Placement blogs

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

Crossing the Canadian Border

📥  2014-15, Psychology

As I have said before, one of my major aims this year is to see as much as I can in as many different places as I can get to. That, and to seek out various restaurants from Man V. Food. The variety of affordable long-distance peasant wagons (or “public transit”, as they are more commonly known here) in America makes travelling around pretty feasible – so long as you do not mind spending what feels like an eternity on the move. Before coming to Boston, I had barely scratched the North American surface. In previous years I have visited and loved New York, briefly spent some time in New Jersey and explored the rich wildlife of a North Carolina university campus. America is so massive that proportionally, that is probably about the same as going to the UK and only visiting Bristol, maybe also stopping of in Bradford-on-Avon (disclaimer: I have not based that on any mathematical proportions).

One weekend we found ourselves bored of watching Suits on Netflix and decided to entertain ourselves by booking a short holiday in Canada. Columbus Day, like Thanksgiving, is another one of those American national holidays with a slightly dodgy history. I’m not sure our mate Chris was as decent a chap as the holiday suggests, what with the slavery and killing, not forgetting the “New World” was already pretty ancient by then, but you are not likely going to catch me offering to work over the holidays for moral reasons. This particular holiday fell on a Monday, which meant we had the opportunity to use the long weekend (plus half the Friday we took off from work) to enjoy some city-hopping and visit Montreal (or Montréal if we’re being fancy) for a few days. This decision was definitely not driven by our desire to be legal drinkers again, nor did we spend two weeks talking about all the time we would be spending in pubs and bars. That would be pretty tragic.

road

(On the road – the view was the best thing about travelling by bus. Well, that and the free wifi)

It took us ten hours on a Greyhound bus to get to Montreal. TEN hours. We were promised eight, but apparently the traffic slowed us down and by that point a couple of extra hours did not make much difference. The questionable ergonomic design of the seats had already sealed my back-ache fate and I still had enough pre-cooked pizza to keep me going. Our main concern was that we would get to the hostel too late and no longer be in the mood to go out on the Friday night, as that delay meant we arrived at 1.30am. In fact, we timed our arrival perfectly – what seemed like everyone from the hostel were just about to leave to go clubbing as we stepped through the door. No time to change, barely any time to learn a few names, off we went on a sort of boozy pilgrimage deep into Montreal’s nightlife. We soon found that the hostel we were staying at –Hostelo Montreal –  was just up the road from an area amusingly known as “Gay Village”, which was absolutely buzzing at the time due to some sort of “gay-benefit dance festival” going on. Free entry (compliments of the Hostelo) cheap drinks and the most enjoyable bump n grind hits at a club called Sky made for the night out we had been longing for since being re-branded as under age in Boston (apart from maybe that one room upstairs that I could have sworn was solely occupied by shirtless men dowsed in highlighter ink, dancing to unidentifiable electro music).

This may come as a surprise (mum), but we did not spend the whole weekend day drinking and clubbing. Ok, so we went clubbing every night, but we did no day drinking. When we were not chilling out in some sort of park, we were trying to be as touristy as we could in three days, on limited funds. It was at times a struggle, sure (some say hangovers and exploration do not mix, but I denounce that sort of can’t-do attitude), but the weather was perfect, the autumnal trees were glorious and there were plenty of interesting places to visit in walking distance from the Hostel (which I give top marks to, in case anyone is interested).

On our first day we decided to check out Mont-Royal; a tall hill standing behind one of the many parks you can find in the city. The forests covering the hill were beautiful with their rich orange, red and yellow leaves and the view from the (almost) top was breath-taking. We took a few breaks at various vantage points to look out over the whole city, spot significant landmarks and see sections temporarily dimmed by a passing cloud.

mont royal

 

Transport in Montreal is so expensive it’s almost nauseating. That was fine though, as walking was definitely the best way to take in the sights. Even if you are not looking for specific landmarks, you will come across a number of incredibly designed buildings. Architecture there is pretty fantastic; you could find a Gothic castle-like building in between a couple of normal-looking apartment blocks, or a huge Art Deco building standing alone off the side of a road. Some streets have a fantastic mixture of ancient but huge structures and modern cloud-reaching office blocks, while others display some impressive street art.

Montreal

 

Montreal2

 

Montreal3

 

We dedicated a whole day to checking out “Old Montreal” (or Vieux-Montréal, if you’re fancy) and suddenly found ourselves transported to a village centre in France. This area is so lovely I almost squealed. Minus a science museum and the odd convenience store, Old Montreal is absolutely a step back in time, thanks to the well-preserved but disused train tracks, horse-drawn carts and archaic buildings. We aimlessly wondered down streets with cute little shops and cafés and dawdled in a square with more cobbles and francophones than Covent Garden.

