Humanities & Social Sciences placements

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

Posts By: Anna Clemente

“Although of course you end up becoming yourself”*

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📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Every day now the end of my journey looks closer and closer, and I’ll have to start saying my good-byes soon. My first farewell though is to my readers, as it is time for a wrap up of this diary and a conclusion for this story.

It has been a quite amazing year, for the best and for the worst.

On the dark side, I should be honest and say I have probably never cried so much in my life. Especially at winter time, I got very sick of my job and tired of not seeing many friendly faces around. I got really depressed with loneliness and missed my life back in Bath as much as England misses having a decent football team. Probably didn’t help my boyfriend was on the other side of the world either.

Placement years can be quite challenging because of the emotional and psychological pressure of adapting to a new life style, and for all the nostalgia of university life. The word “nostalgia” actually comes from that wonderfully poetic language that is Ancient Greek, “algos” (=pain) + “nostos” (=return, homecoming). Ulysses was nostalgic of Ithaca because he desperately wanted to go back home, so much he almost felt physically sick. From my experience and from talking with my friends, it seems a lot of us got ill with the wish to return to university this year.

But I do believe people should hold on and don’t let the feeling of missing take the upper-hand. Things do improve. And indeed, life got much better eventually. I made great friends that will stay for life. I lived the Spanish way, with its chilled attitude based on relishing life in all its forms: from food and drinks to love and friendship to street life, with its music, dances and protests. I enjoyed the beach and the wine, and I loved finally not being the only one talking too loud and with my hands. I discovered I could write a blog that people apparently are interested in reading. And I’ve got confident enough in Spanish to do the major part of the research for my dissertation speaking the language with natives.

 

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Happy People!

Things indeed got so much better that I will come to miss them: for example, the sense of camaraderie in the office. I felt it more than ever last Friday at the usual work breakfast. The dismay everyone had on their faces for the Brexit turned into smiles, as we all consoled and tried to cheer each other up.

As I said before, because the office is so small it really facilitates intimacy, cheerfulness, and a sense of “I’ve got your back”. Never could I have imagined the arguments on politics with my boss, the surprise parties, or the Christmas chants we would have had together.

 

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#InstaIASP

I am pretty satisfied with my life now, if it wasn’t for the melting summer temperature. Some days, with the sun shining up in the blue sky and a gentle breeze carrying the smell of jasmine, it really feels like heaven isn’t far away.

And still, I am happy to go back to Bath soon.

So, what is the morale?

I am convinced more than ever that a placement year is an incredibly valuable opportunity. Even if the risk of ending up with dull tasks for months are quite high, is still really valuable to get some hands on experience and just learn how things work in the workplace (no bad pun intended). For example, I have often been told I have a “bronze face”, meaning I too often speak my mind when I shouldn’t. I learnt the importance of diplomacy and of controlling the need to express your thoughts at all costs, and how my more feisty side can be moderated without necessarily meaning a loss of authenticity.
The whole year has been a series of life lessons I will bring on in every future job and interview.

I would recommend anyone that had the chance to do so to go abroad. Not only for discovering new cultures and ways of living, meeting new people and integrating in a new society, without even starting going on about the usefulness of learning a new language. But also, I feel being abroad would prevent the stress related to not feeling you are using your potential in your job, as the whole experience would give you meaning and satisfaction.

Finally, I do need to act a bit pretentiously and talk of the “journey of self-discovery”. On one of those more depressed days I was reading the great Andalusian poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and one of his verses stuck in my head: “Pero yo ya no soy yo, ni mi casa es mi casa” (but I’m not myself anymore, nor my home is my home).

I feel this year changed me in ways I can’t yet quite underpin, but that I definitely recognize in so far as I am not the same person who arrived here at the start of September. The whole experience opened me up, teared me apart and then repositioned my pieces, so that I feel like a Picasso painting (accidentally, he was born in Malaga!). I would need the clarity of time and distance to be able to reconstruct the picture in a way that makes sense to me.

I didn’t want this post to be heavy so I better conclude, although I feel I have so many more thoughts, just too meddled to be put down on paper clearly. The whole experience has been chaotically beautiful, and if I had the chance, I’d do it all again.

