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Interning at the Rivendell Art and Retreat Center in The Canary Islands

Isabella Jones, a Design student, interned at the Rivendell Art and Retreat Center in La Palma, The Canary Islands for her Erasmus Traineeship. 

Obtaining my placement

I was offered an internship at the Rivendell Art and Retreat Center in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. It is an eco-center with a theatrical twist that invites groups to host workshops related to creative and ecological topics, as well as wellbeing. I sourced this placement through networking within the areas of my interest.

My Design brief consisted of two parts. My first task was the designing of a promotional campaign.

I started with Photography to have a base and feel for the campaign.

Here are some examples of graphics created. Signs had been made ready to start the promotion by resident artists. This allowed me to translate an existing aesthetic into graphics.

 

 

The second part of my design brief was to design a water and therapy pool. 

A Tea Bag Project 

Below is an art project I also helped create with dyed recycled teabag material. This is the most fancy tool box I have ever worked on!

Challenges and learning points

The challenges at Rivendell included remaining focused with an array of jobs, visitors and animals all needing attention. However, I am confident that both my skills as a promoter and as a photographer as developed during my internship have armed me for my final year at Goldsmiths.

The whole point of a placement abroad is to submerge oneself into a different routine and culture. Enriching not only ones personal and academic work but also adding textures and memories that can open up new pathways and thoughts. I never know where my feet will take me, but where ever I go, I record my story with a visual diary. Creating visual poetry and capturing not just the views but feelings
of a place, the good and less positive aspects as well.

My visual diary

I always feel like I can thoroughly soak myself in a place through my camera lens and even when I decide to leave my camera at home, that attention to detail allows me to discover stories within the wood of an old peeling door, a barking dog in a remote backyard or a dusty volcanic rock. The following photos are examples of my visual diary. Its not just the photos, but the combination of feelings caused when they are placed together.

The archaeology of the island

I am fascinated by experimental archeology and La Palma is an island with a turbulent political and historic past. From the natives on the island, the ‘Benahoritas’ with their advanced knowledge in astronomy and mysterious rock engravings, to the Spanish conquest in the 14th Century. It’s amazing to study traces of these past cultures within the architecture of the cities and the wild places of the islands, and through the many legends and stories.

 

Experimental Workshops

As well as exploring the volcanic landscape, I also organized a role playing event in the local valley. One moment that delighted me was when I met a lady who had worked as a telescope software programmer (The island has a world famous astronomical observatory) and I led an experimental workshop creating
cardboard shields with runic and Elven inscriptions. I translated “Cat” into runes for my new friend. It goes to show, no matter your job, creating a low-res designed object can bring out the playfulness that we all hold inside of us and that really defines for me, the joy of being at Rivendell. After an epic battle with biodegradable water balloons, the ‘Elven’ queen beat the ‘Ringwraith’ king and we restored peace to the valley once more (The passing tourist’s faces were priceless).

Volunteering as a English and German Teacher in Greece

Giulia, a Media and Communications student, volunteered as an English and German teacher for a non-governmental organisation called Respect for Greece in Athens, Greece for her Erasmus+ Traineeship.  

How did you source your placement? 

At the beginning, I applied for the European Solidarity Corps – a website suggested by the Go Abroad Team – but unfortunately I did not receive a response. Nonetheless, the Go Abroad Team gave some helpful tips on how to continue searching for placements. In the end, I found my placement online by googling ‘Volunteer work in Greece’.

What were the highlights of your experience abroad?

One highlight of my experience abroad was the day I said goodbye to my language teaching organisation. Not because I was leaving – on the contrary – but because I was surprised me with a goodbye party by my colleagues. We had a delicious Arabic barbecue and we danced traditional Greek and Arabic dances all night. In addition, meeting wonderful and brave people from all over the world (mostly the Middle East) was a privilege. We shared personal stories with each other and taught each other phrases from our respective languages. This was an important shared experience.