Montreal4

 

Montreal5

(When you can’t find your car keys)

Montreal6

 (Did I mention it was Autumn?)

On the last day, we walked from the hostel to the site of the 1976 Olympic Stadium. Google Maps made this look like a fifteen minute stroll, when in actual fact it took us over an hour to get there on foot (a single bus ticket was something like $3 and I had already thrown most of my money at crêpes, tequila shots and a Chinese buffet). Everything looks so much closer together on a phone screen and everyone knows Google Map estimations are for people who don’t do walking. Admittedly, I momentarily forgot I am one of those people.

We went to see the impressively futuristic stadium structure and had a vague plan to buy tickets for at least one of the tourist attractions in the area, including a biodome, a botanical garden, an insectarium and a planetarium. You could also take a ride up in the stadium’s tower – awfully exciting! However we quickly realised that, unsurprisingly, every one of those things cost an unjustifiable amount of money, money we were very rapidly running out of. So instead of picking one and buying a ticket, we ended up doing what I like to call ‘budget tourism’ and surveyed the lobby and gift shop of each attraction. In some of them we did actually see a few interesting things, in others we just used the loo…

Montreal7

 

Montreal8

(A to-scale model of the biodome – almost as good as actually going in)

Montreal9

(A shocking model planet in the lobby of the planetarium)

Although we did not indulge in pricey sightseeing that day, I did not feel remotely disappointed. The reason for this was because I was still on such a massive emotional high from the night before. Now, I am not about to admit that my main reason for going to Montreal was because, back in August, I read about an all-bacon bar opening there at some point in autumn. Nor am I going to admit that I looked up the distance of our hostel to said bacon bar multiple times before booking to affirm that it was within a reasonable travelling distance.

What I will say is that evening we went to Bar Brutus and a bar has never made me so happy. I am pretty sure I did not shut up about this place for three weeks prior and the entire time we were in Montreal. Before we even entered the bar, I knew I was about to walk into my own version of heaven. Barber’s poles with bacon rashers replacing the traditional blue, red and white stripes framed the wooden door, which was adorned with a piggy door-knocker. Immediately upon entry the smell hit us; a gloriously irresistible, smoky, calorific scent permeated the air, wafting from the on-site kitchen where they COOK THE BACON and filling the nostrils of every lucky punter. Never have I so willingly breathed in the air of a public toilet and I almost cried when I was washing my hands andSnoop Dogg started playing. This bar had everything; bacon-flavoured beer, bacon garnishing, bacon infused vodka and gin, bacon shots, bacon on every bar snack and the beautiful partnership of JT and the D-O-double-G coming from the DJ booth. Also known as perfection.

Montreal10

(I got a “Pork Soda”, while Beth opted for a pint of bacon beer)

I am not intending to make this blog a travel guide, but if you do go to Montreal (whoever “you” are) and believe yourself to be a fellow bacon lover, you absolutely have to go to Bar Brutus. Not only was this a highlight of the trip for me, I could go as far as saying that it was a highlight of my life…

Some other very enjoyable things occurred while we were away. Columbus Day also conveniently takes place on the same day as Canadian Thanksgiving. I still have absolutely no idea what that celebrates, but knowing the Canadians it is going to be something lovely and joyful. We were treated to an amazing Thanksgiving meal at the hostel with the other guests, for a mere $5. This was a big deal as it was our first Thanksgiving meal of any type, so we were giddy with happiness to see the huge turkey come out of the oven, the massive pot of mashed potato travel around the tables and the presentation of pumpkin pie. To me, pumpkin always seemed like a bit of a useless vegetable, other than for Halloween mutilation purposes. However, that pie proved that anything can be improved with the right amount of sugar and pastry. My endless compliments to the chef.

On our last night, we had a second Thanksgiving meal at the flat of a friend of mine from university. It had been quite a long time since I had seen her last, so getting to have a face-to-face catch up was so lovely – the meal was an extra bonus. She and her friends put together an incredible dinner with turkey, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes and butternut squash soup, which kind of puts our American Thanksgiving attempt to shame (although I must once again stress that it was achieved largely under the influence and was therefore a phenomenally good effort).

