Placement blogs

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

Binario

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

Binario means platform, and that is a fairly boring word but I didn’t know it before. Living in beautiful Chiaia means we are a 1hr journey away from Uni whether we take the metro or walk. We usually take the metro and buy tickets religiously every day even though we never see people checking them. In Naples it is a much better option than walking or taking the crazily crowded bus and as long as you have your bag all zipped up you will have no problems at all.

 

Ciliega

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

Ciliega means cherry, as we learnt today when buying fruit and veg from a little market near our house.

Later, the landlord came round again with a plumber called Giuseppe to sort the toilet flushing problem and we had a chat with him. At one point, he called me straight out to the bathroom very suddenly, and I ran there to see what was happening. He and the plumber were falling about laughing because they had realised the plumber looked like Mario, and he actually did, he was wearing a red shirt, dungarees and hat.

Anyway, our landlord has said he’ll help us meet people and we’re going to meet him for drinks on Monday night. I still have no clue what is going on with the university and what or when we study, but we will find out soon!

 

Sirena

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

Sirena means mermaid, and my landlord has been explaining to me the story of Naples and this is how I learnt it.

Naples was originally named after mermaids, when the Greeks came and founded in hundreds of years ago. It has since been under Spanish, Arabic, French and finally Italian influence, and this is where the absolutely crazy local dialect of Napolitano (neapolitan) comes from, which doesn’t sound anything like Italian at all.

Italy wasn’t a unified country until the 1800s so Naples was the biggest city by far of its region. Being a port, it was a rich city with a lot of money invested in churches, architecture and jobs, and it must have been beautiful. When Italy became unified, the capital city was changed to Rome, and all the investments in Naples ceased. The mafia had always been (and still is) a huge presence in Naples, and had control of everything, but let it go to rot. In World War 2, the city was heavily bombed and some buildings still haven’t recovered. It is easy to see the botched job of a damaged first floor that has been “fixed” by the addition of a second floor, to distract from the damaged aesthetic beneath it. Naples was also one of the first cities to be liberated by the Allies towards the end of World War 2, at the end of Mussolini’s fascist regime, and they welcomed the British and Americans with open arms. The Germans soon came and fought, and the city was yet again ruined. Since then, the messy politics of Italy continues to ignore the South and concentrate on the rich, clean, vastly more popular Northern cities such as Rome, Milan and Venice. This has left Naples one of the poorest cities in Europe, with a distinctly South American feel in parts of the city, crime and unemployment at a high and rubbish piled up in the streets since waste is one of the sectors controlled by the mafia.

 

Year Abroad IV – moving to Siena, Italy

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Siena, Italy                                                    March, 2017

Buongiorno a tutti! Long time, no see. I have now started the second part of my Year Abroad – my study exchange in Siena, Italy.

Why Siena?

I decided I wanted to do a study exchange rather than a work placement in Italy because I wanted to try out both options. I felt quite confident with my Italian before coming to Italy but I thought spending the spring and summer months as a student in this beautiful country would be the dream – good weather, amazing food and a lot of young people.

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The University of Bath has study partnerships with five different Italian universities: Naples, Rome, Trento, Parma and Siena. When applying for a place, we had to shortlist the destinations to three, so I took it to the Internet and final years’ experience (pro tip – you should totally ask year abroad returners about their experiences, they will be happy to help you out retelling their [hopefully] amazing time abroad from a student’s point of view!) to narrow the list down to three. First of all, I was looking at the size of the destination. I did not want to go to Rome because, as a capital city, I deemed it too large and probably quite expensive for only six months. Remember, I come from a tiny island, Tenerife, and Bath isn’t what you’d describe as a big city either… Naples was a similar case. It seems to be renowned for not being the safest city in Italy which threw me off. In contrast, the location and fact that it is the only coastal place in the list was very appealing, but the cons outnumbered the pros. Then I looked at connections. Trento was soon discarded because I could not even find how to easily arrive there. I’ve been told it’s beautiful and picturesque, but I’m planning on travelling around the country so having good travel connections was very important. And then I was left with two options: Siena or Parma. Both cities quite student-y and of similar size; connections seemed to be equal too, so my choice came down to the region they were in. Eventually I went for Siena because of its history: a very ‘Italian’ looking city with lots of narrow alleys and a wall surrounding the historic centre.

