Placement blogs

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

Travelling (a bit)

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📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

It goes without saying that a Placement is a great opportunity. You will gain valuable experience and skills that will help prepare you for -as everyone keeps going on about- the highly competitive "real" world.

You might even realise what is you want to do after you graduate! (not everyone has their minds made up, me being one of them).

But doing a placement in a different country? That's a whole other level. As well as learning new skills and getting used to full time work (which can be tough at times), you also get to experience another culture (which can be surprisingly different to your own), sample the local delicacies i.e eat all the Gelato you can and even improve (or learn) another language.

And all this while you’re gaining real life work experience.

Fantastic!

But the best thing I think is getting to travel.
Never before have you been so close to so many destinations.
You can just hop on a train for an hour (or two) and tadaa you’re in Venice, or Verona or Lake Garda. No flights to juggle, suitcases to pack or leaving the house at ridiculous times in the morning.
Of course, you can’t go swanning off somewhere every weekend because well there’s bills to pay and food to buy  but planning in advance and finding deals makes a few trips here and there possible.  Much more possible than if you were in England anyway.

At first , you might come across the problem of but who can I go with, depending on your circumstances (when I arrived in Italy I didn’t know anyone. Absolutely zero friends - thankfully that improved).  So I made the most of people coming to visit me and dragged them along to all the places I wanted to visit.

Of course, I haven’t ticked everything off my list and I probably never will because it keeps getting longer but here are a few of the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit and if you’re ever in Italy you should definitely check them out!

Desenzano on Lake Garda and Sirmione.

Lake Garda is incredible. It’s just so beautiful, the taking-my-breath-away kind of beautiful.  A great expanse of stark blue water it stretches for miles, never seeming to end giving you the feeling that you’re by the sea rather than a lake.

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The little town of Desenzano where I went (because there are a few little towns dotted around the lake) is full of cobbled streets and those pretty pastel houses with the shutters. It’s small but lovely with a little harbor in the main Piazza where expensive little boats bob up and down on turquoise water. You could be fooled into thinking you are in the South of France (which is fine by me).

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The real treat though, is just across from Desenzano on the tiny island of Sirmione. It’s really easy to get to, just a half an hour ferry ride across to this little spot of paradise.

 

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Suddenly we were transported into what felt like the middle of the meditteranean, not rainy northern Italy.

Venice

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I had always wanted to go (well don’t we all?) and now that I’m living just outside Milan, it’s only a couple of hours away on the train. Using a two-for-one deal on the train (deals again.yay!) me and my boyfriend took a day trip to the floating city. Unfortunately it rained the entire morning and some of the afternoon too, which kind of dampened the mood a bit (no pun intended honest). But after the sun came out it was very enjoyable (warning, Venice is not the kind of place you can enjoy in the rain).

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Bergamo

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Ok, so maybe this one you won’t have heard of, but it’s definitely up there with the rest. The town is made up of two parts: Citta bassa and Citta alta. The one you want to go to is the latter.

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It’s a medieval town built high above the modern city with stunning views over the whole of Bergamo. You can even see the mountains. It’s tiny at the top but like the majority of towns in Italy full of beautiful architecture and winding cobbled streets. Perfect for a lazy afternoon of wandering, eating (make sure you try Polenta, the area’s typical dish, very yummy but very filling!) and sipping sophisticatedly  from a glass of wine.

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Despite how it looks, Polenta is actually very yummy!

Lecco

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Another beautiful lake-side town, set in the mountains. I’ll admit not as grand as lake Garda but still very pretty nethertheless. I’m making the most of all these lakes and mountains because we just don’t have the same thing in England.

Rome

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Trasteverie in the summer

This one kind of doesn’t count because I’ve been there before as I have relatives there (hence why there's no picture of the colosseum)  - I’m half Italian, dad’s side but I couldn’t come to Italy and not pay everyone a visit could I? To me, this is my real Italian home. I mean, I love Milan it’s a cool place and lots of fun but I’m just not in love with it like Rome.

Verona

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The famous balcony

The city of Romeo and Juliet.

And what a beautiful city for the greatest love story of them all. I could quite happily live here, wandering around, imagining myself as Juliet.

There's even her balcony, which given the story is fictional is totally made up, but you still get swept away with the Romance in the air.

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Love Letters. Who says Romance is dead?!

Without studying languages and doing the year abroad, I never would have had the opportunity to explore so many places. I didn’t do the whole gap year thing and my family rarely goes on holiday (we don't really have the money you see) so for me this is a great opportunity to explore the world a bit. Ok so Italy is only a very small part, of a small continent but it’s a start.

But I’m planning on going to Switzerland too as I’m so close (I can get to the most southern bit within 40 minutes- ok so it’s only chiasso which no-one’s heard of but still!) and have booked train tickets to Zurich because they were so crazily cheap (advantage of being in “mainland” Europe).

Having had a slice of what it’s like to travel (couldn’t have done it without you langauges, thanks!), I want more! I’m definitely going to make the most of all the opportunities to do so this year.

And when I do come back to England I think I’ll go and explore that a little too.

