Ever fancied working abroad?

Spanish students in Valladolid

During the February half-term holiday a group of French and Spanish students from Notre Dame embarked upon a daunting week of work in a foreign country. That’s right, while you were sleeping in until twelve each day and kicking that due-in coursework to the corner of the room until, at best, two days before college started again, these students were unleashed into the working world of Nancy, a city in the Lorraine region of France and Valladolid in north-central Spain.
Having been given this opportunity by work experience program, Halsbury Work Experience, AS French student, Adam Leonard talked to me about his week in Nancy.
Everyone knows that work experience looks good for your university applications, so why choose France to do it? ‘I wanted to go on the trip to improve my French speaking skills before the speaking exam and also see what life was like in France’. Makes sense, you’ll stand out from the crowd as having worked abroad and you’re able to try out your skills in a real-life French environment. But starting a new job all on your own is nerve-wracking enough, how about being left alone for a week in a mainly French speaking restaurant? ‘I was initially worried about my placement since I was unsure how nice my employers would be, however, they were brilliant and I got along well with all of them. Although, it was slightly awkward on the first day because they spoke very little English, so my French was definitely put to the test.’
So, Adam was lucky with his placement, ‘I worked in a restaurant and did some waiter related jobs like laying tables and cleaning glasses, but mostly I worked in the kitchen with the chefs. This was the best bit, because they let me help make the meals and it was a very relaxed working environment’. But was it worth it, has it made a difference? ‘I am sure my French speaking has improved because I was surrounded by the language constantly, whether that was through speech, the written word or on the television. Also, because my employers spoke poor English it forced me to try and use as much French as possible. Being in a foreign country with just your classmates also helps your independence.’ After a week away, adjusting to working life in France, I asked Adam if he thought it was a worthwhile experience for other students, to which he replied, ‘I’d definitely recommend it to other students who want to practice and improve their French skills because, by the last day I was fairly confident with basic conversation and because it also re-sparked my interest in French lessons.’
The Halsbury Work Experience definitely seems to have had an impact upon the students that went to France and Spain; whether it has given them more confidence in speaking or just a fun week away that they’ll remember for a long time, the number of students I have spoken to have all recommended it as an opportunity not to be missed.
Meaghan Spencer

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