Humanities & Social Sciences placements

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

Tagged: enthusiasm

Year Abroad VIII – final thoughts

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

 

Siena, Italy                                                                                        June, 2017

Ciao!

Today marks a month until I leave Siena, where I have been doing my Erasmus study exchange for five months as part of my Year Abroad. I’m getting all the feels. I don’t want to leave. And I’m thinking of all the things this year has taught me. Here are some of them.

The Year Abroad is more about improving yourself than improving a language.

I feel like there is a lot of pressure on the Year Abroad and returning with close-to-native language skills when the reality is a lot different. Not just because each one of us is doing different activities or spending it in different locations, but because achieving native levels just by immersion is very hard, even if you try to be as active and engaged as you can. If you’ve never spoken the language before, it is easy to track the progress: being able to order at a restaurant or sort out paperwork feels like a milestone. But when you are a language student and have been learning the language for a couple of years, improving in a way that is noticeable is hard. I personally don’t find my French to be much better than when I left the UK. I have definitely improved in listening and reading comprehension and have expanded my vocabulary, but not as much as I thought I would. So don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself and just have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to talk and make mistakes, but also don’t centre on having to improve continuously. The Year Abroad and life are more than that.

Siena will now have a special place in my heart.

Siena will now have a special place in my heart.

The best things I’ve gained this year are more confidence in myself and greater independence.

More than the language side of things, I feel like my greatest achievement this year has been to discard my shyness and put myself out there. I had to do that when I first moved to England for university and that already felt like a massive milestone. This year I’ve had to do it twice, in completely different countries and I’m proud of myself for doing it (introverts, do you feel me?). I’ve learnt to make mistakes without being embarrassed about it because that is how you best learn in this life. I’ve learnt that there’s nothing to lose by approaching new people, the worst that might happen is that they won’t be interested, but you will have given it a shot and have no regrets about what could have happened. If you don’t try, you’ll never win! I really encourage you to try to socialize as much as possible as, if I’ve realized something (more like, completely confirmed) this year is that it’s not about the place you are in - ok, it does make a difference if you are in a big city than a little isolated town but hear me out-, it’s about the people you meet along the way.

Fécamp was such a lovely place to experience France.

Fécamp was such a lovely place to experience France (also, I cooked paella for the first time!).

It’s the people you meet during this adventure that will shape your experience of the Year Abroad.

Clearly, the place you end up in will have a lot to do in creating a good or bad experience of the Year Abroad. If you are a very active and outgoing person and end up in a town in the middle of nowhere, it might not be the best experience. However, at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make new friends and meet new people (in and around the area), but also to choose who you want to become closer with.

Shout-out to Manu, Gillian, Moni and Liam!

Shout-out to Manu, Gill, Moni and Liam!

In France I was in a little coastal town in Normandy and my fondest memories will always be of those I met, be at the school or elsewhere. Parties at the Mill, funny classroom anecdotes, long evening dinners and exploring the town with the other two stagiaires.

Thank-you everybody for making my Erasmus a great one!

Thank-you everybody for making my Erasmus a great one!

In Siena this is even more relevant as most of my friends are other Erasmus students who, like me, are only here for a limited amount of time. My image of Siena is an image in which I’m enjoying the city with all those people I’ve met over the past five months, and that is an image that belongs in this exact moment and will not repeat itself, which leads to my next point.

Ancora degli amici a Siena.

Ancora degli amici a Siena.

Enjoy every moment and grab each opportunity.

The Year Abroad is all about new experiences and learning first hand, so it’s up to you to challenge yourself. Make a list or just head out of the door and explore. Try new foods, new hobbies, go to new places, talk to strangers, get out of your comfort zone. The Year Abroad is an amazing opportunity to push your boundaries – you get to live abroad and meet a lot of new people and you’ll learn to adapt to different lifestyles, so try to make the most of it. You don’t have to become a party animal if you’re the type who enjoys staying in for a chill night, but don’t miss out on events that attract your interest. I ended up joining the student newspaper here in Siena because I saw a recruiting event on Facebook. At first I wasn’t sure because I didn’t really want to show up on my own, but I pulled it together and went anyway and I’ve met a lot of cool people through it and improved my Italian!

I've joined a student newspaper, acted in a French short film and given an improv speech in Italian!

I've joined a student newspaper, acted in a French short film and given an improv speech in Italian!

That being said, you’re allowed to say you’re not having or didn’t have a great Year Abroad.

Hopefully this will not be the case, because it would be a pity, but everybody feels down and questions what they are doing with their lives at some point. Battling homesickness and culture shock is hard and sometimes (especially with the British Council Assistantship), you have no control over where you will end up. Maybe the idea you had of your host country doesn’t live up to your expectations, maybe you don’t really feel like you fit in. And it’s ok. You can ask for support if you need it, but honestly try to battle through. It’s also about being counteractive, especially in cities full of people or small towns. Perhaps it will only be a phase and it will get better, but you have to battle through in order to find out.

And, lastly, you will learn to value your own country.

I only started truly valuing the good aspects of Spain when I moved to England to start my degree. Things like the warmer approach of people in everyday life, the food I can find in the supermarket or the amount of daylight and sun we get throughout the year in comparison to the United Kingdom. Here in Italy I have learnt to value British education even further; oral exams seem like such an inefficient way to go about examinations when a two hour exam would save us all the hassle and long hours of wait for our turn. A lot of my British friends have told me innumerable times how they now appreciate the UK in ways they didn’t before: politeness, the punctuality of transport and efficiency of bureaucracy, just to name a bunch. You never know what you have until you lose it, right?