I think we forget sometimes with all this travelling malarkey, that our own country has so much to offer too.

Which is pretty crazy when you think about it.

 

 

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:

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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.

 

Halfway through my Placement!

📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Ciao,

So I haven’t posted in a while, I know I’m sorry.

But I’ve been quite busy with my Placement and things, which although at the detriment to this blog, is actually a very good thing because I’m the kind of person that likes being busy.

But being so busy, inevitably means that time has really started whizzing by and before I knew it September had arrived and now October. The summer is long gone and we are getting closer to Winter and dare I mention it already *whispers* Christmas (people have already started asking me what I want!).

I actually really like Autumn and Winter, snuggling in thick woolly jumpers, warming frozen hands with a hot chocolate (I’m getting my boyfriend to bring me some Cadbury’s because it’s not just the same over here) and just the general coziness of being tucked up inside when outside it’s dark and cold.

So call me strange but I’m looking forward to the shorter days and long nights. Especially because with this, comes the experience of Italy at Christmas time. It will be interesting to see what's different and oh of course sample the food (Pannetone mmmm).

However the closer we get to Christmas, the closer I get to the end of my Placement. *sad face.
I mean, I’m nowhere near yet, not really (I’m leaving Italy at the end of January) but October marks the half way point, which to me is quite a big deal!

I feel a sudden crazy panic that I haven’t done half the things I wanted to do or been to half the places I’m dying to see. And I feel like my Italian, although a whole deal better, still needs a lot of work (I really want to be fluent, or almost anyway by the time I leave). But I think really, I just need to calm down. Because after all, another 3 months (and a bit) is still plenty of time for everything.

But on a positive side, this panic realization that time is slipping away has made me really try and appreciate everything.
So even though it no longer feels like I’m on holiday and things aren’t quite so new and exciting anymore, I’ve decided that the steady rhythm of routine is actually quite nice in way.

I get up at the lovely lazy time of 8am to cycle the 5 minutes to work in the crisp morning air (which I don’t mind because it helps wake me up!).

We drink espresso and go to our desks.

Sometimes there are translations- technical ones, emails and I’ve even tackled a couple of legal documents! That was pretty tough, but I enjoyed the challenge.

Then there’s the phone to answer which no longer puts terror in my veins when it rings. I can’t say I understand 100 percent every time what clients say, but more and more I understand the meaning and now I can even tell when it’s just someone trying to sell something! (mostly).
Phoning people myself I can also do with ease now, even the courier company that had a go at me for not being able to understand Italian perfectly (maybe the woman was just having a bad day).

I’ve been working with Excel a lot, inputting data from balance sheets trying to find shortcuts using functions in Excel to make it a bit quicker because there a LOT of numbers let me tell you. So it’s safe to say I have a solid understanding of Excel now, which is always useful!

Recently, I got to unleash my creative side when I was asked to design an advert for an engineering magazine.
My advert.

In a magazine.

It’s crazy to think they trust me with this sort of stuff.

This was also a good lesson in working to deadlines because usually when Photoshop is involved, I spend ages playing around with effects but this time I had to stay focused and not get distracted by oo what does this button do.

I also do English conversation lessons from time to time, which really are less like lessons and more just like a chat, a very casual affair. It’s nice to talk with my colleagues and (although probably not meant to say this) really nice to just talk in English! I don’t get stuck by not knowing how to say things and I can talk how I naturally would because, although I know lots of words in Italian (that now range from rollercoaster “montagne russe” to printer “stampante”) it’s not just all about the vocab. There’s the idioms and little phrases and expressions which you need to understand how to use in context. I think when you can do this, that’s when you can say you’re truly fluent.

So my Placement has been quite varied which is awesome and although it’s not specifically linked to what I want to do after Uni (I’m not even 100 percent sure on that anyway) I’ve got to develop a real range of transferable skills.

AND

This is all as well as improving my Italian! Couldn’t be better really.

And whats more, now I even feel like I actually live here.

I mean, I actually think of Biassono as my home, which is pretty successful in terms of year abroadness don’t you think?- The ultimate evidence of being able to adapt to a new culture/country/life. I also have a life outside of work now- meeting up with friends ,which at one point I thought would never happen, going to Zumba (thankfully it seems to be the same in all countries) and occasionally going for an aperitvo (cocktail and food for less than 10 euros).

This is quite the rosy picture huh?

I think it’s probably quite important to mention at this point, that to prevent the danger of giving you some idealistic image of my life here in Italy, that actually lots of things have gone wrong too.

E.g not being able to buy stamps at the post office (not drastic but pretty frustrating), not getting on with my (Italian) housemates who are in their 30s and 40s and the overwhelming feeling of loneliness (which thankfully was just at the beginning).
But the stuff that goes wrong believe it or not is all part of the year abroad experience.

It took me a while to realize this. I think I had some perfect image of what my year would be like, having heard “it will be the best year of your life” over and over again.

I’m not disagreeing but I think it’s important how you interpret that statement because only now am I starting to understand exactly what it means.