As the saying goes, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. By the end of the meal we all felt like the aforemetionned chubby mademoiselle, singing our praises to the vaious chefs. Eventually we had to leave and head back to the bus station, to cross back over the border and resume our lives in Boston. Getting into Canada is no big deal, getting back into America is a different experience. While you wait at customs to be grilled by border control to enter the States, you cannot help but feel a strange pang of unfounded guilty consciousness. I reminded myself that I am not, in fact, a drug smuggler or an illegal immigrant, before it was my turn to be asked numerous unnecessarily personal questions by an officer.

After seven and a half hours on a bus, we arrived back in Boston. Crashing through the front door at 8am left us with just enough time for the fastest of showers and breakfasts before we had to leave for work. That Tuesday was probably the darkest day of placement yet, but it was definitely worth it for the most excellent weekend away. Three days are never going to be enough to get the feel of a whole city and you feel like a bit of a phoney when you stay at a hostel with people who have been travelling for months, but the long weekend and Montreal’s “closeness” to Boston was an opportunity we were very willing to take, at the sacrifice of one day of exhaustion.

Since I did not have the chance to go to the cat café there or eat poutine, two very essential Montreal experiences, I will be heading back there for the New Year. I think I also left some of my heart in Bar Brutus and would like to get that back (I am worried that I may never love again).

Montreal11


More and better quality photos can be found at https://broughtrotting.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/crossing-the-canadian-border/

 

Graduate Recruitment Events

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

Law Fair Stand

One thing I love about my job is that there are so many different aspects to it – as I previously mentioned in my last blog. This month I have been helping the Graduate Recruitment team and have attended law fairs on their behalf, representing HR. I have had the opportunity to travel to different places and meet people interested and wanting to know more about the firm.

HR first got an email at the end of summer asking for volunteers to help at their recruitment events. I saw one titled ‘Champagne and Chocolate’ in Bristol and jumped at the chance – can you blame me?!  As well as this event I attended the Law Fair at Birmingham University and I helped organise The London Law Fair held at the Law Society.

It was really interesting coming from a different perspective and I learnt a lot. Making a good impression is important for the both the person on the stall and also the person on the other side – it works both ways. I took note of any people who I thought stood out and would be a good candidate to watch out for, however it was frustrating when people pushed their CVs at me – I was there to tell them about the firm not check their application form!

It has taught me in the future how to act and behave at these kind of events as a student rather than an employer. It was so frustrating talking to people who had no idea about who we were and who clearly were just at the stall for the freebies. When I next attend the Bath Careers Fair I will go prepared, taking questions about companies I am interested in with the aim to learn a bit more about the company that isn’t available on their website.

It was exhausting speaking solidly for hours and answering the same questions but it was also really fun. The travel was also a downside as on one occasion I didn’t get in until 11.15pm and then had work the next day.  However overall these were very minor details. I really enjoyed getting to grips with the different role and trainee schemes available and learning in more detail about the place I work. I also got to meet different people within the firm as I worked alongside trainees, associates and partners who I may otherwise not have had contact with.

Tiffany’s Tips

- Research – make sure you read up and prepare for difficult answers so you don’t flounder in front of strangers!

- Email the others helping on the stand and ask for their mobile numbers so you can check when and where you are meeting and so that they can contact you if they are running late

- Take a water bottle and cough sweets – talking for hours at a time really affects your throat and you don’t want to end up croaking!

 

The Holiday Season is Upon Us

📥  2014-15, Psychology

Firstly, I would like to give thanks for the five day weekend I have just enjoyed. Thank you, whoever “you” are. I am still unsure about that one…

The beginning of the “holiday season” is apparently the time America feels it is appropriate to start playing Christmas music and covering their cities and homes in festive lighting. We went to see the lighting of Boston’s biggest Christmas tree (also the largest one in New England, according to someone) at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Not only is Faneuil Hall, or “The Cradle of Liberty”, part of what is known as The Freedom Trail and is therefore another touchy British independence landmark, but it is also the site of a packed food market where you can buy a sandwich the size of your head. To me, nothing says “Christmas” better than a collection of tasters, so we spent an hour or so “tasting” what we could as we shameless walked up and down the row of stalls.

Fanueil

 

Fanueil2

(A bit early Santa… It was only the 22nd of November)

At some point, we stopped eating and found a spot to watch the tree lighting. This involved enduring (possibly too harsh a word, but it was damn cold) a display of various pre-lighting entertainment, including music, dance and an appearance from none other than McLovin (apparently Christopher Charles Mintz-Plasse’s dad is from Boston or something). The jazz band and the short preview from Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker was great, but I do not think “Rudolph the Musical” is quite my bag. After about an hour of this, broken up by advert breaks because it was being filmed live and America loves ads, the lights finally went on. Not only were they switch on, but they were lit up to the music of “Hallelujah”. Very ceremonious, very very surreal.