What was your daily routine and how did it differ from being at home?

Apart from Mondays, which I usually used to prepare my classes or write the reports for my managers, I worked every day during the working week for between four and seven hours. My work included giving English and German lessons, facilitating a weekly animation workshop and organizing activities for a local women’s shelter. I also, participated in a lot of other activities in my free time, such as volunteer meetings, psychology or child protection workshops and festivals. It was great to work and live with other volunteers because we were like a family.

The experience was different from being at home as I was always surrounded by and interacting with other people. At home, I have more time to organically think about my daily experiences so in Greece I had to actively be conscious of making time for myself to do that. Also working with vulnerable people everyday made me have to become flexible in my approach to work, something that I did not have to contend with before.

What were your top challenges while abroad?

The way in which my organisation was structured led to a lot of challenges. Upon arrival, there was no introductory workshop on how to look after refugees that have suffered from traumatic experiences. This resulted in an uncomfortable experience in which my supervisors left me and another inexperienced volunteer on our own with a group of twenty kids including a child in a wheelchair. A child with special needs cried and screamed a lot, and we didn’t know how to help or what to do and we couldn’t communicate with them because of the language barrier. I made it my duty to communicate this issue in feedback sessions, which resulted in the social workers creating much needed workshops to prepare volunteers for such potentially stress-filled scenarios.

What did you gain from your experience abroad? 

There were many times when I wanted to quit the placement, but I learnt how to stay strong, how to make the best out of certain situations and to be optimistic. Also, this experience made me think about my daily problems that now seem so small compared to the things that asylum seekers experience. As a result I am trying to find a way in which I can use my privilege to make the world a better place.

In addition, working with professional social workers and psychologists has improved my understanding of theories of inclusion and integration; having in person training has allowed me to put these these theories into practice, to the extent that I have learnt how to intervene when someone is struggling with depression or the memories of traumatic experiences.

When it comes to my teaching, I know now that a good structure and organisation is key to everything. In Greece, structuring my lessons with the kids was the best decision as I couldn’t do things spontaneously like other volunteers sometimes did. Though my experience also highlighted the benefit of a spontaneous, solely student guided approach that is often present when you are working with vulnerable people who don’t have a structured life.

What are your top tips for students about to go abroad?

The first tip is to never give up. As cheesy as it sounds, you will feel so good at the end when everything is over because you achieved something you can be proud of. It’s almost impossible not to struggle when being abroad, but the hard times will pass. You will learn so much more about the world, different cultures and yourself.  My second tip is: be open-minded. Try things you’ve never done before, go and meet locals and discover hidden spots in the city. Just live with an open heart and mind and try to get to know as many people from as many different cultures as you can. Don’t let stereotypes or fear stop you from doing things.

Volunteering at MEMPROW SA in Johannesburg, South Africa

This Fine Art student volunteered at a women’s empowerment and enabling organisation called MEMPROW SA, in South Africa. She was awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement. 

How did you find your placement?

I visited South Africa to implement Healing and Empowering Art workshops for Women. I was employed by an organisation called MEMPROW SA, a women’s empowerment and enabling organisation who aim to combat sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). MEMPROW have a base at a drop-in centre called Sithand’Izingane Care project in Tsakane Township, Johannesburg, South Africa which supports residents who may be unemployed by providing short courses and skills to get them into work. 

My involvement with the organisation began in 2018 when I was part of a team that was implementing workshops within the centre. Later on, I was asked to go back to continue the much needed work. Luckily, the Goldsmiths Go Abroad Scheme funded the workshops in 2019, so I was able to implement an elevated set of workshops with more women at Sithand’Izingane Care Project.  The workshops were 4 days long, and consisted of poetry and spoken word, life drawing, self-reflective sculpture and an Exhibition on the final day where the community would come to see the work and contribute to the conversation surrounding SGBV and women’s empowerment through art.  

What was the highlight of your experience volunteering abroad? 

