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Volunteering at a solidarity kitchen

BA Anthropology student, Sae Bosco, worked in a solidarity kitchen in Greece for one month, providing food for refugees. She was awarded a £500 Go Abroad bursary to complete her experience. 

In June 2018, I spent one-month volunteering at a solidarity kitchen called Philoxenia in Thessaloniki, Greece. Every day we would cook, pack and distribute food to refugees that live in the local area, providing about 400+ vegan meals for lunch and dinner each day.

Philoxenia runs solely on donations – meals are made using vegetables salvaged from markets and wholesale suppliers before they get thrown away, the dry food is all donated to us in bulk and the money is collected privately through fundraising. I met many inspiring volunteers and courageous refugees, each with unique stories about their life.

 

I learnt so much about the crisis on a personal level – the hardships and struggles that appear during their journey and through the process of obtaining a refugee status. However, the positivity and determination that was demonstrated throughout my experience by both the refugees and volunteers was motivating. The volunteer community was very friendly, compassionate and driven to make nutritional food that would be distributed to anyone that needed it.

 

The experience has inspired me to truly offer whatever I can to make the world more equal as well as fight for the fact that everyone should have the political human right to safely flee conflict with a reassurance that they will be welcomed and supported within their new environment. The images included show the community centre that I volunteered at as well as examples of graffiti that were displayed near to where a group of refugees lived. I believe the images demonstrate the compassion and drive for a better world that manages to shine through the unacceptable situation asylum seekers have to cope with.

 

 

 

 

The funding for this opportunity was provided by Santander Universities.

How to write a great Go Abroad application

Whether you want to study, work, or volunteer, Go Abroad funding is competitive, so how do you write an application that stands out?

The Global Opportunites team offers their best application tips and tricks to give you the best shot at success.

 

Do your research

You need to explain why you have chosen that institution/organisation and why that particular country. What attracts you about your destination? Is there a specific part of the culture that you love? Does the institution/organisation do unique work? What would you gain here that you wouldn’t gain elsewhere?

If you’re applying to study abroad you may want to speak to the Erasmus Academic Coordinator in your department for advice on the institutions available.

Talk about yourself

Before you start your application, make a list of the skills and experience you have that makes you suitable for the placement you want to complete. Think about any travel you’ve done, any examples you have of adapting to new environments, or any expertise or interest in the specific areas of the placement. Make sure you incorporate all of these into your application!

Then, make a second list of all the skills and experience you want to gain from completing this placement. These can be very personal, as well as broader academic or career related aspirations. What in particular will you be doing on your placement that will help you achieve your goals?

Think about the future

Tell us about your long term plans. What do you want to achieve? Is there a particular job or industry you want to go into? Is there a particular module you want to study next year, or a dissertation topic? How will going abroad help?

Be concrete – make sure you connect your placement with your studies or career. Show us how it’s relevant!

It’s all in the detail

Tell us everything! Make sure you expand on your points. Remember that applications are competitive, so detail is your friend. Examples are really useful – highlight your experiences, and evidence the claims you make.

Show us your passion

We want to see that you care about this experience and opportunity. Tell us about how it matters to you and how it is going to make a difference. Don’t be afraid to show your excitement and personality – this isn’t an essay.

Proof read it

We consider spelling and punctuation! Make sure you read your application through before you click submit. Get someone else to read it too, whether it be a friend, relative, or academic/personal tutor.

 

The Global Opportunities team are here to support you with your application. Come along to our weekly drop in session in the Careers SPACE on Wednesdays between 9:30am and 12:30pm for help and advice.

How to Find an International Placement

If you’re interested in working or volunteering abroad but don’t know where to start, here is a step by step guide to finding international opportunities that will develop your skills and experience, and get you a step closer to your dream job.

This guide is based on a presentation delivered by Diana Akinmboni and Sarah Hiscock from the Careers team, alongside the Global Opportunities team. If you want to receive alerts regarding future events, sign up to our newsletter here.

