Placement blogs

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

Topic: 2016-17

Year Abroad VII – tips on travelling around Italy

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

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Siena, Italy                                                                                        May, 2017

Ciao! When I decided to do an Erasmus study exchange in Italy as the second half of my Year Abroad, one thing was clear: I wanted to travel as much as I could. In a country like Italy in which every region is so different from the neighbouring one, it is amazing to be able to go and explore new areas, as there is such diversity. But, how to do this on a student budget? Here are my tips for travelling around.

Choose the right time

First of all, the ideal Erasmus situation is having a timetable in which you have a long weekend. That is, you have either Mondays or Fridays free and so end up with a three-day-long weekend. This would give you more time to travel, but is not always possible. In my case, I don’t have a long weekend, but I can catch up on my Friday lessons easily so I can miss a Friday once in a while… Try to find the timetables for each module when choosing your units, but don’t fret if you can’t do a long weekend – you will find the time to travel anyway!

In addition to that, the time of the year also affects the prices of the tickets. I’ve been in Italy since the end of January and back when it was still winter it used to rain a lot, which is not ideal when you plan on walking around new cities. I’d say the best time to travel is probably late-March to early May: the weather is a lot nicer but the ‘tourist’ season isn’t full-blown yet. Now, you will always find tourists in Italy, no matter the time of the year as it is non-seasonal tourism, but in order to avoid the masses and extortionate prices definitely avoid travelling in late Spring-Summer.

Travelling during the official holidays can also be tricky. First, because obviously everybody travels then so there is a ridiculous rise in prices during that period, but also because it can be hard to nail down the actual dates. In Siena’s case, our Easter holidays were actually only four days long and were followed by a few school days before a pause in the lessons during the April appello or exam period. In theory, the lessons would be on during those days in between, but in reality, a lot of the teachers cancelled their classes and so we actually had around a week and a half of holidays if you were not planning on sitting any exams in that appello period. I’d suggest trying to speak to local students in years 2 or above, as they have more experience of the system, so you have a clear idea of the dates and can book your holidays in advance and save money (whether it be travelling around Italy or going back home).

Transport

There are many ways to travel around Italy, but choosing the right one will depend on the distance you are trying to cover and the time you have available.

For example, if I wanted to visit the Tuscan towns around Siena, the ideal thing would be to have a car. Car Rental companies are incredibly expensive for rookie drivers, so unless you are a big group in which all chip in or you know a local person with a car, this is an option available but hard to realize. You can also travel by bus, which is very cheap, but at least in this part of Italy the public transport connections are poorly structured, with journeys taking a couple of hours to cover only a few kilometres and very limited timetables.

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If you are planning on visiting places in nearby regions, try the coaches or pullman services which are very popular. They are generally cheaper than trains and sometimes even take less time! I’ve been using FlixBus quite a lot, which covers a huge range of different cities. From Siena, I’ve been able to go to Bologna and Perugia using FlixBus and spending around 20 euros both ways. Another coach service that seems to be popular here is Baltour, but I haven’t used that one yet. It’s just a matter of looking into routes and prices! And, of course, booking in advance!

Another option is to use Blablacar. I personally can’t review this service as I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard good things about it. However, use your common sense – it might not the best option if you are travelling on your own, as it involves a car share with strangers.

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A pricier option is taking the train. However, high speed trains are worth it if you are planning to go somewhere that is far away – they are quicker than coaches. Trenitalia works quite well in my opinion, but delays and trains being cancelled is not something unheard of, so beware if you are going somewhere that requires a couple of changes along the way. Another alternative is to fly to your destination. If you are in Siena you will know that your closest airports are in Florence or Pisa though, requiring you to take the train or bus in order to reach it anyway. So, unless you actually have a few days to spare, I wouldn’t choose to go anywhere too far away – it is worth staying somewhere nearer and having more time to explore!

Accommodation

In terms of finding where to stay, hotels are clearly an option but not the most budget-friendly. If you are travelling in a small group, look into youth hostels – they can be a fun experience if you are not too fussed about sharing rooms with strangers and you can meet all sorts of people.