The highlight of the experience was the exhibition where all the women opened the dialogue about the work that they had made and the positive impact the workshops had on them. We had a screening of videos from the previous 3 days of the workshop so that the visitors could see the process as well as the finished products. 

What was your daily routine like and how did this differ from being at home? 

My daily routine was as follows: 

7.30 am  8.30 am 

  • Rise and breakfast  
  • Take agenda for the day’s workshop and necessary materials and equipment 

8.30am – 10.00 am  

  • Arrive on site Sithand’Izingane 
  •  Prepare the space with appropriate materialsequipment and presentation for the arrival of participants 

10.00 am  

  • Arrival of participants and icebreaker activities 
  • Begin implementation of workshop activities

This is very different from my routine at home which has less structure and doesn’t include presenting and teaching groups of women. One thing that I found challenging was witnessing the oppression of women first-hand and feeling like my safety was at risk at some points because of the high rates of sexual violence and abuse of women. 

What did you gain from your experience abroad? 

Professionally speaking, my ability to teach people in a clear and focused manner so that they can be properly motivated within my workshops has improved immensely. On an academic note, the experience affirmed my understanding of the intricacies of SGBV in South Africa; namely the different factors that lead to it such as poverty and colonisation. Personally, the experience also taught me to have more gratitude for the privileges I have such as  basic human necessities that others don’t have access to

What tips do you have for students who are about to go abroad? 

I do recommend for anyone who is planning on going aboard to volunteer that they do their research, speak to the people you are volunteering with and be open. Ask the community what they need or what you can do for them and keep in mind that what applies in UK cannot always be readily applied to other countries. 

 

Writing Course at Humboldt University of Berlin

Sean, a Visual Cultures student, attended a four-week writing course at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. He was awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of his placement. 

I became aware of the Go Abroad programme when a peer on my course notified me that funding for placements abroad over the summer were available. Upon hearing this information, I immediately searched through the Go Abroad website for opportunities. I was delighted to find that placements in Berlin were available on writing so I applied for a course at Humboldt University.

I loved everything about my experience abroad, but I especially enjoyed the privilege of getting to live in such a busy city in the centre of Europe in the middle of a hot summer! Berlin itself is amazingly vibrant, as it is a leading figure of many trends in contemporary culture and immersed in history. The character of Berlin itself was a major influence on my experience abroad and taught me so much about the history of Europe and obviously the history of Berlin as a bordered city.

Each week I was in Humboldt University for 3 days and had the rest of the week to catch up on readings or contribute to the portfolio I was building for my course entitled ‘Writing the City’! I would begin my morning routine by locking up my things in my locker in the hostel I was staying in, before heading to campus in the historic Mitte, across from Bebelplatz by tram. The tram lines ended just before Museum Island, so I developed an incredibly surreal routine that was very different from studying at Goldsmiths.

I struggled with finding accommodation and flights before I arrived in Berlin because of an administration lag on the part of the Go Abroad office; since my grant did not arrive on time, I stayed in a hostel for the 4-week duration of my studies which became quite tedious and annoying as I had to share my space and bedroom with strangers.

I was revolutionised as a person by this experience. For one, it was amazing to continue my studies throughout the summer; the experience also provided me with an insight into the amount of information I had gained from my first year at Goldsmiths. The strict routine encouraged by Humboldt University and its prestige was incredibly motivating and made me realize that I needed to study harder and more often when I returned to London! It also massively improved my social skills, as because I was meeting someone new, from a new country and a new discipline every day, I was forced to learn how to be a more talkative, friendly person.

I would advise students who are going to apply for the Go Abroad funding to apply early and have all of their administration done as soon as they have been accepted by their international organisation. I would also advise students doing Go Abroad placements to abandon any fear they have about loneliness or the huge sense of independence that is required for spending a summer in a foreign country as it is an incredibly formative experience that can prove transformative to a person.