Siena is a medieval town, Florence’s life-long enemy and UNESCO Wold Heritage Site just like Bath (cannot stay away from beautiful cities apparently), in the Italian region of Tuscany. It’s mostly famous for Il Palio, a horse race between the contradas or neighbourhoods of the Old City, held twice a year in the Piazza del Campo. There are two different Universities and it is a very touristy city with masses of tourists arriving each day (even now in the winter), which reminds me greatly of Bath. Inside the city walls, all the buildings have that typical Tuscan look: tall windows and red bricks, along with the laundry hanging to dry under the window sills. I must say I have fallen in love with this (extremely hilly) place and I’m quite happy with my choice.

I'm in love with the style of the houses!

I'm in love with the style of the houses!

My arrival & finding accommodation

I moved to Italy late January, since I was yet to find somewhere to live and had signed up for an intensive Italian course in February to pick up my Italian again, and will stay here until July. The trip to get to Siena was long but went fine. I was quite worried I’d lose my suitcase during the short layover at the airport in Madrid, but I was lucky and my luggage got here just fine. It was a long journey - two flights and a couple of buses and taxi ride-, but I feel like I’ve mastered travelling by now. I had to fly from Tenerife to Madrid and from there to Florence. To arrive in Siena from Florence there are two options: a bus or a train journey with change in Empoli, so I went for the easier bus option – make sure you get the one along the autostrada or highway, shorter and less curvy!

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I’d booked an Airbnb near the Duomo for the first two weeks while I looked for a flat; perfect location a minute from the Piazza and very comfortable since I had the apartment basically all to myself! I would recommend doing this when moving to a new place: find an Airbnb or hotel for a week at least while you look for long-term accommodation once you’ve arrived. Things look so much different in person and this way you’ll avoid scams (I was sadly victim of one before arriving, so please don’t make the same mistake and make sure you look at the place in person before paying anything). I must say, it was hard to find a flat. Since I’d arrived so early the first semester Erasmus students were still around with exams, so their places were not available yet. In addition, a lot of landlords do not seem to like Erasmus students because of the short-term contracts, which limited the options. It has been even worse for male students, as most adds I saw were for female student and camera doppia which means a room-share. I was looking for a central apartment where I could have a single room and I had been doing research from home, sending tonnes of messages to book viewings with little luck. I used webs like uniaffiti, easystanza and housinganywhere. Eventually I managed to get a viewing that was really promising and that ended up being my actual flat. I live in the centre, in the Contrada del Drago, and I couldn’t be happier! Siena is quite small so you can walk everywhere. I’d recommend looking for a place within the walls, because everything happens inside the historical centre, but if you end up outside it’s not much of a big deal either. Also, make sure you actively look for a place; not only messaging online but talking to everybody you meet in the street as I know of people who got lucky because they met someone who knew of an available room. And, above all, don’t give up!

Taking an intensive language course

Concerning the language course I took, I have mixed feelings. Before arriving here we were offered a mostly subsidised Italian language course (75euro) by the Universtà degli Studi: either intensive in February or ordinary between March and April. I went for the February one since I had the time and it would allow me to sort out accommodation before the start of the semester in March.

If you’re going on a study exchange, I’d recommend doing a language course if available just to make sure you’ll be able to follow the lectures. While I was in France I barely got to speak any Italian so my skills had become rusty from being out of use since June. I do think doing the course has eased me back into speaking Italian confidently and has definitely tuned my ear.