Step 1: Identify appropriate opportunities
Firstly, it is important to ask yourself these questions;

• What are your career aspirations?
• What skills and experience do you want to gain?

Reflecting on these questions will help you narrow down the kind of opportunities you should be looking for. There’s some great advice on the Goldsmiths website here and on the Prospects website that can help you to identify the jobs which would suit you.

 

Step 2: Identify the country
Once you have an idea of the kinds of opportunities you are looking for, it’s time to think about the country! Some things to consider:

• Are you learning a language? Working abroad could help develop your language skills.
• Is there a country with a culture you want to learn more about?
• For which countries is it necessary to have a visa to work?
• It’s also important to research local attitudes, especially if you’re concerned about facing discrimination.

The Prospects, Target Jobs and Going Global websites have a wide range of advice and guidance on local job markets and what to consider when looking for work abroad.

 

Step 3: Identity the employer
Now you’ve identified the kinds of opportunities you’re looking for and the countries in which you want to work, you can start to narrow down potential employers.

• Take a look at their website and their social media. Do their values and mission match yours?
• Is the work they do of interest to you? Will it provide you with useful skills and experience?

If you’re looking to volunteer abroad, there’s some great advice on what to look for on the Goldsmiths website here.

There is also a list of websites hosting international work and volunteer opportunities on the Global Opportunities website here.

 

Step 4: Approach the employer
Now you’ve identified potential employers, it’s time to approach them and ask for an internship. There are three main approaches;

• The traditional approach; respond to advertised opportunities. Finding an advertised job means you can simply respond and apply. Make sure there’s a job description and any remunerations are confirmed.
• Non-Traditional (speculative); this involves approaching an organisation directly, usually over email or over the phone, and asking whether they have a suitable job for you. When contacting an organisation, you should send a cover letter and a CV.
• Social Media; another way of contacting organisations is through social media platforms such as LinkedIn. If your LinkedIn page is updated, it can function as your CV.

 

Step 5: Apply for funding
Once you have a placement confirmed, you can apply for funding from the Global Opportunities team to support any costs associated with working or volunteering abroad. For more information, visit the Work Abroad webpages.

Although the process of finding work or volunteer placements abroad can be lengthy, the benefits to your studies at Goldsmiths and future career are significant. We hope this guide has made the process seem less daunting!

For further careers advice, contact the Careers team at:
Email: careers@gold.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7919 7137

Vienna Q&A

Stephanie Guinn, BA English student, answers questions about her Erasmus semester at the University of Vienna.

 

How did you find the application process?

I found the application process quite straightforward. It’s similar to writing a personal statement for your UCAS application. I just thought about why I wanted to go to that country, what I was interested in getting out of the experience and how it might help my studies.

 

How did you manage your money?

I would recommend saving some extra money before you go, just so that you can make the most out of all the opportunities that might be on offer. The Erasmus grant does help, and I used that for my semester travel card and food shopping mainly. But if you want to do any extras like travelling to nearby cities, or taking part in the events and trips that your Erasmus university might offer, then the extra money definitely helps. I did weekend trips to Prague and Budapest with some of the Erasmus students that I met in Vienna, we went to a Viennese ball, and I got to go skiing for the first time through a trip that the Students’ Union in Vienna offered too. They were so all much fun and definitely added to the whole experience.

 

What about the language barrier?

In Vienna they offered an Intensive German Language course in the first month prior to starting your university semester, so I would definitely recommend doing something like that if your Erasmus uni offers it too. It was a month-long course with classes 5 days a week, so the workload was intense, but you get refunded a big sum of the money that you paid if you pass the tests at the end of the course. There wasn’t too much of a language barrier in Vienna, I was lucky that most people spoke English, but doing the language course definitely helped my understanding of German whenever I was in a situation where the people I met didn’t speak English. And I think that trying to understand the local language is all part of the experience. I also met some really good friends during the German language course, so it’s a good way to meet other exchange students when you first arrive.