 

 

Data Science Summer School in Wrocław, Poland

Sam, a Media and Communications student, attended a two-week data science summer school in Wrocław, Poland. He was awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of his placement.

I decided I wanted to take advantage of the Go Abroad programme but came to the idea quite late. Looking around on the internet, I came across the Data Science summer school in Wrocław. I’d always wanted to try and work on my computer programming skills after several aborted attempts at self-education throughout my adulthood, and I’d never been to Poland but I knew that it has a fascinating history, so I took the plunge.

The best part of the trip was probably the unbelievable effort our Polish hosts on the course put into planning activities for us – there wasn’t a single evening without a planned trip to some zip wires, or a tour of the city, or a boat ride… the highlight had to be the weekend where we took a trip to the mountains and stayed in beautiful lodge in the countryside, playing football barefoot whilst the sun set over the hills in the company of some really beautiful dogs.

Teaching was 5 hours straight from 9 am until 2pm, preceded by breakfast and followed by a lunch provided by the course (which included some surprisingly great caterers), leaving half of the afternoon and the evening free for social activities. It was certainly a higher pace of socialising (and drinking!) than I’m used to but it was a really great way of getting to know everyone on the course who came from all around the world.

The work on the course was challenging, and I was very glad of the small programming experience I had. There was a lot of material packed into two weeks and it meant the final exam was tough due to the sheer amount of material we covered. It was especially challenging balancing all this with a packed social schedule, but was also worth it for the added experience of getting to know new people and learning new things.

The most useful thing I gained was learning that data science is a career option for me in the future. Whilst a two-week taster barely scratches the surface of a hugely complex topic, it was enough to confirm that it was something that interested me enough to form a potential career option! It was also beneficial from the point of view of my academic studies. I study digital media theory, and whilst AI and machine learning are important topics in the field, we don’t learn how machine learning works practically and technically, at least not in any great depth. As such having a chance to learn the nuts and bolts and grapple with the mathematics involved was useful for informing my thinking in addition to the media-theoretic perspective I use in my degree.

My first tip is if you’re unsure whether to go, just go for it! Although it was a bit of last-minute decision for me, I am so glad I went. It’s the sort of opportunity that doesn’t come along very often. Another tip I have is something I wish I’d done – I didn’t really learn much Polish before or during my trip, and I felt like I was missing out by not doing this, so definitely try and pick up some basics before you go. If you’re an English speaker it’s easy not to do this as English is so commonly spoken, but I think it does mean you miss out on an important aspect of the culture you’re learning about.

Peer-Coaching in Ljubljana, Slovenia

This ICCE student completed an eight-day peer-coaching course in Ljubljana, Slovenia. They were awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of their placement. 

In August of 2019 I travelled to Ljubljana in Slovenia for an 8-day peer-coaching course. I found the course through the Erasmus website, and it seemed to be one of the only peer-coaching training programmes in Europe. The course was organised by a company called Primera, and they are one of the kindest, most thoughtful training providers I’ve ever worked with. There were so many little details – they bought us croissants every morning, they organised a trip to show us less well-known parts of Slovenia, they adapted the training to suit each person’s needs, at one point the trainer even offered to lend one of my course mates her car!

Although the training was academically very useful for me and has progressed my understanding of the topic, the highlight for me was working closely with so many Europeans (I was the only British person on the course). It enabled me to understand how open, multi-cultural, and outward looking a lot of European people are, and I noticed a real difference in their outlook as compared to British citizens. I have tried to take this new perspective home with me, and to take more of an interest in things happening outside my immediate bubble. Another highlight was the food! I had a few absolutely incredible meals there, normally in restaurants recommended by the training providers or people on my course.

One of the big differences was the slightly slower pace. One of the Slovenian women commented that she found it so strange in London that we buy a coffee and then drink it as we walk along the street – ‘how can you appreciate how it tastes?!’. Ljubljana was a busy, exciting city to be in, but I felt that everyone was able to spend a bit more time focusing on the present. I really appreciated talking to the other people on my course and understanding their perspectives and how their lives are both similar and different to my own.