Best , does not necessarily mean easiest but it will certainly be an experience you will remember and draw on for the rest of your life!

I'll leave you to ponder that thought.

A dopo!

 

Benveunti a Temar

📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Considering I’ve actually been here a while now (almost 3 months) I thought I should probably get on with explaining what exactly my placement is about.

I started on the early –by year abroad standards- date of 2nd of July, flying in the week before. In fact after I came back from Uni I only had a couple of weeks before I had to pack my bags and jet off to Italia. But I didn’t really mind; I was just itching to start my adventure!
Also, two weeks cram packed with seeing all the people I was saying arrivederci to, didn’t really give me a chance to get all worried and panicky about the fact I was about to move to a different country and be completely and utterly ALONE. Even as I was sitting on the plane, about to take off it still hadn’t really sunk in!

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Still couldn't believe I was going to italy!

But here I am, I’ve survived 11 weeks of being thrown into a new culture, bombarded by a different language, making friends and working in my first ever professional job.

I’d had part time jobs before but that was just in a restaurant or café so I’d never worked in an office environment before. And I was so nervous! I think this probably took up a greater percentage of my worrying than the whole language and culture thing.

I just really didn’t want to mess up and was anxious to make a good impression.

But going in the day before to say hi definitely helped put me at ease; everyone was really friendly and I was shown around the office- my desk, the staff room, the freezer where the ice-creams are (yes really!) so it felt a bit more familiar for the next day. Then, of course me and the previous intern (who thankfully would stay for a couple of weeks to show me the ropes) went for cocktails, to you know totally discuss work and things. ..ahem.

The next morning I was up bright and early…a little too early as I ended up being getting there half an hour before I was meant to. At least I looked enthusiastic? The next day I tried 8.50 but that was still too early! (these Italians eh?). So now I rock up at five to, which means I can get up just before eight because I only live about 10 minutes away by bike. Result!

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How I get to work. Cute huh?

To be honest my first day was a bit of a nervous, excited blur. First up was the legal stuff-I had to read and sign some documents…in Italian, first thing in the morning gulp! The rest of the day was spent shadowing the intern, watching and learning and occasionally trying out things for myself. And I am so grateful to her for explaining everything and answering my numerous questions, like what do I wear! Are jeans ok?! (yes because thankfully the office dress code is smart/casual so I didn't have to go out and buy a new wardrobe. Although that would've been a nice excuse to buy some new clothes, but maybe not so nice for my bank account).

I was thrown straight in with the Italian because this is the office language (not everyone speaks a lot of English). Initially I panicked, I mean I knew Italian because I had studied it for A level, before University but it’s very different when people are talking at natural pace, all the words jumbling into one stream of babbling, that at first was almost incomprehensible- especially when we went to lunch. But my boss emphasized if there was anything at all I didn’t understand just ask. And slowly, with the more I heard and strained to understand…the more I did begin to understand!

I picked up lots of new, useful words like stampare (print) and collo (package)-trust me they’re useful in an office- words that you would just never learn in a lesson. I also started to become familiar with the technical vocab (which you definately would never learn) because the company where I work…wait for it...

sells heating cables.

Heating cables?! I hear you ask, what are you doing in a company that sells heating cables?! I did ask myself the same question at the beginning because you know, I study languages…about as far away as you can get from anything sciency or mathsy.
But it didn’t matter. The important thing is that I would begin to understand what they did. I can’t say I am 100 percent sure now but every day I am understanding a little better. So here’s the short of it:

They provide heating cables for industrial plants and for domestic use. These heating cables maintain the liquid inside them at a certain temperature which is important for some processes like in the food industry or cosmetics (which is actually pretty cool and something that had never crossed my mind before  ). Once they even sold products to a chocolate factory! Yum!

For the domestic side of things, they provide heating mats so that when it snows you don’t have to go shoveling it off your drive (pretty nifty, don’t ya think?). This is an extremely simplified version of what they do, but hopefully you get the gist.

Despite being an incredibly small and family run company- in total there are only 9 employees and  3 of them are related! (your classic italian set-up) they work with big companies all over the world like EON, Siemans and ok so you might not know this one- Barilla? It’s a famous Italian brand of pasta, so I think that’s pretty cool and worth mentioning.

Being a small company, means you get to know everyone which is really nice but you also get to see what’s going on at the heart- you’re not stuck in a department somewhere. Although, the downside to this, is you are the only intern, so you are the only new one. This kind of makes life a bit more difficult because

a). you don’t have the reassurance of someone going through the same thing as you
b). you have to try really hard to find friends outside of work!

And I’m going to admit-I felt very lonely for the first couple of weeks but the important thing is to just persevere because it won’t be forever. Trust me!

So that’s a bit about the company Temar, and although it’s not the most glamourous of jobs, I mean I’m not working in Milan, living the high-life among the fashionistas, but in a tiny little insignificant town called Biassono.

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Not quite Milan....

We don’t have fancy free events (my boyfriend is doing a placement in a bank in London and they’re always having intern events with a tab behind the bar) but I’m very happy and am grateful for all the new things I’ve learned and the all the experience I’ve already gained.