However, my favourite option is Airbnb. I’ve used this platform a few times now and I find it the most convenient for me as it gives me the option of finding a private room within a flat – sort of like a hotel – but cheaper. I always look for an Airbnb with access to a kitchen, so I can have breakfast before heading out or cook dinner and save a few euros. If you’ve never tried Airbnb, it’s definitely worth a shot! All the experiences I’ve had so far have been great and you can find real gems out there.

This particular Airbnb in Bologna had an amazing library!

This particular Airbnb in Bologna had an amazing library!

Of course, if you know someone in the area, they might be able to host you for a few nights too – that would be the ideal situation as you would also know a local to suggest things to do!

Travel companions

In my opinion, the ideal group would either be a couple (2 people) or a larger group of 4. Of course, the amount of people travelling will not only influence your options for travel and accommodation, but will also make it harder or easier to decide what you will be doing each day. I wouldn’t try to put together a group with more than five members because, unless you are in the same mind-set and financial situation, it will probably be hard to get organized and make decisions on what to do, where to eat… My travel buddy in Italy is Megan, a course mate from Bath who is also doing her exchange here. You will probably end up travelling with somebody foreign, because not a lot of Italians seem to have the time or interest in travelling as much as you plan to over your Year Abroad, which is understandable. We make a good team because we both have similar interests and expectations about travelling in Italy. Also, she is the foodie who does the research on local food to try and where to go, whilst I do the cultural research on sightseeing itineraries and museums – great combo!

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To sum it up, think about whom you want to travel with and the pros and cons of your group size. Of course, solo travelling is also an option and, by all means, I would encourage everybody to travel on their own at least once in their life, but use your common sense and be safe about it.

Extra tips

A couple of extra trips I have about travelling around Italy:

·         Write a bucket-list. Usually it will not be a very realistic bucket list (at least mine isn’t), as you will probably jot down way too many places for the amount of time you really have. However, it will give you an idea of where you want to go, if you can join different destinations that are close together (for instance, I went to Bologna for a weekend and spent one of the days in Parma) and ticking off places is always satisfying!

·         State Museums or Musei Statali are generally free-of-charge on the first Sunday of each month, so make the most of it. For instance, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence is free, but the queue is massive so set aside some time!

·         Always ask for student discounts – use your Italian badge or student ID to get discounts at most museums. I’ve found that, in general, there are fewer discounts than in the UK, but it’s always worth a shot!

·         Do your research – look online before your trip and make a list of places you want to visit or recommendations for places to eat. There are so many blogs online written by locals that can give you a great insight into the place you’ll be visiting. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to ask your hosts or if you know anybody from the area (which is likely, since at University you will encounter so many studenti fuorisede) on their personal suggestions! It’s the students who know where to get the best apericena in town!

·         Make a rough plan of what you will be doing each day, particularly if you are only going away for the weekend. This way you will use your time efficiently and make the most of your stay.

·         Finally, and in contrast with the previous point, don’t be afraid to improvise! The best stories usually begin with a change of plans!

Look out for local food - the panpepato in Pisa is so yummy!

Look out for local food - the panpepato in Pisa is so yummy!

Hope you’ve found this post useful. Travelling is one of the best opportunities the Year Abroad offers you, so try to make the most of it! Happy exploring!

Alla prossima!

Zoe

 

 

The Australian travel bug

📥  2016-17, Health

Explore. Dream. Discover.

As you will all now be aware, I have been lucky enough to spend my placement year, and the last 10 months, in the beautiful city of Adelaide in South Australia. I’ve enjoyed exploring the city and visiting the stunning scenery of SA. I think it is pertinent if on placement overseas to really throw yourself into the country’s culture, and see as much as possible! As you can probably appreciate, this is pretty tricky in Australia, as it can take hours to fly interstate, so for a full time and unpaid intern, it’s hard to see the whole country. That said, I don’t think I’ve done too bad so far!