However, I found the quality of the course at the Università degli Stranieri (the course is in the other University; my exchange is with the Università degli Studi), to be quite disappointing. We had to do a language level placement test at the start, after which I was placed in C1 level. I was accurately placed since the OLS test results also classed me as C1. However, I don’t know if it was because of the higher level or the timing, the group I was assigned was a mix of international students out of which I was the only Erasmus, contrary to first semester students’ experience. Also, I believe we (the other Bath students and I) were put into ordinary lessons not the intensive course we’d signed up to. Anyhow, we had four and a half hours of Italian lessons a day for three weeks. In my class we did a lot of reading and debating, but not much grammar. I found some of the topics interesting, such as language and dialects in Italy or the economy. However, I do not feel like it was worth the money or the time overall. A week would’ve been enough for me. Everybody was really nice and I met quite a few people in the course, which was great, but if I were to condense the new things I learnt over the course, they’d come up to an hour and a half, maybe two hours-worth of lessons… I did the end test a couple of days ago and all it involved was writing a ‘for and against’ essay (250 words minimum) about social networks and we were given two hours and a half and a dictionary. Talk about challenging… Either this was really easy, or Bath is really demanding.

Overall, it will depend on who offers the language course. Here in Siena it could definitely improve. For lower levels like A2 or B1 I imagine it will be a lot more useful since you’ll be taught actual grammar along cultural topics. For higher levels like me, the experience might vary. I do nonetheless recommend searching for a short course before starting, particularly if you haven’t been able to practice the language during your other half of Year Abroad.

Day trip to Florence.

Day trip to Florence.

Despite the unsatisfactory experience of the course, I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Siena thus far. The place is smaller than I anticipated, but now that the lectures have started life has got busier.  I’ve been using my time to run errands and sort out most of the paperwork, as well as exploring the city and surrounding area. I feel like I’ve got a grasp on the situation by now thanks to that extra time. Since I had to change modules and send Erasmus paperwork, I’m glad I arrived earlier and have had plenty of time to sort it out before getting caught up in lectures and module work. I must say the Italian system is nothing like the English one. We’ve had to chase down quite a few people to get the papers signed – it has been quite an adventure – and I expect this is the usual process in this country. My piece of advice? Be patient but persistent, and don’t stress out.

I will be writing another blog entry on the Erasmus paperwork and Welcome Week in Siena because the whole process definitely deserves one on its own, so keep your eyes peeled!

Ci vediamo presto!

Zoe

Day trip to San Gimignano.

Day trip to San Gimignano.

 

Insicuro

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

Insicuro means dodgy, and that is exactly the feeling I have so far about Naples centre (luckily not in Chiaia where I live). I walked round the centre to go and see the sights and the whole city is completely insane.

There are beautiful, stunning, enormous buildings on every street that remain open but have been left to rot, covered in graffiti and peeling everywhere. Rubbish and rubble fill the streets, and everywhere you go there are people trying to steal or pickpocket you or make you do something ominous. There is scaffolding in the roads that has just fallen off buildings, so you have to constantly be aware of where you are going, as well as who is around you and what you look like to the outside world. The traffic is just a whole new level of crazy, there seem to be no rules at all to the road and cars will just go wherever they want, as fast as they want. Pedestrian alleyways, no-entry signs, ridiculously steep hills, red lights, none of these things are respected by cars at all, so crossing the road is something of an art.

This all being said, there is a strange charm to the city that I have completely fallen in love with. It is gritty, and has about 10 personalities rolled into one, but I love it for it, and the people that aren’t trying to mug you are some of the most open and friendly that I’ve ever met. The food is outstanding, the views outside the city are amazing (if a little mismatched) and the way of life completely relaxed. I think if you come to Naples expecting a perfect white-walled holiday, you will hate it, but if you want to discover a city with a story of a thousand layers, warm people and fantastic food, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Panorama

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

I was keen to go and meet my landlord as soon as possible because Georgia, my housemate for the semester (also at Bath) had told me the area was a lot nicer than the city centre. She was totally right and it’s gorgeous!! My house is a 5 minute walk to the sea and there are huge rocks and sands you can sunbathe on, it is sooooo gorgeous with all the hills and colourful houses and Vesuvius sloping up on the left. Panorama means view! The apartment itself is beautiful, with gorgeous tiles everywhere and a spacious kitchen and bathroom and living area. There is one large, beautiful bedroom that looks like a hotel room and one very small room with no desk or wardrobe that leads to the bathroom. Neither room has a door, so we have taken a very small studio apartment right across the courtyard, and that is where I will live for the next 2 and a half months until we swap over! We are sharing all living and eating spaces though. Even with two apartments, we are still only paying 425 euros a month. My landlord is lovely, really friendly and wants to teach us better Italian if we help him out with his English, which suits us well!