So here’s to the next few months!

 

 

Step One: Getting THAT Placement

📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

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Ciao!

Yep, you guessed it I’m in Italy, the land of Pizza, Pasta, crazy driving and the “Dolce Vita” and it’s all mine for 7 months. Lucky me! Just the perks of studying languages I guess, where taking a year out from Uni and spending it abroad, usually in a hotter and sunnier place than England, is compulsory.

As well as Italian, I also study German (weird combination I know) so I actually get to live in two different countries and experience two different cultures, which is very exciting and bound to be very different.
Instead of Germany though, I’ve chosen to venture to somewhere I haven’t been before- Austria and none other than Vienna itself. I’m so excited! But that’s getting waaay too ahead of myself.

Back to Pizzaland.

So what am I actually doing here in Italy?

A placement- which is possibly one of the hardest options I could have chosen for myself. Why?

1). The economy isn’t that great at the moment in Italy so there aren’t that many jobs around, let alone for students like me who haven’t even got a degree yet. Things are slightly better in the North though, which historically has always been richer and hence why my placement is here, near Milan, not only the city of fashion but also Italy’s economic powerhouse.

2). The idea of internships and placements isn’t a widely used concept, not like in the UK or other European countries, for example Germany where it would’ve made a lot more sense to apply for placements…if I wanted the easy option that is.

But I’m always up for a challenge and I had my heart set on doing a teaching Assistantship with the British Council. I wouldn’t be able to do this in Italy because there were no, one semester places, and studying two languages I was required to spend half the year in each country. So, that left me with either trying to find a job or studying.

For me, studying was just not an option, I was adamant that I wanted to gain some real work experience in an office environment as I had only ever had part time jobs in Cafés or restaurants.

So then began my difficult search for a Placement in Italy.

I started with the Modern Languages Placement website and realized just how hard this was going to be. There were hardly any placements for Italy and even less that were paid (I just didn’t have the finances to take an unpaid placement). I applied to the few I could and while I was waiting for replies began to research jobs myself, sending countless speculative applications and hearing nothing back. It’s really frustrating when you just don’t hear anything, especially when you have spent so much time on your C.V, even more so when it’s in a different language as you have to make sure the grammar is perfect and the language is correct. It’s not just a simple case of translating your English C.V either because other countries have different formats and so I had to adapt my detailed and descriptive English C.V into a short, one page Italian C.V. Easier said than done.

It was getting closer and closer to the deadline for applying to study and I still hadn’t found a Placement. Then I got an email from Temar, one of the companies on the Placement website, inviting me to have a Skype interview.

Skype interview! Help! I’d never had one before or even a formal interview for that matter and this one was going to be in Italian!
But the advice and help that was available from Uni was really useful and I felt much more at ease, having spoken to my Placement Officer and used the resources on the Placement website such as examples of interview questions in Italian . Of course, I was still incredibly nervous but I felt well prepared.

But there was a lot of pressure and I REALLY wanted it to go well because this interview (and the only one I had had) was my last hope in getting a placement in Italy. After that I would have to resign myself to studying for a semester, not that it would be the end of the world of course, but It wasn’t my first choice and part of my perfect year abroad plan.

It was a bit risky, putting all my eggs in one basket as they say, especially so close to the deadline…but it was a risk worth taking because I got the job! I actually cried in tears of happiness when I got that email: all the hours spent preparing countless C.Vs and cover letters had finally paid off!

And here I am, working in an office for a small company in northern Italy, exactly what I set out to do.

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The lovely Milan, only half an hour train ride away.

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Monza Park, where the Italian Grand Prix is held, a 5 minute walk away

So I would say to anyone looking for a placement, whether it’s in the UK or abroad if there’s something you really want to do, as clichéd as it sounds, just work hard, be determined and don’t give up! There were people who said to me that maybe I should change my mind and although advice is VERY useful and you should always listen, I knew in my heart that this is what I wanted to do.

And that’s probably the most important thing.

 

Saying Adieu to a Year of Placement

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

"Saying Goodbye doesn't mean anything. It's the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it."
Trey Parker

Saying goodbye to the city of Bristol

Saying goodbye to the city of Bristol

It's hard to find the perfect words in order to summarise the things I've learned and experienced over a whole year. So much so, that I can't even begin to write about how I'm trying to say goodbye to BSDAS. I could see it in crystal clear view as I emptied out my Bristol apartment, I'd hoarded tonnes of paperwork, books and notes... or as I liked to call it 'valuable knowledge'. Obviously, the year long learning experience was a success.

Though I've accomplished and contributed so much already (with the support of my dedicated supervisors), I can't help feeling that I could still learn that little bit more... but my turbulent and exciting time at placement has finally reached it's conclusion.

If there is one thing I can definitely say is that I feel empowered by my vast improvement, feeling fully transformed into an overall more mature, confident and knowledgeable person/ Psychology student than the amateur that I felt like stepping into the Bristol Drugs and Alcohol Service for the first time. Back then I was fumbling around awkwardly, eager to dive in, whereas now I have a deep understanding of how things function, how psychology plays into the real world, how to do my role professionally and where I fit in the grand scheme of things.

