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      20.06.2003 19:02
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      I didn’t take a post-A Level Gap year, preferring instead to progress straight from school to university. However, I chose a course that insisted on my 3rd year being spent somewhere else. A lot of universities will tell you that you have to study, or that you have to work. That you have to stay in the UK or that you have to go abroad, but my course gave me 3 options – work placement in the UK, work placement abroad or studying at a university abroad. I suspected right from the start that I would be wanting to do the middle one, and I was right. I’m coming to the end of my year now, and as of September I will be back studying in Manchester. This is a reflection on the last 18 months or so, from when my year abroad plans first started to take shape. *<><><><><><><><>* We started talking about what we would do and where we would do it at the start of second year. I made it known that I fancied going abroad (meaning a German speaking country since this is my language of choice) and that I did not, under any circumstances, want to study. The reasons for this were 3 fold: firstly, my written German would not have been good enough for me to maintain reasonable grades. I never did A Level and at GCSE they care more about sentence structure than correct genders and case. My spoken German is fine, and I knew I would have no problems getting by, but I didn’t want to be in an environment where I had to write essays in a foreign language on a weekly basis. Secondly, I was fed up with being poor. I worked through my first two years of uni, but the pay went on things like rent and groceries. I wanted to start living properly, and for that I needed a salary. Lastly, I felt that working abroad would give me more of an insight into the way my degree is relevant to the “real world” – something I didn’t think would come from being a student here. So, it was settled. Now all I needed was a job. The head of my uni department went to a meeting and happened to bump into someone who is the head of the department here at work. He got a business card and passed it on to me as a lead to follow up. I promptly sent off my CV with a speculative email, and a few days later received a reply. They were interested. I was more than qualified. It looked like I was sorted. All they wanted was a few written references and a photo (standard practice for employment abroad). These were sent off in January, and a month or so later I had a contract to be an intern, working there for one year starting in September. I had not expected everything to go so well, or so quickly. I’d thought there would be numerous applications to be sent. Perhaps telephone interviews. Rejection letters. This was the only job I applied for, and when I was offered it, and saw the salary (which I mustn’t state here, but is way more than a student working in the UK would get), I had no problems in accepting. Seeing as I was based in the UK and Spain for the 6 months preceding the start of my employment, the company offered to help me find accommodation. This is the usual thing for all students coming from abroad, and makes life easier. Leaving my mother strict instructions on what I was after (somewhere cheap, with good transport links, and preferably fully furnished) I took off to the med for a summer of repping. I came back to find details of a great sounding flat I would be taking over for a year. I get paid an accommodation allowance here, and the flat costs just more than this, including all bills, cable TV and so on. It is also fully furnished. The set up is unusual – the girl whose flat it is is a student here, currently on placement in America for a year – but it’s worked out fine, and I’ve even met and partied with some of her friends who are spending this year here as usual. I flew out a few days before I started, and was met by a shut
      tle service, arranged by the company, who, well, shuttled me to the firm’s HQ. There I was met by one of my colleagues (my boss herself being on holiday at this point) who had the keys to my flat, and drove me there. After checking I’d be ok she left me to it, with instructions of what to do on Monday before coming in to work (sorting a work and residence permit, a tax card and a bank account). The first weekend passed quickly enough – I found the shops and bought everything I would need to get me through the first few months. I only spent about 100 Euros though – the flat was so well stocked that I needed little else. Monday morning was spent at the town hall begging them to give me my permits. Forget the whole “Eu-ers can live anywhere without problems” thingumie – I was fighting for my rights alongside a bunch of other nationals, many of whom had just as much success, and in less time. Legal alien status sorted, I was off to the bank where I, literally, batted my eyelashes and obtained a fee free student account even though officially I wasn’t eligible. All this done, I was off to work. From a one year contract, I spent less than 11 months in the office, due to a combination of a generous number of days annual leave (30, even for interns) and a ludicrous amount of public holidays. First things to get used to – here these very rarely fall on a Monday, the usual choice being a Thursday. The work was fine and, most importantly, I could do it. Not only that, I understood why we were doing what we were doing. I was onto a winner. My colleagues were fun and wonderfully international. I think out whole department has only 5 real live Germans. In my small office, we had two French types and an American. Even more surprising, 3 other members of out team are graduates from not only the same university as I soon will be, but also the same course. Old Language Engineering students never die, they just e
      nd up here. One, a girl who left only a few years ago, and who I’d already heard about from a mutual friend, invited me out that night, and my social life was up and running. A fortnight later, though no fault of my own, I somehow ended up at a beer fest with a group containing another opinion writer. It’s a long story involving a sister of mine, a primary school 20 years ago, friends of friends and various other factors I’ve yet to work out, but it just goes to show – those Ciaoers and Dooyooers really do get everywhere. Germany was not a new country to me: I’d been here many, many times before, and we had family friends spread throughout the land. I’d worked here 4 years before, and knew about day to day life here, so the main transition period for me involved starting a new job with a new firm, rather than, y’know, packing up and moving abroad. I’m lucky in that I’ve done this lots of times before, often to countries where I don’t speak the language, so this was a piece of cake. It wasn’t so much as case of learning things, as getting used to them again. The weather, for example. The summers might be scorching hot, but the biting cold winters make you grateful for having grown up in tepid, if a little wet, Britain. Not being old enough to rent, or rich enough to buy a car, I was dependant on public transport. German trains don’t really suck – I was just in a bit of a mood the day I wrote the Savlon op with the same name – but they are far from perfect. Shops shutting from 4pm Saturday until 9am on Monday was a pain (though this is now a thing of the past, since a new ruling allows them to open until 8 on Saturdays now). Having to sort out health care was new to me. I had an E128 (long term version of an E111) but this alone was not enough to ensure I’d get treatment if I suddenly collapsed unconscious. Instead I had to find my local branch of A-OK (one of t
      he health firms), find out when it was open (answer: very rarely) and get them to sort me out. They kindly took my form off me and organized for a plastic “look at me I’m insured” card to wing its way to me a few days later. The service was so quick that I was willing to overlook the fact that they’d assumed I couldn’t spell my own name – “oe” here is sometimes used for “ö”, and they decided to ignore the fact that I’d said I was called “Zoë”, deciding instead that I had obviously meant “Zö”. The new things I did have to learn mainly came from experiences that could happen anywhere, and were affecting me now as someone living completely on their own for the first time. What to do if you manage to lose all electricity 2 hours into a long (and unusual!) bank holiday weekend. How to mend broken washing machines without getting so near that you toes get soggy in the ever increasing puddle that’s appearing beneath it. The answer to those “You’re British so you must be a Bush and Blair fan, huh?” questions. The “Don’t mention the war” comment has been taken to a whole new level now thanks to the circumstances in Iraq. Heidelberg has a very large American Army base, and the very large American population that goes along with it. Germany is full of Germans who, while maybe disliking Schröder, prefer his stance on the matter to that of their English-speaking counterparts. Living here for these last few months has been an experience to say the least. Despite the obvious language and, to some extent, lifestyle differences, life in Germany is not as far removed from the UK as you might imagine, and the things I get up to here mirror those I would at home in a lot of respects. I get up, and come to work. We mess around in the office, do some work, mess around a bit more, and leave. I go to the gym, chat to the others there, and do
      a workout. I go home, cook some tea and either watch TV or read. At weekends I go shopping. If I want a book, I can go to the library. If I’m after culture, I can head for a museum. There are some differences – I start work at 7.15am every day, last week I left work at 4pm and went swimming for 4 hours in the open air pool complex across the road, something I cannot imagine doing given the UK climate – but these just add to the experience. The best thing about the job is the money, or rather the opportunities it allows. In recent months I’ve been to Italy and France several times, not to mention the weekend in Luxembourg and trips within Germany. I haven’t felt the need to increase my UK stay quota (5 days since last June) as yet, though the lure of presents is dragging me back for a whopping 40 hours in a few weeks. After that I’ve a week in Poland, followed by another in the Balearics. The only downside to being abroad is that you’re well away from your usual friends. Though I have many new ones here, those from uni and school are currently spread out throughout the UK and Europe / the US, so getting them together for a party wouldn’t be too practical. Luckily my birthday’s in August, so I can flit off to Ibiza to do some turning 21 at the time, and celebrate again in September when term restarts. The year hasn’t all been plain sailing, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. I cannot put into words how glad I am that this worked out, and how much I feel I’ve gained from the whole experience. It’s been an amazing 10 months and, of course, will look splendid on my CV when the graduate job search starts in, oh, about 12 weeks. School is supposed to be the best years of your life, but I despised most of my time there. If enough people took the opportunity to do placements abroad, though, this experience could soon be a rival for the saying. Don’t worry about th
      e language skills – if you’ve studied anything at uni you’ll be fine. I spent my first summer working abroad aged 16 with a little more than a GCSE to my name, and survived. If you come at it with an open mind and a willingness to try new things, I guarantee that, with a little effort, you will have an awesome time.

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        14.03.2002 21:11
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        Only 3 months, 25 days, 6 hours and 22 minutes left before I complete my sandwich placement….. Ooops….Sorry, I didn’t mean to put you off already!!!! No, seriously it hasn’t been that bad! Its just got to the stage of my placement where I have had enough of the early morning starts and practically-non-existent social life and frankly can not wait to go back in to my wonderful world of uni (excluding the 10,000+ word dissertation that awaits!) But having said that, I have no regrets about doing this placement. With the increasingly competitive job marketplace, I feel it can only benefit you to have some kind of work experience in your chosen field. I am studying for a Computer Information Systems degree and finding a job in the IT and Telecomms sector is extremely competitive. So I think it is a great opportunity to be able to put into practice some of the things that I have learned at university. Applying my knowledge and skills to the 'real world' really puts it all into context. As you all probably know, there are several forms of work experience, from an informally arranged fortnight at a small business to a year-long "industrial" or "sandwich" placement as part of a degree course with a multinational corporation. You could also do ongoing part-time work experience while studying, voluntary work or even take up work experience in the holidays. In my opinion, any kind of ‘work experience’ will be of benefit to you in the long run. Recently I have been looking with great interest at the graduate job vacancies advertised and on many of them I notice that they require a minimum of 1 years experience for most graduate positions…This puzzles me as it means to some extent that unless you have not done a year-long industrial placement then you are not eligible for that job position. But many people would not have done one unless it is a compul
        sory part of their course. Now I will go through the advantages and disadvantages of doing a work placement… ******************************* Advantages of doing a placement ******************************* • They give you crucial insight into the working world and this in turn will increase your self-confidence when you apply for a permanent post in the future. • They can be extremely valuable learning experiences where you can learn valuable skills, that may be specific to your field or transferable to any area. * If you work hard and create a good impression on your employer, it is more than likely that they will offer you permanent employment for when you finish your studies. • You will also be able to talk of your experience in future job interviews to provide examples of your skills and proof of your enthusiasm for developing your career. • The process of seeking a placement will give you valuable experience in applying for jobs and sitting interviews. • Having experience of the work environment behind you is more likely to give you the leading edge over other graduates. • It will also encourage you to start giving thought to your career aspirations after you graduate. • MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!!!!!! You are more than likely to be earning a reasonable sum of money during your placement. The salary depends on your employer and on your contract but nevertheless, you will still be earning extra money which can help you, for example, pay off your student loan. ********************************** Disadvantages of doing a placement ********************************** * Early morning starts!!!! NO, you can’t stroll in whatever time you like (its not uni!) and YES, you have to go in at least 5 days a week! However, having said that, many companies have adopted the flexi-time approach where yo
        u can come in to work and leave anytime you want providing you have worked your standard hours. * Although I have not yet experienced this myself, I am told from people who have done placements in the past that it is quite hard to make that transition back into ‘study mode’ after working. (I'll let you know what its like when i go back) * Earning some ‘real’ money is a great feeling but BE CAREFUL!!!! It’s easy to get carried away and go on mad spending sprees…but it’s not a good idea to get into debt before your final year of uni. * Finding a placement can be a gruelling process, but don’t give up!!! Be patient and apply anywhere and everywhere you can think of! If you have a placement officer at your university, then I would recommend that you make yourself known to them as they are a very valuable source of help!!!! *************************** Conclusion *************************** The reason why I am doing the year-long industrial placement is because it is a compulsory part of my Computer Information Systems degree course. However, even if a placement is not a compulsory part of your course, I would strongly recommend doing one. Doing this placement has really helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses in my subject area and it has helped me to focus on what I want to do after graduating. I have experienced working life and in a way I feel it has prepared me for when I eventually leave full-time education. It has also helped me to develop my communication skills and I feel more confident now. Having money in the bank has also been one of the highlights of my placement! I did not have to delve in to my student loan this year, and I was able to buy myself a new car with the money I had saved up from my placement. So as you can see, there are plenty advantages of doing a work placement and I would strongly recommend it to
        anyone with the opportunity. Even gaining some work experience during the holidays will be beneficial to you in the future. A point I failed to make was that if it had not been for my industrial placement year…I may not have discovered the wonderful world of Dooyoo (Shock, horror!)… And if I had not discovered Dooyoo then you would not be reading such a wonderful opinion right now…! Anyway folks…I have work to do. Take care!

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          01.02.2002 15:43

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          Worth it really - Advantages: Money, Freedom, Great CV booster - Disadvantages: You do have to actually work, Can be placed away from all your friends in a totally new environment

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          17.01.2002 20:46
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          So here I am in the middle of my Sandwich, Industrial Placement (or what ever else it is called!) year. I think that I can now give a little insight into the benefits of doing this, as there are many! First of all I will try and explain what it actually is and how they apply to University course, I say hopefully! ** What is a Placement Year? ** In its basic form a Placement Year is a gap from University that is taken in your third year, between your second and fourth years, believe it or not! They offer you the opportunity to apply the skills that you have learnt while at University in a work-based environment. This, to many students, may sound like hard work! Well it is and it isn't, which I will explain a little further on in this essay thingy that you are reading! This is a good opportunity for you to get some experience, which is invaluable when you try to get a job after University, as a lot of firm value experience as highly if not more so than a degree! You might have got a first class degree, but be completely useless in the work place, well let's hope not but you never know! Not all courses offer you the chance to do a Placement Year, in fact there are usually a number of different course one in which you do take a Year in Industry and one where you don't. At the University that I am going to, which shall remain nameless, the course that I am on... cough, splutter... Computer Science... a Placement Year is compulsory. ** How to get a Job? ** At the University that I went to this was made a lot easier by my Department as they had an "Placement Officer" who would contact companies or make the University known that their students were going on placement years. All this hard work by the Placement Officer, paid off in that there were a lot of jobs available for you to apply for through him! This is a very useful service and I should think that all Universities do this, however I don't
          actually know if they do? Other things that were also arranged by the University were company visits to the University to give a quick lecture to potential students about the company. These were conveniently placed by our Placement Officer at a time when we had lectures, well done on his part, but I am sure they would have been useful! The other way to get a job is to apply direct to the place that you want to work. I know several people who have done this and they are perfectly happy, but there is always a risk with this that you might not end up doing what you wanted! Having applied for the job that you want you then have to go to interviews! Arrggghhh, the dreaded interview! If you are like me and you despise interviews, you might have to go on a few! This in the end is all good practice for you, as in the end when you finish University you will have to go on more interviews anyway! ** What to Expect ** This I can only tell you from my experience of my Placement Year, which I have to say has been really good. I am sure that other people could give you horror stories of placements gone wrong where they don't actually get to do anything! I can't tell you about that, I can tell you about a job where the work I was doing was important to the company, and was what I wanted to be doing? yay! It took me a few interviews to finally get the job that I would be doing in my Placement Year. The company where I ended up wasn't my first choice, but basically my only option as it was the only job that I was offered! The interview for this job was more like a chat, there was a little talk about the work that would be done then the person interviewing me started to talk about aeroplanes! I'm sure the interview was the gauge what you were like as a person and not how "good" I was, which was good as I am better at this sort of interview. My first day was quite amusing, some people knew th
          at I, and the other Placement Student were starting, but unfortunately they were out of the office, so we turned up out of the blue, as it were! My first month was basically spent learning the skills, programming languages that I would be using etc... I then went on holiday for a month, they were nice enough to give me the time off to go on a holiday that I had, had book for ages to Canada (which by the way was fantastic, please read my opinion on Canada for more information!). Any way having had about enough as I could of reading, doing examples etc? I finally got some work. This started off with small things to see how I would cope with them and then they gradually got to bigger tasks until I was given projects to do. Any help that I needed was always available from someone in the office as everyone working there were really nice and would always lend a hand if I were stuck with something. Other things that you may have the pleasure of doing are department outing, whether at the company Christmas party, department Christmas party or a department outing to play paintball. I suppose I have been very fortunate in that I was able to take part in all of these activities and have them all paid for! The paintball was great as we basically had unlimited "paint balls" so we could be as trigger happy as we liked, much to the annoyance of the other teams, tee hee! The Christmas parties were also a lot of fun, especially with the free alcohol, of which I drank far too much! But come on I am a student, what student would pass at a free drink if they were given the opportunity? ** What have I gained? ** I have actually gained a lot from my Placement Year, form working with people in an office environment, which takes some getting used to if you are not familiar with it. I now have a clearer idea of the sort of things that I will be doing when I eventually get a job after finishing University. I have gained a lot of programming experienc
          e, which basically is what I wanted to get out of this year. What I have learnt this year I will be able to apply to the project that I have to do in my final year at University, I may even get a project out of the company (which would be a great relief to me as I wouldn't have to think one up!). ** My Thoughts ** This have so far been a great year and I have learnt a lot, I have managed to get out of my overdraft and save up some money for next year. The money alone makes this placement year worth it, if you are careful you can work away a fair bit of your debt! The year will also give you a better chance of doing a better final year project/dissertation or what ever it is, other course have to do? I would recommend that if you get the chance to do a Placement Year that you take up the opportunity to do so, they are well worth it!

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            04.12.2001 21:30
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            I spent a almost a year working as a teaching assistant in Hanover, from September 1996 to July 1997, and while I was ready to come back home by the end of my time there, it really was one of the most rewarding and challenging parts of my education, and I suppose my life in general. I’ll admit it straight up, I did not want to go abroad for a year – my German was not up to scratch, I was nervous about moving to a foreign land and leaving my friends and family behind, and I’d got into some difficulties at university in my second year which meant that I was not even sure of being accepted on the placement year scheme. Not the most auspicious way to approach a year abroad, really, but as anyone who knows me will testify, it was (and probably still is!) fairly typical behaviour. We had to choose between taking a year abroad as a teacher and going to a German university as a student on the Erasmus scheme, and I decided to go for the teaching option – to be honest, it seemed the easier of two, and there was also a paycheque coming in every month for those who chose to be teachers, while students had to fend for themselves. We just had to write one extended essay in German on a subject of our own choosing, which didn’t count towards our final degree grade but was compulsory nonetheless – if the university didn’t mark at least one piece of work from each student in the academic year, they were not entitled to receive tuition fees from the government. The application itself seemed to be fairly painless, there was the usual ream of paperwork to be completed, signed and sealed, but I got posted to Hanover as I had requested (as my grandparents lived there for a while), and come the start of September, I found myself on the Eurostar at Waterloo with one suitcase, very nervy, and about to say goodbye to my parents and join a whole host of other students from Scottish universities on the journey into the unknown. A long
            day’s travel by train and coach finally brought us all to a monastery at Altenberg, a small place outside Cologne, which was where the introductory course was held. Here we were divided into groups, with people who were due to be posted to the same area sharing rooms and getting to know each other, something that we were all very glad of, for although there were other people from your own university there, no-one really knew quite where they were going to end up and it was certainly handy to get a few phone numbers and be certain of some English-speaking company at some point in the future. The course itself was fairly rudimentary – there was some teaching practice and ideas for lesson plans and so on, as well as basic information about living in Germany, registering your presence and getting a residence permit, health checks (anyone working with children has to have a certificate from a German doctor saying that they are free of TB and other such diseases) and help on applying for student travelcards as German paperwork can be a bit daunting for the uninitiated. From what friends have told me, much of the information provided at the Altenberg course did come in handy, but I wouldn’t know really, as the school I was sent to displayed an amazing lack of interest in making use of an English native speaker to help out in classes. Only 3 of the teachers in the English department were at all enthusiastic, so the hours I worked were very restricted, often slipping down to 4 or 5 classes a week – the rest of my time was spent chatting to other teachers in the staff room and drinking coffee, or trying to get my extended essay written. In the privacy of the staff room, German was the only language to be spoken, while I was always told to speak English in the classroom, as the pupils would never ask me anything in English if they thought I could speak their language. I did most of my actual classroom work with the Ab
            itur (A Level) classes, which involved helping them to understand Shakespearean English, and plenty of conversation work – the teacher would split the class and I would take half of the pupils to another room and just get them to talk, the subject not being as important as the fact that they were speaking English. I also spent some time with younger pupils from Class 7 (aged 11-12), and these were easily the most enthusiastic ones – I managed to teach them the basics of cricket, and they seemed to enjoy it! The most difficult hours to prepare for were the occasions when I taught some Russian children on a one-to-one basis, as their German was poor and their English worse (while my Russian is non-existent!), making it very difficult to explain any grammar problems. Thinking about it, grammar is the one point where teaching assistants are often caught out – English is the mother tongue, you don’t learn rules as such (and in any case English seems to have more exceptions than rules, which is why it can be so difficult to learn), and so when pupils asked me why I had picked them up on a certain mistake, or why I thought something was wrong, I could sometimes only reply that ‘It just is!’... which made for a couple of embarrassing moments, as the class teacher would then step in with a perfect grammatical explanation! Although you are not supposed to get involved in marking pupils’ work, I was often bribed with beer and food by a couple of teachers to cast an eye over submitted work! This was a welcome diversion from classroom work, and an interesting insight into the amount of work teachers have left over when they leave the school grounds, as quite often we would sit for hours at a time marking work – and this is just one of the aspects of teaching that convinced me I was not cut out for a life in front of the blackboard. However, while the work in my year was not as fulfilling as it might have
            been, the social side of life was excellent – I got to know some of the Abitur students pretty well, going out at weekends and going to watch Hanover 96 in the Regionalliga Nord (as they were then), and I played in the staff 5-a-side team in various tournaments around Hanover and Lower Saxony. Living in a city the size of Hanover was also an advantage, as it meant there were other students there doing the same as me, all of whom were just a tram ride away – so if you were at a loose end, or at the end of your tether, there was always someone to talk to, over a beer of course. Having so few working hours in the week also meant that I was able to shuffle my teaching time around to give me extended weekends for travelling, to visit friends in other parts of Germany, or just to see new places. In my year abroad, I managed to get to Hamburg, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Prague (as well as some of the less salubrious parts of the former East Germany), and I feel that this is certainly one of the best things about living abroad – you are already on the Continent, you’ve got plenty of free time and you can always get cheap tickets and cheap accommodation, so it would be positively rude not to take advantage of that! All in all, my year in Hanover must have been fun because 2 years later, I came back out to Germany to work here full-time as a translator. When I started work in Walldorf in 1999, I was convinced that I would only stay for 18 months, but that was a long time ago – I’ve settled right back into the German way of life and it looks like I’ll be staying here for the foreseeable future. Without having spent that year teaching and living in Hanover, I doubt very much that I would have moved out here later on – my German improved immeasurably, simply due to speaking it on a daily basis and absorbing the language from newspapers and TV, and it did my confidence the power of good, as I had no-one else to help m
            e out. A few people do have bad experiences, but that is something that cannot be avoided, and the vast majority of students thoroughly enjoy the placement year. It’s daunting, and most people are wary of moving abroad for a year, but it’s an experience I would recommend without reservation.

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              30.11.2001 15:52
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              When I first started university, the thought of spending a year abroad, away from my home, friends and family, was pretty scary. It was bad enough having to leave home in Leeds to study in Liverpool, I didn’t want to have to go any further away than that. Which was more than slightly worrying as I had just started a four year German with Dutch degree – part of which was a compulsory year spent living in Germany. Oh dear… But, as it turned out, my year abroad was one of the best times of my life and now (two years after finishing my course) I am back in Germany, working here full time. I wouldn’t quite elevate my year abroad to the status of “life-changing experience”, but it was a great time and something I would have been very sorry to miss out on. At Liverpool University, students studying German have two main choices concerning their year abroad. They can either spend the year studying at a German University or apply for a position as a teaching assistant in a German school (some students ended up in Austria as well, but most of us went to Germany). Students studying a second language (French or Spanish) were expected to spend some time in countries speaking those languages. As a result, they only really had the option of studying at a German university for a term because assistants had to be able to work for the whole of the school year. Although I was also studying Dutch I was not required to spend an extended period of time in the Netherlands – I just had to promise to go there now and then and practise speaking the lingo. Once I had reconciled myself to the fact that I actually did have to go to Germany for a year, there was only ever one thing I wanted to do – be an assistant. This was for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I needed the money. It might sound a bit mercenary, but after spending two years as a student my funds were running a little low and the German government pays decen
              t rates of pay for assistants. I think I ended up with about GBP 100 per week for 10-15 hours work. As a student in Germany I would have been no better off than I was back home. Secondly, I wanted to do something different. My whole life had been spent at school or university and now I had the chance to work for a year, something that would be good for my own personal development and would also add a bit of variety to my CV. The application process was painless enough – the university provided those of us interested in teaching positions with application forms before the Christmas vacation in our second year. We filled the forms in and handed them back to the university. The forms mostly asked why we thought we would be good assistants, what our motivation was and what area of Germany we would prefer to be in. I know a lot of people who ended up nowhere near where they applied to be, but I made a point of wanting to be near the Dutch border and got my wish. We found out whether we had been accepted by Easter of the year we were going abroad in and could make contact with our schools before we left England. I found out I had been accepted, and was assigned to a school in Essen in the Ruhrgebiet in North-West Germany. By a stroke of luck, a friend of mine was assigned to a school in the same city, so at least I knew I was not going to be alone for a year. The school was very helpful and sorted out my living arrangements for me by the time I arrived in Germany. I spent the year living with a German family and was treated like one of their own children. The arrangement was great as it meant I was able to practise speaking German a lot more than if I lived by myself. One thing to bear in mind as an assistant is that you spend all your time teaching and speaking English in the school – if you want to speak German you have to make German friends or join clubs. I arrived in Germany in mid-August, about two weeks before school was due t
              o start. Before being allowed loose on the pupils all the teaching assistants had to go to a conference centre called Altenberg near Cologne where we were given a short course on how to teach and were told what was expected of us. This course was quite basic, but it did give a good overview of how we were expected to structure a lesson and gave us a chance to practise standing in front of a group and teaching mock lessons. After that, it was back to Essen and my first day at school. On the first day, I met the teachers I would be working with over the year and drew up a timetable of when I would be able to lend them a hand in lessons or take over and teach on my own. I ended up spending most of my time with the older pupils (16-19 year olds) who were preparing for their equivalent of A-Level exams. Some of my time was also spent teaching the younger pupils (11-16) but their conversation skills were not as advanced and the teachers preferred to concentrate on grammar with them. I was quite shocked to discover just how little English grammar I actually know. Comments from the teacher such as “Adam, can you explain to the class how the gerund is formed in English” would regularly reduce me to a spluttering fool and I often had to admit that we just are not taught that sort of thing in England. With German grammar I am a whiz, but the grammar of my own language is a bit of a grey area. For the first few weeks I mostly just sat in on lessons and listened to what was going on in an attempt to gauge the level of English in each group. This was when I received a second shock – the pupils were very good English speakers, better than many of the English people on my German degree course were at speaking German. I was in a “Gymnasium” or grammar school, so my pupils were expected to do well, but I was still surprised. Luckily, this made my time at the school much easier as I could concentrate on speaking with the pupils and impr
              oving their language skills rather than trying to teach them the basics of English and grammar. When I started to teach by myself I usually taught half a class (or 10-15) pupils at a time for a 45 minute lesson. The teacher and I split the class in half, took each half to a different room and then swapped pupils after 45 minutes and simply repeated what we had just taught. As I already said, I concentrated on teaching spoken English and our lessons were often discussions or role plays. Sometimes I would take in music or television programmes and we would listen to or watch these and then talk about them. On very lazy days or when time ran out at the end of a lesson I would write a jumble of letters on the blackboard and entertain the class with a game of “Countdown”, or we played “Hangman”. The first few lessons I taught were a bit nerve-wracking, but once I got into the swing of things I found I enjoyed what I was doing. My dulcet Yorkshire tones did leave the pupils slightly bemused when I first started at the school and I had to remember to speak as near to standard as I could, but over time they grew to understand me and the teachers encouraged me to teach as much regional English as I wanted. They said their pupils who had visited England always complained that they couldn’t understand the English people they heard, apart from on the news or when the Queen spoke. They only ever learn standard English at school, but how many people do you know who speak 100 percent pure standard English? In one memorable lesson I played the class excerpts of “EastEnders”, “Emmerdale Farm”, “Brookside” and “Coronation Street” – it took a lot of effort on my part to convince the pupils this actually was English being spoken, not some entirely different language! Lesson preparation was not as hard as I imagined it would be. I was strict with myself and kept a diary of ever
              ything I taught, as well as setting aside an hour or so a day to plan my upcoming lessons. For the most part I was free to teach whatever I liked, although sometimes the teachers asked me to cover topics they were currently teaching. We received an information pack on the training course at the beginning of the year that gave me many ideas and Essen public library was also a good source of teaching material. Of course, teaching was only a small part of the year. With the money I earned I was able to travel around Germany just about every weekend. I had friends from my university course scattered around the country who I could visit and stay with and when I was feeling more adventurous I headed further afield. During the year I went to Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Dresden, Prague, Paris, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Luxemburg… and many more. The year abroad was worth it just for the chance to travel around. I suppose I should also point out that some of the people from my degree courses did not quite have so good a year. Those put in rougher schools tended to have class control problems, some students ended up stuck in the middle of nowhere and I know of at least one assistant whose life was made a misery by being told by a German (!) teacher that their English was not good enough to teach his pupils. I suppose that’s Germans for you though – they may be picky and unnecessarily petty at time, but they’re lovely really. Needless to say the culture shock is also something you may take a while coming to terms with. When I came back from my year in Germany, the friends I had lived with in my second year who had studied Law and Economics had already graduated. While I had been travelling around Europe they had been cramming for their finals and were now working while I had a year of studentdom left. All in all, I whole-heartedly recommend taking a year out from university and being a teaching assistant. This post is not
              just open to language students, anyone can apply. Although some knowledge of German is useful in your day-to-day life, in the school you will probably be expected only to speak English – I was actually told by the teachers to pretend I could not speak German as it would encourage the pupils to work harder (and it also meant I could understand what they were saying when they spoke German and thought I couldn’t!). I’m now working in Germany full time. After finishing at Liverpool, I did a MA in Translation for a year and then found a job in Germany. If I hadn’t already spent a year here as a student I know that I would never have had the courage to come and work in a foreign country. In that way, the year out certainly made me more confident and widened my horizons. I think it is definitely something everyone should do.

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                20.10.2001 09:13
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                Foreign placements are the best type to take if you have the opportunity as I did. Here's my opinion on things to think about when going abroad. Well first up would be making the decision to do a placement year. In my case the decision was already made when I applied for the course. The course was a business and German sandwich course at Sheffield Hallam Uni . The filling of the sandwich being the year work placement and a six month stint studying at a university. This as you might guess was spent in Germany., six months in Dresden (the uni part) and 11 months in Wolfsburg (the work part). One of my friends has just gone on her work placement abroad and I was giving her some tips on living away from the UK. My tips were: I have no tips, living abroad is different for everybody and part of the fun of it is working it all out for yourself when you get there. By the time you’re ready to go I’m assuming you’re already a pretty level headed person with a good idea of personal safety and personal hygiene although depending on where you end up in the world, that is not always a prerequisite of living abroad. I ended up in smelly Dresden for example. Yes so work it all out for yourself. Find out where to go and where not to, what to do and what not to but find out by first doing and going to them places. Listening to someone raving on about which clubs you should go to and then taking their advice will limit yourself. You might like what they don’t, etc, etc, yarn yarn yarn. You’ll have more fun and have more stories to tell when you do stuff that wasn’t all that great. Everyone knows that the best holiday stories are founded when you end up in a dive of a hotel with cockroaches climbing the walls. The food in the hotel restaurant stinks and the guests are wild. People wanting perfect holidays might as well find fun in the local OAP home. Nothing happens, no freaky events take place and no one want
                s to know where you went and what you got up to. I can be one of those spur of the moment people that make no plans who just get up and do things without thinking. I once went to a Fasching Carnival in Cologne when I was on my placement year. I decided to dress up in a boiler suite with a radioactive sign pasted on the back, a union jack on the front and a huge jester hat and face make up (beard, mustache). I stayed up partying in this crazy outfit all night and then jumped on a train at 7am in the morning to go home. The journey was to last 5 hours but after 20 minutes I had fallen into a deep sleep and slept walked off the train at a tiny station in the middle of nowhere. I awoke in –5 degree frozen air and thought I was home. The stations in Germany all look identical! I wandered sleepfully off the station and realised when I smelt a whiff of horse in the air that I was in the minute farming village of Neu Beckum. I realised my mistake and tried to figure out how to get home. I didn’t know which train to get because I didn’t recognise any of the place names in the nearby vicinity. I ended up walking through the lonely streets to find a phone box from where I phoned England and woke up my mum, dad and brother (it was 6.30am in England! They got the German map out and directed me in the right direction. I had to make a few changes though and I got some really funny looks as I walked around train stations in the early morning with a clinging sense of alcohol abuse ringing round my brain. It was a very strange but enjoyable experience of how not to travel on trains when on your placement year. I ended up getting home just after the others who were on the correct train arrived back. There were plenty of parties on my year out and little studying. I was very fortunate. When it comes to work my advise would be to act serious but don’t take it seriously. There’s no point. Whatever you do will look good on your CV whet
                her you’re actually good at it or not. It’s not like getting a reference at the end of the placement. You more or less make the reference up yourself. When you go for job interviews in the future most firms will not be bothered about who gave you what reference in whatever country. They will more likely be thinking, ‘wow this guy lived abroad and can yarn in a foreign tongue, he must be worth employing’. So just go abroad or wherever you go on your placement year and have a right old laugh. Don’t take any of it too serously.

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                  06.07.2001 06:30
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                  I have just completed an Industrial placement year on a Web Team. I found the job via my job office at Uni. The staff there were helpful. I wanted this dream more than words could say as did about 40 of my fellow students. I was proud as punch when I was told the job was mine. My cool web site, informative CV, smart set of clothes, clear voice and confidence landed me the job! To get the job you would like I urge the following: 1) Set up your own web site - include your interests, ambitions and course related mini projects - IE A gallery of .gif images if appling for a web designer post. 2) Brush up your CV including you URLS 3) Dig out the NRA and update it 4) Invest in a good smart suit for interviews 5) Do research on the company. They will be impressed by your knowledge, don't overdo it mind. 6) Ooze confidence, employers pick up on this. Ensure a firm solid handshake - this reflects a strong, positive you. Do not confuse this with being arrogant. During my year I learnt the ins and outs of the working World. This World was one I had become a part of for the first time ever. My daily routine of early starts, getting spruced up, commuting for an hour on the bus became my life for a year. I got use to it pretty soon and actually loved having this routine. My office was a medium sized one with a relaxed atmosphere, friendly funny colleagues and casual attire. We socialised during lunchtimes and on special occasions. The work itself was interesting. Being the student I was allotted work everyday which was fun and creative. I also spent half my day experimenting with software like PhotoShop and picking my colleagues brains. I had full access to email and the net. I went on several training courses. Learnt a lot of new skills and have got the certificates neatly tucked away. These skills show up brilliantly on the ole CV also. The pay was great. Which
                  meant I could afford CDS, clothes and eating out. For the first time I could really spoil myself, and save at the same time. I have saved enough money to see myself through to the final year. Make sure you save money, and have a good time! It is feasible. For example I bought a turntable, hundreds of CDS, shopped at Marks n Sparks food store, fab gifts for family and friends, went clubbing, the works. I also ensured I had savings and economised wherever and however I could. EG buying a 6 saver book of bus tickets to save 30p. It all adds up. This year spelt 'Time out' No studying whatsoever, fab stuff. I spent my weekends exploring different parts of London; the shops, eating joints and taking long long walks. Every weekend I would do this. Something no student would have no time & money to do so otherwise. Time out for others could mean going abroad, taking driving lessons or learning to play the electric guitar! I made some good friends here. I keep in touch with them by email and text. I met people from all walks of life here, especially with it being Cosmopolitan London. I learnt more about peoples' cultures, dress codes and language. One of my colleagues has recently moved to Leicester Square, and has invited me for the weekend when she has settled in! Depending on your colleagues and yourself you really can make good friends with one another. I feel I have transformed into a responsible adult as opposed to a student from layabout land. Daily routines were very adult, something most students cannot relate to. At work - being in the office around older people transformed me into a smarter, sophisticated, more alert person. For the first time in my life I felt like a citizen. If I had had my year again I would have gone about certain things differently. Like learning even more packages at work, spending less time emailing, and kept a diary of what work I did each day. Out of work I would have taken driving less
                  ons, learned to play the guitar and to have seen even more of London. Make the most of your placement year in ALL respects

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                    25.06.2001 05:08
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                    Firstly I should say I did a degree in maths and computing at the University of Surrey. My placement year was in london at the department of social security. I was based in the Computing department known as ASD Computing, whose main role was to offer internal IT functions for the Analytical Services Division. The section also provided ASD statisticians and economists with large volumes of data and analysis. In ASD computing there were two teams; the Network team whose job was to support the building and maintenance of the PC’s in the building and the development team, which is the team, I was based in. We concentrated on developing software and techniques using SAS (a Statistical Analysis Package), C and also supporting UNIX servers. It was great fun and a year spent doing stuff that had some bearing on my course. I worked on many different projects ranging from a couple of hours to months and had to be responsible for many issues. They also treated me like a full employee which although difficult at first was very rewarding. I found at the end of the year that I had learned a wide scope of computing knowledge. The general experience of working in an office environment was very useful for me and taught me effective ways of dealing with people and getting on with work effectively and efficiently. Going to meetings was also good experience because it gives you the opportunity to converse your opinions and take note of what others are saying. Discussing ideas and objectives with customers and group staff was also very useful to solving problems and realising objectives. In between progress meetings I was left mainly to work on my own, mostly unsupervised, thus I needed to use initiative to find intuitive ways to make the agreed enhancements. Personally I found that this was a good way for me to learn a number of things and take the initiative. I'd recommend doing a place
                    ment year to anyone as not only does it give you the experience but also helps the finances a lot. When looking for jobs recently employers have certainly raised eyebrows when I've mentioned the placement year. Make sure you half enjoy what you're doing though as I'd imagine it would be a drag otherwise.

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                      24.04.2001 19:42

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                      My placement was slightly unusual in that I was in North Africa. So not only did I have to content with the usual problems of a placement, I also had language and cultural difficulties too. In retrospect I would strongly recommend anyone considering a placement to do one. They look good on the CV at job hunting time, you gain loads of experience and confidence and after seeing some of your co-workers, you start to realise what it is that you DON'T want to be doing with the next 40 years! What's the downside? Money. Big problem. You can end up in debt after this - so think carefully beforehand or budget wisely when you are there. There are hidden costs such as clothes. You can't wear jeans and an old smelly jumper - so you go out and buy your suit or smart kit. Travel home can add up too. Also, don't think you will be the boss's right hand man or woman. You won't be. You are there for them to get something out of you (maybe new innovations or new concepts in academia) and for you to say, 'I worked at so and so' on your CV. You can get homesick too. Even if you are only at the other end of the country! This will feel worse when you think you aren't being trusted with anything important, your boss seems to have a problem with you and your collegues won't talk to you! Alot of this can be in your head because you don't feel at ease in the new job. It is natural to feel a bit of a fraud when you are on placement. 'Why did they pick me?' 'They might find out I can't do maths/english/management as well as they thought I could.' But remember - THEY PICKED YOU. So there is something there that they want...have faith in yourself! But it can be a good relationship. You have nothing to lose so push yourself. Be forward, suggest new things, be heard. What's the worst that can happen - you make an idiot of yourself? So what - you can leave soon! But....it just might be that you spark s
                      omeone's interest in you for an up coming job. A few tips though: 1. Always be professional - sounds dumb I know - but don't get into the gossip mongers chats too heavily. They are always looking to see where you lie on an issue and you may damage your own credibility in the process. 2. But do be nice! Chat to people, ask them questions, integrate yourself. Make them miss you when you're gone! 3. Neat and tidy - this goes for the blokes and the girls. Keep the piercings and tatoos for another day. Cover them up if you have to - this isn't uni - they won't be expecting it (unless you work in an ultra trendy place!). Clean shoes, no chipped nail polish and IRON YOUR CLOTHES!!! Yes I know it sounds like your mum talking. But do it. Look the part even it they don't currently see you as Mr or Ms Executive. 4. Enjoy it! This is for some people the first real experience out in the work place they will have had. Learn from it, see what you like and don't like but overall get excited about it. It can be very rewarding...I worked in an Arabic speaking country, with some bad French and felt homesick often. I had an awful boss and my temporary home got broken into twice! But I am glad I did it. I have learned how to deal with senior ambassadors at an official drinks 'do'. I can speak some Arabic - enough to make the other person feel at ease. I can draft up reports and public relations documents practically in my sleep and I am more confident - I know what I do want to do when I join the work place. If it's just nerves that is making you question if a placement is for you...just DOO IT!!

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                      31.03.2001 23:31

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                      I've graduated - somehow! My placement was at the city hospital - in the finance dept (my degree was business studies). Since then my current place of work has taken on two placement students, so I've seen how it works today - it hasn;t changed much. Basically you go to an open day, then apply, then go to a flash interview where you're told all about how wonderful the company is and how loads of placement students at the company get 'guaranteed' jobs after graduation. Face it - you're cheap labour. I know 17 year old office temps doing filing that get paid more than placement students. If you get a job with them after Uni - great, you'll make a lot more than that temp. More often than not - you're taken on out of a need to keep good PR with universities so that they can cherry-pick all the grads with Firsts, and also because you're cheaper than real employees. I won;t deny I enjoyed my placement, and I did learn more there than in all the other 3 years of my degree. I'm simply warning students who are yet to do a placement that it's not all it's cracked up to be - and you'll still have to manage your finances very well not to end up even deeper in debt than you already will be.

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                      16.03.2001 23:06
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                      I'm currrently in the final year of my BSC (Hons) in Applied Biochemistry degree at Liverpool John Moores University. One of the main reasons for choosing this course is that it offered a sandwich year. I decided to take this opportunity and applied for a placement place. I chose to go to Stoke-on-Trent and work in a medical research unit, which was associated with the hospital and Keele University. There were three places available and only three people applied, so we were all invited to go and take a look at the facility. Whilst there we had short informal interviews from three different supervisors. A few weeks later we were informed who we would be working with. I was lucky enough to get the most desired vacancy. From the beginning i knew that the placement was an unpaid one but this did not bother me as i could still apply for my grant. Also my accomadation would be paid for by one of the surgeons/professors whose work i would be studying. The day came when i was to move to Stoke-on-Trent. I was abit nervous but very excited to be starting lab work. I was living in the nurses' home of the hospital as it was within walking distance of work. It wasn't much to look at, in fact it was worse than my halls of residence, but i wasn't paying so it didn't bother me. For the first week i followed other people around so that i could be taught how to use some of the machinery and get used to where everything was. I was then allowed to start on some of my own work. My project mainly concerned looking at the genetics of colorectal camcer. I soon discovered that i was very good at lab work, and i was able to be left to my own work. As the year progressed i was allowed to do my work at my own pace and i was encouraged to think more indepenently. As a result of my placement, i gained valuable experience in the laboratory, which will i would not have gained from practical work at university. My work also contributed to va
                      rious research papers, which are in the process of being published. All of this looks good on your CV and a future employer may see this as a valuable asset. The main reason why more people didn't apply for this was that it was an unpaid placement. However, my accomodation was paid and because i was on placement for a whole year i received a larger grant. If your thinking about going on an industrial placement i would definately recommend it.

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                      23.02.2001 13:59
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                      The placement question might not come up at your university but if it does be sure you weigh up the pros and cons carefully. Almost everyone I know went on placement, as did I, and almost everyone I know enjoyed their placement...not everyone I didn't. Well I enjoyed being in Finland, work was alright for a while, there was ice-hockey and trips to Sweden and Russia but somethings kept letting it down. One thing to make sure you find out about before you go is money. How much are you going to get? When are you going to receive it? Is it a lump sum or split into smaller packets??? Is it enough...pay particular attention to this if you are going abroad or even just moving to another part of the country, places can be very different in their costs of living. I found out the hard way that Finland is very expensive and that being given a Socrates grant as a student, even when you are working and not studying, ( ::motions with her finger to her lip:: shhhhh.....I think they were diddling the system.....) only just gives you enough to live on, especially if you are going to go on trips too. I also found out that after myself and Louise (another girl from Surrey Uni who took her placement year where I did) had been assured we would receive the money promptly it took 3 months to arrive. So if you are not being paid regularly but in lump sums, especially in some form of university system grant (really especially if your from Surrey uni going to Turku) make sure you've got enough cash to last you until the money arrives. The second lump payment was just late as the first. Money isn't everything though, you will be meeting new people, making new friends, seeing new places (probably) and gaining experience for the future, not just work experience either. For me it was not such a big shock, my family have moved around a lot, we still do, and we haven't always stayed in the UK, but for others things will be different, you may be
                      moving into somewhere completely new with only a few people that you know if any. All this will give you invaluable experience for the future. It will also teach your more self-reliance and give you a feeling of more independence as well...(as if ya needed it)...and the job will give you experience working in a different environment, unless you've already done something similar. Things like working set hours, full time, are not always a thing students are well known for. I had a rough time for the last part of my placement, my nan died in the UK but I couldn't afford to fly back. Some of the people in Finland were very callous about it to say the least, and if you think the English are stand-offish you really haven't been anywhere near Finland. So read up on where you are going, find out about what you are going to do. What does your job entail? Do you think you will enjoy it? Visit the people, if you can, talk to them via phone, mail (e- or snail) or something so that you get an idea about where you are going. Lastly, I think, is the weighing up of leaving your studies for a year. Trust me it is hard to get back into them, and I know several people who became more and more depressed as their final year dragged on. They felt oppressed by the uni system having come back from a placement where they were given respect and responsibilities. You have to re-learn how to work as a student again as it is very different, it comes back quickly enough but it may not feel quite the same. Now this is where I am possibly going to puzzle a few people and say that I would definitely recommend a placement year. I personally think that all the pros outweigh the cons. You are more likely to get a job with a placement behind you, and it's tough enough with one let alone without. Just completing a degree may not be enough to satisfy some employers now-a-days. I know quite a few people who graduated last year with 2:1
                      9;s and plenty of work experience and they are still having trouble, so why not give yourself a little advantage? I think it's good for you in yourself, especially if you haven't really done any work/jobs before, it makes things a little less daunting. If you get a good placement you could come out of it with extra money, wish I could of done coz that's always handy. In some placements (mainly research based of some kind) you may even find that you end up being published...again something a prospective employer should love. From most universities you will receive a special certificate for the placement, these are often recognised by companies you may be looking to employ you. ::nods to herself:: yup, all in all I definitely think a placement during your university course is a very good idea. Still in the end it is up to each person individually, what do you think is best for yourself?

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                        19.02.2001 20:33
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                        I think everyone, if they have the opportunity, should do a placement year either before they go to university or in the middle of their course. Through the Year in Industry scheme I spent a year working at British Steel before I went to university. I personally got a lot out of it - my confidence improved and I at the end of the year I definately felt more 'ready' to go to university than at the start. It is also a fact that 70% of people who do a year with the Year in Industy will get a 1st! With the Year in Industry scheme you fill in one application and it then gets sent out to loads of companies that fit your decription of what you want. This saves a lot of time and effort but if you want you can still send off other apllications as not al companies do actually participate in the scheme, for example Ford. The Year in Industry is also a good scheme as you get your paid work placement, the chance to get a recognised management qualification (NEBSM) and a mentor to help you with any problems that you might have at work. This is actually very important as they can sort out problems such as if you feel you are being given the 'wrong' sort of work - too much photocopying etc. You will personally get a lot out of working for a year especially if you haven't really ever had a 'proper' job before. You will save some money - or perhaps not (!) but it is nice to have a proper regular income. Also as statistically not that many graduates have held down a job for a year it will give you that little bit extra when applying for jobs after graduation. As an extra bonus British Steel sponsored me through the rest of my course giving me £1500 per year extra plus guaranteed, well paid summer work. This saved a lot of hassle as I didn't have to spend all year worrying about whether or not I could get a summer job which was interesting and paid more than £4 / hr. I have no obligation to go and work for them at
                        the end of my degree, but there should be a job with them if I want one. Quite a few of my friends who have done sandwich years also got sponsored for the final year, which is an added bonus. Finally if you want more info on the year in industry scheme itself check out : http://www.yini.org.uk The site contains case studies, general information and an application form.

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                          06.02.2001 18:08
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                          I am currently doing a BSc (Hons) Computer Science degree at Queens University in Belfast. There are two degrees offered – one which has a year out, and one which doesn’t. The university recommends that students take the option that gives them a year out. Now, I am a mature student, and having already spent 7 years in the real world, doing a job that I really hated, going back to university was something I felt I had to do. I wanted to get in, get my degree and get out again as quickly as possible, but friends of mine who have already completed the degree at this university told me that it made sense to get a year out under my belt before leaving university. They explained why to me – it’s basically like free work experience. You apply in a manner similar to applying for a real job, depending on your university. Here at QUB we’re pretty much left to ourselves, (apart from some minor pointers) and upon obtaining a placement, you are given the opportunity to experience life in the real working world (which is a lot different to university, believe me!). Placement years are used for the student to gain valuable experience in their chosen profession without the pressure that would normally be applied to a proper new employee. Most employers who take students are well aware that most of them have never spent a prolonged period of time in a job (working in a shop, or doing the paper round does not count!). Not only are they given first hand experience of what sort of work they are expected to do, but also they are exposed to working with a new group of people in a new type of environment than they would be used to previously. Most of these placements, as far as I can see, are paid. You will probably not get the same as if you were a full employee of the firm, but you might be able to expect 80% of a starting salary depending on your job and degree. Some people are not just content with staying loc
                          ally for their placement. A lot of people try and go somewhere a bit further afield. This all depends on the ties that your university will have with the industry in question, although if your university is not well equipped in this area, you may find it hard to get the placement you desire. Perhaps the government should look into setting up something which will enable students to gain a wider variety of placements (both in domestic and foreign terms) and make it a lot easier than it is currently. I think the placement year is a great idea, but I think that universities and the government should do more to encourage students to take them by offering sponsorship schemes, advice and help on gaining a placement no matter where the student would like to get their placement, or in what discipline their degree may be. **Update** I've applied for a placement with Auntie Beeb, but got turned down at the first hurdle, only days after submitting my application form, but with no reason explaining why. In these circumstances, it would be better for the companies who are taking placement students to let unsuccessful candidates know why they've been turned down

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