Year abroad/Placement year/Distance learning ALL IN ONE BABY: Honest review
Yeh you read that right. Now don’t be shy, slide on over, pull up a chair and prepare to be educated on the ins-and-outs of living abroad, working abroad and studying at the same time. My experience is one that will be relatable for all the above, and will probably change your life.
So I’m currently 3.5 months into my placement year in the Netherlands! I’m working for a chemistry company, 9-5, and living in a city with 120,000 inhabitants. Along side this I’m doing uni work, which I’ll get to later. Firstly I want to address the living abroad as this will be relevant to more of you.
It’s an experience that has already shaped me profoundly. I’ve started to grow into myself more (whatever that means) and feel more comfortable and confident, which is something I believe everyone has struggled with in the past. I’m not saying that by doing a year abroad you’ll enter as a slimy larva, wrap yourself in a cocoon in the form of culture food and friendship, and emerge a magnificent butterfly, but it will surely have a positive impact on your outlook and self-confidence. Think of it as the next building block after taking on the start of uni.
One thing I will say is that going into your year abroad you should be open-minded. Leave everything in the UK and just take the experience as something fresh. Something invigorating and a chance to explore..anything you fancy really! I’ve found that not knowing anyone out here has led to me meeting people I never would have done if I had come with people I knew, and although it’s daunting you just have to take the plunge.
If anyone has any questions about year abroad specifically feel free to message me, this is only a snippet of what to expect and hopefully I’ll have a more in-depth post at the 6 month mark. Onto the placement year aspect:
Working in industry is a very novel experience. Gives you a chance to actually implement the thing you’ve been studying. If you’re worried that yyou won’t make the cut, that you’re not good enough at your subject, don’t. I’ll be honest when it comes to Chemistry I would say I’m pretty average, maybe below. I would say 80% of the skills I use at this job I’ve learnt on the placement. It’s nice as you get to apply some knowledge, and you come to realise that the majority of things you learn in your degree you won’t use often. You get a degree to have a degree, for most STEM subjects anyway.
I would thoroughly recommend a placement year, with distance learning (next part) or without, because it gives a real insight into the industry and is the best way to decide whether it’s something for your future. It’s also a level of experience that can only be obtained on a placement year, which looks great for any job you apply for. A year of work developing essential skills for a successful career, like time management teamwo-blah blah blah shoots your employability up immediately.
I’m also doing distance learning, which is something that is offered by the Warwick chemistry department, enabling students to do a placement year and do some university work along side it. This in-turn counts for third year, and you go back to do your masters. It basically saves you a year (if a placement is something you’re really keen on) at the price of having to work a full-time job and smash some university work too.
Sounds daunting eh. Well, as the title states, this is an honest review (all my own opinion and not fact of course), and I will level with you, it’s not easy. My university work consists of 60 hours of lectures, from October, with 3 exams at the beginning of March. A literature review due October 2020 (chill), and a presentation with questions, in November 2020. All-in-all it’s manageable, but I’m really having to force myself to keep on top of the work.
It can feel quite monotonous sometimes. Work, lectures, dinner, repeat 5x/week. I’ve found that when I start feeling stressed and agitated the best way for me to relax is by just taking a few days easy, call my family or friends from home, ask some new friends if they want to get a beer, things like this. The work is manageable and there’s no need to push yourself into misery to do well, which is something that’s relevant for everyone at anytime.
Besides the uni work and work work I’ve still found lots of time to do fun things. I’ve visited a few countries, met lots of nice people through my cities expats group and explored the Netherlands a bit too.
For people considering a year abroad or placement year I would recommend them both! They are incredible opportunities and you really can’t appreciate the impact they’ll have on your life unless you do them. There’s a reason people recommend them.