And if you can accomplish that in your placement year, then big supreme pat on the back, you've gone over and beyond the threshold of a valuable learning experience too.

Psychology isn't about 'the man and the therapy sofa'

With my naivety, that was probably the first thing I learnt when I started working. Considering the variety of roles and tasks I was heavily involved with during placement, I was able to realise the 'big picture' about the world of Clinical Psychology. It isn't about the client feeling so 'oh mon Dieu' sprawled across the coach and the therapist telling them what to do with their lives. It's about the therapist making a connection with the client, building a trusting relationship, validating their feelings and experiences, and helping the client to realise the solution to their own problems rather than forcing it down on them like the lightning of Zeus. As a client described so well, "Therapy is a helping hand up, not a hand holding experience'.

Therapy requires skill, subtlety and practice... and even being given the chance to learn this, as well as gaining the responsibility to lead my own individual and group therapy sessions over my placement, is more than any psychology student can dream of achieving a such an early stage of their education. I am one lucky girl.

And also, it isn't just about the therapy. It's about creating research to contribute to the body of Psychological studies and developing meaningful resources to educate others on basic Psychology, such as on how to tackle their own or their close others issues. I have been ever-thankful to be involved in administering measures to new clients in order to evaluate the existence of personality disorders, creating a detox information workbook which will be published and used across NHS detox services in the UK, and generating a piece of qualitative research on Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. No amount could describe the gratitude I have for BSDAS for giving me these outstanding opportunities to learn and to grow. With a fresh and clear mind, I can only hope to continue this level of success for my final year of University.

Change? What change?

If you feel like you haven't changed (even that teeny bit) over the duration of the year... then something must have gone wrong. Unless you were already the best person in the universe... which is highly unlikely. There is always room to improve.

Placement year really gives you the scope to develop yourself both as a person and a professional. You'll most likely feel like you've really begun to fill into your shoes and, hopefully, gained the proper practice to play into the remainder of your degree. What you've learned now isn't just about what you've read or seen in textbooks or in articles, it's also about what you've personally observed and actively practiced in whatever field you were involved in, and linking everything together... you'll definitely feel like those abstract theories and concepts have found their place in the real world and understand how they really contribute to it.

Personally, my experiences have allowed me to notice a drastic change in my sense of empathy - particularly in the way that I communicate with people. I have also, thankfully, developed a force-field of confidence in my abilities and a pleasant assertiveness in order to negotiate my demands with others... which has helped me a lot in my professional and personal life. See what changes can occur for you?

What did I do most of on placement? Read.

What did I do most of on placement? Read.

Something to take away

Overall, it feels like I've done everything and everything throughout this year. I've studied, slaved, become a budding therapist, created research, deprived myself of sleep, become a professional urban explorer... but if there is one thing that I'll never forget from my experience, it's the gratitude I unexpectedly received from my clients.

When you're so keen on learning and improving, sometimes you have to just take a step back and see what you've been able to accomplish. At the end of my placement, I received an unexpected visit from my clients who came to thank me for my work with them throughout the year. 'You have a fresh optimism,' they said, 'relentless dedication to improve our lives'. What greater indication of success did I need than this? Not only was I moved, but if I feel down, I remember the positive feedback I was told and that if I was able to motivate people to live their life to the fullest and to stay clean from substances... than I was surely capable of motivating myself to great things too.

So, in writing this all down I am in fact saying a proper goodbye to BSDAS and I can truly say that learning about the possibilities of what I could achieve through my clients... thatwas the biggest and the best thing I am taking away from this experience.

 

Bristol Festivals: Love Saves The Day

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📥  2013-14, Psychology

“I’m covered in mud.”
Valerie Alunan

Main Stage, from Official Website

Main Stage, from their Official Website

Love Saves the What? Love Saves the Day.
Pioneering Bristol music festival. Party in the park extravaganza. Mountains of cast away Red Stripe cans. Hipsters' day to show off their un-mainstream fashion. Metres and metres of mud.

Now I’m not a big fan or all that knowledgeable on the goings-on and whats-happenings of electronic and house music... but Love Saves the Day is BIG, and it’s famous, and it was literally in the park 10 metres away from my front doorstep. As my fellow Bristolian placement students had so rightly put it at the very beginning of the year (when we are all but little lost Bath students in the big, wide, colourful world of Bristol), “If there is ONE thing we do this year, we HAVE to go to this festival.” So, we bought our tickets then and there.

Absent-mindedly, I forgot that I had even bought that ticket until a month before the festival. You know, when they started putting up their vintage-style posters and splashing their advertisement graffiti all over the city. I saw giant kissing couples everywhere (which by the way… is their logo). It was a silent but vivid reminder of what was to come.

So, instead of rambling in giant wads of text of what exactly I did that day… I’ll break it down. You should all know by now that I love bullet points, pros and cons, and any nonchalant way to split up my pages to make it easier on the vulnerable, naked eye. I’ll carry on that hearty tradition now.