 

Submitting Ethics

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

Hello all!

With March having just rolled in, signs of spring are everywhere. We have rain that never seems to end and rows of pretty daffodils covering just about every patch of soil and grass you can see.

bath uni daffodils

But, the beginning of spring marks the beginning of your official preparation for your dissertation. At the Psychology Placement Conference they suggested you should try to have your ethics submitted in March or April. Some people even had their ethics accepted before the Placement Conference! But DON'T WORRY if this isn't you, they were definitely in the minority. You should aim to try and start thinking about your dissertation before your Dissertation Topic Choice Form (late November) is due, having a general idea is really helpful when your department try to pair you up with a useful and relevant supervisor. I got my idea through a five minute brainstorm with colleagues when I was helping them with their research. It then developed by talking with my Placement Supervisor in our weekly supervision settings. Thinking ahead can help ease any anxiety of leaving things last minute - such as when your friends who didn't go on a placement are already talking about collecting data and ask you what you are planning.

Once you have your supervisor, try and book an appointment straight away. Most Dissertation Supervisors are really busy and so will not be able to see you if you drop in for a chat unannounced. Supervisors do have to put aside time on the day of the placements conference to see you, don't let this time go to waste! You have to be on campus anyway so put aside half an hour, it is a great way for you to start getting the dissertation ball rolling and to ask any questions you may have from the dissertation talks at the placement conference.

If you can, try to go into that meeting with a more concrete idea of what you would like to do and an idea of what literature exists in your research area. I found my meeting to be the perfect time to run through what I had planned and talk about some questions I had about the ethics form. We came up with some ideas for improvement, such as performing a power analysis to find out how many participants you need (this sounds scary but with help from MASH it was easy -they can even do online Skype support for placement students) and the possibility of doing a mixed methods study. You can find out more about maths and stats help at uni here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/study/mash/

mash-talks-logo

If you have a Dissertation Supervisor who isn't known for communicating well with students it might be a good idea to send them an outline of your ideas and how you want to test it before you meet, this way they are more likely to help you out as they will have already had a look at your idea and thought about what can be done to improve it. It also makes you look super organised and avoids any awkward silences where you might say 'ummm I have no idea how to test it, I just thought it was interesting' 'umm I hope it hasn't been done before as that would suck'. If this sounds like too much, go in with a brief list of what you want to talk about and with any questions you might have. This gives you something to work from as opposed to going in blind.

Anyway, I came away from my first dissertation meeting feeling a lot more positive than I thought I would feel because I had made that effort before hand. It is difficult but worth it.

ethics

After finalising details of my study with my placement and dissertation supervisor, I started my ethics application in the second week of Feb. This wasn't too hard as I had already gone through most of the information with my supervisors. The hardest part is writing the short background section on why this is an important area to research - which is where looking at articles before your first dissertation meeting comes in handy. But the most fiddly part is designing your information, consent and debrief forms which take a lot of time and tweaking before they are ready to send off. It took me a good two weeks to get everything in a good enough state to submit. It was a frustrating process as the tiniest of details were changed - such as saying psychological wellbeing instead of just wellbeing.

Some tips for writing the debrief, information and consent sheets -look at other studies, like questionnaires online, what have they done? What have they covered? Should I provide helplines for people if my study is about wellbeing or a similar topic? You can then use those ones as a basic template for what you need to talk about. Different Universities can also provide a really easy checklist and examples of what to include in these -I used Nottingham University and The University of Kent.

The next key part of the Ethics form is getting your dissertation supervisor to sign it. Give them plenty of time to do this, especially if you haven't been keeping in touch with them. It is better that they have the time to read it thoroughly and give you feedback on what to improve then just send it back to you in a rush and you have your application rejected. Try and send it to them two weeks before the ethics deadline. If you change anything whilst you are waiting for a reply, send them the updated version of the application immediately!