I thought I understood Thanksgiving – a national holiday for families to get together, humble-brag, forget about the awkward pilgrim/Native American elephant in the room and eat immense amounts of food – until I saw pictures of the New York Thanksgiving Day parade. It looked like the whole show was dedicated to the giant, inflatable children's characters moving down the streets. Why was Thomas the Tank Engine there? Are we thanking the Power Rangers for all the good they do? What are we even celebrating??

From what I have come to understand, Thanksgiving for a lot of people is used as an excellent excuse to get off work for a few days, eat questionable amounts of food and maybe spend time with important family members. It is also an excuse to hold a number of pre-Thanksgiving meals or parties, where you do almost exactly the same things as you do on Thanksgiving, but with friends instead of relatives. We went to two such meals and did one ourselves in the space of eight days; it has been excellent. I rapidly reached the stage of food-induced regret at the first one, brought on mainly by someone’s contribution of a baked brie (hardly my fault). At the second I over-ate once again, but I drank far less wine so the space was there. So was the sweet potato casserole (baked sweet potato with marshmallows on top – I was told this is a traditional savoury side dish).

Both of these parties were what is known as a “Potluck” here. Before Buzzfeed clarified what that was for me, I thought it sounded like some sort of stressful lucky dip. What it is, is a dinner party where everyone brings a different dish. What it isn’t, is a ruthless competition to get the winning plate, where you would only be allowed to eat what you picked with your eyes closed. If you got the potluck, you would be dining on the good stuff – turkey, stuffing, some sort of pie, but if you were potunlucky you would be stuck with bread as your main dish with a side of parsnip. I feel like it is time to shake things up and introduce a new tradition.

So what did we, a handful of culinarily incompetent British people, bring with us? Obviously a collection of Yorkshire puddings. The logic was, if we somehow managed to mess them up no one would know because no one would have even heard of them before. Somehow they turned out delicious, if not a little asymmetrical, and what’s more, I know for a fact that at least one person other than us ate them = an overwhelming success.

Yorkshire puddings

(Alex, flatmate no. 2, with a sieve-full of Yorkshire puds; the national measurement and also we didn’t have a spare bowl)

Actual Thanksgiving (the 27th November) was more like a drinksgiving. While Beth (flatmate no.3) spent her day with a surrogate family, the rest of us decided to do something a little special for ourselves at the flat (apparently it is very difficult to find a random family willing to feed three extra mouths). Emma, Alex and I started the day on a diet of crêpes and wine, before later moving onto more wine* and a three-course meal for dinner. Is the “holiday miracle” only reserved for Christmas? Because I feel like the fact that no one got food poisoning was pretty miraculous, especially since I barely remember cooking.

Of course, this was not our first experience of Thanksgiving, oh no. We went to Canada for the weekend in October and accidentally coincided our trip with Canadian Thanksgiving, so pumpkin pie and mashed potato novices we are not. But that is a whole other story…


 

 

*Put in for literary effect – I did not consume any wine, because that would have been illegal and I am a law-abiding citizen.

 

Blame it on the A-A-A-A-A-Age Act of 1984

📥  2014-15, Psychology

“What is the biggest difference between Boston and where you are from” is a question I am often asked. Usually I reply with something uninspiring like “the weather” or “they drive on the wrong side of the road”. Boston actually has quite a lot in common with my home town of London. They both have buildings, busy roads, lots of people, things to do, banks… Both are pretty well-established cities. The honest answer I would like to give each time is “I can buy a drink back home”. However, most of the people who ask me this question are parents who have brought their children to the lab for an experiment and I leave out that reply to avoid giving off the wrong impression (that’s right, lemme have your kid to run some tests on, then GIVE ME A DAMN DRINK).

Coming to America as a twenty year-old after living in the UK (actually, after living almost anywhere else in the world) has felt like I have jumped back three years. Suddenly I am right back where I was as a seventeen year-old sixth form student; the bars, pubs and clubs are all there, I even know people going to them, but the law has forbidden my access until my next birthday in July.