The main challenge I faced was that I caught a cold, and was quite ill for most of the trip. Although the training providers were very helpful and bought me medicine, little things like not being able to find cough medicine in a supermarket (they sell it in separate pharmacies) was difficult and made me miss the familiarity of home.

For students who are heading abroad, I’d recommend trying to stay close to the centre of town. To save money I stayed in the suburbs, and while it was nice to see a bit more of the city, it did mean I had to spend time on the bus commuting each day. Though, this did give me a sense of achievement: I worked out how to buy a season ticket and understand the bus network on my own. I’m glad I saved up some money so that I could eat out. It meant I got to try the local cuisine, and it was also nice to be able to sit, buy a coffee, watch the world go by, and really enjoy being there.

At the end of the training, my partner flew out to Slovenia and we spent three days at Lake Bled, which was incredibly beautiful and relaxing. As Slovenia is so small, it’s very easy to get around, and as they have so many tourists from all over Europe, everyone communicates in English. I’ve fallen in love with Slovenia and can’t wait to return and revisit the coast and the mountains.

 

Studying French at the Alliance Française de Toulouse

Serena Yang, a International ICCE student, completed a two-week French course at the Alliance Française of Toulouse in France. She was awarded funding by Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement. 

How did you find your placement?

I discovered that I could receive funding to go abroad when I saw some information about the programme in the Goldsmiths app, where, at the team had been making a concerted effort to showcase global opportunities. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the programme is open to students from non-Eu countries, so I booked a meeting with the global opportunities team. It was during this meeting that I decided to apply for a place on a two week French course at the Alliance Française de Toulouse.

What were the highlights of your experience abroad? 

My two-week French class at the Alliance Française Language School in Toulouse allowed me to learn not only the language but also the local culture. I was able to truly immerse myself in the language because I was consistently surrounded and influenced by the city’s linguistic practices. In addition, my classmates were made up of individuals from all over the world, which meant that I was able to gain an insight into the various linguistic approaches of people from other nations, as we were all grappling with French in our own unique way. Through this process, I created many close connections, especially with a fellow classmate from South Africa.

What was your daily routine? 

I went to school every day from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and returned to my accommodation (a youth hostel close to the city centre) in the afternoon to do independent study. I lived in a dormitory with 6 people, an arrangement which was reminiscent of my college dormitory in China. During my spare time, I visited some of the historic buildings and churches in the city centre, as well as several local art galleries. I was particularly struck by a World War II exhibition, a stark reminder of the pain that war causes. It was a really interesting way of understanding how a country’s present is informed by it’s history.

Delicious Vegetarian Brunch

What was the biggest challenge that you faced whilst abroad?

The most challenging part of the experience was that the course was taught in French. As a total beginner, it was very difficult for me to find my footing. I overcame this issue with the support of my course mates and lots of independent study!

My textbook

What did you gain from your experience abroad? 

Personally, this experience has confirmed my passion for French; this will provide me with a source of confidence and motivation for me to continue to develop my grasp of the language. From an academic perspective, I was able to establish a concrete understanding of basic French grammar and some everyday phrases, which I consider to by a solid effort for such a short period of time. In terms of my career, since my major is Luxury Brand Management, the development of my French is an important part of planning for my future as I intend to work in the fashion industry, where the skill of being able to communicate with international clients will be vital.

What is your advice for students who are about to go abroad? 

My advice is to maintain an open mind throughout the journey and have the confidence to talk to different people. In addition, I feel that it is important to arrange your time reasonably. Set some goals before your departure, and then make a timetable so you can make sure they are achieved. Also, don’t bring too much luggage, the destination weather may not be the same as London and you’ll feel more comfortable if you can travel light.