Thank you everyone for reading my posts throughout the year, it has been a pleasure to write for you.

*Unfortunately I didn’t come up with such a brilliant title myself; it is taken from a book by David Lipsky (“Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace”).

 

“You have been, you are, and you will always be my most beautiful chance"

“You have been, you are, and you will always be my most beautiful chance"

 

The sails aren’t hoisted yet, but soon it will be time to raise the anchor

The sails aren’t hoisted yet, but soon it will be time to raise the anchor

 

 

A guide to the anxious person's first day!

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📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Do you ever stay awake at night, looking at the ceiling, with a deep sense of anxiety deep inside you don’t really know where it comes from but you can’t chase away?

anxiety

 

For me that is quite regular. I am a pretty anxious person, and the deepest subconscious fear of being inadequate and out of place reveals itself in a myriad of other smaller, less ferocious but just as biting fears.

Before my first day of work, they expressed themselves in three main ghosts haunting me:

First of all, there was the fear of the Great Unknown: the first day itself, and not knowing what to expect from it. It mainly manifested in an anxiety of what I would have to look like to result acceptable and possibly giving a good first impression to all these new people I would have had to meet.

The day before starting I went for a round of shops trying to find the perfect outfit for smart casual (which may truly be the expression I hate the most in the whole English language), not too formal nor too casual, completely desperate and lost and basically feeling like I was an awkward teenager in high school again. Deciding how to wear makeup and my hair was just slightly better. (I'd expect this is mainly a female fear, given by the context of a society which sets impossible, contradictory standards.)

The second one is closely related, and it derives from getting to know and wanting to be liked by all these strangers. I am not terribly good with small talks and I am generally quite shy with people I’ve just met, so I was really afraid of resulting cold and not witty enough.

While the first two are around the same old question that I asked myself pretty much since I developed a conscience of the self, "Will they like me?", the third one is probably the most irrational: ”What if I don't know what the heck I'm doing? What if they thought I'm a completely different person when they interviewed me? What if, after all, I'm really just not qualified?”

Someone recently told me that this is actually not the normal way to react to things, I was shocked!

Someone recently told me that this is actually not the normal way to react to things, I was shocked!

These fears are actually quite easy to dismiss with logical arguments: even if the first day you completely mess up, it's not a tragedy. They'd probably find it just funny and endearing, and chances are that if they had interns they have seen all of it before. In any case, unless you mix up flip-flops and a Valentino pencil gown it can't go excessively bad. They are also used to new interns being shy, giving how intimidating a new environment is, and in many cases the first really professional ever experienced.

And finally, you are there for a reason. They hired you after a hard screening. They saw in you something that convinced them. That is a fact beyond paranoia and low self-esteem, and which is always worth remembering.

There is one final fear that I had when being offered the job: what if I’m gonna bore myself to death? Even before accepting, I knew Public Relations wasn’t my path in life, and I was really anxious I would have ended up hating what I had to do.

So how did that go? Well, some days are in fact extremely heavy and quite boring, and time never seems to go by. Sometimes it takes 3 coffees just to get to the end of the day, and with each I wish there was a cigarette included. But other days are quite fun, and there are times I really enjoy what I am doing, for example when I get to write or translate something interesting or I have a good idea for a nice design. Basically, I am satisfied with my job whenever I feel I learned something, or it had an impact on my abilities and I was able to show what I can do.

To someone that had the same fear of being bored for a year of their lives, I would say that eventually you start enjoying the smaller things, getting satisfaction in the details; maybe it’s a brain self defense mechanism, but it is quite effective. As well, there is life beyond work, and there are few things more pleasant than a cold beer and a good rant with friends at the end of a particularly tiring day: the lowest point means you enjoy the peak even more. In the end: you will survive.

You can always count on wine for some support!

And you can always count on wine for some support!

 

On Missing Home(s)

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

My parents and my sister recently visited me, so I had a good occasion to reflect on homesickness. Maybe it’s a bit arrogant, but I consider myself an expert on the matter, first as an Italian student living in the UK, and then as a European in Russia last summer.

However, I am now in the curious phenomenon of missing two places, well two homes in their own right, at the same time.