My dissertation supervisor didn't give mine back until two days before the deadline, even though I had been talking to him about my ideas for a long time, had been keeping him informed of how my planning etc was going and had sent it two weeks before. So, your department are really not joking when they say you need those two weeks.

When it comes to actually submitting your forms, triple check you have attached all of the questionnaires, information sheets and anything else you may need. Make sure your ethics form is as detailed as possible. Most importantly, make sure you have signed two copies and have had your supervisor sign both too! Give yourself at least two hours (if you are submitting it in person) to find the submission box, check through, print and change things if needed. If you are not doing this in person then aim to send it to the appropriate member of staff the day before after checking it through, this gives the person who is printing off your form plenty of time to receive your email and print the form off. If you send it on the day, you might just end up waiting another month to submit as the staff member might be off sick or too busy to make time for the application- a huge pain if you are eager to start collecting data.

And finally, do not be put off if, after all this work, your ethics form comes back to you asking you to make changes before they can accept it. This is really common, my friend said she doesn't know one person who got theirs accepted straight away. If you make these changes quickly, you might not have to wait for the next ethics deadline either. So, please don't feel disheartened as it is completely normal to be asked to make changes with your first application. Don't forget, this is the first time you have ever filled out an ethics application!

Best of luck!

 

NAPLES: Arrivi !

📥  Politics, Languages & International Studies

I AM HERE IN NAPLES!!

I came here with my dad and booked a hotel for a few nights so I had time to sort housing.

We arrived with with no flight delays or emergency landings (for once) and were immediately nearly put in a fake taxi, but luckily we were saved by two policemen at the airport who showed us to some other ones, but I’m still not totally sure they were legitimate, but they got us where we needed to go! Not the greatest start but it was okay. On the flight, we landed just at sunset and the views over Naples itself were gorgeous!! So I wasn’t completely put off at my first impressions.

When we arrived at the hotel, I was scared out of my tree because the area looked really dodgy and I was told that was one of the nicer areas. The hotel was situated on floor 4 of a block of flats, so it felt like we were walking through someone’s apartment block before we actually got there, in the world’s tiniest lift. It was very prettily decorated with painted walls of Italian beaches and the sea and little colourful houses. I was still so nervous when I first tried my first Naples pizza (a marinara, tomato sauce but no cheese) but I could still appreciate how delicious it was!

 

Accident in the Ice

📥  Uncategorized

So soon after the rest of the Christmas break I found myself back at home for a week, nursing a very sore head, a lovely black eye and balancing a pair of broken glasses on my head. The one thing so many people fear will happen to them whilst they are on placement happened. However, the bad news did not stop there.

On Wednesday the 25th of January I ended up in A&E after cycling to my placement and going down in a crash. I turned onto one icy road going down a steep hill, braked and my back wheel went out from under me. I landed head first on the cold road, with my glasses cutting deeply into my head. What I first thought were tears from the pain turned out to be a torrent of blood. I ended up needing 17 stitches, with five of those being deep ones where my glasses had cut so deeply. They even pulled out a bit of metal from the wound that had snapped off of my glasses.

Accident in the Ice

(Resting at home a week later)

Thankfully, a mum stopped her car to help me, she called an ambulance whilst I sat there clutching my head feeling very dazed. Her son walked around picking up bits of my glasses and bike that had fallen off. Conveniently, she worked at the RUH and said she would drop my bike there so I could pick it up later. My thoughts then turned to my placement: 'Oh No! I am going to let them down, they were counting on me organising their sibling group today, everyone else is too busy to do it'. I started worrying about that and asked the lady to call the Lifetime Service and let them know about it.

But I needn't have worried.

One of my colleagues came to see me in A&E and sat with me until my flatmates arrived to look after me. She reassured me that everything would be fine and another colleague would sort out the sibling group, telling me that because they had started organising it so late I should not worry about getting it done. My colleague even told me that I should take the rest of the week off. My placement was so understanding, they encouraged me to take as much time as I needed. They even called to check up on me later on, on the day and during my recovery time to make sure the wound was healing ok.

Unfortunately, on the evening of the day of my accident another bad event happened. My Great Grandma passed away at the age of 97, after suffering a stroke caused by her Dementia. The following week, my dad was hospitalised with three kidney stones and my mum went in for a planned operation. Those two weeks were really the hardest in my life. So many bad events happened.

