Humanities & Social Sciences placements

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

Tagged: #PlacementLife

The winners of the 2016-17 blogging competition announced!

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📥  2016-17, Communication, Health, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Psychology

As our placement students are gradually returning back to Bath for their final year, it is time to announce the winners of our annual blogging competition!

The Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences thanks all students who dedicated their time to write so many fascinating and adventurous blog posts throughout the year they spent on placements both in the UK and all over the world. Their stories are a true testimonial of how challenging, rewarding and life-changing a year on placement can be. As a recognition of our bloggers´ commitment to report on their placement expecience, the Faculty has awarded following students a number on departmental prizes, and an overall Faculty Prize.

The Faculty Prize of £100 as well as the prize for the Best Health Department blog of £150 goes to Emily Fallon (Sport & Exercise Science) for her captivating and exciting blog posts from the South Australian Sports Institute (SASI). She spent her placement year supporting Australian Olympic athletes and discovering new talents in Adelaide.

Photo of blue sky and placement student

Emily and the kind of view you only get on a placement in Australia with SASI.

Charlotte Harris (Psychology) receives the departmental prize of £100 for her dedicated work as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist with the Lifetime Service (and a Cyclist of the Year) in Bath.

The Department of PoLIS awards Zoe Amador Martinez (French and ab ignition Italian) a prize of £100 for sharing her experience from her teaching placement in Fécamp, France as well as giving her fellow students authentic report from her Erasmus+ experience in Siena, Italy.

Group of students with Erasmus+ flag

Zoe and her friends on the Erasmus+ programme during their year abroad.

The next awardee of the PoLIS department is Katy Wallis (French and ab initio Italian). Katy spent one semester studying in Aix-en-Provence, France and the second in Naples, Italy. Katy also deserves a Blogger Dedication Award for posting every single day.

Natasha Jokic (Politics with Economics) spent her placement at NBCUniversal International as a New Media Research Intern. She met Jamie Dornan on the red carpet AND also receives the PoLIS departmental prize. Where do you go from there?

London Pride bus

Natasha and her NBCUniversal colleagues taking part London Pride.

Last but not least, Maighna Nanu (Spanish and Politics) also receives the PoLIS departmental prize for her adventurous and colourful blog from Guadalajara, Mexico. If you want to know how to get on a university-organised trip involving testing tequila, then read her posts.

Congratulations to all winners and thank you to all bloggers for their authentic and valuable insight provided to our first and second year students preparing for their placements. Soon, we will be also getting new and exciting reports from our current third year students. Do sign up if you're embarking on your placement year!

Written by Julie Fulepova, placement student and Marketing & Events Assistant within the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.


Year Abroad: 5 Unusual Ways to Practice your Language

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📥  2015-16, 2016-17, International Management & Modern Languages, Politics, Languages & International Studies


As a languages student, the highest priority for your Year Abroad is to improve your language skills – this goes without saying. But ask any student who is currently away, or has completed their placement, and they will tell you it’s not always that easy. Your Year Abroad will not comprise of steady and neat improvements in your abilities, but rather little leaps and starts of understanding, which will be oh-so rewarding, but utterly frustrating.

You will, of course, have the immediate spike in knowledge when you initially move abroad; living and working in a foreign language all day will leave you exhausted but amazed at your own ability to pluck words from nowhere: you’re a natural, you’re fluent! Unfortunately, this will often wear off after the first few months, once you have mastered the complexities of the supermarket and your nearest café. You may even be dismayed to find that after just a week or two at home for Christmas you’ve forgotten some of the fancy idiomatic phrases which you were using with such confidence in November. Speaking from personal experience, your language acquisition – and with it your confidence – can go a little bit like this:


But do not fear! Here are 5 unusual ways to practice your languages, if you ever find yourself struggling to work enough Dutch into your day or Español into your evenings!

