Produced by Guest blogger
My name is Alexandra Southgate, and I am a Business & Management student at Bournemouth University. I have recently come back from my placement and I was lucky enough to complete 11,564 miles away from home, in New Zealand!
For as long as I can remember, I have had a desire to travel and work abroad, and my placement year in New Zealand has allowed me to realize that dream. Not only have I gained invaluable work experience, but I have also been able to explore a new culture and way of life. In New Zealand, I was working as a Sports Coordinator, coaching tennis and working closely with the Kiwi Tennis directors to build my own coaching business through proactive promotion.
Preparing for my mobility:
I found out about this job through a previous student at Bournemouth University who also completed a placement with the same company. I chose to apply for this role as I knew it was an opportunity that would help me to develop as an individual.
Applying for the Turing Scheme was a fairly easy process, I was greatly supported by the Universities International Grant department, and they guided me with what I needed and the questions I needed answering. The process requires you to fill out some questions; asking you about yourself, your work abroad and what it is that you want to achieve from this experience, and the dates you intend on going.
Receiving this funding provided great financial support to cover the costs of interning abroad. It helped contribute towards the costs of travel, accommodation, and living expenses, which can be a significant burden for many students. The grant enabled me to focus on my studies and work without worrying about financial constraints. Without this funding, I don’t think I would have been able to have this opportunity as New Zealand is a very high-cost country.
Before leaving for my travels, I was very nervous as I was unsure what to expect. I was about to start up a new life, in a new country, with a new job. However as soon as I arrived in New Zealand I was overly excited, I saw the beautiful surroundings and knew I had made the right choice.
To set me up and sort out the jet lag, I was staying with a member of the receiving organisation, he helped to set up a new sim card and bank card, etc. I was fortunate enough to have 2 other Bournemouth University students joining me on a placement with the same company, so 1 week later all 3 of us were living together. This helped ease our nerves as it felt like we were back at university, living with our housemates again!
Furthermore, there are many similarities between New Zealand and England, they are an English-speaking country with lots of green countryside scenery and a very similar culture that reminded me of home. The greatest challenge to overcome was adapting to the hot weather and feeling homesick, but work and friends helped to keep me distracted.
My traineeship was relevant to my studies as a Business student as it helped to build communication and interpersonal skills. As a sports coordinator, I had to communicate with athletes, coaches, and other staff members. These skills are essential in any business environment. This also helped when building connections and friends. Being able to have the balance of working during the week whilst being able to explore another country and see friends was a key difference in my expectations of my life and working role.
Before starting my placement I was worried I would not have time to make the most of my time abroad but this was not the case! Having the financial security of being in full time employment allowed me to enjoy my travels and develop key employment skills through this experience without the stress of being short of money.
The highlights for me were the business connections and the friendships that I made. I was able to explore the country and pick up new hobbies such as surfing and hiking whilst gaining work experience at the same time. We were also fortunate enough to try new activities such as bungee jumping, fishing, and wakeboarding which I may never have tried at home!
Global outlook & reflections on my experience:
My knowledge of different cultural perspectives in business may have improved throughout my mobility through being exposed to different cultural settings. This provided me with a deeper understanding of how cultural differences impact business practices. This experience taught me to become culturally aware and sensitive, which is essential in today’s globalised business world.
Secondly, interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds exposed me to new ideas and ways of thinking. This experience taught me that working in the sports business world is definitely a career that I would like to pursue in the future. Setting up my own tennis training academy has always been a dream of mine. Being able to link my academic knowledge from my Digital Marketing unit, I was able to put to use skills that had learned to help effectively manage the social media and marketing page for Kiwi Tennis. This experience was the perfect opportunity to develop my employability skills.
As a sports coordinator, I developed strong leadership skills, such as the ability to motivate and inspire others and delegate tasks effectively. Throughout my time I had to manage multiple tasks and deadlines simultaneously. This taught me to develop excellent time management and organisational skills, which are essential in any business job role. I would say developing these skills is my greatest achievement from this. Realising that there are so many new things that working abroad can teach me really motivates me to pursue a global career in the future.
Over the placement, my confidence when working and communicating with my players and colleagues improved as I was pushed out of my comfort zone. The work I produced also improved in correlation with my confidence.
When looking back at this experience I would tell myself to have more confidence in what I am capable of achieving. I would tell myself to be less nervous and not be afraid to ask my placement advisors and other members of staff for help and guidance with any questions that I had. I would also advise myself to research a bit more about the area that I am going to, to help myself feel more prepared.
I can assure any future students considering working abroad that they should take the chance to gain the experience as it gives you a great insight into other cultures and helps develop skills and independence. You are likely to have a great time and make great friends and professional connections, whilst experiencing working in a whole new environment. I would further advise you to make sure you try to speak to someone already out there before going out there to find out what you should bring across.