 

What advice do you have about adjusting to a different culture? 

When I first got there, it did take some time to settle in. The weather was really cold, I had to get used to not having any family or friends around, the transport is a bit different, all of the stations were in another language, and a lot of the food in supermarkets was really different to what I was used to back home. But you just have to be really open to embracing a new culture and excited about the new experience. All the Erasmus students are in the same boat as you, so when you start meeting other students it gets a lot more fun and you can start adjusting to this new culture together.

 

How did your Erasmus semester fit in with your studies? 

Time-wise it fit in well with my university studies at Goldsmiths. All of my work for Goldsmiths was due in mid-January, the German language course in Vienna started in February, and I think the university semester in Vienna started in March, so everything was spaced out quite well. The Erasmus semester ended at the end of June, so I had all of the summer to prepare for my final year at Goldsmiths.All in all, it was the best thing I could’ve done. I met so many great people from all over the world that I’m still in contact with now and had so many fun experiences. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

Volunteering in Greece

Lauren Haley, a BA Anthropology student, spent a month working with migrants and refugees in Athens with the help of Go Abroad funding.

 

Following a successful application for Go Abroad funding, I spent 4 weeks in Athens volunteering with refugees/migrants. Despite extensive attempts, the informality of organisations supporting refugees/migrants due to lack of central funding meant it was quite difficult to plan ahead. However, the flexibility of the Santander Go International Bursary meant I could still receive this financial support by providing evidence part way through my placement. When arriving in Athens, through the initial outreach I made prior to flying, I was put in contact with an autonomous organisation who provide teaching by volunteers in squats, as they cannot access state-facilitated education.

Hence, during my stay I ran classes in Maths and English for both children and adults, as well as one on one tutoring with some pupils. Additionally, I ran play/activity sessions for the children in sports/art/music. As this was my first time teaching, this opportunity allowed me to gain competences in planning and leading classes for students of a variety of ages and levels. I also gained practical competences in relation to working within a cross cultural environment and negotiating the complexities of working with displaced people. Moreover, I met so many amazing people and returned with a humbling insight into the situation for refugees in Athens.

On returning to England, this experience has provided me with the confidence and experience which has encouraged me to persevere with such volunteering endeavours. Consequently, now I am teaching English with refugee children and adults as a volunteer with two London based charities. Moreover, as I now enter my third year, going international has led me to reflect on my post-graduation plans. I feel motivated to become officially qualified in teaching English as a foreign language, with the view of returning to Athens on a more long-term basis, and channel my future work plans in this direction.

As a student from a low-income background with the stresses of rent to pay during summer break I would not have been able to ‘Go International’, particularly as an unpaid volunteer, without this bursary. I thought my application would never be successful, however I gave it a go and ended up gaining an amazing opportunity which has most definitely progressed my personal and professional ‘development.’ Thus, I highly recommend those who qualify to grasp this opportunity.

Funding for this opportunity was provided by Santander Universities

What I learned working abroad in Sri Lanka

Alba Sirvent-Gonzalez, BSc Psychology student, spent five weeks in Sri Lanka completing a work placement focused on mental health and wellbeing. She received a £1,000 Go Abroad bursary to help fund her experience.

The work placement I undertook last summer was aimed at promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the country of Sri Lanka. During my five-week placement, I participated in the planning and running of sessions for people with different disabilities and mental health conditions, together with other volunteers. I was involved in nine different projects each week, where I worked with individuals with patients in psychiatric facilities, as well as those with special needs and physical impairments. I also taught English to young adults.

Since I am a Psychology student, this placement was a great opportunity for me because it gave me the chance to gain some practical experience in a mental health setting. In the psychiatric hospitals, I worked with patients with a wide variety of mental conditions, including depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, or borderline personality disorder. Furthermore, the work placement also included a one-day field trip, in which we were able to shadow a psychiatrist. We met two of the patients that were being treated in the hospital and were given the opportunity to ask them questions to figure out their diagnosis and to propose a treatment plan. One of the patients, for example, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and it was interesting to see how the symptoms of this condition –such as delusions and disorganised speech – are expressed in a real-life case.