  1. BlaBla Car (or similar company). I would encourage any Year Abroad student to travel and explore as much as physically possible and a great cheap way of doing so is by using a company like BlaBla Car. BlaBla Car matches people who are taking a certain journey in a car with those who need to travel but have no car – an efficient way to save money on tickets and on petrol! Using BlaBla Car in a foreign language will guarantee you with quality language practice on any number of topics, from the reason for your trip to the political state of the country – trust me! It has the handy benefit of putting you next to the driver rather than opposite, which can take the pressure off! Bear in mind that while BlaBla Car is more commonplace in Europe, you should still be aware of the risks of getting into someone else’s car – make sure you use the code provided to find the right driver, tell someone where you are going, and keep friends as updated as possible.
  2. Theatre. The theatre might not be your cup of tea at home, but it is an excellent way to catch up on the nuances and stresses of your new language. If you can keep up with Shakespeare in Italian, you’re ready for anything! There is also something distinctly fascinating about telling your friends from home that you are off to the theatre for the evening! Grab a friend – native or otherwise – and get two front row seats! You won’t regret it.
  3. Trains. Similar to BlaBla Car but more spontaneous, you will be amazed at the number of strange conversations that can spring up on a train journey. I, for example, had the delightful experience of sharing an overnight carriage with an Italian family, their dog, and a drunk man. The inebriated Italian spent most of the night telling me what a “bella donna” I was, whilst the family quizzed me on everything from why I was travelling alone, to how the police force works in England (I was not too helpful). When travelling by train, either alone or with friends, make sure you keep an eye on all your belongings, to avoid being the victim of an opportunistic crime. To be on the safe side, check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice on what to do if you’re the victim of a crime abroad before you travel.
  4. Gym. This may come as a surprise, as my experiences of English gyms have never involved making a best friend. However, joining a gym on your Year Abroad is the perfect way to keep busy and meet the locals. For a start, many people have routines, and you are likely to see the same faces each time you arrive. Secondly, gym lessons such as yoga, Zumba and boxing are all great ways to interact with new people and potentially bond over your lack of coordination.
  5. Café local. This is something you should do anyway, but it’s also great for improving your chit-chat. Find yourself a nice sunny café, with the widest selection of cakes and coffees possible, and make yourself at home! I would recommend bringing a book or some work to do, but don’t be afraid to dive in and get chatting to your friendly barista. You might feel awkward at first, but nothing will beat the feeling a few weeks down the line of being warmly greeted as a regular and handed your ‘usual’ drink of choice. Do be careful when you’re out and about on your own, especially if you’re a woman travelling alone – again the FCO has some great advice you should look over.

Whatever you decide to do, you won’t regret taking a chance and trying something new! Do plenty of research on your destination here before you go, not only to find the best sightseeing tips, but also to make sure you’re familiar enough with the customs and culture so that you don’t offend anyone – not a good way to make friends! Make sure you keep safe and sensible, and follow @FCOTravel on Twitter for all your latest updates.


One Month In of a Lifetime.

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📥  2016-17, Psychology

This week marked one month since I started working at the Lifetime Service at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. The Lifetime Service aims to support children and their families with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions through an amazing team of Clinical Psychologists and Nursing staff.


In my first month here I have learnt so much. I have learnt how to conduct an audit and have since analysed the psychology referrals to Lifetime. I have also started to carry out an audit from scratch, looking into how many complex cases the staff manage through designing a questionnaire to see what types of complex cases are most common in the service and also the use of mobile tablets to enter patient records. This has taught me really valuable research skills which are great for providing experience for my Clinical Psychologist application in future.


I am also helping to run a research project by the Lifetime Clinical Psychologists which is looking into the psychological impact of having a child with a life-threatening condition on parents and how that impact is influenced by having a care package in place. I have created drafts of the consent, debrief and risk assessment, giving me a solid grounding for when I start organising my dissertation.


I have also learnt that working with children promotes a whole different range of therapeutic techniques than you would see in an adult. Instead of trying to work it all out in their heads the team use apps on tablets and diagrams to help the child make a picture of their thoughts that they can then explain and be treated. In children you would also be more likely to use a family focused technique, such as systemic therapy. Here you do not see the individual person experiencing difficulty as the only one who needs 'fixing', instead you look at how the family functions as a whole and how they might exacerbate or worsen the individual’s issue. Together they work towards creating a better environment and well-being for the whole family. Creating long lasting change and addressing issues that might have arisen in other family members as a result of the individual's behaviour or concerns. An amazing alternative to person focused therapy.


