Industry placement abroad: 1st month feels
(Note to any Dutch-speaking people: please do correct my very rusty Dutch; I just started learning, so I would 100% appreciate the notes!)
Since the DSM Zwolle (NL) site was closed for a fortnight due to two cases of coronavirus, my internship was delayed to start. This gave me a chance to explore some of what the city has to offer en een beetje Nederlands ook leren. Despite obviously not being able to experience and do everything I wished, dat ik ben in een heel anders land naar Engeland hasn’t at all stopped me from living and breathing in Dutch culture. It also helps that Dutch people will gladly speak Dutch (slowly) to you, if you ask them to.
A predominant part of the change in lifestyle, for me, is the cycling infrastructure — it is so easy to just cycle to the nearest town, or take the train and hire a cheap bike to a city, or even just to explore my own! Now that restrictions here are heavier, it is more important for me to utilise my trusty steed.
My flatmate is already so fed up of me raving on about this, but then what’s not to obsess about?! It is not car-centric all-in-all, which is amazing for the environment, the general public’s health, children’s independence… I could go on, but I won’t bore you with this any longer. I just had to say a little bit and highlight the importance of a strong work/study/life balance, snap je?
Now onto the meat of the matter: the placement thus far. I feel honestly very lucky and grateful that DSM has developed a strong link with the Warwick Chemistry department (polymers, specifically) for ~7 years now, in that they know about and understand all of our commitments to our degrees. My supervisors let me watch lectures whilst waiting for a reaction to finish, which is perfect considering het is erg belangrijk for me to finish the 60 hours of core module lectures well before January in time for our third-year exams at the end of term 2.
Speaking of, due to corona, all lectures this year have been pre-recorded. This actually worked in my favour: I selfishly feel relieved that because of these the lecture videos come with a transcript, which so far most of my lecturers have been editing to accommodate for their accents. Admittedly though, it has been difficult to keep everything up — I kind of underestimated how much full-time work can take a toll on my mental capacity. However like I said in my previous post, it is just about the consistency: doing the minimum for one ‘weaker’ day will certainly help chip away at the wall a little bit.
Quite frankly at the beginning, I wasn’t too excited whilst preparing to move to the Netherlands, mainly due to the feeling of being out of my depth. I didn’t do too well in my interview, but luckily still got the place. Once I started though, I hit the ground running and enjoyed it so much that I was hardly taking any breaks, and when I did it would be to watch a few minutes of lectures. As one might imagine correctly, this led to a small bout of burnout comprised of me making teeny mistakes that cost me some time — tuurlijk. The silver lining is that at least this happened (and got diagnosed) early in the game.
In moments like that, transparency and clear communication with your placement supervisor/personal tutor — or even a close work pal — is heavily advocated. In my case, I was simply told that there will always be more tasks to finish, and so it follows naturally that working until everything is done is not the wisest thing to do when I will be here for 10 more months. Instead, it was recommended that I take a short break once I feel that my attention isn’t quite holding up.
This has been yet another golden nugget that makes me feel odd to type… But if anyone is like me, then this might well be a useful anecdote!
Stay golden, like that nugget 😉