Stage one: The Night Before
You know that feeling that you have before you even start doing anything, that whatever you do will turn into a gigantic masterpiece of mess? Well the night before the festival, I had that very feeling. Boo, eerie. And guess what? I should have just stayed at home and prepared myself vigilantly for the day after. I should have wrapped myself in bubble wrap in the corner of my room and just not had variable social contact with humans. I, and I know I will be somewhat judged by whoever will soon be reading this, I should just not touch alcohol ever. And anyway, who’s to judge? This is a student blog and if I say that students, including myself, don’t drink alcohol that would be one big lie on my part. And alcohol will most likely find me again. But hey, it was my close friend’s leaving party in Bath and I will surely miss him with all my heart as he goes all the way 4688 miles away from us – and yes, I Googled how many miles we are apart. Touching.

To steer away from an avid storytelling of how my night went and eventually ended, I will conclude this section with a running list: I went to happy hour, I got banned from The Nest for defending someone from some unnecessarily aggressive bouncers, I was told incessantly that I should just try to stop helping people, I cried outside the Abbey, I trudged home. Or alternatively, I struggled home. Thankfully, I avoided my arch-enemy... McDonalds.

Stage two: The Morning After
The morning after began like a disaster: a headache, a dire thirst for water, a crippling hunger for junk food, the need to shower, a general feeling of rancidness. It was a like a scene from the Hangover movie – only that I wasn’t missing any teeth. I got a text from my friend who was downstairs in the kitchen sternly telling me to get out of bed and stop feeling like the putrid being I was feeling. The festival was starting in an hour. I texted back, “Boil the kettle, please.”

Before we hopped on the bus to Bristol, in order to kick-start some “fun in the sun” festivities*. I had to scramble like a wet dog to a nearby internet café and pay a hideous price to print my entrance ticket (well since you ask, a total of £3.15) considering I forgot I had bought a ticket to this little shindig… again. Lacking food, water (not counting the monsoon), proper sleep and utilisable energy, I tried to sneak a power nap en route to the grand city.

*insert sarcasm here. There was no sun. Only pure, evil rain.

Stage three: We Should Have Left Earlier, Man
Once we got to Bristol it was straight to the checkpoint, the group rendezvous point – my flat. An estimated 10 steps from the entrance of the festival. By this time, the festival had been going on for an hour. The music was as clear as Brita filtered water from my door. But who turns up that early to anything anyway? We made a collective group decision to hide an hour indoors to have a drink in preparation for 10 hours of outdoor partying.

Soon we were in full swing, restored with able to waste energy. Our quaint group of Bath University students were having an afternoon cider (or for some others, leftover wine) and discussing colloquially about Ukraine, the European Elections, Ukip and various politics. When my flatmates' friends tried to join in, they swiftly waved their white flags and decided to drink in the bedroom next door. We felt a little nerdy. We didn't change topic.

When we finally emerged from the safe embrace of my apartment, we found our choice to arrive 'mode fin' crushed with an overwhelming sense of regret. At this point the line to get in had stretched from my front doorstep all the way across the High Street of Bristol - worse than a queue in Thorpe Park. After some brutal hours in line playing with balloons, shivering from the downpour, making silly conversations and taking turns waiting in line as we took turns to go the bathroom in the nearby McDonalds – it was finally our turn to enter the ring. Only 5 hours late into the park. Well, only 6 more hours of Love Saves the Day left.

Stage four: Love Saves the Day
What more can I say about the festival than it was an array of fun and entertainment. So much fun, in fact, that the rain didn’t even come to matter in the slightest. With a plethora of geometric-style stages, food on offer from the best but underrated places around Bristol (well, even though I got my delicious burger knocked out of my hand), circus tent bars, stream-covered forest areas and giant playground things - I spent most of my time happily exploring. Nobody cared if they were drenched, or covered in mud, or slipped over no less than 10 times. I can’t say much without sounding like I’m trying to bore you, all we did was laughed and danced like fools to some pretty good artists. I give them credit, perhaps electronic music shouldn't be so off my radar in future. This judging little gnome was sold good. Bristol got it right again.

Some highlights include:

We all got facepaint!

We all got facepaint!

Along our adventures we found a fringed tent hidden by a stage where a tonne of people were getting facepaint... or well, glitter paint. Most people were getting the standard 'unicorn head-butted you in the face' festival glow. Others, like my friend, went with a spectacular ginger glitter beard. The psychologist in me thought he was suffering from a deep masculinity complex, where he was feeling supremely undermined by the fact he could not grow facial hair at this prime age. I sure hope he never reads this. I pitied the girls drawing the same endless designs on festival-goers faces, I thought perhaps they were bored by lack of variety. I encouraged with gusto for the painter to show off her skills and to go free with the power of artistic license. Though I was pleased to have relieved the suffering of a repressed arty soul and with the outcome (see in the above photo), I realised shortly afterwards that she had just copied the design on my shirt. So much for the creative flow.

Here, our lovely ginger beard friend is given prime attention.