In addition to this I have learnt more about the variety of ways Psychology is used in the health service, it is not just used for treating mental illnesses! Did you know that Clinical Psychologists are also involved in the diabetes service to encourage children and adolescents to take their medication, even though they are terrified of needles? Did you know that Clinical Psychologists help to support families as they come to terms with the loss of a child? Or when they find out that they will likely bury their child?


I have discovered that Clinical Psychology is so much broader than I thought possible, with endless applications. I am finding out about areas of psychology that are less in the public eye but just as important to the well-being of their patients. It has made me so pleased that I decided to choose a placement that was not directly in the area I felt most interested in, if I had I would probably have never discovered the wide range of things Clinical Psychology has to offer.


But perhaps the best experience this has given me so far is the time away from constantly studying, so I can see who I am as a person and enjoy some of my early years before continuing the long slog to being a Clinical Psychologist. The most memorable event: Taking part in RAG's Zombie Apocalypse for the first time in three years. Update.... I probably would survive a zombie apocalypse (it must be all The Walking Dead training).

And this is why placements in Bath should never be underrated!


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.


Training Commences: Placement is Real

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📥  2016-17, Psychology, Uncategorized

Ever since I was 11 years old I can remember being dead set on becoming a Clinical Psychologist, someone who helps those with mental health problems. For the past few years I have been collecting as much experience as possible, volunteering with Suicide Awareness For Everyone - raising awareness of mental health in secondary schools and at university volunteering with Student Minds to help run a support group for students with low mood and depression. All of it leading up to my placement.

SO I am living the dream, or at least I hope to be.

This year I am working as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist with the Lifetime Service at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, helping to support children and their families with life limiting illnesses. I hope it will give me the opportunity to learn if I am suited for such an intense and emotionally demanding job as a Clinical Psychologist.

I have just finished my first week! Yay! I thought it would never arrive after having problems with checks and induction training dates. But here I am!

Most of this week has been taken up by training courses. There is so much to learn about the company and how I can help support others. I have learnt about Dementia and how people with the condition are eventually robbed of their latest memories, often becoming trapped in a past time so that they no longer recognise their loved ones. We watched a harrowing video entitled 'Darkness in the Afternoon' where a beautiful 20 year old woman in a red dress strolls down a street and ends up being chased and harassed by an old man. In reality this woman is actually 80 and is wondering around the town in her nightie, the old man is her husband who is trying (poorly) to get her home. For me this was shocking, especially as two of my family members have now been diagnosed. It taught me that you should try to live with their 'mental time' and not assume they remember what actual time period it is. With the lady in the film clearly believing she was 20 and not 80 years old.

I also learnt about delivering first aid, such as choking, to individuals with learning difficulties. For this group they often do not understand that if they are choking their carer is trying to help them by delivering back blows, all they think is that it hurts. So it was really interesting to learn strategies that will help me to apply my knowledge to this group, taking into account their disability.

I have only had two full days at the Lifetime Service so far! In my first I learnt about delivering Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which aims to help improve an individual's well-being by mindfulness and making small actions that aim to help the individual reach their main value in life, i.e. to be social or healthy. This was fascinating as so many other types of therapy may overlook the need to personalise therapy, for example one individual might feel their main value is to get a good education, not necessarily to recover from depression -the doctor's value. ACT is all about working towards this value through small actions, which here would include addressing the depression so the person can go to school or university. By taking the individual's main value into account the therapy seems so much more engaging to the patient.

I was then told about a research opportunity I can take part in, which aims to investigate the impact of having a child with a life limiting illness on the parents mental health and how the support provided by Lifetime and other care packages impacts the parents well being. I am so excited to be a part of research that hasn't been investigated before, I can't wait to get fully stuck in.

As cliche as it will sound I have found myself feeling truly grateful for all the opportunities I have been given to take part in so far at placement. Although a lot of it has been training, meetings or organising work, it has all been so eye opening and informative. In the coming weeks I am sure it will become more challenging and hands-on.

Here's to another good week!


A guide to the anxious person's first day!