I wanted to use this blog to share with you all where I’ve been this year, to give any future overseas placement students, or avid travellers, some ideas on where to go, what to see, and show you how incredible Australia is.

Here’s a breakdown of the states of Australia, and a mixture of my experiences and what I would have like to have seen in each state.  Who needs trip advisor!

South Australia

My homeland! Adelaide, one of the best cities in the world to live in yet seemingly somewhat undiscovered, is in the lovely state of SA. It is home to some great attractions including the famous Adelaide Wine regions, including but not exhaustive to the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa Valley and the McLaren Vale. I have definitely had my fair share of trips there! We also have some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, such as Noarlunga, Maslin, Willunga and Second Valley. You can hire paddle boards, kayaks and snorkels to enjoy the serenity of the beaches. Adelaide is also famous for its beautiful natural scenery, mountainous regions and hiking trails. Some of my favourite spots include Mount Lofty, Morialta Conservation Park and the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Some other definite must-sees are the lovely towns of Victor Harbor, Hahndorf and Port Lincoln. In Port Lincoln you can go shark diving! Sadly I didn’t get to do this, however there’s been enough shark spottings in the sea here, that’s close enough for me. Another gem in South Australia is the incredible Kangaroo Island. This is a short 1.5 hour drive from the city and 40 minute ferry ride away. I went for a weekend away to KI on an Adventure tour and was one of the best trips I’ve ever done! I enjoyed sandboarding in Little Sahara, kayaking in the Harriet River and soaking up the breathtaking views of Remarkable Rocks, Vivonne Bay and Admirals Arch. Would definitely recommend as a must see in Australia!

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Above are some photos from Kangaroo Island: Remarkable Rocks and Vivonne Bay.

Victoria

In Victoria I’ve been fortunate enough to see the Grampians, St Kilda’s beach and Torquay (all which I spoke about in my blog ‘Trip of a Lifetime’) and the city of Melbourne. Melbourne was a great city to visit; I really felt the busy hustle and bustle of being in a major city. It is very modern too, and has really interesting architecture. I loved the massive food culture there, they have so many quirky street food places to eat, and cool bars – definitely great to check out. Also, the shopping is amazing! Some of my favourite parts of the city were the MCG stadium, which is the biggest sporting arena in Australia, and one of the biggest in the world and the Crown, which is a huge casino in the centre of town, it was very glamorous! I’d recommend also checking out Federation square (the heart of Melbourne), the Yarra River (there are some really cool statues along the river), and Phillip Island if you get time. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit Phillip Island but I’ve heard it is a great trip, there is beautiful scenery and you can see penguins in their natural habitat – pretty cool!

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Here are some photos from Melbourne.

New South Wales

NSW: the home of one of the busiest and most popular cities on the planet, and definitely one of my favourite places in Australia – Sydney! I’ve been lucky enough to go to Sydney twice this year, and definitely been the most stereotypical tourist each time, getting the selfie stick out on Bondi Beach and in front of the opera house – I couldn’t resist! Sydney is a great city, it is full of things to do and great sights to see. It is extremely busy, and full of tourists (like me) but I love it! Top things to see in the city are undoubtedly the Sydney Opera House, which still remains to me one of the coolest buildings ever, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Westfields observation deck / sky tower and Darling Harbour. Also, if you want a good night out or a few drinks, definitely check out The Rocks. I spent New Years Eve in Sydney with some friends from home and went to a gold party at The Argyle and had the best night out ever! It is full of cool bars and restaurants – a great place to be. Also, whilst you’re there I would recommend getting a ferry from Circular Quay (where the opera house and bridge are) to Bondi Beach. I promise this will give you THE BEST view of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge! So definitely get your phones at the ready for some awesome selfies and potential Facebook profile pictures. Bondi is also great! I think that the actual beach is a bit disappointing, compared to some of the stunning beaches we have in SA, but it is a really great place to be. They have a strip of great shops and places to eat and drink, and of course the famous street art which cannot be missed! You can also spot some awesome surfer dudes ride the waves. If you have time definitely do the Bondi to Coogee costal walk where you will pass by the beautiful surfing beaches of Bronte and Tamarama. Also, try catching the ferry to Manly beach, another great surfing beach with a busy atmosphere and full of backpackers! So that’s all the stuff that I got up to in Sydney. If time permitted I would have loved to check out the Blue Mountains, some of my friends have hiked up there and the views look incredible!