Thank-you again!

Thank-you again!

All in all, the Year Abroad is an opportunity to grow and have fun before the stress of final year and I hope to have captured that in my blog posts. Hopefully you will also fall in love with the countries that host you and perhaps you will be back after you graduate.

Year Abroad, you have been a great eye and mind-opening experience, you have taught me many things about life and myself and have pushed my boundaries, you’ve been a blast and I am proud to know I’ve made the most of it. Hope all of those embarking on their own adventure do too.

Peace out.

Zoe

 

Here comes the work!

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

I have now been at my placement with the Lifetime Service, supporting children and families with life limiting illnesses for three weeks.

I have accomplished so many tasks that I scarcely know where to begin. However, what I soon learnt from this placement was that there was not always another task to move onto once one finished and I would need to take initiative to find something else to do with my time. This is common during the first weeks where your supervisor and the team are learning whether they can trust you and how good a worker you are. So keep trying your best and try to think of how a task could be done even better than how they suggested it.

For the large part, occupying my time after tasks has meant reading chapters from books to learn more about palliative care in children. A sad topic but one that is really important to understand  for this role. Palliative care occurs when there is no cure for the illness and it is life limiting (whether that be a few weeks or months), the aim is to give the person the best quality of life possible during their remaining days. This might be through discussions about whether they would like to continue treatments or psychological therapy to help them come to terms with their own death, which is where Lifetime comes in! Although reading doesn't seem like the most interesting thing to be doing on placement, it is really important to understand how everything works and the theory behind what the staff do.

Onto the more exciting tasks!

Despite the slow beginnings, things have really begun to pick up over this last week. The tasks they gave me when I arrived at the placement have started to be completed, such as setting up weekly Mindfulness workshops for staff members with a fellow clinical psychologist. I have also been designing 'take ten' meditation cards that have now been distributed grateful staff.

I have also carried out my first clinical audit on the type of psychology referrals Lifetime receives, preparing me for a much more thorough audit of the transition services (moving from child to adult services) which they hope I will carry out in the coming months. I found this really intimidating at first as I was worried that I would mess up such an important task, but that wasn't the case! The audit I carried out went really well, it took time and a lot of research into how to use excel (I am technologically challenged) but I was pleased with the first result and hope to keep developing these skills.

I have also been meeting with a clinical psychologist in the diabetes department, who offers support to families and young people who are struggling with a diagnosis of Type One diabetes or other issues, such as needle phobia or treatment aversion. For example, your typical teenager will want to rebel and one of the ways some teens do this is by not administering their insulin or eating correctly, risking their health. Part of the role I have been playing in this is helping the clinical psychologist to create a list of online resources and apps that might help the family or individual improve their well being. This was so well received that the Lifetime Service also asked for a copy and asked me to expand my current list of resources to include ones specifically aimed at supporting families with an Autistic child. Finding apps that clinicians could use to asses an individual's emotion awareness and websites for parents to turn to for reliable information about Autism and treatments. I felt so pleased that something I had done was so useful to the organisation that they asked for more things designed in that way.

So far on placement, I have learnt that there is always something to be done. Sometimes you just have to look for it using your own initiative.

 

25.11.2013

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📥  Social & Policy Sciences

Today was another chance for a really good chance and insight into Sense and its services. A few new people at the organization and I visited Café 55 in Exeter. This is both a base for Sense’s intervenor service in the South West, which provides specialist one-to-one support for congenitally deafblind individuals, and a fully operating café open at the moment Mondays to Saturdays 10-4pm. Café 55 is Sense’s flagship community café and is run by deafblind and disabled volunteers.

Café 55 offers a person-centred approach service which ensures that deafblind people are enabled to make and act on choices that are important to them.

 Its is also used as a base for other Sense services including Supported Living and Residential services and offer rooms and areas with flexible hiring arrangements for both daytime and evening clubs and events. These rooms also include multi-sensory environments used to sooth individuals and initiate exploration of objects.

The café is used in the evenings and weekends by various charities and youth clubs on a regular basis enjoying our safe and secure environment. The café’s aims are underpinned by Sense’s Charter which includes the vision of a world in which all deafblind children and adults can be full and active members of society. Deafblind people are offered the opportunity to gain work experience in catering, be part of a team and learn new skills that may lead to employment. The café serves a variety of drinks and snacks including a salad bar, and is very competitively priced. We all had paninis with salads and crisps and they were delicious! It is fully wheelchair accessible and has two disabled toilets, as well as a children’s area, high chairs, free wi-fi, a reader and a plasma screen to enjoy.

We received an extremely warm and enthusiastic welcome from the people who run the café and its hiring services. We were given teas and coffees and allowed a few moments to relax from the three hour journey down from London and walk to the café-who knew Exeter had so many hills! We gave our lunch orders to a staff member who is profoundly deaf with limited vision. He also has severe learning difficulties, and a complex heart condition. To see the freedom and confidence Sense helps people develop is really awe-inspiring. Growing up with a best friend who had brain damage, I know how important it is to live a life where you are not excluded from any activities which other people-especially people your age-partake in. Even if it takes extra planning or risk assessment, it is imperative that activities are inclusive to all, including the right to work in a safe and enjoyable environment. Sense has clearly got this right in the café as it has pictures relating to sign language to help you order your food and drink, whilst attaining the highest levels of food hygiene rating, Café 55 has thought of so many ways to excel. We were then showed around the café and the building, including the arts and crafts room, stage, multi-sensory environment, therapy room with various lights, the offices, conference rooms and second-story garden.

We then headed back downstairs for lunch and upon finishing it was already time to come back to London town!

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