In addition to helping me strengthen my understanding of mental health conditions, this work placement also offered me the opportunity to work on additional personal skills, such as adaptability and problem-solving. For instance, although the service users that participated in each project shared similar conditions, the degrees of severity varied within a same group. For this reason, when running a session, we had to identify the service users’ abilities as we worked with them, and modify sessions to tailor them to their abilities and needs. Being able to think on my feet and to quickly adapt in each project was thus vital to make each session successful.

This experience has also provided me with the opportunity to work on my communication skills. Although English is spoken by some Sri Lankan people, Sinhala –the main language in Sri Lanka – was the only language spoken by a large proportion of the individuals that we worked with. Furthermore, this situation was made more challenging by the fact that some individuals also had speech or communication deficits. In spite of these difficulties, me and the other volunteers were able to effectively communicate with the service users to run the sessions that we had planned.

Lastly, this work placement has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely different culture. I have been able to experience how mental health is treated and viewed not only in a different country, but in a country where the population still holds great stigma towards mental health. In addition to this, I was also required to adopt a Sri Lankan appropriate dress code and behaviour, not only at projects, but also at the homestays in which we lived with a Sri Lankan family. Besides gaining invaluable cultural awareness, this experience has also made me more aware and respectful of other people’s views, which has strengthened my interpersonal skills.

This has been a rich and unique experience that has benefited me both academically and personally. I have been given the chance to discover and develop a wide set of vital skills, as well as work on my weaknesses. In addition to this, the skills I have developed in this placement will hopefully give me an advantage when I move from an academic to a work setting.

Funding for this opportunity was provided by Santander Universities

Mythbusting: Go Abroad

We explore the top five myths and misconceptions around going abroad, and explain why there’s nothing stopping you from gaining international experiences! 

 

Going abroad is too expensive

There is funding available from Erasmus+ and Santander Universities of up to £1500 to support study, volunteer and work abroad opportunities, as well as additional funding for widening participation students and students with disabilities. You will also still continue to receive your student loan while abroad.

Lauren Haley, a BA Anthropology student, said, “As a student from a low-income background with the stresses of rent to pay during summer break I would not have been able ‘Go International’, particularly as an unpaid volunteer, without this bursary.”

 

Going abroad takes too much time

We can fund opportunities to go abroad from as little as one week. In the past, we’ve funded students to participate in short-term opportunities such as conferences and language courses abroad. This is a great option if you have commitments that would stop you from going abroad for a longer period of time.

Jheng-Hao Lin, a BSc Computer Science student, said, “I had a great week in Berlin. Thanks to the sponsorship from Santander, I was able to fly to this beautiful city and meet so much interesting people during these few days. These experience definitely contributes to my resume and portfolio.”

 

The application process is complicated

The application process can seem daunting, but we are here to help! We have weekly drop-ins in the SPACE (RHB 180-181) every Wednesday from 9:30 to 12:30pm where we can talk you through the application process and answer any questions you may have. You can also make an appointment with us outside of this time by emailing goabroad@gold.ac.uk.

If you’re having difficulties finding a work or volunteer placement, we have guidance on the website here. We also have a list of summer schools here.

 

It’s difficult to adjust to a different culture  

There is support available for learning a language for your time abroad, and our pre-departure guidance will prepare you for adjusting to another culture.

Going abroad is a great opportunity to develop intercultural awareness and communication skills that look great on your CV.

Alba Sirvent-Gonzalez, a BSc Psychology student, said, “This work placement has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely different culture. I was required to adopt a Sri Lankan appropriate dress code and behaviour, not only at projects, but also at the homestays in which we lived with a Sri Lankan family. I gained invaluable cultural awareness.”