17-again

 

When you tell people here who are over twenty-one that you have come from England and are only twenty, they give you a unwanted look of shameless pity. “That SUCKS” repeated someone at a party recently. “No, that really SUCKS”, as if we needed reminding. And you know what, it does suck. All of a sudden I have been excluded from the club of legal drinkers; a club which condones day-drinking if it is a lovely day and especially if it is an appalling day. A club that understands the importance of having your daily five fruit and vegetables, even if they are in cocktail form. It is a club that I could not wait to join before my eighteenth birthday, but have since habituated myself to over the last few years.

So I am over it, you know? Alcohol is fun, but it is not new. I worked at a bar during the summer holidays and I know how to pronounce curaçao. I have gone from the typical British student way of life (that famously mature way English people drink that the rest of Europe really admires), to having to apologise for not being able to join in on certain plans because “sorry, I’m only twenty“. Sometimes I even feel guilty about my age, as if that big black “X” security always insists on marking my hand with at gigs implies I am some sort of leper. No more putting my hands up for my favourite bands in case, god forbid, a stranger sees and realises I am a YOUTH.

Something I did not think about before I got here was the prospect of going out on dates (I know, I’m such a heartthrob so it really should have been my first concern). Tinder has been a nightmare – and has also been abandoned. What do you do if you want to meet up with someone you have matched? You can’t go to a bar, so it would have to be a… sober blind date? Without alcohol? IS THAT EVEN A THING?

It has been a shocking reminder of the lack of decent places to hang out at in your spare time if you are considered underage. Yes, the Museum of Fine Art is great, but I can hardly sit down there for four hours straight and move only for loo breaks without being judged. Now it is getting colder, there are even fewer spots to waste time at since going outside is apparently going to be out of the question soon (a “polar vortex” is supposed to hit, such fun). As a group of frustrated underage Brits, we tried very hard to entertain ourselves in law-abiding ways – we went kayaking, ate at many a restaurant and watched a Baseball game entirely sober (not recommended). Meal tax on top of having to tip 20% has put a stop to our weekly dining clubs; you are effectively paying for another meal by the time you get the check, ruling out restaurants as hang-out spots. Kayaking down the Charles River was excellent, but anyone would be a fool to attempt such a dangerous mission in winter.

kayaking

 

kayaking 2

(Here we are having loads of wholesome sober fun)

kayaking 3

 

Massachusetts is very hot on the drinking law, which makes it tricky to beat the system – though of course this is not something I have been trying because I am a law abiding citizen and buying alcohol under-age would be illegal. Before the Drinking Age Act of 1984, a twenty year-old could legally buy and enjoy an alcoholic refreshment. I am not totally hot on American legal history, but I think it had something to do with Congress trying find a new way to get back at students for having too much fun during the best years of their lives. Miserably jealous sods. I have certainly not found ways to get alcohol, nor do I look forward to Friday evening Happy Hour at home. Because that would be illegal and I am a law-abiding citizen.

Some fun facts about Massachusetts:

At eighteen, you are legally considered an adult. This means you can

  • Vote
  • Get called to be on jury service
  • Own a gun
  • Get hitched
  • Go to war
  • Use your phone while driving a car*

So basically, between eighteen and twenty you can get married but cannot have any alcohol at your wedding. Is there even any point of a wedding without a free bar? You can also kill some folks in battle or give a verdict on the future of a person’s life in court, but you cannot have a pint afterwards to help take the edge off? Seems a little unfair. Can I trade in my Second Amendment right for the right to drink cider? I am worried I may develop scurvy as I am not getting my usual dosage of Vitamin C at Happy Hour on Fridays.

While being unable to waltz up to bars like I used to has been nothing shy of a hassle, I have come to accept my place among the youth of this country. I am going to be twenty for almost the entirety of my stay here and there is not a lot I can do about it.

But I do love a challenge.

 

*This really gets me, since the 1984 Act was put into place to reduce fatalities from driving and using a phone while driving ain’t all that different from driving under the influence (Bath Psychology students who also had to write that essay, I’m looking at you).

 

“So wait, you’re not getting paid?”

📥  2014-15, Psychology

One of the great things about doing a placement as a University of Bath student is the opportunity to work for companies you may be unlikely to get offered a position at as a new bright-eyed graduate. Compared to first and second year students, who tend to rely purely on their student loan and overdraft to fund their lives (oh interest-free overdraft, you beautiful thing – you are the window that opens when the loan door closes), final year students seem to start the term off like money is no big thing. They will be the generous drunks buying shots for all at the bar or will be living in outrageously nice houses in the centre of town. Obviously it only takes a few months for most of them to be back down at our pauper level, but still – those first few months of financial contentment seem nice.
Yes, the financial situation for fourth year students at Bath University is pretty peachy.

