Humanities & Social Sciences placements

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

Topic: Economics

What do you do? Helping expats into volunteering...‏

📥  2015-16, Economics

Sometimes I struggle to know exactly how to answer when someone asks me what I do; it's a pretty unique company, and I have a quite unusual role within it! But it is worth explaining as it's an interesting company with a novel concept.

Simply put, InterNations is a social network for expats.

Expatriate: a person who lives outside their native country. Commonly used to refer to someone who has moved abroad for work.

Think a mixture of Facebook and LinkedIn but for people who are working abroad.

Imagine you're British and have just been posted in Dubai for 2 years through your company. Sure, they'll probably sort out a place for you to live, maybe a car as well and your health insurance, but how about your integration into day to day life?

You have some questions before you go? You have children and want to know about the best schools in the area, you want information on the best areas to live in or know what the weather will be like. InterNations has a selection of country guides full of information written specifically for expats. Much of it is member written content; written by people who have been exactly in your position. If you can't find the answer to your question there, no worries, post on the forum and wait for a response from another expat.

You've settled in to your job but you're not sure how to meet people outside of work? Or your husband/wife is working and you're at a loose end at home? InterNations has a range of interest groups, from beer drinking, to burger eating, to swimming, to networking, to salsa dancing. You name it, it'll be there, and if it's not, you can apply to open a group that matches your interest.

Either on arrival, or prior to arriving, you can check out the groups and join any which sound appealing. Most groups post an activity each month; sign up to an activity, join and meet like minded people! Many people meet friends for life this way, by joining these groups on a regular basis you can really build a close network of friends who share your interests, and who understand what it's like to be living in a country different to the one you were born in.

So where do I come in? One of the interests that many of our members share is making a difference in their community; so a selection of our communities across the world have a Volunteer Group. This gives expats, who are usually more fortunate than others in their community, an opportunity to help people in need, whilst integrating into their community and meeting new people.

From HQ in Munich, we support our Consuls (the expats who take on the role of running the group), giving them the materials and knowledge they need as well as ensuring they keep active and continue to post activities! We are always proud of our achievements so we also spend some time shouting about it! Our volunteers do amazing things every day and we like to share this with the rest of the InterNations network through different communications materials.

You can find out more about the network on our website: www.internations.org

 

Things You Really Should Know About Munich

📥  2015-16, Economics

Having only ever spent a couple of days in Germany, before committing to a 6 month job in Munich, kind of on a whim, you could say that I wasn't really prepared! So here are just a few things that took me by surprise...

Munich is a part of Bavaria, and this is kind of a big dealBavaria2

A large region in the South-East of Germany, Bavarians consider themselves almost a nation of their own! They have their own dialect, their own public holidays (the most in Germany) and their own customs, different to that of the rest of Germany. People from Bavaria often consider themselves Bavarians first, and Germans second.

Oktoberfest is like a mini festival!Oktoberfest3

Oktoberfest is based in one spot, and doesn't span the whole of Germany! I had visions of beer tents popping up across the city, and across cities all over Germany. In fact, Oktoberfest (locally known as the Wiesn) is contained within one area, and although the drunk people manage to spread out all over the city, the beer tents and festivities are kept to the Theresienwiese. And Oktoberfest really is more than just beer tents; there's a huge fun fair with rides far too scary for me, food stalls everywhere, and tents serving drinks other than beer.

Bike lanes are everywhere Bicycle

And just to catch you out, they don't have the white bicycles painted on them like in the UK. Be prepared for angry German shouting if you accidentally stray into one of these (believe me). In fact, there are a lot of cyclists and I can understand why; central Munich is pretty flat and a bike is a great way to get about!

It gets really hot, and really coldWinter

I have this rose-tinted view of Southern Europe (well, anything South of the UK) and year long Mediterranean summers. Of course the reality is slightly different and the winters get very cold (I have finally bought my first grown up winter coat) and minus temperatures are very normal during the day. But, the summer is long, and warm days can be spent in the English Garden, drinking cold beer and swimming in the river.

 

The 4 Real Difficulties of Moving to Munich

📥  2015-16, Economics

"What’s the most difficult thing about moving abroad?"

asked our CEO in our first onboarding session. Everyone gave very sensible answers such as knowing the right type of visa to get, how to transport all of your belongings across the world and sorting out all the paperwork to get a job. I felt compelled to give a similarly sensible answer and talked about the struggle of finding accommodation (which in fairness, is really bloody hard in Munich).

But the reality is that you find solutions to these problems relatively quickly, and within your first couple of weeks you’ve managed to overcome these difficulties. The true struggles last a little longer.

