Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Placement Abroad Advice 1 Year On

It has been nearly two years since I first moved to Spain for my placement, and nearly a year on since leaving i constantly look back with no regrets.

Going abroad for my placement wasn’t actually something I had ever wanted to do, I wanted to stay close to home and to be honest after over 100 applications, anything would do. I never wanted to travel, and had no hope in getting a placement.

However, it turned out to be one of the best things i have ever done in my life, and i miss it like no one could ever imagine. I had quite an easy ride, i didn’t get homesick and i wasn’t scared because i had nothing to really lose, but it isn’t that easy for some people.

Whether it is being homesick or culture shock, doing a placement abroad is daunting, so read below if you are about to go abroad for placement and need some advice!

1 - Be Open Minded

Personally, if it is a country that you know nothing about, or wasn’t your first choice, do not let it put you off. Sometimes the countries that you are not sure of will surprise you, so be open minded to applying to different places.

Embrace the culture, immerse yourself into the daily life of the country, whether that is reading a national magazine or keeping up with politics. Don’t be scared of something you don’t know.

So I wasn’t scared of going to Spain, because I knew my family were chilled but also I had a rough 6 months previously so I needed a change, plus i speak Spanish too so it helped. But it was still daunting moving to a new city, by myself without anyone that I knew around me.

The first day without my mum (who helped me move - thank you mum!), I got a message from this girl Rikke to see if i wanted to meet up because she was on placement too. I did not think twice about meeting up with her, she turned out to be one of my best friends out there and i miss her! That night ended up crashing a stag do and joining them on a bar crawl!

2 - Research

If you are worried, yes don’t research much in case it worries you more. But obviously, research the important stuff, like where you are going to live and the cost of living. If it is also your first time in that place, google things to do so you have a list of memories to make already.

It is always good to be prepared, especially with paperwork. I had to sort out housing, national insurance numbers, social security number amongst other things. By knowing and organizing yourself, moving out there will be a breeze because you know what to expect.

My dad is like me, we like to know every single detail. That move to Spain, I had to make sure I knew everything because my mother  hates flying, for a good week before a flight she gets nervous and won’t really talk to anyone. So due to mine and dad’s need to research and pressure to make sure mum was fine (which i loved looking after her), i knew every detail and there was no worry going into Spain.

3 - Funding

I found pretty much straight away looking into placements that, those in London will pay very well compared to those abroad. I got paid 300 euros a month, which didn’t cover my rent, and people went to me “Barcelona is a very expensive city”, so that freaked me out.

However, I had a student loan AND the Erasmus fund. The Erasmus fund allows students to work/study in Europe with funding to help them throughout the year. There is another fund for those wanting to go outside of Europe called the Global Horizons Fund.

These two loans helped out so much, without one would have massively impacted my time in Spain. Also, with rent, for what i got it wasn’t the best room ever but i was hardly in my room i was exploring, so unless you really want a nice room or can afford it, i wouldn’t call it a necessity to have an amazing room.

Also food and shopping was surprisingly cheap, it puts all supermarkets in England to shame! You may find Erasmus/Global Horizon groups wherever you go, I had the Erasmus Barcelona group (i still have the wristband). They offered trips at a reduced price to normal, free entry and VIP in clubs and so many meetups. Going out in Spain is expensive (muy caro) and by making use of Erasmus group it helped my bank balance - thanks Shaz!

4 - Meeting New People

Again, very simple, there are so many Facebook groups dedicated to students, expats and just anyone really so it is really easy to find people. The Erasmus group enabled me to meet so many other students that I keep in touch with including Emily, who was my best friend out there.

Rikke and I met through another random Facebook group (can’t remember which one), and one app you should download is Meetup.

You select preferences of your interests and hobbies, and different groups will be offered to you to join and you can see what events they have. The one i went to was called Barcelona International Group, this is where i met SO many people, had so many memories and we would always meet in an Irish Bar, where i ended up meeting my best mate Sabrina.

5 - Languages

I was lucky that I spoke Spanish, I chose placements in Spain because I wanted somewhere where i could speak the language already. Despite knowing Spanish, nothing prepared me for how quick people spoke and also they speak Catalan which is different to Castilian Spanish.

Once I settled in I then spoke more Spanish, I wasn’t intimidated either, people were actually really appreciative that I was practising and they took their time. Being immersed and having to speak the language actually made my Spanish better.

For anyone who doesn’t speak the countries language, don’t let it put you off going. My friends didn’t know much Spanish and they were fine. If you do want to practice, I recommend Memrise and Duolingo they are free and great for learning basics. If you do want to spend some money, I recommend Babbel, proper in-depth course.

6 - Work Hard

As much as exploring a new country and living abroad is an absolute ball, don’t forget to work and study hard. That is what you are there to do, I know some people that didn’t and that ended their time abroad.

I went into a placement doing something completely different to my degree and new, and now that is the exact career that I want to go into. Doing something that’s unknown ended up being the best thing ever, I worked hard and got lots of new opportunities from it.

Plus, you may learn something that comes in handy when you go back to university.

7 - It’s ok to be lonely

This one is important because, it is okay if you get homesick and miss your friends and family. With my situation, i missed my family but I was not home sick, my close friends came to visit but i had a rough few months before so I couldn’t wait to leave England to be honest.

So if you do feel lonely, that’s normal, everyone goes through times when they miss people back home but flights especially in Europe are cheap and the experience is so worth it.

8 - Out Of Comfort Zone

As if moving abroad for months isn’t daunting enough, don’t be scared to do something out of your comfort zone when you go there.

For me, I’m not one to bungee jump or go crazy, for me it was singing Karaoke and going on a moped. I know it isn’t exactly impressive but to me, I was so shy before and that year completely pushed me out of my normality.

Don’t be afraid to say YES!

9 - Make Memories

What can i say other than to create them and make sure you have them recorded on your camera. I am not one for using my mobile phone all the time, but sometimes recording memories on your phone will come in handy later in life. Because I took a heck of a lot of photos and got them on my wall (currently looking at them), they help me remember my year and see how lucky i was.

Make sure you use every free time you have and do something different or go to a different cafe, whatever you want to do, do it. Because you may not have the chance again (my god i am so soppy).

10 - Coming Home

I probably have nothing nice to say about this part other than I loved seeing my family. I had the most dramatic coming home experience ever.

I lived on the 9th floor of an apartment block, the lift broke the day I was leaving. My taxi arrived 30 minutes too early, I had to launch 3 suitcases, a bag and a coat down 5 floors. Then the lift technician came to my rescue, where he MANUALLY, yes manually, got the lift to go down to the ground floor - VERY SLOWLY.

Got outside, my taxi wasn’t there. He has to turn around. Got to the airport and my bags were all under 20kg - result, then i got to security…… Security stopped me for 15 minutes, despite being cleared, so panic sets in. Got through fine, then came to boarding the plane. They wouldn’t let me on because I had the wrong type of hand luggage, i didn’t. So had to re-pack whilst people were staring at me crying. It’s emotional enough to move home without all this stress! Finally got on the plane to find someone in my seat, another freak out (I know it’s minor but it was a stressful moment haha). After all that, I was soon in England and met my dad. I then got to see all my family and reminisce on a great year.


What can i say, if you are going abroad have the best bloody time ever! Grab the bull by the horns and make sure you do everything you can, don’t come home wishing you did more!

Meet new people, travel when you can and cherish every single moment. Yes this is all very soppy, but i am not joking I would do anything to go back to Barcelona. You will never know how much it will change your life till you come home.

Hope you are all having a fab week!

Mol xo


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