I called my placement supervisor the following morning, to let her know about what had happened to my Grandma and ask if I could have the following week off to attend her funeral (and nurse my mum and dad back to health as I found out on the Monday, whilst looking after my own injuries!). My supervisor told me to take as long as I needed, there was no rush and no pressure for me to return any sooner than I was ready. One of my colleagues even got me a little get well gift and left it in my tray for when I got back. They were all so supportive and it helped me realise that if you do suffer an event like this during your time on placement you shouldn't worry or feel like you have to return to work in a couple of days. Yes, being on placement is like having a full time job, but the pressure of having to come back right away or put the job first is certainly not a similarity.

And this isn't just my experience. A friend's best friend passed away after a long battle with cancer near the start of her placement, she is still struggling with this, having grown up with her friend. When she found out what happened she asked if her placement could be postponed to give her some time to recover, her supervisor said that was absolutely fine and moved her start date to a month later. After my friend had started the placement, she was continuing to struggle with her loss, and broke down in tears to her supervisor one day telling her everything. Her supervisor arranged for psychological support around bereavement to be given to my friend and also changed her working hours so that she could have shorter weeks, giving her much needed time. My friend has told me her placement were 'Amazing' and that she has no idea what she would do without her supervisor who has been so supportive with her on-going difficulty.

So, if you do have an accident, illness or an unfortunate event during your placement, please do not worry about asking for the time off or support you need. As you are working for free at most Psychology placements they really want to make sure your own wellbeing is put first and not the placement. After all, you will not perform well if you force yourself to work when you are ill or too stressed. You do not need to suffer alone whilst on placement. You can still access support through the university Counselling Service and most work places have access to psychological support for their employees (even unpaid ones like us). See more about the University Counselling Service here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/groups/counselling-mental-health/

RUH

Now that I am well on the road to recovery, with two new scars to adapt to. I joke that as the Lifetime Service is based at the RUH, I made it into work on time that day - but just in the wrong department!

 

Reality Stars and Living Digital

📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

The big event of the past few months has hands down been getting to work at the National Reality TV Awards with hayu; a red carpet event which awards reality stars and TV shows for their work over the past year. This is, incidentally, how I ended up a few feet away from Bake Off (and general) queen Mary Berry. I was largely in the green room, where hayu interviewed stars directly after they had come off the stage. This was my first time working with “talent”, they seemed overwhelmingly glamourous (although I did get told by a stylist that my dress was very on trend, something tells me I was likely the only person wearing an outfit they got for £10 online).

Red Carpet!

I love making the most of NBCU’s employee perks, including watching free film screenings of  Universal Pictures theatrical releases. My favourite so far has been Nocturnal Animals, as it plays perfectly into my love of bold, colour-corrected landscape shots and Jake Gyllenhaal’s eyes. There’s also the office film club, which frequently streams releases in the company’s screening room– for free. That’s not to say that I didn’t watch a lot of film and TV before, it’s just that new releases can be a bit financially off limit as a student. Now, it quite literally comes with the job! The next film I hope to  see is Loving. Now, I must admit, I may have shed a tear when I recently saw the trailer for the second time. Yes, I knew exactly what was coming and yet two and a half minutes of footage still got me all emotional. I don’t have high hopes for my keeping it together during the actual film.

Capture2

I’ve recently seen my job title change from “New Media Intern” to “Digital Intern” amidst some restructures in the department. This is more reflective of the work that I do, as the number of my web and social media responsibilities have increased; including two new big projects. Firstly, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has launched in the UK and I have been tasked with tracking and reporting its performance on social media. This involved building a new, semi-automated report from scratch using systems that I frankly hadn’t heard of pre-placement.  Designing it has certainly been a learning curve; displaying data on Excel can be fiddly at the best of times, but it is certainly gratifying to see the time taken to complete the report sharply decreasing each week. Also on the social media front, I have designed the new social media section of the weekly hayu report and am responsible for updating it each week.

 

I can’t believe we’re already in February - time flies when you’re having fun!