One is of course my birth place, Udine, a very little known town in the North-East of Italy (every time someone asks me where I am from I go on autopilot: “Udine, it’s a small town in the North of Italy, near to Venice, maybe you know the football team, Udinese" —all without catching breath).

The other is Bath. I never thought I could miss Bath so much. I miss my friends, obviously, and I miss that splendid Georgian pearl. But, more insidiously, I miss my life (dare I say, routine?) there. I miss going to the small independent coffee shops, reading books in the Crescent on a sunny day, going to the local pub.

You may say: “well you can read and go to the pub almost everywhere!”. True, but it is that particular atmosphere of the place that enchants me, the feeling of living in a bubble where time calmly walks on barely noticed. Maybe it is due to the ancientness of the place, or maybe it’s just what life is like when you are at university.

Anyway, going back to my list: I miss the walk back home along the canal in spring time. I miss that atmosphere of well concealed poshness of the place. I even miss the University and lectures, that feeling of achievement you get when you work hard for something you are passionate about.

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The fool on the hill

I even miss the ducks by the lake (and the idiot who is feeding them)

I even miss the ducks by the lake (and the idiot who is feeding them!)

By now I honestly can’t wait to go back to Bath! The irony doesn’t escape me: I always thought life would be easier/sunnier/happier in the South, slightly despising England and taking every chance to criticize the English way of life, almost feeling like a Latin aristocratically looking down at Barbarians. Oh how circumstances change one’s mind! (Though if I have to be honest, whenever I was in Gibraltar for a day trip I made fun of all those small British peculiarities and found great pleasure in doing so!).

If I have to say one thing that really had an impact on my general sense of dissatisfaction, is the precarity of this year. It is almost as if the time is too short to do any great improvements in the way I live. Living with Erasmus students certainly didn’t help me, as it just made me feel more of a fish out of the water, while they were staying for just a semester, living their party lives. All in all, one year can feel awfully long.

The uncountable number of times I identified with Charlie Brown

The uncountable number of times I identified with Charlie Brown

And so my homesickness it’s enhanced by the feeling of loneliness. The only real medicine is making friends, but that’s easier said than done, as I don’t mean drinking companions. I mean true friends to which you can explain your inner worlds and complain a thousand times about the smallest of things. Whenever I go out with my few real friends here, I do indeed feel much better and even the worst kinds of sadness and self-consuming bitter doubts are vanquished.

So my advice to someone going on their placement year abroad would be to try and make real friends, with whom to feel at ease, as soon as they can. It can be particularly hard to meet people of our age group at work, and in general to meet people outside the workplace. My best suggestion would be language exchanges and couch surfing meetings, as there are always very friendly and chilled people ready to socialize (indeed, that’s how I met my friends). Sports activities are a great option as well, as by being active you also release stress, catching two birds with a stone.

And after such an emotional entry, I should say that even if some days can be really hard, others are amazing and totally worth the experience. I wouldn’t change my choice of coming to Malaga, because no matter how challenging, I have grown a lot (this, however, is a story for another post). Fear of homesickness and of the unknown should never stop you going abroad and experimenting. As that famous and so many times mis-attributed quote goes: “a ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are built for” (John A. Shedd—as far as I could make out).

 

The life of the city, or how I learned to love communes

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📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Be aware, this entry is not work-related. I am instead going to talk of what has been the most significant and unexpected aspect in my life in Malaga, especially considering my placement is really not political: Politics.

Malaga is a very politically militant city, with loads of demonstrations, civic activity and communitarian spirit. Back in December I discovered this anarchic commune in the very heart of the city, “La Casa Invisibile” ("The Invisible Home"). It is located in an old building in the very centre, belonging to the City Council and left disused. 9 Years ago, a community of willing citizens decided to try to bring it back to life. They completely restored it, and now the building looks wonderful. They do a number of activities open to the public, in the interest of the civic body, to, as they say, "build community”.

One of the many free talks at the commune

One of the many free talks at the commune

I usually go for yoga lessons and for the very interesting talks that are held there. Granted, sometimes the views represented are quite extremist (we are talking of anarchists after all), but even if I don't agree with all they say, I still really enjoy listening to some widely unorthodox views and non-conformist opinions.

