To work placement or nay?

Hi everyone. Firstly, my sincere apologies for the lack of columns over the last few weeks. The festive season combined with prep to move to Berlin and organising a trip home for Christmas has been chaotic and I’ve struggled with time to write a column.

This week I am highlighting some of the main challenges you will have to overcome when undertaking a work placement. In a few weeks, I hope to write a column that will act like a cheat sheet for how to apply for placements abroad, but this is more of a “Should I do a work placement/ study abroad/British council” as now is around the time decisions have to be made.

Firstly, I would say I want to start off by saying that my placement has definitely had a huge impact on my language skills. I have translated countless documents, read a lot of articles in German, conversed daily with my colleagues, and most importantly exposed myself to a totally new side of the language. This has improved my confidence as a speaker massively. When speaking to others I have found that often it is not easy to get this same level of language practice in when studying abroad, as often you are taught in English and a lot of your peers may not speak your target language.

Furthermore, my work placement plunged me straight into the deep end working 9-6, 5 days a week. Previously, I only had experience doing shift work in hospitality, and so, honestly, this was a huge culture shock! It really took me a minute to understand how people can do this their whole lives because it was actually brutal trying to function at work and also do social stuff in the evenings. Therefore, once again, your choice depends on what your goals for the year are. If you are looking for a year to let loose and re-live freshers, a work placement will not provide- whereas a study abroad most certainly will. For me personally, although the hours were truly brutal at first, I did eventually (much to my shock!) get used to it and I am now able to meet friends and even go to the gym (!) after work.

Another reason this was difficult is because most of my role involves working from a laptop and I am the only intern in a small team. Therefore, I spent time going to Facebook group events, but everyone at these events was far older than me and so I found it so hard to meet people. However, I would take this experience with a pinch of salt, as I assume (and hope) that being in a team with other interns will be a totally different experience. Once I head to Berlin next month, I will be in a team of 6 and so updates most certainly will be provided! Furthermore, although it was difficult now that I am leaving Düsseldorf, I can say I have made some great friends- which I had begun to think was impossible.

That being said, I will forever cherish my first few months here. I was completely anonymous in a totally new city and the time alone to explore, do my work and focus on personal development was transformational. I know it sounds very ‘Eat Pray Love-esque’- but I genuinely was able to reflect on my long-term goals and tune in to where I want things to go. Life at uni is often so busy and I spent every day surrounded by some of my favourite people. Obviously, I loved the uni experience, and I am so excited to experience that again in fourth year, but the alone time was a welcome change.

I was also very lucky to have my family and friends visit me in Düsseldorf (and a trip to Paris planned) which filled up a lot of weekends, and so other than the odd few moments I did not find myself feeling too lonely.

All in all, I would hugely recommend a work placement abroad. If you are someone that thrives in a challenging environment this is perfect for you, because although it makes literally everything (travelling, meeting new people, sleep) harder, I have learnt a lot, both personally and professionally.

If you are struggling to make the decision, I would recommend that you try and focus on what your goals are for the year abroad and go from that point. The three options will provide vastly different experiences, so it is up to you to decide what you are looking for at this stage in your life.

Best of luck, and honestly, how wrong can it go?!