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📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Do you ever stay awake at night, looking at the ceiling, with a deep sense of anxiety deep inside you don’t really know where it comes from but you can’t chase away?



For me that is quite regular. I am a pretty anxious person, and the deepest subconscious fear of being inadequate and out of place reveals itself in a myriad of other smaller, less ferocious but just as biting fears.

Before my first day of work, they expressed themselves in three main ghosts haunting me:

First of all, there was the fear of the Great Unknown: the first day itself, and not knowing what to expect from it. It mainly manifested in an anxiety of what I would have to look like to result acceptable and possibly giving a good first impression to all these new people I would have had to meet.

The day before starting I went for a round of shops trying to find the perfect outfit for smart casual (which may truly be the expression I hate the most in the whole English language), not too formal nor too casual, completely desperate and lost and basically feeling like I was an awkward teenager in high school again. Deciding how to wear makeup and my hair was just slightly better. (I'd expect this is mainly a female fear, given by the context of a society which sets impossible, contradictory standards.)

The second one is closely related, and it derives from getting to know and wanting to be liked by all these strangers. I am not terribly good with small talks and I am generally quite shy with people I’ve just met, so I was really afraid of resulting cold and not witty enough.

While the first two are around the same old question that I asked myself pretty much since I developed a conscience of the self, "Will they like me?", the third one is probably the most irrational: ”What if I don't know what the heck I'm doing? What if they thought I'm a completely different person when they interviewed me? What if, after all, I'm really just not qualified?”

Someone recently told me that this is actually not the normal way to react to things, I was shocked!

Someone recently told me that this is actually not the normal way to react to things, I was shocked!

These fears are actually quite easy to dismiss with logical arguments: even if the first day you completely mess up, it's not a tragedy. They'd probably find it just funny and endearing, and chances are that if they had interns they have seen all of it before. In any case, unless you mix up flip-flops and a Valentino pencil gown it can't go excessively bad. They are also used to new interns being shy, giving how intimidating a new environment is, and in many cases the first really professional ever experienced.

And finally, you are there for a reason. They hired you after a hard screening. They saw in you something that convinced them. That is a fact beyond paranoia and low self-esteem, and which is always worth remembering.

There is one final fear that I had when being offered the job: what if I’m gonna bore myself to death? Even before accepting, I knew Public Relations wasn’t my path in life, and I was really anxious I would have ended up hating what I had to do.

So how did that go? Well, some days are in fact extremely heavy and quite boring, and time never seems to go by. Sometimes it takes 3 coffees just to get to the end of the day, and with each I wish there was a cigarette included. But other days are quite fun, and there are times I really enjoy what I am doing, for example when I get to write or translate something interesting or I have a good idea for a nice design. Basically, I am satisfied with my job whenever I feel I learned something, or it had an impact on my abilities and I was able to show what I can do.

To someone that had the same fear of being bored for a year of their lives, I would say that eventually you start enjoying the smaller things, getting satisfaction in the details; maybe it’s a brain self defense mechanism, but it is quite effective. As well, there is life beyond work, and there are few things more pleasant than a cold beer and a good rant with friends at the end of a particularly tiring day: the lowest point means you enjoy the peak even more. In the end: you will survive.

You can always count on wine for some support!

And you can always count on wine for some support!


On Missing Home(s)

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

My parents and my sister recently visited me, so I had a good occasion to reflect on homesickness. Maybe it’s a bit arrogant, but I consider myself an expert on the matter, first as an Italian student living in the UK, and then as a European in Russia last summer.

However, I am now in the curious phenomenon of missing two places, well two homes in their own right, at the same time.

One is of course my birth place, Udine, a very little known town in the North-East of Italy (every time someone asks me where I am from I go on autopilot: “Udine, it’s a small town in the North of Italy, near to Venice, maybe you know the football team, Udinese" —all without catching breath).

The other is Bath. I never thought I could miss Bath so much. I miss my friends, obviously, and I miss that splendid Georgian pearl. But, more insidiously, I miss my life (dare I say, routine?) there. I miss going to the small independent coffee shops, reading books in the Crescent on a sunny day, going to the local pub.