It was my first time in a commune. My idea of anarchists was the drunk, drugged up kids I saw at the general assemblies of students back in high school, much talk of “stick it to the power man”, but not much substance or ideas. That is not real anarchism.
The Anarchism I came to know is about creating community, putting the common interest first, without the need for authority, hierarchy or bureaucracy. In our over individualistic and individualized society, it was a breath of fresh air.

Citizens asking for the commune to stay open ("Right to the city")

Citizens asking for the commune to stay open ("for the right to the city")

The commune has not been the only political experience I had in my time here; I have been to a number of demonstrations as well. Sometimes I don't even particularly care for the cause, it is just nice to march and chant with people, feeling part of a movement, something larger than yourself. Not feeling alone for a while.

Demonstration pro-refugees

Demonstration pro-refugees

VergUEnza (more or less = ShamEU)

VergUEnza (= ShamEU)

All these experiences made me realize how much I moved to the political Centre since arriving in the UK, where the common discourse is much less leftist than in southern countries such as Italy and Spain, that had very strong positive communist experiences (the partisans that were fighting against fascism were mainly communist in Italy, and communist and anarchist in the Spanish Civil War). I would probably not have realized how much my own ideas have changed till engaging with a side of the spectrum that is often derided and misrepresented.

So what has this to do with the placement blog? Well as highly private and unrelated as this entry may have sounded, I think where I want to get to is that is fundamental to live the life of your city: not just bars and cafes, but actually meet normal people in the streets to discover the soul of the place where you live in, to participate in it, and finally to actually know it and live, not merely exist, in it. Once I started living the city, with the city,  I started to finally feel like a citizen, and not just a stranger. It meant stopping feeling so alone, and discovering more about myself.

It does not even have to be participating through politics, just joining communitarian events such as marathons or city celebrations end up creating a link with the place you reside, making it more than just a location and bringing it in the realm of affection. I feel many times students miss out this part, for example knowing the names of all pubs but not of a single street, or being completely unaware of the history of the place. It is a shame, as it ends up depriving them of an experience so much more enriching and worth it. What is the point of leaving home if not to create bonds somewhere else?

(I feel obliged to add a necessary post scriptum: living the life of the city can sometimes be hellish, as I came to know in the so called “Semana Santa”, the week of daily procession held over Easter here in Andalusia. It meant drums, trumpets, and rivers of people under my window from 5 pm to 5 am for 7 days!)

Those LOVELY processions!

Those LOVELY processions!

 

‘‘A laughter that will bury you all’’

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📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies

First post of the new year, and it’s already the end of February… time really flies when you are having fun!

This time I want to talk about what I consider one of the most important elements in the working life: good colleagues and a nice working environment.

For most, colleagues are among the first people you speak to at the start of the day, and you often spend more hours with them than with anyone else around you. In a nutshell, working life becomes a major part of your daily life and having a positive working environment helps incredibly.

Besides, we are social beings: we are not made to just stare into a screen for hours without any social interaction or communication to break the daily grind. Sometimes I feel that without people around to talk to I’d be going mad. Misanthropist as I am, I still recognize the need for work chit-chat.

So, it was lovely to realize how kindly my colleagues, and especially the secretaries, treat interns. They realize it is our first serious job and that it can get quite though, so they always try to make a joke and engage in small talk to make time go faster. Whenever I was sad or upset, they had friendly, generous words to make me feel better. They take real interest in our personal life and are ready to share the gossip. Often they even take our sides against other colleagues. From my experience, secretaries are angels.

My office is quite small (we are in 10), and I think this, together with the influence of the Andalusian laid back culture, definitely helps making the environment relaxed and friendly. Everyone knows everyone else quite well and there is an abundance of common socializing moments. Every Friday morning we have a shared breakfast, which is an opportunity to relax and talk of things beside work. Every time there is a birthday the guest of honor will bring cake while receiving a gift from all the rest of us. This month it was my birthday, and I really felt grateful and amazed at the warmth my colleagues showed. It was a very pleasant gathering, and I loved everything, from the personalized card to my present (a pair of violet Converse!).

