Placement blogs

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

Life as a Sciences Po student: New Year's Eve Reflections

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This year I have the exciting opportunity to study at Sciences Po Paris for two semesters. So far it's been a great time filled with making new friends, studying interesting topics, and getting acquainted with the beautiful city of Paris. As we come to the end of 2016 it seems an appropriate time to reflect on what I've learnt and some pieces of advice that I'd give to others embarking on similar trips in the future! 
Quick disclaimer: in giving these examples I don’t mean to say that all French people identify with them, merely that they’re some things I have noticed in my time here so far.

1. The 1789 French Revolution is everywhere.
Being a country with a fascinating history, France is somewhat justified in being proud of its ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. When studying politics in Paris it is basically a given that you will have reference to it in the majority of your classes.

2. Let’s talk Brexit.
“What do you think about Brexit? How did you vote?”

If you’re British and in Paris at the moment it is likely you will be asked these two questions, and understandably too. When asked you are more likely to get an approving response from your European neighbour if you voted ‘Remain’ (as I did). If you voted for ‘Brexit’ I wish you all the best in the rest of that conversation (unless the European Union citizen you are talking to is Eurosceptic in which case congratulations!).

3. Presidential Elections.
Another hot political topic is the upcoming 2017 presidential elections. A lot of Parisians are already predicting a second ballot dual between the far-right and centre-right candidates. As these elections are coming at a difficult time in the country’s current affairs, it looks set to be (and already is!) an interesting pre-election debate.

4. Laïcité
One of my professors has noted that French news is talking much more intensively about the country’s constitutional state-church separation than in the last few years. There are big divides between liberal secularism and combative secularism. As a Christian engaged in politics, this is something I find both interesting and often difficult.

It seems like there’s a re-awakening of discussion about religion generally too. Big associated topics in the mainstream being the ‘Burkini’, immigration, and national security.

5. Bonjour!
It is seen as common courtesy to say ‘Bonjour’ to staff when entering shops/cafés. If you don’t do that you can be interpreted as indifferent or rude. Make a mental note to do so if you’re prone to forgetting.

6. Bises xx
Don’t be caught off guard! If you come from a culture of hugs and hand-shakes, it may take some time to loosen up to kisses on the cheek as regular greeting. But it will probably gradually become normal.

(Also Parisian-style is normally two kisses, one on each cheek, with the left cheek first – just to avoid any awkward possibilities!)
7. Tutoyer ou Vouvoyer ? THE dilemma
One of the quirks of the French language are the two ways of saying ‘you’ – ‘tu’ being the more informal and ‘vous’ being the less so. The dilemma is when to stop using ‘vous’ (vouvoyer) and switch to ‘tu’ (tutoyer).

Amongst students, ‘tu’ is the general way forward – ‘vous’ might be seen as a bit distant. But with professors or anyone in authority, use ‘vous’ unless they say otherwise.

If in doubt, vousvoyer.

8. Serious style
It may be a stereotype but from what I’ve seen so far, it seems largely true. Parisian people have STYLE. Not really outlandish style but a simplistic ‘chic’ style. I am definitely a fan.

9. Skyscrapers?
Paris has noticeably less skyscrapers in its city-centre than London. Yet, it manages to fit an impressive number of apartments in and with them a lot of people. And in doing so, it doesn’t compromise on its aesthetic aspect. Very cool.

10. Coffee
Generally much more expensive and also much smaller than the UK equivalent. However, it does taste very good. Definitely a treat to be indulged with every now and then.

So there’s my list! A mixture of light-hearted and more serious things. I’m sure it will continue to grow over my time here. Both excited and curious to find out more.

 

Year Abroad III – things I’ve learnt whilst on placement abroad

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.                                            December, 2016.

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The Herring Festival in Fécamp.

Bonjour! Last week I returned home after my 3-month-and-a-half placement in Fécamp, Normandy, teaching English. I had a blast while I was there and was really sad to leave. However, after reflecting on my experiences of living abroad in France and Britain, I have found various similarities between the experiences. There is a certain pattern that repeats itself each time you spend a period of time away and I thought it would be a good idea to share with you what I’ve learnt. Maybe you will find it helpful.

