Name: Priya Hira
Course: Maths and Business, Final Year
Year of placement: 2016/17
Where did you do your overseas placement and what did it involve?
I did a split placement, and both of them were in Germany. I did the first one at Paderborn University and the second one was at the Technical University of Munich.
My placement at Paderborn University was classed as an English teaching assistant role within the Department of English and American studies. Therefore, along with the other teaching assistants, I was assisting students ranging from the ages of 18-23-years-old. The work involved helping out lecturers and taking part in a project that involved all the students of the department who took a certain module. We had office hours and also had to run a ‘Stammtisch’, which was a session held twice a week in the pub where students would come by and talk to us in English. This was an informal environment for them to improve their language skills. As the placement was only 10 hours a week, I had the opportunity to take up some modules of my own at the university including a language module which was very useful.
At the Technical University of Munich, I was doing a study placement. The university has two campuses which is important to know when looking for accommodation. I was located at both campuses which meant a lot of travelling, but the transport system was really good and the city was so amazing – there was also so much to do which made all the travelling worth it.
I found the studying quite difficult, as a lot of the modules in English were at Masters level, but it allowed me to learn something new which I wouldn’t get the chance to do at Aston. The modules available to study included nuclear engineering and German business law – so you were able to study modules you might not have been able to do otherwise.
What skills did you develop from doing this placement?
The placements helped me to build my confidence in myself and therefore, I lost any self-doubt I had. Everyone’s personalities develop at different stages and mine developed loads during my time abroad. I now know more about myself and I’m not afraid to show who I really am.
What was the highlight of your placement?
Definitely the friendships I gained. The friendships I made during my placement are different to the 10-year or so ones I’ve made here in the UK. The friendships you make during your one year together are really intense – you can only really understand what they are like if you experience them first-hand.
Another highlight is the opportunity for self-development and growing into the person you really are and who you want to be. Because if you don’t truly know yourself, what’s the point of finding out more about other people?
Has doing an overseas placement helped or changed your plans for the future?
The placements helped me to decide what I don’t want to do! Before I did the placement, I had been thinking about doing postgraduate study but, because I did an extra year of studying in Germany, it’s helped me to decide that four years of studying at an undergraduate level is enough for me. For some students, if you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate, it’s easy to think you can just do another year or so of studying while you decide, but then you can end up realising later down the line that you aren’t enjoying it or don’t need the extra qualification and it’s been a waste of thousands of pounds. The overseas placement helped me realise this – and it’s just as important to figure out what doesn’t work for you as it is to find out what you do want to do.
What would you say to other students thinking about doing an overseas placement?
Don’t think about it – just do it! If you overthink something, it can stop you from doing something. However, as one of my lecturers told me, “If you fear something, challenge it!”
What tips would you give to other students to help them make the most out of their placement?
Take every opportunity you can and get involved with everything that’s going on (this will start to become instinctive though after a bit!). Don’t over-prepare for the placement either – the surprise and astonishment along the way are the best parts.
How did you find out about your placement? Did you receive any support from the Careers+Placements team in securing your placement?
I found out about the placements through C+P – I had a chat with a Careers Consultant about some ideas and what my options were and they pointed me in the right direction.
Any other comments?
Some students might have doubts about doing an overseas placement or reconsider their choices for a number of reasons – it could be because their family doesn’t want them to go, they won’t know anyone over there or even the cultural differences between here and other countries. However, it’s important to seize the opportunity and do it for yourself, no one else. In the end, you’ll be the one who benefits (or loses out!), not your family or your friends. So don’t miss out on such a fantastic opportunity.