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Above are some photos from Sydney. The second was climbing the Westfield tower and the third was at Bondi.

Australian Capital Territory

ACT is the second smallest state, and I think I’ve seen most of the big attractions there which are all in Canberra. I have visited Australia’s capital twice now, and outlined my fun adventures in my previous blog ‘Trip of a Lifetime’. Another thing that I didn’t get the chance to do would be to go in a hot air balloon at sunrise, this looks amazing! I would definitely recommend going to Canberra, there is a lot more there than people first think, and you can’t be the ignorant tourist going to visit a country and not seeing their capital city!

Queensland

QL is the home of the popular traveller’s city, Brisbane. I’m disappointed that I haven’t had the chance to get to Brisbane this year, but it will definitely be a reason for me to come back to Australia. I’d love to see be Surfers paradise, the Sunshine Coast, the street beach, and Nusa. This could finally be my chance to try surfing, one thing not ticked off the Australian bucket list yet! As well as Brisbane, QL also homes the famous Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s most iconic and stunning sites. I am fortunate enough to have a trip planned there for my 21st birthday next month. I’m flying to Hamilton Island from Adelaide, spending a night there before catching the ferry over to Airlie Beach for a week. On my birthday I’ve got a snorkelling trip planned where we will see the Whitsunday islands and the famous Whitehaven beach. So I’m super excited for that, which will mark my last trip in Aus before I sadly head home.

Northern Territory

Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to get up to NT, however that is where the iconic Uluru is, known to tourists as ‘Ayers Rock’. This would have been an extraordinary experience, but is a pretty pricey trip, as it is in the middle of nowhere! It is definitely on my bucket list though for when I come back to Australia: to see sunrise at Uluru and camp under the stars in the amazing Australian outback.

Western Australia

I haven’t visited WA this year, however I went a few years ago to visit a friend from home that moved out there. I stayed in Perth, and loved it! It reminds me now of a busier version of Adelaide – there are great beaches and things to do, such as walking around Kings Park and the Botanical Gardens and up and down Swan River. It was also in Perth that I saw my first ever kangaroo, so I have fond memories of my trip there. Some recommendations for WA would be to get to the beautiful Broome, and see some of the natural beauties of the Pinnacles and Kalbarri National Park.

Tasmania

Tasmania is by far the place that I would have liked to visit the most that I haven’t yet. Unfortunately I just haven’t had the time this year. I’d love to travel there to check out the city of Hobart and climb Mount Wellington, do some of the amazing hiking trails in Freycinet National Park and see Wineglass Bay, and of course see the Hazards. That will be the first place I visit when I come back to Aus, but maybe not in the winter, we have enough cold weather in England, and I heard it can get pretty chilly there! From Adelaide you can fly to Melbourne and get the ferry to Hobart so is easy to get to.

I think a general rule for visiting a new city would be:

  • Do the open top bus tour, especially if you are tight for time as you get the chance to quickly see the cities best sights before deciding what you want to see more of
  • Check out the sky observation deck, as most cities these days have one these days and they provide the best views
  • See the botanical gardens, as they always promise to be beautiful!
  • Take lots of photos, because they speak a thousand words.

 

A Placement in London: The Pros and Cons

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

Before another post updating about life at NBCU, I thought I’d write a piece on what it’s like to be a POLIS placement student in London. I had always figured that I would live in London at some point in my life; I grew up in Reading (30 mins away from Paddington by train) and my sister has lived in the city for a number of years. All of my media work experience has also been in the city, albeit only for sporadic weeks at a time.

My first work experience when I was 16 - has anything really changed?

My first work experience when I was 16 - has anything really changed?

