BA Anthropology student, Sae Bosco, worked in a solidarity kitchen in Greece for one month, providing food for refugees. She was awarded a £500 Santander Universities 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.
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 Opportunities 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.
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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.
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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.
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Lauren Haley, a BA Anthropology student, spent a month working with migrants and refugees in Athens with the help of Santander Universities 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.
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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 Santander Universities 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.
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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