Placements abroad: Things you should stop stressing about!

gemmadilkesGemma Dilkes, International Placements, On Placement, Second Year

Planning your year abroad can be super stressful, mostly because you are going in to the unknown and you’re wondering if you’re doing the right thing. Thankfully, most of the things we tend to stress about either never happen or aren’t anywhere near as bad as we think they are. Here are five things you can stop stressing about:

  • Getting a placement- At the end of the day, everyone has to get a placement, so there’s no need to worry about being ‘left on the shelf’. Of course, some people get their placements sorted super early and some people finalise everything very last minute. There will be a company that will offer you a role (promise!), sometimes the perfect role just doesn’t come up right away. For example, for the Spanish half of my year abroad, I sent my first application at the end of March, just because I knew I wanted to do a translation placement and none had come up on Aston Futures before then.
This cat is enthusiastically (or maybe aggressively) browsing Aston Futures, you should too!
  • Getting rejected- I once read somewhere that rejection is redirection. If you keep being unsuccessful in your applications, ask a member of the placements team or your personal tutor to sit down with you and have a chat about the potential weaknesses in your applications. Also, have a rethink about what types of roles you’re applying for because it may be that you’re just not quite sure what you want to do and you could try applying for something different that may be better suited to you.
You’ll get there!
  • Making mistakes when speaking the target language- We’ve all been there, said something embarrassing or even answered ‘oui’ to a question in Spanish (meee!). Is it even your year abroad if you don’t say something totally ridiculous at some point? The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes and that you don’t let them make you feel reluctant to speak in the language. When I was working as a language assistant at Air France, my students made plenty of mistakes when speaking English, but I never once judged them for it, so don’t worry about feeling silly because nobody will make you feel that way. Most people love to see that you’re trying and will be willing to help you improve.
That amazing feeling when your subjunctives right 🙂
  • Doing your job perfectly at the beginning of your placement- This is something that I have very recently learned on my second placement. I am working as a Translator for a Law Firm in Madrid and I know absolutely nothing about law, nor do I plan on pursuing it as a career. This meant that I was unfamiliar with a lot of the jargon and terminology that was flying around the office (I now know more legal vocabulary in Spanish than in English!). I was constantly asking my colleagues for explanations about a whole range of things, especially acronyms which you must know the meaning of to properly translate them. Alongside this, it was just a very challenging role to take on in general and I absolutely was thrown in at the deep end, the people I worked alongside were VERY intelligent students from both Spanish and UK universities, so as the new intern it was very easy to feel less capable than them and a bit silly when having to ask about things that they seemed to know. Thankfully, as the weeks have gone by, everything feels much easier, both because I am more familiar with the terminology but more importantly, I am more comfortable asking questions about things I don’t understand. Asking questions is the best thing you can do, so don’t be shy 🙂
Me trying to get to grips with my job in the first couple of weeks…
  • Things going wrong- As with anything in life, there is always the possibility that things may go wrong or something may knock us off track and these fears can be amplified when you are in another culture and really far away from familiarity. I would really urge you not to dwell on these things, always be prepared in order to reduce the risk of something not going to plan, but don’t worry about it. Even if something unexpected does happen, often we just get on with things and sort them out in the moment and they don’t turn out to be as bad as we originally thought and we surprise ourselves with how well we deal with things. Who would have thought that a pandemic would sweep across the world and that I would find myself in over 1000 miles away from home watching a state of emergency for my location be declared on TV! How crazy?! But as with everybody else who was on placement at the same time as me, we got through it, took the advice we were given from the placements team and our tutors and just took everything step by step at the appropriate time. My course friends and I were already very close but dealing with this together made us even closer because we went above and beyond to support and help protect each other. We also were so lucky to get so much support from Aston to make sure we stayed safe which just confirms that you can be thousands of miles from campus but never forgotten.
There’s always someone to help!

Thank you for reading and good luck with your placements!

Gemma 🙂