Unfortunately, while my placement provides me with a wealth of opportunities and experiences, there is one thing it does not offer me: a pay check.

While this was a frustrating concept to begin with, I cannot say it has been keeping me up at night since being here. I still get a student loan – actually I get slightly more than the previous years because this is a mandatory unpaid work placement. Yes that does just mean I will have more debt in the future. I am aware of that, now let us never speak of it again.

I decided that if I am going to be working for free for a year, why not do it in another country? Get a cheeky holiday out of it, or a “vacacement” if you will. Money is not at the centre of my universe; it is not a fat company bonus that I chase, nor am I counting on an outrageous salary to give me happiness in my life. What I need it for is living, obviously, what I want it for is to travel and have fun. Consequently, this year is going to involve me spending as little as possible on the necessities and as much as I can afford on gallivanting around the world. Because YOHASLO (you only have a student loan once).

Not going home for Christmas is probably going to be strange. Sadly, flights at that time are more unreasonable than the increasing cost of Freddos. Spending time with loved ones over Christmas is overrated anyway, who really needs a home cooked Christmas dinner with all the trimmings? We live three minutes away from a McDonalds and I hear their McTurkey sandwich is to die for. Sorry family, but any presents you receive this year will be in brown packages from Amazon.co.uk, and they will be cheap.

I cannot help but feel like I am spending less money here than I did in my previous years in Bath. As I am still only twenty (we will get to that later), I have not been going to pubs, bars or clubs on the regular, whereas in Bath I would easily spend £70 on drinks alone each week. I take home-made lunches to work – at uni I would happily buy a pricey sandwich in between lectures – and I have only ordered Domino’s twice and eaten at McDonald’s THREE TIMES since being here (that is right, I am healthy now. I’m basically Jennifer Hudson but without the weight loss and the talent). As of yet, I have not worked out quite how much I am saving in comparison to last year, but I think my new “lifestyle” may actually aid me with my dreams to travel around. Failing that, I am signing up to donate bone marrow; you get paid to do that sort of thing here because this is the land of the free and the home of the brave-enough to undergo surgery under general anesthesia).

 

Lab Rat

📥  2014-15, Psychology

The Boston University Child Language Lab: centre for research into child language acquisition and development, facility for psycholinguistic experimentation and home to a fabulous array of toy farm animals and a box of duplo. This is where I have been for the last eleven weeks and is where I will remain for the next seven or eight months of my placement.

According to my Boston University ID, I am a visiting scholar. I am an intern. I am a sort of pro-bono lab manager. I am a research assistant with an air of delusional megalomania.

I spend my working hours flitting between the lab’s office where I do various clerical tasks and make recruitment phone calls, faffing around with my dissertation research in the office’s back room and running experimental studies with young children in the testing lab, looking at how they are developing elements of language. It’s all very exciting, very sciencey and, at times, incredibly relaxed.

Things I have noticed about working as a Brit in America:

  • People will think you are Australian or a New Zealander. Not even some people, a lot of people. This will never cease to bemuse, but will get old very quickly.
  • Once you tell someone you are English, they will ask if you are from London. I happen to be from London, but I don’t think they are guessing that purely from my accent (refer to point 1).
  • You will be shocked and, at times, appalled by the work ethic of American university students. You only scrapped a 92%? You need a GPA of 3.7 for an A-? Compared to our gloriously lenient British system of marking, the yanks seem to have it bad, really bad. I am so glad I study in England, where 50 is the new 80 and anything above a 60 results in celebration at Happy Hour. Rule Britannia.
  • No matter what you are saying, you will sound like Miss Trunchball compared to the American research assistants when speaking to children. Something about their accents sounds so much less severe. I have started putting on an american accent when I tell the kids they have done a “great job”.
  • Lift, surname, plaster, toilet, S Club 7 and blue-tack are all banned from casual Yank-Brit conversation, unless you want to fall into a baffling lexical stale-mate.

No doubt this list will increase as the year progresses, but I think I can say I have integrated decently. Watch this space though, Thanksgiving is coming up and I have no idea what the etiquette is there. Can I just be thankful that I’ve not been deported yet? And who am I giving thanks to, the US embassy? If so, cheers mates.

 

If I am going to do this

📥  2014-15, Psychology

I might as well do it right and start from the beginning.