Volunteering as an Au Pair in Spain

Madeleine, a History student, volunteered as an au pair for a Spanish family in Madrid, Spain. She was awarded funding by Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement. 

At the beginning of August 2019, I hopped on a train from Yorkshire and just over a day later I arrived in Madrid, Spain. I made use of the Go Abroad funding by purchasing an interrail ticket and using trains instead of planes to reduce my carbon footprint. After having studied Spanish for just 7 months I was eager to use it in practice, but didn’t want this experience to cost the earth! Through the organization AuPairWorld, I found a host family online who I would be staying with for the next month in return for helping their children with English.

The highlights of my time abroad range from the feeling as huge as being whisked into Madrid’s mountains on an old rickety train, to engaging in Spanish conversation at a coffee shop. Spain has such a variety of landscapes on offer, from poolside paradises to luscious green forests. It was such a thrill every time to be able to hear the Spanish language all around me!

My daily routine involved getting up with the family to help the kids start their day and then learn English through play. We baked scones, read stories and even watched the Chuckle brothers! In the evenings I set out to my Spanish classes where I improved my understanding of tenses and demystified many lexical definitions. Lesson learnt: ‘embarazada’ means pregnant…not embarrassed! My daily routine differed from being at home as the lifestyle was centered around being outdoors. The sun was almost always shining which meant that the children had much more freedom to enjoy nature and be active!

My top challenge whilst being abroad was staying in tune with the Spanish language. It was so easy to switch off and let the language wash over me, instead of truly participating. I was prepared for the fast pace of native speakers, but did not anticipate that it becomes tiring to be actively listening and digging deep into my brain to produce an unfamiliar language. But this is also something I improved at over time by spotting commonly used phrases and making note of them, to try and embed them deeper into my own vocabulary.

From my experience abroad I learnt a lot about myself and my interactions with other cultures. I gained a better understanding of Spanish politics and how this is influenced by their culture and history, which like any European country, plays a strong role in forming the Spanish identity. Professionally I reaffirmed the lesson that you should always give 100% to everything you do otherwise you will live in regret. This is especially important when working with children as they require so much encouragement, and you are forming lifelong memories. In an academic sense, I learnt that becoming fluent in a language is an all-encompassing task which requires huge reserves of patience and an ability to laugh at yourself and your mistakes!

My top tips for students about to go abroad would be to make the most of your location and get to know it from top to bottom. Take lots of photos and talk to the locals – they will point you in the direction that Trip Advisor cannot. I had the most incredible trip thanks to the fund, if I was eligible to go again I would do it in a heartbeat!

 

Volunteering at Es Baluard Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma in Spain

Andrea Pisano, an International ICCE student, volunteered at Es Baluard Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma in Spain. She was awarded funding by Goldsmiths to assist in covering the costs of her placement.

How did you find your volunteering activity?

Last year I really wanted to go to Spain because I have always been fascinated by the language and the culture. I found my volunteering activity in the Es Baluard Modern and Contemporary Art Museum online. I applied, and after a few weeks of waiting I was given the chance to have an interview with the manager of the museum, which led to me successfully obtaining my placement.

What skills did you learn?

Initially I was anxious because it was my first time working in the art industry, however it turned out to be an experience full of energy. I gained many different skills including how to encourage visitors to get involved with museum activities. I was also able to work in collaboration with my co-workers, practice my Spanish, and gain insight into the works that are related to the island, such as sculpture and paintings of Picasso and Miró.

What was your daily routine?

My daily routine was always full of different things to do between the work in the museum and practicing my Spanish. Every day there were activities taking place at the museum which involved people of different ages and nationalities. It was not only an artistic centre, but also a concentrate of different languages, cultures and religious beliefs.

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

My challenges included finding a room in the busiest period of the year (July and August), being alone in a new country with different customs and working with children during their summer school activities. children tended to touch the works, scream during the exhibition and speak in different languages. Whilst this was hard to deal with initially, with the guidance of the staff I slowly learned the patience that was required to manage them effectively.