The team... terrible light unfortunately!

The team... terrible light unfortunately!

Sometimes these chances to socialize happen outside work as well, with drinks with the younger colleagues or tapas all together on special occasions when there is something to celebrate. Once we even went horse riding!

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Just another typical day in Southern Spain!

Finally, when the Board of Directors met, on the last day we all went to the restaurant with them: we sat all together with no divide, in a very chilled environment, enjoying interesting stories from around the world and great food (all paid by IASP!).

What I enjoy the most is definitely the shared international banter; some jokes are common to every culture, and it’s always amazing to see how the other intern, who speaks only English, and the secretary who speaks just Spanish can more or less communicate and have a laugh together even without a common vocabulary. After all, "laughter is the shortest distance between two people", as Victor Borge said.

The importance of humor to release stress, and indeed grease the mechanisms to help smoothing resentments by ridiculing a situation, should never be underestimated. A workplace without laughter is a grim grey place indeed, where tensions arise abruptly. That’s why a boss that has the charisma and the humor to make the whole office laugh is a precious thing.

Luckily not everybody lives in the world of the office!

And luckily not everybody lives in the world of the office!

As always, I hope you enjoyed, and stay tuned!

 

A Little Down The Road

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📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized

Well, it's been three months now, and it seems like time is right for a little check-up.

By now, I think I've got enough experience to actually be able to answer the question that was always on my mind before starting: how it is like to work? Or better, how it is like to actually work in an office, everyday, for a considerable amount of hours?

First of all, tiring. Tiring over any expectations. At least for me, much more exhausting than anything I experienced as a student (even revision weeks or all-nighters with essays due the next morning!). Honestly, sometimes I feel more like if I were in my mid-thirties than in my early twenties; staying in bed watching tv series has become more attractive than going out for drinks and tapas.

Thinking about, I realized that it depends relatively little on what you are doing. For me, it’s how you are essentially limited in the same place, with the same hours, everyday, so much as to sometimes make it look like a cage. The routine becomes almost something intrinsically draining: wake up every morning at the same hour (though going to bed at the same reasonable time every night still seems nearly impossible!), commute, work. That’s why the weekends become so precious: a priceless drop of exceptionality in a desert of regularity.

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Calvin knows

Also, that is why being active helps so much: it is a safety valve to release the excess of energy, to help you de-stress and get back on the track.

Untuning. Another marvellous gift of routine, as I experienced, is how easily you get comfortable with it and how confused it leaves you when holidays kick in. You almost can't figure out how long the day actually is and how much time you have on your hands to do what you like, which makes it even harder to go back to work eventually. This weird paradox also means that sick days actually start to look like a luxury—I’m surprised “Netflix and kleenex” hasn’t become a popularized jargon yet!

Rewarding. Yes, after all there is a positive side, which is one I hadn't taken into consideration before, but it's at the same time the most important one, the one that actually makes you get up every morning. Because working also means to learn, and not at all just job-related stuff.

It means learning to interact on a regular basis with the same people, even if you hate chit-chat and you have the same compatibility level of a Jedi with a Sith. It means that by carrying out tasks you (re-) discover what you like to do, what you don’t care for too much, and what you hate to the guts, so that in the future you will be more conscious of what you are looking for in a job.

Not every placement is going to be about what you like doing: admittedly, most placements are quite mundane, and tasks can get repetitive. Yes, you will not always be involved in awesomely creative tasks that let you explore your real self, while unicorns fly high above in the sky.

But still, this doesn’t mean you can do that outside of what is strictly defined as your job. You will still have quite a lot of time that you can use outside working hours, and not having deadlines is quite calming. Weekends are wholly free time.

In a way, placement year can resemble a sabbatic year in so far as it deepens your self-knowledge, and it allows time to follow your passions. I thought I knew myself quite well, but now, in this position I’ve never experienced before, so to say out of my comfort zone, I’m learning much more about my weaknesses and strengths.

Do I ever have nightmares about my job? Honestly, yes. It is this feeling of routine that creates very suffocating dreams, the knowledge you'll have to go back the next day, and then the day after, and so on for a year, for me that is all something quite hard to put up with. But at the same time, sometimes you are so caught up in your own troubles and bad attitude that you fail to see the silver lining.