The most important thing is, first and foremost, make the most of your time in this new place. Sounds like a given, but believe me, time flies. Whether you are doing a placement for professional experience, to improve your language skills or whatever the reason, you are there for a limited amount of time and it is easy to get stuck in the routine and forget to wring out every little opportunity your placement has to offer. It would be a shame to arrive at the end of your placement realizing you could’ve done much more… And because time goes by incredibly fast, you must make a conscious effort.

Visit the area you are in. It might seem like a stupid thing to think about but when you are working all the time the last thing you might feel like doing is going out and exploring. It used to happen to me in Bath. It wasn’t until my second year when I lived in town that I took the time to explore the culture that the city had to offer. I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen this time. Despite being quite tired after the work day and really just wanting to stay in bed and catch up on sleep during my free days, I pushed myself to explore every little thing Fécamp had to offer. I wrote down a bucket list and it felt great to tick things off: visit the Bénédictine Palace, climb up to Notre-Dame du Salut like the fishermen used to, try the food from the area… I used the holidays to travel throughout the region with my dad. We rented a car and visited many cities which I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. It was tiring and intense, but it felt great to visit so many different locations and actually get to know the area! As a language student, learning about the culture and customs of the place is one of the most important aspects of the Year Abroad and sometimes you have to go that extra step to expose yourself to them!

Here I am, squint-eyed in front of Mont-St-Michel!

Here I am, squint-eyed in front of Mont-St-Michel!

Mingle. This sort of goes without saying but it is extremely important to put yourself out there. You arrive in a new place on your own and it is easy to embrace the fact that you don’t know anybody and let the homesickness trickle in. All you really have to do is go out on the street and talk. Talk to the other customers in the supermarket, talk to the baker, talk to the people waiting at the bus stop, talk to the other person at the bar. Just try. Particularly if you are an introvert like me, it might be hard at the start but I cannot stress enough how important it is to talk to people. You will practice the language and make friends – you have so much more to offer than you think! I also noticed, particularly while in Fécamp since it is a small town, that people knew who I was even though it wasn’t the other way round. Well, the solution to this is to get to know the others, and mingling is the way!

Hop onto every new opportunity. Be safe, of course, but if people propose plans, it is a great idea to tag along and you never know what might come out of it! I really followed this piece of advice while in France and I had great experiences. I was invited over for lunch by a French family which let me catch a glimpse of the French life-style. I was invited to tea by another family and then we decided to meet the following day for a day trip around the nearby towns. After an event I was invited to go to a farewell party and hesitantly agreed – it was one of the best decisions I made because I met a lot of younger people with whom I became friends! You really never know what opportunities have in store for you, so it is better to give things a try and see how it turns out than regret not even attempting it! And this ties in with the next advice, get out of your comfort zone.  It reminds me of a recent viral video in which Rabbi Dr Abraham Twerski uses lobsters as a metaphor and states that “the stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that it feels uncomfortable” (1). You have to challenge yourself and put yourself into uncomfortable situations in order to grow and learn, and the Year Abroad in particular is all about personal development. Get out and experience new things. Not just a different culture but also different foods, places and activities you had never thought you’d ever do. I ate shark while in France. True, I didn’t know it was shark when I ordered it. But it was really tasty, even after I learnt what it was. I took part in a film festival and had to make a short film in 48 hours. We had to form the teams, come up with a story, film the scenes and edit the film. I had never acted before nor did I know anyone else taking part in the challenge, but I signed up nonetheless and it was a fantastic experience and I made new acquaintances and learnt a lot of French. Push yourself.

Les amis.

Les amis.

Another important thing I’ve learnt while living abroad is that you make memories to last you a life-time. Because you are alone in a new place, the friends you make become very close in a short amount of time. I became really close with the other two stagiaires in particular because they were both students like me. Because we were in the same situation, we shared the same problems and similar opinions and got along very well. However, I also became close with some of the other French people I met who had extremely different interests and opinions than mine, and I find this diversity enriching. They helped me learn more about France and its traditions and they made me not feel alone, which sounds so cliché but only when you find yourself alone do you realize how important having people who are close to you is. They soon become your family abroad and saying good-bye (for now) is one of the hardest things to do.