1. People to discuss your favourite British TV with

Having international friends is great in so many ways; I love meeting new people and I find it really cool learning about the different cultures and upbringings we’ve had. But the blank looks when you squeal about it being the GBBO final tonight can get a bit tiring (for my international friends reading this, that stands for Great British Bake Off, best show to hit the UK in some time). Sometimes, you just want to discuss whether the Lucy Beale plot line has been dragged out for too long, if this year’s Apprentice candidates really are the most arrogant and fame-hungry yet, or if Sarah-Lou is finally going to crack and reveal all about Callum in Corrie.

2. A proper cup of tea

Not only is PG Tips apparently absent in Bavaria, the milk is this weird European UHT stuff and I miss my favourite mug. You may laugh, but try making it through long Friday afternoons at work, and lazy Sundays without a proper cuppa. Top tip for anyone moving abroad: bring your favourite mug with you and a supply of teabags, trust me, you’ll appreciate it when you get here.

3. The British sense of humour

As the only Brit in the room at a meeting this week, I was outnumbered in the debate on whether the British sense of humour is actually funny. Our sarcasm and ability to make fun of ourselves and each other, either offends or goes way over the heads of most foreigners. I didn’t think I’d be missing the ‘banter’ I spend much of my time rolling my eyes at, but like I’ve said, it’s strange what you miss!

4. Lazy Sundays

Of course we still have Sundays in Germany (I haven’t moved to another planet) but all those things that make a British Sunday great are sadly missing here. The best Sundays start with a bacon sandwich; something I haven't managed to recreate. The thickly sliced white bread doesn’t exist, and the poor selection of bacon just doesn’t meet requirements. On a Sunday morning, you’ll usually find me on the sofa with a cup of tea and the Sunday papers. Unfortunately, I am now lacking in a sofa, or the German skills to be able to read any of the available newspapers. And of course any Brit who lives abroad will tell you about the painful inexistence of a Sunday roast with gravy and Yorkshire puddings.

So I’ll continue my Sunday, sat at the table, with the PG tips I purchased from Amazon and make do with ‘mailonline’ as my newspaper substitute. I hope you all enjoy your roast dinners.

 

German Food, German Beer and Life in a German City

📥  2015-16, Economics

In short, German food is pretty awful, German beer is pretty great, and living in a German city is mostly pretty cool.

From someone who loves food, I never thought I would become that fussy person who whinges about mealtimes; I have now become that person. German ‘supermarkets’ are what we (and by we, I mean the Brits) would call a corner shop. These tiny shops are packed full of food that I would usually avoid; anyone fancy a jar of pickles, some UHT milk or fifty varieties of sausage? Didn’t think so…. My least favourite part of the day has become my walk home from work as I contemplate what awful mix of ingredients I can throw together for my dinner. The tub of Bisto gravy I brought from home, and the discovery of feta and cucumber Philadelphia have pretty much been lifesavers.

That said, the beer is great and there’s no shortage of it (unlike London’s sorry attempt at Oktoberfest: http://goo.gl/ko0t26). Munich’s Oktoberfest did not disappoint; despite getting up earlier to queue than I have ever got up for work, it was all worth it to get served my first beer at 9am! The atmosphere is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, dancing on the tables with people who have travelled from all over the world and are drunk well before lunchtime, singing ‘that’ German song they play every half an hour (https://goo.gl/aChFlw), culminating in shouts of ‘prost’ and clinking glasses with everyone. The day ends with sore hands from clinging on to the incredibly heavy ‘mass’ (beer), which they only serve by the litre, and the next day begins with a rather sore head…

Oktoberfest1

 

German life has its frustrations; it’s impossible to shop on a Sunday (as in, you can’t even buy a bottle of wine or a bar of chocolate – I’m struggling), you get death glares if you cross the road when there’s a ‘red man’ (and it’s illegal) and I can’t understand what anyone says to me (German lessons yet to commence). But, the people are great; Germans are actually pretty funny (I know, I wasn’t expecting it either!), I have the coolest job, and Munich is an awesome city. I sometimes have to remind myself how great this all is, but when the sun is shining and I’m walking through the city, surrounded by beautiful buildings, a true diversity of cultures and all the unexplored corners I can discover over next few months, I realise I’m pretty lucky.