For me, a huge pro of London life came before I had even moved. I found searching for a flat incredibly easy in comparison to Bath, setting aside a day to look at suitable apartments and finding our perfect place by lunchtime. Now, I have to caveat this by saying that my flatmate (a friend from school, who I’d already agreed to live with a year before even getting my placement) was quite keen on living in Clapham; the issue of where to live in such a huge city was fairly immediately resolved. However, I definitely recommend looking in the Clapham area to any prospective Londoners as there’s a thriving young-professional community and it’s relatively affordable. I live literally opposite the Clapham North tube station, which definitely helps with any morning laziness. There was hardly a shortage of two-bedroom houses and flats in the area, which is immensely useful for anyone to find a place at short notice.

Featuring scenic views of the tube station.

Featuring scenic views of the tube station.

On the subject of the tube, there’s a bit of a mixed blessing when it comes to transport in London. On the one hand, it’s (usually) quick and frequent, meaning that darting from one end of London to the other isn’t too much hassle. However, it can be unbelievably unpleasant. I take the Northern line every single day (fun fact – the Northern line goes to the most Southern tube station in London) and, subsequently, I spend far too much of my time pressed up against a stranger in the tube equivalent of sardines. There’s also the case of heat; on the two or so days of summer that London actually has, I’ve been so hot on the tube that my makeup has melted by the time I’ve gotten to work. This is an aspect of London life that I’ve simply had to put up with, but I know it isn’t for everyone.

How my housemate feels about getting the tube all the time.

How my housemate feels about getting the tube all the time.

Of course, it’s also expensive. Everything is eye-wateringly expensive. Coming back to Bath makes everything feel cheap – the complete opposite of when I first moved to University.The extent of which this hits you will ultimately depend on how much you are paid. Without going into details, I have friends who are in other ends of the country who are paid less but are still able to save money overall. Admittedly, I have made a decision to enjoy London life as much as possible which, unfortunately for me, does come at a cost. Still, generally speaking, unless you’re on a banking placement, it’s a lot harder to save money if you’re living here.

And viva London! Nights with glitter and free signs being one of the things I spend my hard-earned money on.

And viva London! Nights with glitter and free signs being one of the things I spend my hard-earned money on.

However, there’s so much going on in the city that it makes shelling out money on events easy but worth it. Some personal highlights of the year have included attending an interactive Great Gatsby performance, going to a Secret Cinema event in black tie, playing ping pong in a UV bar and much, much more. Furthermore, as there are so many other POLIS students on placement in London, I am able to attend these events with a similar friendship group to what I had at university. Whilst this isn’t to say that I haven’t met people here, it certainly makes moving to a new city easier when you’ve got a lot of familiar faces on call.  If you’re even slightly interested in the arts, London will always have something new and quirky to offer you.

 

Fresh out of the 1920s.

Fresh out of the 1920s.

Whilst this is just a small overview on a big city, I hope it’s been informative!

 

Branching out and making things happen

📥  2016-17, Health

I have just got back from what’s been a great 10 days at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra. A key part of being an intern or placement student is to have a proactive approach to all elements of working life. Seek out extra learning and networking opportunities, express interest in projects, and who knows what you could end up getting involved in!

This is exactly what I did at the Australian Institute of Sport when I first visited and I consequently ended up going back to help out as a lab assistant in a top sports nutrition study led by world class researchers and dieticians testing some of Australia’s elite triathletes.

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The study was looking at the effect of carbohydrate periodisation on performance and iron and bone health in elite triathletes, some of which represented Australia at the Rio Olympics last year. The study was being used by Triathlon Australia, the Sports nutrition team at the AIS and made up two PhD projects. The premise of the study was manipulating athletes’ diets to elicit positive performance changes and improvements in their iron and bone health. It consisted of two 6 day training blocks whereby half of the athletes in each block would sleep on a low carbohydrate intake, and train after a high carbohydrate meal – the notion of “train high, sleep low”.

