What to do if your year abroad work placement falls through
Rebecca is doing a BA in Modern Languages (German, Russian and Czech) at the University of Sheffield. She spent 6 months applying and interviewing for a job in Berlin, only to find out in April that they could no longer take her. Although this was worrying to hear at the time and she had no idea what to do, she eventually managed to find another job after considering all her options, and worked for 6 months in Munich, and 4 months in Moscow.
Until a few months ago, I thought I had my year abroad all sorted. I’d found the work placement of my dreams in Germany – 6 months spent working in the media in Berlin, what’s not to like about that? I had the qualifications, experience and references required, and after the interview went well, I wasn’t surprised to find out I had the job. Well, I thought, that was easy!
But pride comes before a fall, and in April (4 months before I was due to start) I received a phone call telling me the department was downsizing and they could no longer offer any intern opportunities. I was blindsided – I’d already started looking for apartments and could really picture myself there! But it wasn’t meant to be, and after wallowing I decided I had to sort it out. It did eventually work out for me, but I understand how scary and confusing it was at first – so here’s my advice if you find yourself in the same position!
1. Talk to someone
Don’t bottle it all up – this is a scary position to be in but it’ll only seem more intimidating if you keep it to yourself. Sit down with someone who knows your situation and have a chat about it. It could be another year abroad student, a lecturer, even your mum - just someone who’s willing to listen to you ramble and whose advice you trust. Don’t get too wrapped up in your own head!
2. Keep your university updated
Make sure to let your university know what’s going on. It’s tempting to try and sort it all out by yourself, but your department are sending you all those annoying emails for good reason – they want to help you, and they’ve probably got more useful advice than you’d think. You’re definitely not the first student to be in this position – they’ve seen it all before.
3. Have a think
You’re back to square one now but that could actually be a blessing in disguise. Mull it over and decide what you really want – are you sure you want to do a work placement? What about the options of university or teaching? If you do want to find an internship, are you sure you know what sector you want to work in? Do you want to live in a big city or a smaller one? This is the perfect opportunity to make a more considered decision than before, and decide what’s really best for you.
4. Ask around
What about your friends and classmates who are also going on a year abroad? If some of them have found internships, what are they doing? If someone else has found something appealing, look into that company as well and see if they’re offering any other positions for interns. Hearing something through word of mouth is a great way to find previously unconsidered options.
5. Make the best of it!
Maybe after all of this you’ve still been unsuccessful in your search for a work placement – oh well! The experience of applying and interviewing has certainly still been valuable, and getting together a foreign-language CV and cover letter will surely come in useful in the future. But for now, most universities offer a choice of backup universities, so make a considered decision from the list, and remember – you’ll love wherever you end up!