 

I can’t go abroad after Brexit

Despite the uncertainty regarding the UK’s departure from the EU we are still continuing to promote opportunities to study and work abroad. If the UK and the EU agree a deal, then there will be a transition period and students will still be able to participate in the Erasmus programme and study and work in the EU on the current terms and conditions.

If we leave the EU without a deal things are slightly more uncertain. The Goldsmiths Global Opportunities team are continuing to monitor the situation and provide updates as soon as possible. We still have funding available to support students and are continuing to promote Go Abroad opportunities over the summer holidays and into the 2019/20 academic year. Check out our webpage for the forthcoming deadlines.

If there are any changes to the situation we will update applicants as soon as we know and well in advance of their placements. For the latest information, please see our Brexit statement, and the UK government Technical Notice.

Applicants will also need to be aware of any changes to immigration requirements relating to their overseas placement as a result of Brexit. Please consult the FCO guidance and the Government passport guidance.

Copenhagen Q&A

Daniel Deefholts, a BA Politics and International Relations student, reflects on his term studying in Copenhagen. 

 

Q: How did you feel when you found out that you had been awarded a place on the Study Abroad programme?

A: I was thrilled. Managing to secure a place months before the frightening reality of Brexit began to fully kick in was a big deal for me.

 

Q: How did you feel about your host university before you left?

A: It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study at the University of Copenhagen. Growing up, I studied at one of the lowest performing high schools in Croydon so the chance to study at one of Europe’s top-ranking research universities was a rare opportunity.

 

Q: Why did you apply to study abroad?

A: My dream is to build a career in government and politics in Europe, so this was the impetus for me.

 

Q: Now that you’ve returned, how do you feel about your experience?

A: It was undeniably the most challenging thing I have ever completed, but it has filled me with much perseverance. In hindsight, I wish I had been more prepared mentally. Living and studying in a foreign country was not easy at all; the experience was full of ups and downs, but ultimately, proved to be life-changing. I learned a great deal about myself in such a short amount of time. Overall, the experience enhanced my confidence, taught me new skills, and helped shape my career path.

 

Q: How was your experience adjusting to a new culture?

A: Initially, the reality of moving to Denmark did not sink in until I began interacting with the local Danes and immersing into the daily Danish life. At first Danish society seemed really laidback which would really irritate me, but then I learned to be more self-aware of the different norms in Denmark which helped me realise that social politeness was not the same as it would be in Britain.

 

Q: What was the biggest thing you learnt by being immersed in a new culture?

A: I realised that culture shock is normal, and I now try to be less judgemental whilst experiencing different cultures.

 

Q: How did you overcome culture shock?

A: By taking advantage of the abundance of opportunities that were made available to me, like learning basic Danish and utilising my university’s network of Scandinavian friends.

 

Q: Did you travel during your time in Denmark?

A: I got to explore Scandinavia – I went to Malmö by train and then jetted off to Stockholm. I’ve now definitely caught the travel bug, so spent last summer travelling across continental Europe to Belgium, Spain, France and Italy.

 

Q: How did studying at the University of Copenhagen help you with your studies back here at Goldsmiths?

A: The courses were incredibly challenging and thought-provoking. I was able to produce three research papers amounting to 15,000 words which explored my academic interests freely. These lengthy essays and intense deadlines have definitely prepared me for my upcoming dissertation.

 

Q: Has living in Denmark changed you or your attitudes?

A: It has made me feel more European and less restricted to the continent. It has also compelled me to improve my carbon footprint, through recycling more and investing in resusable coffee cups, as well as living a healthier and more active life. Overall it has taught me that Europe is more diverse across its national borders that it is imagined.

 

Q: What have you gained from the experience?

