Completing an international placement during the pandemic

Guest BloggerAdvice, International Placements, On Placement, Second Year

With these past few months being unexpected as ever, it can initially seem daunting when thinking about what to do when it comes to your placement year. Perhaps even more so when having to adapt to a new country and rules, but it is possible and can be a great experience nonetheless!

I received the anticipated call for my international placement offer in Switzerland around mid-March 2020 (of course jumping with joy!), just as the pandemic heightened and didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately, there is support available and if you’re about to commence or are considering a placement abroad, please continue reading for some tips that helped me navigate an eventful but incredibly rewarding year!

  • Having admin in order

Whether you will be studying or working abroad, your institution or company may already provide some guidance prior to your arrival, but it also helps to have a little list of your own to keep on top of! The government website for foreign travel advice was quite useful for me, as I simply entered my email and was alerted if there were any changes for travel.

  • Online banking

I can wholeheartedly say that online banking has been a saviour for me on placement!

Something I didn’t initially anticipate is that due to Covid-19 and general admin, there can be longer wait times for a bank account and card in your placement country. And when initially starting, there will always be potential costs that include travel, food, and accommodation deposits. As not all shops and services accept cash to limit contact, a great backup is an online banking account from the likes of Monzo, Revolut, or Starling Bank. All banks have great exchange rates, are easy to use in any country and very accessible. I would recommend applying online a couple of weeks before your placement commences to allow for card delivery (this can also be delivered to an address abroad!).

  • You’re not alone!

Something that helped me was realising that although it may sometimes seem like it, you are not alone! The On-Placement Support Team is available; you can call or email them, and it can help having someone from university to chat if anything does get overwhelming.

Another great way to keep in touch is via the Safezone app where the placements team can “check in” and support you in the best possible way. It may also be the case that there are other Aston students in the same country as you! This was a great support network for me personally, so do reach out to others or ask to be put in touch with students in a similar position to you.

  • Explore the outdoors

Working or studying virtually or in a hybrid setting means that being outdoors is something we can cherish. Make the most of the beautiful landscapes and fresh air in your placement country. I started off by taking walks in Geneva and exploring new places in my lunch breaks – a great way to refresh!

Perhaps consider investing in a railcard to travel beyond your placement city or even country- using the interrail card if in Europe.

  • Creating new memories!

Meeting new people and making friends across the world is a huge part of your placement experience! Although circumstances may be slightly different, there are plenty of ways to get involved and create lifelong memories in a Covid-safe way.

From joining a running group, discovering new coffee shops to learning a new language, there is always something new to do and meet interesting people in the process. A great way to start is via Facebook groups and apps such as Meetup, Internations and Bumble Bff.

All in all, the experiences you gain and skills you develop by leaving behind the comforts of home and navigating a different country and culture will be invaluable and highlighted for future employers. Personally, I was truly able to enhance my communication skills, having to speak French and conversing with colleagues in a professional setting – something I will continue to build on!

Completing a placement abroad is an incredible experience, so do get involved and enjoy every moment!

Written by Zafirah Nurmamodo