new year, I have also had the opportunity to have some patient contact. A Trainee Psychologist and I ran a stall at a diabetes transition event, teaching young people with diabetes about how stress can influence your diabetes and what they could do to help manage their stress. This was a great experience as I got to see the practical side to being a Psychologist, something I have missed by being behind a desk for the past few months. All the feedback from the event was really positive! All of the young people said they had enjoyed the event and would come again. Some people even asked questions, showing they weren't just there for the free food!

Last week, I also got to visit Charlton Farm Hospice, a hospice in the South West that offers end of life and respite (yearly support from diagnosis of a life-limiting condition) care to under 18's who are unlikely to live into adulthood. This was such a awe-inspiring visit, I would encourage everyone to visit a hospice during their life. The work the nurses do is absolutely amazing, and it really is not what you think!

Contrary to popular belief, hospices are not a place where people come to die. They are a place people come to live. The South West Hospices offer holidays to families who have a child with a life limited condition, complete with farm cottages for families to stay in. There are art rooms, swimming pools, gardens, special baths and showers with specially designed equipment so that everyone can use it. For many children, coming to the hospice may be the first time they have ever been able to ride a bike or take a bath or go swimming as everyone else has told them 'You can't do that, it's too dangerous!'. At the hospice, their motto is 'We will make it work'. The hospice truly felt like a happy place to go for a great time, where you could meet people similar to you and try new things. Each of the rooms were decorated with a different theme, that was specific to the visiting child - for example if a child likes Star Wars, their room will be filled with Star Wars games and bed covers. The staff do everything they can to make the family's visit a happy and fun one. End of life care is such a small part of what they do. it is time everyone finally learnt the truth about hospices.

During my time at Charlton Farm, the only time I felt sad to be there was when entering the beautiful 'Starborn room'. Where the child is placed after they have passed away. This room was filled with sadness but also beauty, as the staff explained all that they did to support the family and how death was not treated as a taboo here, but that parents and children were allowed and encouraged to think about what they would like to do when that time came. They were encouraged to remember their child, hosting special 'remembrance events' for families who had experienced a loss through a long-term illness. I left the hospice feeling happy and so appreciative towards the staff who had looked after the families for so long.

So please, break the taboo of death, learn more about what a hospice is and support the amazing work that these professionals do. They provide opportunities to children who, without them, may never have experienced life to the full. Placement is a time to embrace new experiences and learn more about Psychology.

You can learn more about South West hospices here: http://www.chsw.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

Year Abroad: 5 Unusual Ways to Practice your Language

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📥  2015-16, 2016-17, International Management & Modern Languages, Politics, Languages & International Studies

carlo-felice

 

As a languages student, the highest priority for your Year Abroad is to improve your language skills – this goes without saying. But ask any student who is currently away, or has completed their placement, and they will tell you it’s not always that easy. Your Year Abroad will not comprise of steady and neat improvements in your abilities, but rather little leaps and starts of understanding, which will be oh-so rewarding, but utterly frustrating.

You will, of course, have the immediate spike in knowledge when you initially move abroad; living and working in a foreign language all day will leave you exhausted but amazed at your own ability to pluck words from nowhere: you’re a natural, you’re fluent! Unfortunately, this will often wear off after the first few months, once you have mastered the complexities of the supermarket and your nearest café. You may even be dismayed to find that after just a week or two at home for Christmas you’ve forgotten some of the fancy idiomatic phrases which you were using with such confidence in November. Speaking from personal experience, your language acquisition – and with it your confidence – can go a little bit like this:

languageac

But do not fear! Here are 5 unusual ways to practice your languages, if you ever find yourself struggling to work enough Dutch into your day or Español into your evenings!

  1. BlaBla Car (or similar company). I would encourage any Year Abroad student to travel and explore as much as physically possible and a great cheap way of doing so is by using a company like BlaBla Car. BlaBla Car matches people who are taking a certain journey in a car with those who need to travel but have no car – an efficient way to save money on tickets and on petrol! Using BlaBla Car in a foreign language will guarantee you with quality language practice on any number of topics, from the reason for your trip to the political state of the country – trust me! It has the handy benefit of putting you next to the driver rather than opposite, which can take the pressure off! Bear in mind that while BlaBla Car is more commonplace in Europe, you should still be aware of the risks of getting into someone else’s car – make sure you use the code provided to find the right driver, tell someone where you are going, and keep friends as updated as possible.
  2. Theatre. The theatre might not be your cup of tea at home, but it is an excellent way to catch up on the nuances and stresses of your new language. If you can keep up with Shakespeare in Italian, you’re ready for anything! There is also something distinctly fascinating about telling your friends from home that you are off to the theatre for the evening! Grab a friend – native or otherwise – and get two front row seats! You won’t regret it.
  3. Trains. Similar to BlaBla Car but more spontaneous, you will be amazed at the number of strange conversations that can spring up on a train journey. I, for example, had the delightful experience of sharing an overnight carriage with an Italian family, their dog, and a drunk man. The inebriated Italian spent most of the night telling me what a “bella donna” I was, whilst the family quizzed me on everything from why I was travelling alone, to how the police force works in England (I was not too helpful). When travelling by train, either alone or with friends, make sure you keep an eye on all your belongings, to avoid being the victim of an opportunistic crime. To be on the safe side, check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice on what to do if you’re the victim of a crime abroad before you travel.
  4. Gym. This may come as a surprise, as my experiences of English gyms have never involved making a best friend. However, joining a gym on your Year Abroad is the perfect way to keep busy and meet the locals. For a start, many people have routines, and you are likely to see the same faces each time you arrive. Secondly, gym lessons such as yoga, Zumba and boxing are all great ways to interact with new people and potentially bond over your lack of coordination.
  5. Café local. This is something you should do anyway, but it’s also great for improving your chit-chat. Find yourself a nice sunny café, with the widest selection of cakes and coffees possible, and make yourself at home! I would recommend bringing a book or some work to do, but don’t be afraid to dive in and get chatting to your friendly barista. You might feel awkward at first, but nothing will beat the feeling a few weeks down the line of being warmly greeted as a regular and handed your ‘usual’ drink of choice. Do be careful when you’re out and about on your own, especially if you’re a woman travelling alone – again the FCO has some great advice you should look over.

Whatever you decide to do, you won’t regret taking a chance and trying something new! Do plenty of research on your destination here before you go, not only to find the best sightseeing tips, but also to make sure you’re familiar enough with the customs and culture so that you don’t offend anyone – not a good way to make friends! Make sure you keep safe and sensible, and follow @FCOTravel on Twitter for all your latest updates.