Three months ago, I boarded an Icelandic airways plane with three suitcases, one giant “carry-on”, a laptop bag and a mother. The man at the baggage check-in desk almost didn’t let me go through, as each case weighed over the limit and I clearly had more carry-on luggage than a family of three. Thank god for British queuing etiquette; I spent such a long time trying to reorganise my bags, carefully taking out items from my suitcases to reduce their weight, layering up on my winter coats, disrupting the check-in line and just generally being an annoyance, that eventually the man begrudgingly let me through. Sometimes it helps to look disorganised and a little pathetic.

My placement only started on the 2nd September, which meant I had a lovely two weeks to settle into Boston life while also having a bit of a holiday. What I did not account for was the fact that, due to my agreed tenancy plan, I could not actually move into my new flat until the 1st September. This meant my mum and I spent some time staying in different places around Boston; the first few days in a room in Somerville we found on Airbnb and the rest in the gorgeous apartment of a very generous family friend in South End. Together we were as touristy as we could be – we went on a tour of the Massachusetts State House, wandered around Boston Common and the Public Gardens, visited the Boston Public Library, spent way too much time thinking about fish and chips at the New England Aquarium, checked out the impressive Harvard and MIT campuses and even took a duck tour (AKA slightly obnoxious tourist swaggon).

20140822_151731-EFFECTS

 

Mum

 

Turtle

 

Mum then skipped off to New York a week after we arrived in Boston. Standing on the platform as her train whizzed away left me feeling pretty emotional; that was it, good bye for a WHOLE YEAR. She almost forgot to hug me, the monster.

Despite the departure of my mother and the fact that my future flatmates would not be arriving for a good few days, that next week of work-free holiday was not without its fun. A friend from Bath was also in Boston one day, so we spent a glorious day roaming around and splashing about in the Boston Common “frog pond”.

Frog Pond

 

Some Bostonian family friends also treated me by taking me to a cinema where the seats RECLINE and you get brought actual MEALS during the film just by selecting options on a tablet. Probably the best cinema experience of my life, nay, of anyone’s life ever.

I spent a few days exploring Boston by myself before Emma, flatmate no.1, arrived and we moved into our new home, buzzing with excitement as the next day we would be starting our new internships…

 

What am I actually doing here?

📥  2014-15, Psychology

So I have mentioned that I’ve moved to Boston and have also vaguely alluded to some sort of work-purpose behind that, but I have not really said why. I am pretty fortunate in that my undergraduate psychology degree at the University of Bath involves a mandatory work placement in the third year. That is, in fact, the whole reason I picked Bath. This means effectively taking a year out to join the “real world” and experience life in industry, while also collecting material to write a dissertation on in final year; all very CV-boosting stuff. As a dedicated abstainer from the real world, the prospect of a nine to five in England seemed a little unappealing and far too predictive of the future. I’m a student! I’m not ready for life among actual working adults. I want to have Disney movie marathons, go out partying and eat cheese toasties, all in the same night. I don’t want to be a commuter.

Now I know that is completely contradictory to my initial statement of choosing Bath for its placement programme, but honestly my heart was set on spending a year in America ever since I saw it was possible in their prospectus. A year abroad! How exciting! And I wouldn’t even need to study a difficult foreign language to do it! America has whole factories dedicated to CHEESECAKE*. I was sold.

The only time I felt uneasy about the move was during that awkward period of time when Britain decided to let Nigel Farage and his wacky anti-immigration ideals represent us at the EU. I’m no politics student and am not going to pretend to know about political matters, but I was a little worried I would touch down at Gatwick and Nigel would personally shake his head at me and tell me to go back to where I came from. “Let me back, I’m from here!!” I’d exclaim in a Bostonian-Saff East Landon hybrid accent, as Nige drags me to departure gates and my mother weeps over my British Passport.

I was assured that would not happen, so excitement dominated my feelings towards the year long break I would be taking from Britain and, most importantly, university exams.

My placement is a research-based one; I’m working in the Child Language Lab at Boston University – a facility that researches language development in young children and is run by Dr Sudha Arunachalam. (I will go into a little more detail about the work I’m doing later; spoiler: it involves working with adorable two to five year-olds). I’ve got a pretty sweet deal here – the office I work in has a gorgeous view of Cambridge from the top floor of the building, there’s a constant stream of BU students helping in the lab to chat to and my boss even bought a kettle for the office, so tea breaks don’t have to be a thing of the past. I am still doing a nine to five, yes, but so far my idea of shaking it up at doing it in a different country has been pretty effective.

Office

 

*Sadly, I learnt this wasn’t a thing when I started watching the Big Bang Theory and discovered said Cheesecake Factory was just a restaurant with a slightly misleading name.

