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Virtual Summer School in Cologne

Maisie Goulsbra, a BA English & Media graduate, is completing a free online summer school at the University of Cologne titled ‘Perspectives and Visions on Virtual Societies’. Maisie is writing a series of blog posts about her experience of completing a virtual global opportunity.


I have to admit, I’m entering this experience with my heart slightly broken. Sitting at the dinner table, in my student house, in London. If it were not for lockdown, I would be in Cologne. Two weeks before the summer school begins, we meet via Zoom for a tutorial on how to use Discord, the platform on which all interaction outside of lectures will take place. In the Cologne Summer School Discord channel, are private chat rooms that we, the students, can make use of to have discussions and ‘socialise’. There is a virtual ‘playground’, and even a digi bar which will act as a substitute for going to the pub together. I can’t help imagining the sweetness of German wheat beer on my tongue as the digi bar sits and awaits me.

Volunteering at MEMPROW SA in Johannesburg

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.  

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Writing Course at Humboldt University, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

a young blonde woman jumping in the air against the backdrop of a multi-colour painted wall

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!

 

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 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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