A: This has been one of the most fulfilling and hardest things I have ever done at university. This tough learning process has rewarded me with the ability to overcome culture shock with self-awareness, deal with difficult situations, realise my interest in research and world travel, and live life in the shoes of a continental European. I have gained an array of skills and a renewed feeling of confidence that I’m sure will help improve my future employability opportunities. Since returning, my study abroad experience has also led to me receiving a promotion at work and becoming the elected President for the Goldsmiths MUN!

 

 

The original article was published in Smiths magazine

 

London2Copenhagen: A Goldsmiths Student Abroad

Second year Sociology student, Abigail Joseph, shares her experience of studying abroad as part of the Erasmus programme. She spent five months in Copenhagen, her first trip abroad for a while and the longest she had ever been away from home.

My time in Copenhagen was full of ups and downs, though in the end there were definitely more ups.

There were lots of things that took a great deal of getting used to. When I first arrived at my student accommodation – which I had applied for through the University of Copenhagen a few months before arriving – I was taken aback. The room looked smaller than it had in the pictures online, and it was bare. A trip to the shop and unpacking my things definitely helped, as well as the arrival of my roommate. It made the space feel more warm and homely, but it was very different to what I had at home.

The first few days though were definitely a challenge. I felt so homesick, but chatting to friends and family back home made me feel less alone. Things picked up on the fifth day when I had the opportunity to meet other exchange students. In my second week we went to the cinema to see Black Panther – there ended up being a group of 8 of us, and I was shocked that I had managed to meet that many people in such a short period of time.

The biggest challenge, however, were the attitudes of other people in Copenhagen and the reaction I received as a black person who wraps their hair and often wears all black. I have gotten my fair share of staring, even in London, but never to the extent that it occurred in Copenhagen. The microagressions I experienced made me feel very low and vulnerable, and the curriculum is overwhelmingly white and Eurocentric. For instance, I took a class on Conflict and Peacemaking and the lecture was full of neo-colonial ideology.

The positive to come out of this negative was, however, that it pushed me to look for people who could understand my experience as a black person. I found a group on Facebook called ‘Women of Colour Network – Copenhagen’ and attended their next event, an open mic night. This was an amazing experience and I felt a sense of belonging and kinship for the first time – I felt much closer to ‘finding my people’ in Copenhagen. I also got involved with a project called Text Cinema, which my friend and other Danish students at the University of Copenhagen had been working on. This involved group readings of texts from theorists who are ideally female, of colour, and from the Global South as an effort to decolonise their curriculum. I have been helping the group as their aims are similar to those of the group I help run (Intersectionals) at Goldsmiths.

Studying at the University of Copenhagen is not actually that much different to Goldsmiths, apart from the obviously different lecturers and curricula. The main adjustment was the fact that there were no seminars, only lectures, so sometimes I felt like there was a lack of opportunity for discussion. However, I think this is because of what I am used to at Goldsmiths, because I spoke to other students and they found this normal.

One of the biggest highlights was definitely the time I spent exploring Copenhagen. Before I went to Denmark I compiled a list of places I wanted to visit, and I really enjoyed ticking them off. It was just amazing to explore a whole new city and do so on my own terms. I uncovered Denmark for myself and can go home with the many experiences I’ve had which will last a lifetime. Copenhagen has beautiful natural sites, inspiring architecture, great restaurants, bicycles galore, and I should add that the air is also far fresher than London’s. You just feel lighter than normal out here.

I feel sad to leave, to say goodbye to what has been my home for the past 4 months. I’ll miss the many friends I have made during my time here. Each one has made my term in Denmark that much better and I can only hope that I have done the same for each of them. I’m also really proud of myself. It was my first time away from home and even though it was a big jump to go from that to living by myself in a different country for almost half a year, I adapted. It was a great time to grow and push my limits. I now know that I am capable of more than I thought, that I can be fully independent which is a huge part of growing up.

Copenhagen has everything you could want so it you ever have a chance to come, take it.

This is an excerpt from Abigail’s blog series. These are being published on the Goldsmiths Student Union website.