It is also hard to say good-bye to the place you’ve spent the last few months in. You finally feel at home and suddenly, you have to leave again. I’ve spoken about this before but every time I land in a new place, I make myself a new life in this new location: new acquaintances, new routines, new home. You get used to the place; the dent in your bedroom wall, the smell of the bread as you walk past the bakery in the morning, the frost on the grass by the Abbey. They all become part of this new life you’ve had for a limited amount of time. And when you leave, a small part of you stays behind and a new part of you has developed. Constant change and development, that is what I believe life is all about.

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L'Abbatiale de Fécamp.

I now have memories and experiences that I will cherish forever and I have had an amazing time working in Fécamp as a teacher of English. It was sad to leave, but I am excited for the new chapter in my Year Abroad. Bring on the next adventure!

Next stop: Siena, Italy.

France, à la prochaine!

Zoe

 

 

Source 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aDXM5H-Fuw

It's Christmas Time

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The past few weeks have gone by in a blur and now it is time to break up for Christmas! I, like my flatmates, seem to be somewhat more excited for Christmas this year than any time in the past. Whether the reason behind this is that we've had our Christmas decorations up since the first, I've been to Bath's Christmas Market twice or that my family have come up for 'teaser' visits that lasts only a day (my mum even brought our new puppy up!) I do not know. But I am as excited as I remember being when I was just a little girl.

Which is one of the best things about having my placement in Bath, you get to take part in all the amazing opportunities that Bath has to offer over the Christmas period. Such as the Christmas Market, the beautiful lights and the Hipster Christmas Bus on the High Street where you can go for a unique alcohol drinking experience.

You can also use your Placement Year in Bath as the time to fully explore and appreciate the city and do all those things that you've wanted to do for the past two years and just do not have the time for. I've accomplished the Skyline Walk, finally seen the famous Sham Castle (basically a pretty wall made to look like a castle that a fancy land owner built to improve the view from his home), and have been able to do the tourist scenes in Bath, like the botanical gardens and the Royal Crescent. There is so much to see and do in and around Bath that you cannot say it is a disadvantage to stay here. Many of the placements the university and nearby companies have to offer are just as good as those abroad or in other parts of the country, so do not overlook them in your search for a placement.

Despite having all this free time to explore Bath in more depth, this past week has been so exhausting, how someone can work five days a week on placement and then go on to do a job on top of that I do not know! I am going to bed at 21:30 most nights to wake up at 7am and am still tired. Placement is such a step up from degree, yes you get the nights off and things, but do not underestimate the strain of having what is effectively a full time job. So, future students, if you can try and save up as much money as possible for placement just so you can enjoy those treasured days off. If this really isn't possible, try to see if you can only work on holidays, I will be working over Christmas but not too many hours. You really will be exhausted (Patricia Sechi, our placement officer, was right about that!).

Regardless of where you go, loneliness will probably be an issue especially if you are not going to be living with your old friends or seeing them most days. Even though I stayed in Bath and have been seeing my friends who are not on placement I still feel a little homesick and lonely. This has been helped by my family coming up to visit me individually over the past three weeks, along with some of the pets from home. This was great fun and really boosted my mood which had fallen a little following a break up from my long term boyfriend and other issues. So really do try to make the most of the free time you have here and meet with as many people and relatives as you can. Life without Uni work or clubs at the weekends gives you a lot of time to think about things so finding a new hobby or something near where you work is a great way to fill that hole.

And I will leave you on that, I hope you all have a happy new year and a good Christmas!

 

Psykokwak

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

I found out since being here that the French, being the French, have been the only country to rename their Pokémon into more French names. A Psyduck for example has become a Psykokwak here. Totally bizarre and pretty useful information but I enjoyed it just the same. This is relevant today due to my Pokémon advent calendar my mum got me, and I would have written the word for Advent Calendar in this post but it’s pretty obvious and I felt like a bit of an idiot asking my housemate what the word was for him to reply “Calendrier de l’Avent.”