I think this is the most important lesson I’m learning: it is very easy to feel like you can’t cope and to get depressed, as most of all routine makes you fail to see the bigger picture. Keeping in mind the small things that made you smile during the day, and most of all being patient and not demanding too much from yourself, helps getting out of the damps.

And when not even that works, going to the beach to watch the sea is always deeply therapeutic!

There's nothing like sea breeze messing up your hair!

There's nothing like sea breeze messing up your hair!

As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned!

 

On the Infinite Pain of Bureaucracy

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📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies

So you’ve moved in a new country and you are all excited to start your new life as an honest earner and decent contributor to society. Ready, steady, go, right?

Well, not so quick! First of all, you need to face the monster with a thousand faceless snakes as hair and a petrifying look, under which everyone falls silent: Bureaucracy.

For example, in Spain, if you want to do anything, from opening a bank account to buy a bus pass for young people, you need this fateful Number of Identification for Foreigners, or NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero).

You start off quite confident that, notwithstanding what you heard on the internet and from your colleagues about being in queues for hours, it is going to be done more sooner than later. What is a little bit of waiting after all? Remember, at this point you are still quite convinced that the system they put in place must have a sense, some kind of logic or order, as bureaucracy shouldn’t mean much more that the technical and impersonal running of the State.

You arrive at the police station to register at 8.30, offices open at 9 am and close at 2 pm. In the photo you can see how the situation was before the doors opened.

photo for blog

Isn't queuing just everyone's favorite activity?

You wait for three hours, getting more and more annoyed and impatient as time goes by. It is finally your turn. The officiant calls you in and, speaking in Spanish, gives you an appointment for another date. Let me just stress this out again: you queued for three hours to get an appointment.

At this point I had all the documents required, I just needed a module of payment to bring to the bank, which however I could have obtained only from them, as it was not downloadable online. I asked why on earth I just had to wait three hours, if I have to come back another day. The officiant, as the faceless arm of Bureaucracy, answered me: “Everyone has to wait”. The thunder of doom had spoken.

I make sure to get the bank payment. A fun fact about Spain is that till October banks stay open from 8.30 am to 2 pm, making it quite unclear when one is supposed to go if he works. I return on the day of the appointment. Again, disorganization and queues. Another half an hour of waiting (theoretically with the appointment number you should be able to enter immediately).

I finally get in the office, and the lady responsible for checking documentation, after taking my documents, tells me (obviously in Spanish) that I have to come back after another week (making it a month I’m trying to get this NIE, without which I’m stuck in the juridical hell-like status of non-residence). Again, I ask the lady why is it gonna be ready in so long. Again, no answer except for a cold and unsympathetic “come back next week”.

Flash forward to the next Monday. I go to the police station for what I hope it’s going to be the last time. What I receive is just an A4 piece of paper with a number on it. I ask for clarification, as I was expecting some sort of identification document. The man behind me in the queue takes the place of the customer service (which, of course, doesn’t know any English) to explain that this is the official NIE (yes, just a number) and that if I want a card certifying my residence I need to go back and re do the whole process (mind you, the precondition to get the residence document is that you had to queue to get this NIE in the first place!)

Now, for me the entire purpose of going through this process was being able to open a bank account. The irony: the only bank which doesn't charge bank account maintenance fees, ING, doesn’t accept the permit, and it requests this green card. If Kafka had written a piece on the non-sense of bureaucracy, he would have probably not gone this far.

I actually think wasting anyone’s precious time in such an idiotic way should be considered a bureaucratic crime. After all, time is as precious as actual money, and such a detrimental attitude towards other people’s invaluable minutes is nothing more than a state-approved steal. Maybe Graeber, in his latest book “The Utopia of Rules”, is right in identifying bureaucracy as a form of state violence and a tool of repression (no, I’m not on his payroll; yes, I’d love to be!).