 

Right, well hello there.

📥  2014-15, Psychology

It has been exactly three months to the day* since I left sunny England (it was August, so we were having our annual seven day rain-break) and hopped on a plane to Boston, Massachusetts. Admittedly this is a little overdue; maybe it was the slight feeling of homesickness I felt today when the man at the supermarket didn’t know what I meant by “porridge oats”, or the fact that I’m still a tad emotionally volatile after watching Tarzan tonight, but for some reason I just feel the need to share my thoughts and feelings. Before I left, my sister asked me if I would do this – I came back at her with “no, then I’d have to spend time writing. It would be like homework.” Besides, why would anyone want to read about me working in Boston for a year? Oh Rebecca, sorry for dismissing you so.

Actually, since being in Boston I’ve had a LOT of fun. I have done plenty of things that could be considered post-worthy for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, so why not a blog? I’ve failed at keeping a diary (hand-writing things takes so long, how did we even manage before computers??), so an electronic account seems like a more reasonable option. Hell, even if no one ends up reading this, I’ll always have it to look back on as my memory continues to deteriorate worryingly quickly (seriously, I went to the supermarket today for pitta bread and ended up coming back with Lea and Perrins. Also useful, but terrible with humus).

So this is my attempt at travel-blogging! Hopefully I’ll keep up with this a little better than I have been with another one of my recent projects; to always have my nails painted (I’ve painted them once since being here). Keep reading if you’re at all interested in my new life as an American immigrant, my escapades in Canada, the struggles of being 20 and occasional run-ins with “Big Dave” – the er, charismatic man who lives in the flat below me. It may take some time to get completely caught up with the present day, but with the help of my photo collection and warped memory I am confident I will get you (whoever “you” may be) up to speed.


 

*Not quite true - I started writing this blog on my own site in November before deciding to put what I've written so far up on the University of Bath blog page. This will hopefully explain why I am drumming out so many posts today (I'm a little late to the game).

 

Third of the way through already!

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

CR AWARDS Sir trevor

I am officially four months in to my placement.

I work in a top city law firm as an Employee Relations & CR administrator, in HR. To be honest I didn’t know what I wanted from a placement so applied for this role as it seemed interesting and fitted in with topics that I found interesting with my Sociology degree- gender balance, Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender issues, diversity & inclusion, social inclusion and the environment.  I work in a team of two, which means I get a lot of responsibility, within an overall HR team of approximately 30.

I did not know a thing about corporate responsibility until I joined my Law firm, but I love the work. Corporate responsibility is the responsibility that corporations have to groups and individuals that they affect. In particular the firm I work in has a theme of ‘access’, ensuring that people from all backgrounds regardless of race, gender, belief, age, sexuality are able to work here.

My job varies from day to day but includes:

·         Helping draft benchmarks and surveys - the firm wins many prestigious awards, such as the Times Top 50 Employers for Women (which is a key reason I applied), the Top Employers for Working Families award (which I had to go up and collect) and the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index

·         Helping with the social inclusion programme - the Young Talent Programme (more on that in blogs to follow)

·         Data collection - I have to pull data showing our statistics for gender etc. which can be found on the website

·         Organising events - such as maternity leave ‘Keeping In Touch’ days, the annual CR awards (where I met Sir Trevor McDonald!)

·         Administrative day to day tasks - processing invoices and expense forms, managing emails and the CR inbox, managing the internal intranet and external CR pages, sending out CR blogs

So far I have had a great time. Everyone is very accommodating and knows that I am on placement yet they still treat me as part of the team and I am on an equal playing field.

I have had the chance to attend talks such as the Stonewall conference, where I heard guest speakers Dr Christian Jessen and Will Young! I have had the opportunity to hear Sue Gardener talk about being transgender and the affects this has had on her. I have also had the chance to own projects and organise events such as the Stonewall Train the Trainer day where I had to sort room bookings and liaise with the main contact - and I got flowers for helping to organise it!

I am over a third of the way in and it has flown by. People keep saying ‘it feels like you have been here for ages’ but I think it has gone so quickly!

Tiffany’s tips:

-       always make sure you carry your phone (I got issued a BlackBerry) with you and that it is charged

-       always carry a pen and notepad - as people introduce themselves or suggest changes to your work it’s good to make a note

-       always be willing to ask for more work if you find you are not being stretched

-       keep a log book of what has worked well and not so well, so you can pass on tips not only to your placement company –but also to your replacement