Oktoberfest2

 

Swap Around

📥  2014-15, Economics

Hello again. I am trying to get into posting regularly so that blogging becomes more of a habit rather than something I have to remind myself to do. I also don’t want to let recent developments at work pass by unwritten. For example, last week was THE last week of the role that kick-started my placement. I have been the ‘Asia’ student since July and it is now time for student number 2 to take over. Meanwhile, I move on to covering the US, Canada and property markets (woo). However, my loyalties still lie with Emerging Markets. I am sat in the same place, with the same desk, computer and people around me. (This is because there is no more space in the property room).

View from my desk

View from my desk

My desk

My desk

Yep, that is a newspaper cut-out of the wolf of Wall Street i.e. Jordan Belfort aka Leonardo DiCaprio, on my screen.

A bit of context: As I mentioned in my first blog, there are three of us students on the placement. And, unlike previous students before us, we have been given the opportunity to rotate positions once we are a third, and then two-thirds, of the way through. Seeing as it is almost November, we have already been here for four months (!!!!!) so it is time to leave the old behind and embrace the new. Although my company specialises in macroeconomic research, we also cover commodities and property markets. I will be working with the latter team for the next four months. This is the first year that a placement student will not be doing the same job for the whole of their time here.

Despite me missing Asia work and feeling some sort of strange sentimental connection which steers by jealousy when I see student number 2 on ‘my turf,’ it is undeniably a better structure to rotate roles as we are. This way we each get to experience what it’s like working on three different areas – Asia/North America/Europe with the respective teams – while developing new skills and learning the specifics unique to each role. It’s also good because we can each see what we’re most interested in by being directly involved in the research and production of data and notes for each sector. And, needless to say, I get to teach student number 2 how to do my old job, which makes me feel like a pro. Well perhaps not a pro – but it definitely helps in showing how much I have learnt in the past four months!

 

The Newbie: Going from student life to the big world of work

📥  2014-15, Economics

Hi!

My name is Nina and I am an Economics and International Development student on my placement year in London. My aim with blogging will revolve around my experience in industry, and as I am already three months (and a bit) in and this is my first post – I better get cracking.

The past few months have found me juggling a full-time job, house-hunting and enjoying the perks of a fast-paced London lifestyle. The truth is that my time here has flown by, and while I had every intention of starting my blog a little earlier… well that just didn’t happen. Nonetheless, my post should largely describe the experiences of a placement in its early stages and settling into a city job. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing. London is pretty much non-stop in the sense that I have not once found myself without something to do. Life has gotten pretty tiring. The truth is that I have not got up at 7am every day since Sixth Form, and getting back at 6pm gives me about as much free time as a fresher student has work to do.

Specifically to the placement side of things, I am at a consultancy firm specialising in independent macroeconomic research. I work 8:30am to 5:30pm, get the tube to and from work and trip over tourists’ suitcases a lot on the way. Working at Victoria in between the train station and coach station has its upsides and its downsides. On the upside are the rucksacks which shove you in the face and down are the suitcases which sneakily trip you up and block your path. It is constantly swarmed with tourists – even the recent rain downpours haven't put them off coming. It’s not fun. I have become one of those ruthless London commuters, stopping for no-one and speed-walking along as fast as my pencil skirt will let me.

Here are a couple of snapshots of battling the tube journey followed by my morning walk to work:

10723468_10152571890374145_1729804837_n         10732983_10152571890334145_414969505_n

 

I anticipated that it would be strange for me to be working solely with economics for a year without development. And while it is in some ways, the main difference I have found is leaving studying behind. Instead of intermittently cramming for exams and speed-learning for coursework – I am working steadily for eight hours a day. (Well, the majority of the day anyway). Plus the work here is more to do with current affairs and forming a point in writing – which is similar to the approach of development modules – and less to do with financial theory or application, which suits me just fine.

Even so, the corporate world of work was a shock at first. It does take a while to acclimatise to life in the big old city, especially having come from student life where a 9am lecture is considered the tragedy of the week. Office hours and office work were overwhelming for the first part and it felt like we were constantly having new skills thrown at us and expected to remember everything we’d learnt. ‘We’ being the three students on placement here – all of us from Bath. (Surprise surprise).

Despite this being the first summer I have had in the midst of a full-time job, it has been jam-packed full of fun. I am living in an exciting city (which, quite frankly, beats Bath in most walks of life) with friends from uni doing the same as I am, experiencing new things and meeting all sorts of new people. Now in October it only just feels as though summer is drawing to a close. It is also odd to think that had I done an internship it would have been well over by now – I feel like I’m just settling into the real routine of a job! Rather than a short period of experience, my time here will have been closer to my first taste of a proper career. But this will be something I can reflect on after an even more substantial period of my time here – in a future blog to come.