My role in the study was to help whenever and with whoever. When I first arrived I observed a performance trial, which was a simulated cycling race performed on stationary bikes in the lab. I then soon got really involved in the testing by assisting with taking blood from the athletes’ fingertips and earlobes before, during and after exercise to analyse blood glucose, ketones and lactate and helping to run blood samples in the lab centrifuge and pipette droplets of serum into small tubes before they are sent off for further analysis to look for certain markers in the blood for example to indicate iron metabolism. I also assisted with the collection of gas from athletes to look at the volumes and components of inspired and expired air to help us determine what substrate they were metabolising, strictly carbohydrate or fat. After the testing I helped to collect ratings of perceived exertion, power output and heart rate to help quantify the session intensity.

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Outside of the lab I assisted the sports nutrition team too by helping to prepare and weigh snacks for the athletes as they were on a strictly monitored diet. I also got to observe training sessions, ran by world famous coach Jamie Turner, which gave me an excellent insight to the life of a triathlete and the high demands of the sport.

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The study definitely opened my eyes to research and really inspired me to become immersed in Sports Nutrition, potentially at a Masters or PhD level. I have started by choosing Nutrition and Metabolism for my final year unit, and I will be work shadowing the Dietician at SASI at her private practise next week. This will give me insight into the life of a Sports Nutritionist and see if it is something that I may see myself doing.

This has been an additional component of my placement, and completely outside the work that I have done at SASI. I would really recommend doing this when possible for any placement students out there, as it is great to widen your experiences, work with new people and in a new environment.

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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!

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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.

 

Trip of a lifetime

📥  2016-17, Health

7 days, 4 states, 3 planes, 2 sheilas, 1 car, a whole heap of exploring and some work. Road trip over!

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog for a while, as I have just got back from what has been the most amazing trip I’ve ever done! I was fortunately asked by SASI to be an athlete chaperone for the Oceania Road Championships as some of our cyclists were competing. As part of this role, I had to drive the SASI cycling car to Canberra from Adelaide. For those of you that aren’t overly knowledgeable with the map of Australia (very much like me until recently), that is one heck of a drive; 750 miles, and a very boring route through the middle of nowhere, known to Aussies as ‘Whoop Whoop’. Consequently, I asked SASI if I could do a slight detour to see some of Australia’s most beautiful sights that I probably wouldn’t get the opportunity to do again.

So, Shannon, another Bath placement student, and myself set off, for what was to soon become one of the best, and most memorable weeks ever.

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On the first day we drove from Adelaide to the Grampians, which are a stunning mountainous range in Halls Gap, Victoria. If they aren’t already one of the wonders of the world then they definitely should be! We arrived at the Grampians National Park just before sunset, so got to see a sneak peak of a lovely view of dusk at MacKenzie Falls. However, the drive down the steep mountain in the dark was slightly scary! Good job we’d already done a treacherous 7 hours of driving that day, so we were used to it. We woke up early the next morning to make the most of the beautiful scenery before setting off again, so we drove up to see Reid’s Lookout, Pinnacle and the Balconies. We were lucky to arrive before the mass crowds of tourists, so really got to soak up the tranquility and stunning beauty of the Grampians, and of course take some awesome (and very generically touristy) photos!

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After a fantastic morning, we left the Grampians and had a short drive to Port Campbell. This was the start of the famous Great Ocean Road! We had both seen lots of photos of some of the sights you can see along the way, and had a meticulously planned schedule so were very excited. We stopped at London Arch, Loch Ard Gorge and the 12 Apostles, and again saw some really breathtaking views that depicted Australia’s stunningly picture perfect natural beauty.

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Great Ocean Road – definitely a huge tick off the bucket list!  

We then set off for Torquay, and arrived late in the evening. The next day we woke up and drove down to Bells Beach – a world renowned surfing beach, 100km south-west of Melbourne. Whilst unfortunately it was too chilly to try surfing ourselves, we definitely enjoyed watching top class surfers ride the waves, unbelievably in awe!