You may say: “well you can read and go to the pub almost everywhere!”. True, but it is that particular atmosphere of the place that enchants me, the feeling of living in a bubble where time calmly walks on barely noticed. Maybe it is due to the ancientness of the place, or maybe it’s just what life is like when you are at university.

Anyway, going back to my list: I miss the walk back home along the canal in spring time. I miss that atmosphere of well concealed poshness of the place. I even miss the University and lectures, that feeling of achievement you get when you work hard for something you are passionate about.


The fool on the hill

I even miss the ducks by the lake (and the idiot who is feeding them)

I even miss the ducks by the lake (and the idiot who is feeding them!)

By now I honestly can’t wait to go back to Bath! The irony doesn’t escape me: I always thought life would be easier/sunnier/happier in the South, slightly despising England and taking every chance to criticize the English way of life, almost feeling like a Latin aristocratically looking down at Barbarians. Oh how circumstances change one’s mind! (Though if I have to be honest, whenever I was in Gibraltar for a day trip I made fun of all those small British peculiarities and found great pleasure in doing so!).

If I have to say one thing that really had an impact on my general sense of dissatisfaction, is the precarity of this year. It is almost as if the time is too short to do any great improvements in the way I live. Living with Erasmus students certainly didn’t help me, as it just made me feel more of a fish out of the water, while they were staying for just a semester, living their party lives. All in all, one year can feel awfully long.

The uncountable number of times I identified with Charlie Brown

The uncountable number of times I identified with Charlie Brown

And so my homesickness it’s enhanced by the feeling of loneliness. The only real medicine is making friends, but that’s easier said than done, as I don’t mean drinking companions. I mean true friends to which you can explain your inner worlds and complain a thousand times about the smallest of things. Whenever I go out with my few real friends here, I do indeed feel much better and even the worst kinds of sadness and self-consuming bitter doubts are vanquished.

So my advice to someone going on their placement year abroad would be to try and make real friends, with whom to feel at ease, as soon as they can. It can be particularly hard to meet people of our age group at work, and in general to meet people outside the workplace. My best suggestion would be language exchanges and couch surfing meetings, as there are always very friendly and chilled people ready to socialize (indeed, that’s how I met my friends). Sports activities are a great option as well, as by being active you also release stress, catching two birds with a stone.

And after such an emotional entry, I should say that even if some days can be really hard, others are amazing and totally worth the experience. I wouldn’t change my choice of coming to Malaga, because no matter how challenging, I have grown a lot (this, however, is a story for another post). Fear of homesickness and of the unknown should never stop you going abroad and experimenting. As that famous and so many times mis-attributed quote goes: “a ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are built for” (John A. Shedd—as far as I could make out).


The life of the city, or how I learned to love communes

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📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Be aware, this entry is not work-related. I am instead going to talk of what has been the most significant and unexpected aspect in my life in Malaga, especially considering my placement is really not political: Politics.

Malaga is a very politically militant city, with loads of demonstrations, civic activity and communitarian spirit. Back in December I discovered this anarchic commune in the very heart of the city, “La Casa Invisibile” ("The Invisible Home"). It is located in an old building in the very centre, belonging to the City Council and left disused. 9 Years ago, a community of willing citizens decided to try to bring it back to life. They completely restored it, and now the building looks wonderful. They do a number of activities open to the public, in the interest of the civic body, to, as they say, "build community”.

One of the many free talks at the commune

One of the many free talks at the commune

I usually go for yoga lessons and for the very interesting talks that are held there. Granted, sometimes the views represented are quite extremist (we are talking of anarchists after all), but even if I don't agree with all they say, I still really enjoy listening to some widely unorthodox views and non-conformist opinions.

It was my first time in a commune. My idea of anarchists was the drunk, drugged up kids I saw at the general assemblies of students back in high school, much talk of “stick it to the power man”, but not much substance or ideas. That is not real anarchism.
The Anarchism I came to know is about creating community, putting the common interest first, without the need for authority, hierarchy or bureaucracy. In our over individualistic and individualized society, it was a breath of fresh air.

