How to Earn More & Learn More from Your Work Placement …

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… and have the best year of your life while you do it.

Working placements are now common in undergrad and postgrad degrees, and if you’re on one of these courses you’re probably already thinking about, or even applying to, a bunch of great companies you’d like to work for.

If you’re lucky enough to get a paid placement in the UK, you might still find yourself on half the minimum wage, and spending a significant portion of that income on travel, accommodation or both.

But that’s what everyone does, right?

Well, not everyone.

Imagine you walk into the office at an exciting international organisation. It’s littered with the best talent from all over the globe, conversing in innumerous languages over their ritualistic morning croissants and coffee.

You spend the day practicing the skills you’ve been studying for the last two years in a live environment (finally!), and learning the nuances of your colleagues’ cultures through the weekly after-work drink and the culinary delights they’ve brought in from their regular trips home.

As you close down your computer for the day, you’ve still got 3 hours of sunshine left to make the most of; a city of a thousand secrets to explore, and a group of outgoing international students who are just as excited to explore it as you are.

After a casual walk through the park and around the city centre, you head back to your flat-share to discuss this weekend’s adventures down to the beach, up to the mountains to ski, into one of your host city’s museums, attractions, walking tours or any of the numerous free attractions for students.

You’ve earmarked that crazy festival that’s happening next week, so your plans this week are set for a trip to a nearby historical town in the morning. With your evening still free, you contemplate joining a ‘pachanga’ (pickup game of football) or tennis match at the local sports centre or prepare to head out on the town to dance the night away on at one club or another – heck, why not both!

Surrounded by diverse and interesting people, with many exciting adventures ahead and a successful professional week behind, the flight home at the end of it all could not be further from your mind.

Ok, there are still plenty of questions to be answered here, like: Is it that easy to make friends in a new city? How could I afford it all? Wouldn’t I miss my family and friends? Can that be someone’s reality? And, if it can, why doesn’t everyone do it?! …

Again, how could I afford this?

Actually, this is a wonderful reality for thousands of students across Europe each year. With the European Commission’s initiative to increase international student mobility, there are many opportunities and support for students taking the leap abroad.

Universities will often provide you with support through language and cultural preparation, dedicated teams to answer any concerns or questions, and even insurance cover for the duration of your experience.

With multiple grants available, like the EU’s Erasmus+ grant (between £350 and £500 per month for UK students) and independent university grants like Bournemouth University’s Global Horizons Fund (up to £2,500 per trip), on top of the normal student loan and any earnings from their employers – there’s plenty of funding to make it all possible.

So the funding, support and opportunities are there; but that’s not all.

These students aren’t just having the best year of their lives; they’re developing lasting relationships with friends and colleagues, professional skills to build a career, and making themselves more employable while doing it.

A study published by ESN in 2014 showed that there were significant advantages ‘Erasmus students’ could boast over their peers, including:

  • Increased language proficiency
  • Development of transversal skills – which 92% of employers look for – like problem-solving, decision-making and confidence
  • They’re even half as likely to face long-term unemployment in their careers

And on a scale from 1 to 5, students rate satisfaction with their stay abroad at a massive 4.3!

It seems like a no-brainer, right?

It certainly was for me. My placement year in Madrid rewards me continuously in every way listed above and more. To this day, it’s the best decision I ever made.

International placements aren’t for everyone but, if you think it could work for you, get in touch with your university careers advisor and chat through your options with them.

This time next year, you could find yourself ambling along Barcelona’s infamous Las Ramblas on your lunch break, sharing after-work steins in Munich’s legendary Hofbräuhaus or taking a weekend trip up to the picturesque Mont Blanc with your new friends.


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