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After spending a short time at Bells Beach, attempting to get a suntan which didn’t end too well, we drove to Melbourne. Our first stop was St Kildas beach, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and swim in the sea. St Kildas was a great spot, full of cool restaurants, cafes and bars, and was jam packed. Being so near to the city, and as one of Melbourne’s most popular beach, we definitely felt the city buzz, slightly new for us Adelaideans! As Melbourne is famous for its food culture, we enjoyed a tasty Pho from a trendy Vietnamese restaurant before getting an early night in preparation for our long drive the next day to Canberra.

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This marked the end of our road trip, and start of our working responsibilities. The next day was a long grind, we drove for 8 hours, but after multiple repeats of Ed Sheeran’s new album, a few games of I spy and lots of snacks later, we finally arrived in Australia’s capital city; Canberra. This was the fourth and final state that we had visited, Australian Capital Territory, preceded by South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. We met the SASI athletes at the airport the next day where we accompanied them to their training, and helped when needed. We also managed to soak up some culture and explore the city, visiting Old and New Parliament House, the Telstra tower at sunset, the War Memorial, Australian Institute of Sport, Lake Burley Griffin, the National Museum and had a fun night at the Enlighten Festival and Night Noodle Markets with some friends we made on our travels. To top it off, SASI cyclists won a gold medal in the Women’s time trial, and a silver medal in the Men’s road race.

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Spot the wannabee SASI cyclist.

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So after 2,000 miles of driving and lots of sightseeing, we did it. And what a week!! Definitely a MUST DO for any avid travellers!

 

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

 

 

Keeping Rad in Radelaide

📥  2016-17, Health

After being pretty quiet on the blogging front recently, I am back with lots of exciting things to report on! The past few months have been great fun - Adelaide, as always, has been the heart of constant enjoyment and lifetime memory-making opportunities. There has been an array of fantastic events recently such as the Fringe Festival, WOMAD Festival and various food and drink events and tasting festivals such as ‘Taste Australia’ which has been on this weekend.

‘Mad March’ has been my favourite time since living down Under. I enjoyed attending the Adelaide Fringe Festival watching a wide range of world-class acts and covering my face in glitter for the entirety of the Fringe! Some of my favourite shows included the infamous and utterly hilarious ‘Dragapella’ (yes, this is a real show AND they have multiple albums on Spotify), '360 All-Stars', a theatrical acrobatic group consisting of world renowned athletes, dancers and musicians and ‘Critically Will’, a fantastically entertaining comedy show by Australia’s most talented comic, Will Anderson. I’d definitely encourage checking them all out if you are thinking of heading to the Edinburgh Fringe – I’ll see you there!

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On the first night of the Fringe, there was a brilliant opening parade show. To get in the real Aussie spirit I thought that this selfie on the left was a must. The tent in the photo on the right was the venue for the first Fringe show that I saw which was called ‘Best of Ed’, a stand-up comedy show by 3 talented comedians from the Edinburgh Fringe.

As well as seeing some great shows, I loved the buzz of the city whilst the Fringe was on. There were heaps of pop up bars and amazing street food trucks. People from all over the world had come to Adelaide to watch the Fringe, it really was the place to be. Also, as part of the Festival, there were venues all over the city with live music, more food and drink places and a great excuse to catch up with friends, have a few drinks and a boogie, or see a last minute show after work! My favourite venues were the Royal Croquet Club and the Garden of Unearthly delights. One night I went to one of the venues for some food with a friend after work and very luckily bagged some free tickets for a show called YouTunes! It was hosted in a small but quirky tent in the Royal Croquet Club and ran by one incredibly talented musician with a mixture of instruments who made music out of the interactions and noises the crowed made, such as laughing, cheering and even speaking. It was comical, interactive and thoroughly entertaining!

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Here are some photos from the Garden of Unearthly delights, Royal Croquet Club, and ‘Secret Garden bar’!

So, big advice for anyone coming to Adelaide, or even Australia, on placement next year – be sure to check out the Fringe and all associated events, and save your pennies for what I guarantee will be the best month of your placement!

 

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!