What I Learnt On Study Placement

I’ve now graduated and am Content and Communications Executive at The Chat Shop. I studied a BSc Economics and Management degree at Aston University and bagged myself a First Class Honours. The third year of my course was a sandwich year, in which I had the opportunity to complete an overseas study placement, a work placement or a marriage of the two.

Being the kind of person that wants to try a bit of everything and get the most out of opportunities, I of course opted for both. From September until Christmas 2013 I studied at Brock University in Ontario, Canada and from January until the end of August 2014 I worked as Inbound Sales Development Executive at South West London based start-up, The Chat Shop.

Completing a placement year was a wonderful opportunity and I'd advise any student to do the same and experience another country and/or a potential career. This post is all about my study placement in the beautiful nation of Canada and what I learnt from my experience.

People are taught in many different ways

There is much established theory behind the fact that individuals learn differently. I’ve witnessed for myself how many individuals learn differently here in the UK, in my lectures at Aston. Some students print out lecture slides and bring them to the lecture, some make pages and pages of their own notes and some just sit and listen to the lecturer.

Whilst studying in Canada, I realised that nations as a whole have a tendency to learn differently and that this is reflected in the way that they are taught and examined at university.

Compared to the UK, Canada seems to place a higher emphasis on student participation in lectures; many subjects have 5-10% of the module mark allocated to the contribution students make in class. Each course in Canada has more assessments with a wide range of formats; it’s not uncommon to complete a group presentation, an individual assignment, an exam and other smaller assessments for each class. In the UK, it can be quite common for your final module mark to boil down to one assessment.

What I learnt from the realisation that people are taught and tested in many different ways is that this makes for very different viewpoints on the same problem, based on the background, culture and university education of the problem solver. A problem may not be approached the same way by a Canadian student as it is by a British student.

Different skills and cultures make for better teams

These different ways that we are taught and the different experiences we have mean that we all end up with varied skill sets, even if we studied the same degree. And like I just mentioned, it means that we probably approach the same problems in different ways.

Group work in Canada with individuals from a range of cultures and backgrounds made me realise how beneficial a team of diverse individuals can be.

I studied a range of modules at Brock, with economics, marketing and entrepreneurship being the main topics. With every subject area, I found that the people from the same country shared similar ideas whereas the people from the other side of the world, a different part of Europe or even just with a different upbringing, had completely unique ideas and solutions from each other.

The range of skills and viewpoints which everyone brought to the table meant that we could come up with innovative ways to solve the problems which we faced and produce truly professional work.

Having an international network is awesome!

Not only did I meet plenty of Canadians in Canada (that was a given) but I also met many other students on exchange from different parts of Europe and the rest of the world. Cheap holidays all year round!!! Woo-hoo!!!

The fact that I had the opportunity to work and socialise with people from so many other countries doesn't just mean that I get free accommodation and tour guides when I go abroad, it also means a rich network of individuals which could become vital business contacts as I start my career.

As I've already banged on about, working with people from all over the world has great advantages and my new network of people dotted from country to country means great points of reference for future advice and collaboration.

I've learnt so much about myself

As part of my placement year I had to complete assignments with my home university (Aston), including a reflective learning journal. The reflective learning journal gave me a chance to record all of the things which I had learnt about myself from month to month. I learnt a lot and had chances to tackle my weaknesses head on, whilst still on placement.

Making friends with people from around the world improved my communication skills and confidence. Increased participation in classes allowed me to critically analyse theories and my own work more effectively. And the final major personal development was my new found skills and confidence in leadership, due to the many group tasks which I completed.

I had an amazing time in Canada; I met many fantastic people, saw beautiful cities and scenery and learnt a lot about myself and working with multiple cultures. Even though it's almost 2 years since I left Canada, and I've said thank-you many times before...thank-you to everyone that made it so special!

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