Opportunity knocks...

In this week's column 'The Good Life', Gemma is preparing to head to Europe to work for the summer...

One long week, one left to go. Not the typical comment from a student following a bank holiday weekend. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be wishing my life away. However, these two weeks have been torture, especially for University of Limerick students. While the sun shines brightly outside, we have been sitting staring at screens, revising notes and re-watching lectures. This Friday marks the due date for my final assignment and it can’t come quick enough!

Adding to my stress was the fact that I have a six-to-eight-month placement to compete beginning in June. Around this time last year, I decided to put myself on the global co-operative education programme. This means that I will be completing my placement outside of Ireland. Nobody else in my course opted to do this, which shocked me a little. Above all else in college, I want to get as much experience as possible and travel as much as I can. I thought global placement would be a great way to do this. That is until, a month before I am due to leave, I haven’t heard a thing from any employers abroad. The co-operative education office received several emails from myself in a major panic about getting placed. If you decide to go for this type of placement, especially in Limerick, be prepared to wait. By speaking to people who did the programme last year, most students are placed the week before they are due to leave. With many placements in journalism and media unpaid, the task of finding accommodation in a different country and not knowing where I was going to be placed, I was seriously regretting my decision to do a global placement.

On the programme, you must attend all interviews that are scheduled for you, and you must accept the first offer you receive. Honestly, I don’t agree with this aspect of the programme. Even if you receive an interview for a placement not remotely associated with what you are doing in college, you must attend. Furthermore, if you get offered this placement, you must take it. I don’t think this is fair, especially considering most of the placements are unpaid. If you are not getting monetary reward, you should at least be gaining valuable experience that will enhance your career. I know one girl on my course who has been placed in a call centre for summer. It has nothing to do with journalism, as she says herself, she will spend the summer and first semester telling people to turn their device off and back on again. I started to fear I would end up doing this, in a different country, without a penny to my name.

Finally, with about six weeks to go before I am due to leave and most other people in my course placed, I received an email detailing that I had gotten my first interview. It was for a company in Germany where I would be working as a marketing intern. The company create semiconductors, of which there is a global shortage at the minute. It’s not a newspaper but the company has firms all over the globe and its own newsroom. I did the interview online and felt that it went well. I was actually able to speak about semiconductors due to doing a feature with Galligan Motors in Ballinagh at Christmas time. The owner of the garage, Peter Galligan, explained that a semiconductor acted like the brain for the car, responsible for carrying out safety functions, sensing, displays, power management and overall control of the vehicle. The shortage has meant tonnes of new cars are unfit for sale. At the time, I found the information interesting for the purpose of the feature, but not once did I think it would come in useful during an interview. The interview concluded with the usual “we’ll be in touch.”

My next interview, I was extremely excited for. It was for the Erasmus Student Network in Brussels. The organisation supports students who wish to study abroad. I would be doing a digital marketing internship. I felt that, as a student working abroad, I would be perfect for this role. My interview was scheduled for 13:30. About 40 minutes before the interview was due to begin, I sat down to do some research on the company. Based on my experience with interviews so far, the question ‘what do you know about the company?’ always comes up.

When I opened my laptop, an urgent email asking me to join the interview now awaited me. I clicked the link in a major panic, knowing full well I had lost this opportunity before I even introduced myself. Half one in Belgium is half twelve for myself in Ireland. I fumbled on questions, I knew very little about the company and I shook throughout the entire interview.

Following this, all went quiet for about two weeks. I had got word back that I didn’t get the placement in Germany and, as for the other, I accepted that a company did not want an intern that didn’t understand the concept of a time zone. Just when I started to accept that I would be working in a call centre for summer, I received an email from The Erasmus Student Network. I was expecting the ‘I’m sorry but unfortunately on this occasion you were unsuccessful’ speal, but instead it began with ‘congratulations.’ I got the placement! I am absolutely thrilled with the opportunity; I think a digital marketing internship will benefit me especially in today’s digital world.

To any students thinking of doing a global placement, it is stressful. So far, I can only give my experience on the application process and interviews. Some companies require you to carry out a separate application process. For this particular company, I had to answer questions each with a different word count and create a social media post with visuals and text for their Facebook page.

During interviews, be prepared to speak about your personality, past experience, why you are applying for the role, what you know about the company, what you expect to be doing and obviously know your start dates and how long your placement needs to be. And don’t forget to factor in time differences! I was also asked if I would be open to travelling within the role.

I would also advise to do your best during the interview and, afterwards, forget about it. Don’t rule anything in or out until you receive word from the company.

As my mother always says ‘what will be, will be!’

I have always wanted to live abroad, and I am extremely excited for the experiences I will gain.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a second year journalism student in University of Limerick.


College year drawing to a close