Other highlights include, getting ripped off for drinks, finding some quirky animal costumes adorn by some people in the audience and causing an uproar of chanting and gladiator-like cheering as me and my friends slipped on our backsides trying to carefully scale the steepest and muddiest hill in the park. We all threw out our demolished shoes the next day. I parted tearfully with my favourite boots. All in all, it was a good day.

Well, hopefully you enjoyed that post which wasn't so work related and actually, which wasn't what I'd promised, was longer than I expected. On your placement year really try to make some time to enjoy the place you live in, try out what they have to offer and get involved in some of the entertainment/music/arts in your spare time from work. As much as the learning you get from working on placement is vital to your University life and your career thereafter, the enjoyable experiences you grasp outside of work can really shape it up too.

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Sense!

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📥  Social & Policy Sciences

Today was the last day of my placement with Sense. I cant begin to say how grateful I am to Sense for having me this past year, nor express how much I have learnt! I am leaving with a deeper understanding and empathy for disabilities, with more confidence than when I started and a better career focus than before. It has been endlessly beneficial to both my personal development and degree. Thank you Sense!

Placement tips

  • You need be prepared to always jot down notes. Never be the person who doesnt have a pen. Carry a notebook with you even when popping over to someones desk for a quick work-related chat. Ideas come from all sorts of places, and you wont want to miss out on one.
  • In addition to this, it would be my advise to buy some notebooks with spines whereby you cant take the pages out. Then write the date at the top of a new page each day. This way you can keep a running tab of who said what when, along with any meetings you may attend. Mine are also full of words I didnt understand relating to deafblindness, which I could then look up later. These will become your placement bibles in time.
  • Furthermore, keeping an accurate diary whilst on placement is a great idea, not only for any blog competitions you may enter into, but when filling out your placement forms called 'POLOs' it is such a great resource to have everything written down. Amongst the larger projects you help on or lead, there will also be many smaller side tasks you get given which are equally important and beneficial. Write every working day down.
  • When you are taking minutes, jot the persons' initial next to what they have said. This way you will be able to see whose ideas are whose, and it is easier to decipher your notes later. It also means that when you read through your notes, you can identify who knows more about a chosen subject, should you need to contact them in the future.
  • Look for existing materials which you can add into your work. It will reduce some of the stresses of creating publications. When I was helping to write the Volunteer Satisfaction Survey Report I was already aware of a pie chart regarding volunteer roles in the latest version of Talking Sense.
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Money saving tips

  • Make eBay your best friend! I bought so many fantastic £60 dresses for under £10 including postage. Its also great for getting rid of those work clothes you get sick of wearing and making space in your wardrobe for when you move out.
  • Having point/reward cards for supermarkets will be very beneficial throughout an unpaid placement. As the Sense Head Office is opposite a small Tescos, I would use my £5.00 a day lunch allowance here, and scan my clubcard to get the points. Later on these points can then translate into money to spend in store, which could well amount to a full food shop and further.
  • Make use of your local markets too. Chapel Market was right around the corner from the office, and was brilliant for a huge variety of fruit and veg, seafood and more!
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  • AAnother really important money saving option is with your bills. If, like me, you’re sort of totally clueless when it comes to how Gas and Electricity is supplied and bought, it really pays to read up on this. Try to get someone who knows what they are talking about to guide you through the different ways that you can be on a tariff. My father explained to me the ways in which you can calculate whether it is better to be on a tariff with a higher daily standing charge but low unit charge (for each kWh Electricity and Gas you use), or vice versa. As I was out of the house 9-5 every day, and have always watched off my Electricity or heating more for environmental reasons than economic ones, I decided that it was cheaper for me to have a lower daily standing charge and a higher unit charge as I wasn’t using that much. An extension of this advice is to keep updating your meter readings, either through an online account or by telephone. Once I had taken a second reading at my property a few months into my tenancy, my Electricity bills reduced from £36 a month to £6 and I was even reimbursed for the extra amount I had paid. 
  • Check for voucher codes. Ask Italian (pictured below and with 30% off!) and many more often have ones you can download straight from their websites if you dont want to subscribe to voucher websites. GBK (30% off) and others also do some great deals if you subscribe!
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  • You  can also try using other means of transportation, and shopping around for which of those is best for you. The tube in London is almost double that of a bus fare. When travelling back and for Bath I would use National Express. I bought myself a coachcard for £10, which gives you a third off all fares, and the further you book in advance the better. I usually paid £5 one way-much better than train prices! You also get to see much more of the city on the bus than you would leaving via trains, such as the National History Museum, pictured below. tumblr_n83eofGgc41rpqbcvo2_1280

But the most important tip I can give to fellow students is to enjoy yourself. One of the great things my line manager said in my appraisal was that i was enthusiastic, almost to fault, and thrived on learning new things throughout. Despite the light hearted sarcasm, its great that I gave him that impression of myself and my willingness to learn. As students in workplaces there are vast amounts of understanding that we havent arrived at yet, or specialist knowledge we havent learnt yet, but as long as you go in each day with a positive outlook, even with mundane tasks, you will succeed in placement year. Good luck!