Citizens asking for the commune to stay open ("Right to the city")

Citizens asking for the commune to stay open ("for the right to the city")

The commune has not been the only political experience I had in my time here; I have been to a number of demonstrations as well. Sometimes I don't even particularly care for the cause, it is just nice to march and chant with people, feeling part of a movement, something larger than yourself. Not feeling alone for a while.

Demonstration pro-refugees

Demonstration pro-refugees

VergUEnza (more or less = ShamEU)

VergUEnza (= ShamEU)

All these experiences made me realize how much I moved to the political Centre since arriving in the UK, where the common discourse is much less leftist than in southern countries such as Italy and Spain, that had very strong positive communist experiences (the partisans that were fighting against fascism were mainly communist in Italy, and communist and anarchist in the Spanish Civil War). I would probably not have realized how much my own ideas have changed till engaging with a side of the spectrum that is often derided and misrepresented.

So what has this to do with the placement blog? Well as highly private and unrelated as this entry may have sounded, I think where I want to get to is that is fundamental to live the life of your city: not just bars and cafes, but actually meet normal people in the streets to discover the soul of the place where you live in, to participate in it, and finally to actually know it and live, not merely exist, in it. Once I started living the city, with the city,  I started to finally feel like a citizen, and not just a stranger. It meant stopping feeling so alone, and discovering more about myself.

It does not even have to be participating through politics, just joining communitarian events such as marathons or city celebrations end up creating a link with the place you reside, making it more than just a location and bringing it in the realm of affection. I feel many times students miss out this part, for example knowing the names of all pubs but not of a single street, or being completely unaware of the history of the place. It is a shame, as it ends up depriving them of an experience so much more enriching and worth it. What is the point of leaving home if not to create bonds somewhere else?

(I feel obliged to add a necessary post scriptum: living the life of the city can sometimes be hellish, as I came to know in the so called “Semana Santa”, the week of daily procession held over Easter here in Andalusia. It meant drums, trumpets, and rivers of people under my window from 5 pm to 5 am for 7 days!)

Those LOVELY processions!

Those LOVELY processions!


‘‘A laughter that will bury you all’’

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📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies

First post of the new year, and it’s already the end of February… time really flies when you are having fun!

This time I want to talk about what I consider one of the most important elements in the working life: good colleagues and a nice working environment.

For most, colleagues are among the first people you speak to at the start of the day, and you often spend more hours with them than with anyone else around you. In a nutshell, working life becomes a major part of your daily life and having a positive working environment helps incredibly.

Besides, we are social beings: we are not made to just stare into a screen for hours without any social interaction or communication to break the daily grind. Sometimes I feel that without people around to talk to I’d be going mad. Misanthropist as I am, I still recognize the need for work chit-chat.

So, it was lovely to realize how kindly my colleagues, and especially the secretaries, treat interns. They realize it is our first serious job and that it can get quite though, so they always try to make a joke and engage in small talk to make time go faster. Whenever I was sad or upset, they had friendly, generous words to make me feel better. They take real interest in our personal life and are ready to share the gossip. Often they even take our sides against other colleagues. From my experience, secretaries are angels.

My office is quite small (we are in 10), and I think this, together with the influence of the Andalusian laid back culture, definitely helps making the environment relaxed and friendly. Everyone knows everyone else quite well and there is an abundance of common socializing moments. Every Friday morning we have a shared breakfast, which is an opportunity to relax and talk of things beside work. Every time there is a birthday the guest of honor will bring cake while receiving a gift from all the rest of us. This month it was my birthday, and I really felt grateful and amazed at the warmth my colleagues showed. It was a very pleasant gathering, and I loved everything, from the personalized card to my present (a pair of violet Converse!).

The team... terrible light unfortunately!

The team... terrible light unfortunately!

Sometimes these chances to socialize happen outside work as well, with drinks with the younger colleagues or tapas all together on special occasions when there is something to celebrate. Once we even went horse riding!


Just another typical day in Southern Spain!

Finally, when the Board of Directors met, on the last day we all went to the restaurant with them: we sat all together with no divide, in a very chilled environment, enjoying interesting stories from around the world and great food (all paid by IASP!).