Moreover, what I’m still shocked at is how foreigners, theoretically the recipients of the service, seemed to be the bottom priority for the inventor of such a contrived process. First, the whole process is in Spanish. You would expect to get some assistance in English, but good luck if you don’t understand Spanish or you don’t have someone who can help you with the papers. You may end up just like my colleague, who mistook one of the requirements and had to go back and queue for one more time. Secondly, foreign workers would have to take one day off for three weeks in a row to be able to get it. I am not quite sure whether their bosses would be so understanding, especially if they were working on some dodgy contracts.

My best advise: if you know you are moving to Spain, do the documentation in your native country, they practically can’t be able to make you wait as long. Even Italy has introduced online appointments!

PS: Thanks for reading and stay tuned, I swear the next post will be less grumpy!

Anna

 

The Andalusian Diaries: An Italian in Spain

  

📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies

I’m a month in, enough to have quite a good impression of what’s going on, so I guess it’s time to overcome my habitual laziness and get down to the writing!

My name is Anna, I’m Italian, and I study Politics with International Relations in Bath. For this year I’ll be working as Communication and Events Intern at the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) in the Parque Tecnológico de Andalucía (PTA) (Andalucia Technology Park), in Malaga, Southern Spain.

Goes without saying, the location of both the park and the city is absolutely amazing. Malaga is on the sea, and it’s the sunniest place I’ve ever been. Wikipedia says the climate is “subtropical-Mediterrenean”, which basically means great weather all year round (it rains an average of 50 days per year!). For a meteoropathic person, that’s winning the lottery.

Malaga's sunset

Malaga's sunset

Sea!

Sea!

View of the castle

View of the castle (and more sun!)

The park, where my office is, is the opposite of what could be the conventional business district. If you don’t know what a Science/Technology Park (STP) is, don’t worry, I didn’t know either before starting the job.

An STP, to make the long story really short, is basically a place with a lot of businesses. The long part: it comes about as an agreement between government, university and business world in a relationship that benefits all the parties involved. Basically businesses gain from the access to young, brilliant minds, the university can show off its partnership with prestigious firms, and the economy of the region flourishes—everyone wins. The buzz words of this less known sector are “development”, “innovation” and “networks”. In future posts I’ll explain in more detail what we actually do and especially what my office does (it's not as boring as it sounds, really!!).

Beside hosting firms, the Parque Tecnológico de Andalucía is a proper park, with palms, little lakes, and a walking paths. The one time I arrived earlier and had a zen morning walk I actually understood why someone would wake up at 5 am to go running. It does fill you with calm and illumination, in the true sense you can enjoy the bliss of dawn. Unfortunately, I also do appreciate my bed too much to convert to these New Age reveries.

Science Park!

Science Park!

Science Park: Buildings

Science Park: Buildings

It's actually a park!

It's actually a park!

The office has a great vibe. The team is small and international and the languages spoken rotate swiftly from English to Spanish to Italian according to the speakers (yes, Italians managed to colonized this angle of the world as well!). The working hours are very good, 9 to 3, so it is quite easy to get used to the working life.

I think one of the things people fear the most when starting a full time job for the first time is the obligation of staying for 8 hours straight in the same place, doing the same thing, everyday. The idea of such a constant routine was genuinely terrorizing me last year—“I’m gonna die of boredom”.

Actually, having a shorter working day makes things much easier , especially as interns’ tasks don’t usually fill up a whole day. It all goes back to David Graeber’s idea of “bullshit jobs” (sic), and how we are all working much more than necessary. Basically, Graeber’s thesis is that in the modern world, while thanks to technology we should all be working less, we are actually spending more time at work due to the creation of jobs that are effectively pointless. Thus, a multitude, he says, spends “their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it” ("On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs", 2013).

A shorter working day not only helps you acclimatize better with the working environment and makes you more productive, it also tackles this issue at its roots. Finally, it gives you more time to dedicate to those activities which enrich us as human beings, without considerations of mere utility. In less fancy words, following your interests. (Can we make “going to the beach” count as a hobby?).

I have the feeling I should stop rambling on… as first introductory post goes, I hope I gave you the general idea. Next posts are gonna talk about specific issues of living and working abroad deeper, with some tips on how to face cultural shocks, home nostalgia and all that jazz.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned!

Link to Graeber’s article: http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

Anna