 

 

A Year at PEAK (25/05/2014)

📥  2013-14, Health

Most of the posts I have done so far have covered all the experiences I have had outside of work. Whilst I have tried to touch on my experiences at PEAK as I have gone along I have decided to do a little re-cap of the year purely from a work point of view. So here goes...

The main thing I love about the field (and work at PEAK) is the variety of the work. Take for example my day on Saturday...I started work at 8am and for the first few hours I was involved in a research study on the effects of Beet Juice. Beet Juice has recently received a lot of attention for it's ability to improve athletic performance. Consuming beets has been shown to increase time to exhaustion during strenuous exercise and decrease the oxygen cost of low intensity exercise.  Whilst the exact mechanisms still remain unclear, Beetroot Juice is known to contain high concentrations of nitrates, which in turn are known to enhance vasodilatation, or the capacity of blood vessels to dilate and increase blood flow to the working muscles. Furthermore, Beet Juice has been proposed to reduce the oxygen cost of exercise presumably by improving oxidative metabolism efficiency.

The study we are doing involves participants completing a computerized course on two consecutive Saturday's, once as a baseline and the second time after consuming two doses of Beet Juice. We are still in the data collection stage of the study and throughout the race we are measuring time, power, blood lactate and perceived exertion. It has been great to be involved with a real-life research project and hopefully this experience will really help me when it comes to doing my dissertation. At 11am I cleared up the course, ran the blood samples (for blood lactate) and prepared for a movement screen. During the summer at PEAK most of the endurance athletes begin to train outside and we instead get a huge influx of hockey children who train with us during their off-season. The older kids complete a Hockey VO2 and a movement screen, whereas the younger children just complete a movement screen and strength/power testing. During the movement screen we test for muscle imbalances, lower and upper body strength and flexibility during a series of small assessments that allow us to design training programs that are specific to each individual. After the movement screen, I had a personal training session at midday. The strength and conditioning element of the placement has probably been the most valuable to me because I had very little experience of writing programs or training people. I am now much more confident in this area...something that will be invaluable when I finish University and begin the search for a job!!

I finished the day writing programs and sending emails. This weekend is the 'race weekend' in Ottawa and many of our endurance athletes are running either the full or half marathon today. It is good to touch base with people before their race and I spoke to one of my clients about fuelling and her ideal pace for the race. The year at PEAK has made me realise that for people to reach their goals with exercise (whether it be weight loss, general health or performance) testing is fundamental. This is something that I will take with me in whatever field that I end up working in.

That one day summaries everything that has been good about working at PEAK. The variety of the work (whether it be testing/running strength and conditioning classes/organising the racing series or writing programs), the responsibility we have been given as interns and the opportunity to really get involved. It has at times been challenging and we have hard to work very hard but overall it has been a fantastic learning experience.

Since my last post I have also had the small matter of my 21st birthday!! Although I worked on my birthday I had a great surprise when a HUGE cake was delivered to work from my mum. Last weekend I also biked to downtown Ottawa and back and I am loving getting outside now the weather is much nicer!!  I am off next month to BC for a few weeks...camping and exploring the Rockies!! Fair to say I am extremely excited for that!! I will be sure to post about all my adventures when I return...

PEAK 1 PEAK 2 PEAK 3PEAK 4  PEAK 5

 

20.05.2014

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📥  Social & Policy Sciences

Almost all my time during the past few weeks has been delegated to the Volunteer team, where I have helped create and disseminate a Volunteer Satisfaction Survey for Sense volunteers to rate their volunteering experience, as well as note down any improvements they think Sense could make to volunteering opportunities within the organisation. This has meant a lot of monotonous envelope stuffing, but we roped in some extra help from surrounding teams which gave them a short break from working at their computers.

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A few quick tips if you are ever given a mailing to send out (which I definitely wish I knew before starting some of the ones I have been tasked with this year!):

  • Make a coherent list of the places, or people, you are sending the information to. Once each of these has been fulfilled, mark it down as done.
  • If you are using envelopes with windows, measure the space from the top of the document correctly when inserted into the envelope, and do tests with multiple addresses as you may get longer and shorter ones. This is something I especially wish I had known before printing a mailing to be sent to hundreds of people. Though I had measured the space at the top of the document against the top of the envelope, it didnt dawn on me that when documents are at the bottom of A4 portrait envelopes, they drop down so much you are in fact entirely unable to see the addresses. What followed was a stapling session of packs of envelopes to bump the materials upwards. Oops!
  • If, like the volunteer mailing above, you are asking for replies make sure you include stamped or freepost envelopes as well as the other documents.
  • When you receive the replies, jot down a few notes either on the front on the envelopes or on post it notes. Include where the replies are from, and how many are in each envelope. This will be particularly important if later on you need to collate the number of written responses you had.

I was then given the task of inputting the data responses into survey monkey. We received a great response rate, especially considering we sent 15 copies of the survey to 90 Sense shops, to name just one group. Luckily for me, one of my friends from the University of Bath is completing her placement around the corner from the Sense office, and wanted a few days work experience so was on hand to help me with this laborious task!