What are the benefits of going abroad?

As an international student, going abroad is the best way to open your mind, make new friends and learn another language; this makes you very attractive to future employers. The Go Abroad Team was really helpful as they provided me with the funding that supported me through the experience. This has definitely inspired me to travel abroad next summer.

Summer school in Helsinki

Benjamin Morran, a PGCE student, attended a summer school on Finnish education at the University of Helsinki. They were awarded a £800 Santander Universities Go Abroad bursary to help cover their costs.

I first found out about Goldsmith’s Go Abroad programme through the language partner programme on the VLE. At first, I thought that I might apply to a language school to work on my Russian but, when I looked through the list of Goldsmith’s partner institutions, I spotted the University of Helsinki, which gave me an even better idea. Finland, in recent years, has come to be highly regarded for its education system on account of world-class PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results. As I was, at that time, halfway through my teacher training year, I decided to check the University of Helsinki’s summer school catalogue to see if they were offering a course on education and, sure enough, they were: Finnish education system through social justice and diversities, to be exact. This course, I thought, could really broaden my horizons as a new teacher and so I decided to apply to Goldsmiths for funding.

The whole process was really straightforward: I applied, providing all the usual details and an explanation of my motivations and, before long, I received a response telling me that Goldsmiths would be able to cover most of the course fees. A few weeks after that, I went to meet a representative from the Go Abroad for a briefing and that was that, I was ready to go. Fast forward a few months and the time had arrived: off I set to Gatwick airport for a three hour flight to Helsinki!

In total, I spent about three weeks in the Finnish capital and, during that time, I think I probably met more people than I had all year up until that point. Staying in the university halls with other summer school participants and partaking in the summer school’s social programme meant that I was always bumping into someone new from somewhere new. There was never a dull moment! On an average day, I’d wake up at about 8, meet some friends from my course and others at the dormitory reception at 9 and then catch the bus into the city centre to start class at 10. From 10 to 12, we’d have a morning lecture, the subject of which varied from day to day: in one lecture, we learned about the shortcomings of Finnish education in ensuring equity for pupils from immigrant backgrounds, in another, we discussed the moral dilemmas faced by both pupils and teachers in the school environment. Though varied in content, the lectures were all equally interesting, especially since the lecturers always encouraged a response from the course’s thirty (or so) participants, most of whom came from different countries and therefore offered fascinatingly different perspectives. Some of my best experiences on the course were those times when a debate would break out and there would be a teacher from Brazil challenging the opinion of an educational statistician from France who had spoken up, in the first place, in response to a point made by the lecturer from Iran! In these moments I felt that the course had achieved its aim of bringing an international community together to really dig into the structure and the ethics of education systems in Finland and beyond.

In the afternoon, we usually had group work and this time would either be used to work on a collaborative report (through which we were aiming to compare the treatment of social justice and diversity in the curriculums of our home countries) or to discuss articles (each person in the group would read one article and then share their summary with their group mates). After class, the summer school usually had some kind of social event planned these ranged from a workshop with the university’s entrepreneurial society, to a design-oriented tour of the city, to an evening cruise to a local island. On the evenings where we were left to our own devices, we made our own fun: straining our vocal chords at Finnish karaoke, visiting one of the many galleries or museums, or making use of the free sauna back at the halls of residence.

To anyone else out there considering applying for the Go Abroad scheme, I would say 100% go for it. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get out there and learn something new with friends you haven’t met yet in a place you’ve probably never been to. I will remember my time in Helsinki for the rest of my life and I’m certain that all of the things I discovered – in lectures, in conversation, in trips to the local schools, in meeting Finnish students – will have an impact on my life as a teacher moving forward. Just thinking back over my experience now makes me feel incredibly grateful for the support I received from the Go Abroad team and, for that, I would like to say a big, big “thank you” to everyone that made my adventure possible.

Funding for this opportunity was provided by Santander Universities