 

Âme sœur - soulmate

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

I learned this word (soul mate) while procrastinating during revision and taking a weird Facebook test that tells me who my soulmate is. Luckily, it turned out to be my boyfriend.

I’m a bit nervous for my exam that I’m revising for. It’s 3 hours long on one question and could be anything to do with Europe at all, from les Trente Glorieuses to Brexit. I’ve no idea the detail to revise so I’m just going for it as much as I can. It’s a Masters in another language so I’m hoping they go easy on us poor Erasmus students. Time will tell!

 

Doliprane

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

Today I felt very under the weather and I’m not sure why, but my housemate being the legend that he is gave me a pill called Doliprane, which (and maybe this is obvious I don’t know) is a type of paracetamol in France. The pills here are enormous though. But it helped and I hope I get better soon because I really need to revise.

 

An introduction to me and my Placement...

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📥  2016-17, Education

Hello all!

I understand I am late to the party with starting my blog but wanted to get a really good understanding of my placement before doing so. I am working as a research assistant in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. I am between two teams, in two offices, on the site. I want to make research sound more appealing than it usually does as I am having such a good time here!

I started work here at the beginning of October, arriving alongside two other interns also from Bath. This was nice as I wasn't the only newbie in the department! Since then myself and the other two interns have become good friends, spending lunch breaks together most days. Oxford is a very social city with a lot happening, so there is also lots to do in the evenings and at weekends. Our work membership card allows us entry to all the colleges in Oxford which are lovely to look around. Since being here we have been to try out a couple of local bars, as well as having some fun meals out with the rest of our work team.

In terms of work, I have dabbled in SPSS which I never thought I would even begin to understand before but now can do multiple (very, very basic) functions in with the help of the support here. I have also written a literature review which will be published in a book next year and been invited to partake in some field work which starts in January. The work is really diverse and covers many areas, ranging from; early education techniques to parenting apps, child development  to school design and also publicising papers. I run the department Twitter page which gives me a basic understanding of marketing, as well as being able to engage with 'hot off the press' studies. With my ideal career focusing around Educational Psychology and teaching, all the studies which our department are involved with are interesting to me.

There is also a huge amount of support for my Dissertation, with multiple Bath students interning here over the past few years there is a bank of their dissertation's which we are welcome to read, as well as the online Oxford library service we have access too. The staff here are also keen to help, and many have relevant and specific areas of specific interest which you can tap into in conversations. We have weekly seminars with the Professor of Educational Psychology here where we either look at past dissertations or papers which are relevant to our own areas of interest. This allows us to read the papers with the help of the Professor, which makes you see them in a different way. I have found these sessions to be near vital in steering my interests towards a specific theme for my final study. I feel I would have taken much longer to conclude what I wanted to research if just choosing alone.

The main thing I appreciate about the placement is the level of respect I feel from the other members of the team. We are not treated as 'interns' but instead given the same roles and responsibilities as staff who have worked here long-term. This is rewarding as much of the work you do is in relation to real life on-going projects, so the repercussions of your work can be seen in current policy and literature.

I will follow this post with others on I am working on, starting your dissertation while on placement and what it is like living in Oxford.

Seen you soon!

Emma

 

Métro boulot dodo - train work sleep

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

This is a phrase I learnt from my friend I went for a drink with and it means “train, work, sleep”, so it’s something similar to English “eat sleep work repeat”. I understand his point since he is doing a phd in physics, but he still gets out a fair amount if you ask me, and they seem to have the longest lunch breaks in the world here. It was a nice night except one strange drunk guy who wouldn’t leave me alone but I couldn’t help thinking that he was the only one drunk, whereas in England everyone seems to be; it’s a completely different culture.

 

Magret - duck breast fillet

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

This is a very specific word because it means “fillet of duck breast”. I ate with my family at a very upmarket restaurant, which was nice but probably not worth the money. I had the duck and my uncle had snail ravioli and he let me try some and it was disgusting but mostly because it reminded me of my “intoxication alimentaire” post. Yuck. But the sauce it was in was okay at least.

Magret

Magret

Snail Ravioli

Snail Ravioli