What I enjoy the most is definitely the shared international banter; some jokes are common to every culture, and it’s always amazing to see how the other intern, who speaks only English, and the secretary who speaks just Spanish can more or less communicate and have a laugh together even without a common vocabulary. After all, "laughter is the shortest distance between two people", as Victor Borge said.

The importance of humor to release stress, and indeed grease the mechanisms to help smoothing resentments by ridiculing a situation, should never be underestimated. A workplace without laughter is a grim grey place indeed, where tensions arise abruptly. That’s why a boss that has the charisma and the humor to make the whole office laugh is a precious thing.

Luckily not everybody lives in the world of the office!

And luckily not everybody lives in the world of the office!

As always, I hope you enjoyed, and stay tuned!


A Little Down The Road


📥  2015-16, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized

Well, it's been three months now, and it seems like time is right for a little check-up.

By now, I think I've got enough experience to actually be able to answer the question that was always on my mind before starting: how it is like to work? Or better, how it is like to actually work in an office, everyday, for a considerable amount of hours?

First of all, tiring. Tiring over any expectations. At least for me, much more exhausting than anything I experienced as a student (even revision weeks or all-nighters with essays due the next morning!). Honestly, sometimes I feel more like if I were in my mid-thirties than in my early twenties; staying in bed watching tv series has become more attractive than going out for drinks and tapas.

Thinking about, I realized that it depends relatively little on what you are doing. For me, it’s how you are essentially limited in the same place, with the same hours, everyday, so much as to sometimes make it look like a cage. The routine becomes almost something intrinsically draining: wake up every morning at the same hour (though going to bed at the same reasonable time every night still seems nearly impossible!), commute, work. That’s why the weekends become so precious: a priceless drop of exceptionality in a desert of regularity.


Calvin knows

Also, that is why being active helps so much: it is a safety valve to release the excess of energy, to help you de-stress and get back on the track.

Untuning. Another marvellous gift of routine, as I experienced, is how easily you get comfortable with it and how confused it leaves you when holidays kick in. You almost can't figure out how long the day actually is and how much time you have on your hands to do what you like, which makes it even harder to go back to work eventually. This weird paradox also means that sick days actually start to look like a luxury—I’m surprised “Netflix and kleenex” hasn’t become a popularized jargon yet!

Rewarding. Yes, after all there is a positive side, which is one I hadn't taken into consideration before, but it's at the same time the most important one, the one that actually makes you get up every morning. Because working also means to learn, and not at all just job-related stuff.

It means learning to interact on a regular basis with the same people, even if you hate chit-chat and you have the same compatibility level of a Jedi with a Sith. It means that by carrying out tasks you (re-) discover what you like to do, what you don’t care for too much, and what you hate to the guts, so that in the future you will be more conscious of what you are looking for in a job.

Not every placement is going to be about what you like doing: admittedly, most placements are quite mundane, and tasks can get repetitive. Yes, you will not always be involved in awesomely creative tasks that let you explore your real self, while unicorns fly high above in the sky.

But still, this doesn’t mean you can do that outside of what is strictly defined as your job. You will still have quite a lot of time that you can use outside working hours, and not having deadlines is quite calming. Weekends are wholly free time.

In a way, placement year can resemble a sabbatic year in so far as it deepens your self-knowledge, and it allows time to follow your passions. I thought I knew myself quite well, but now, in this position I’ve never experienced before, so to say out of my comfort zone, I’m learning much more about my weaknesses and strengths.

Do I ever have nightmares about my job? Honestly, yes. It is this feeling of routine that creates very suffocating dreams, the knowledge you'll have to go back the next day, and then the day after, and so on for a year, for me that is all something quite hard to put up with. But at the same time, sometimes you are so caught up in your own troubles and bad attitude that you fail to see the silver lining.

I think this is the most important lesson I’m learning: it is very easy to feel like you can’t cope and to get depressed, as most of all routine makes you fail to see the bigger picture. Keeping in mind the small things that made you smile during the day, and most of all being patient and not demanding too much from yourself, helps getting out of the damps.

And when not even that works, going to the beach to watch the sea is always deeply therapeutic!

There's nothing like sea breeze messing up your hair!

There's nothing like sea breeze messing up your hair!

As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned!