While I don’t want this blog to be about political debate, the fact that Brexit is happening and President Trump wants to build walls may put some students off from taking international placements as part of their course. I’d say an international placement is more important now than it has ever been and not just because of Brexit and Trump.
I’m on a year placement as a strength and conditioning intern and sports massage therapist at the Western Force, who are a super rugby franchise based in Perth in Australia, as part of my degree in sports and exercise science at the University of Bedfordshire. I’m working full-time and living like a local in a completely different culture. But why is this important?
I think international experience has moved from a nice to have, to almost a "must- have" on your CV. An employer will look at your CV and know that if you’ve lived overseas you will be independent, brave, open-minded and culturally aware.You also need the "soft skills" that employers are looking for, such as empathy and good communication, when living in a different culture.
In Australia I have met people not just from Australia, but New Zealand, South Africa, Tonga and Fiji as well. All these places have different cultural norms and one of most important things I have learned is empathy with different cultures and understanding my own reactions to these differences.
In addition to this, I urge you to consider international work placements because of what they might add to your experience within your specific subject area. For example, as a sports therapist I’ve learned how to support athletes as their bodies adjust to multiple flights and jet lag. Australia is so big it sits across a number of different time zones and the team have to fly to pretty much every match – not something I would have had to deal with if I’d have taken a placement in the UK.
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I know many of you will be put off by the cost of an overseas placement – don’t be! This is where your university and the staff are invaluable. My lecturers and tutors were with me every step of the way and I used them to bounce ideas off when I was first thinking about my placement year, where I might go and what I would do.
I knew that I wanted to work in rugby and I was fully supported in pursuing it overseas. In fact I was encouraged. They helped me develop links I already had (through my hockey club) which enabled me to find a family who were willing to host me while in Australia. Living with them has meant I don’t have to pay rent which has made the whole thing way more affordable.
It was all arranged through people I knew – the university just helped teach me how to use my network effectively. I actually got my placement through my lecturers' connections – he is friends with my boss.
Also, since I've been overseas I've had a constant line of communication with a lecturer back home who I know I can contact at any time if I need help. So while we are Brexiting and there is talk of walls, I’m proud to say I have taken the plunge to work internationally and I would encourage you to have a go at it too.
Megan Edwards is a student at the University of Bedfordshire on an international work placement in Australia.