By: Regina Smirnova EBA14
“I completed my work placement as a Study Abroad Assistant in the University of Hertfordshire, in Hatfield, United Kingdom. I found the advertisement for this job published on the intranet of my exchange year destination, therefore I would advise to keep an eye on both Metropolia and Partner Institution publications regarding careers and employability.
My goals were to take the most out of the opportunity offered: improve marketing skills through social media, personal advertising and promotional material production; improve organisational skills by holding events, fairs and conferences; master communication skills by communicating in such a big organisation; practise leadership and tutoring skills, such as managing people. I had a contract for 37 hours a week. There was never two identical days through the whole placement but the overall tasks remained the same. The overall aim of the placement was to promote and enhance Study Abroad opportunities with local students at the same time providing a great experiences for the incoming ones. Tasks included day-to-day email, phone and face to face communication, organisation of different events starting from Study Abroad fairs and finishing with conferences, monthly pop-up events, marketing and promotion as well as paperwork for exchange students.
Placement students in the University of Hertfordshire are very lucky to have the whole induction week schedule for them. During this week, we met all the key departments we will have had to be in touch with during our placements and oversee their tasks to better understand the areas of cooperation and who address specific questions to. What is more, I was lucky to have HEURO newcomers conference the first week, where all new members of the Erasmus Offices got general introduction into the topic.
The University of Hertfordshire is a great place to work, where you get support from different departments and where personal development is only encouraged: there is a lot of training offered to participate in on various topics starting from basic ones, such as equality and diversity at the workplace to more specific ones, such as Advanced Excel. What is more, all members of staff are encouraged to go to other universities worldwide for experience sharing, training, job shadowing, teaching or fair activities. We had weekly team meetings to address some issues and discuss the updates and the progress. As a placement student I had every 2 month development meeting with my mentor to get some feedback and comments. Therefore, a lot of competencies were developed during the placement.
The atmosphere in the office was very informal and friendly, you could always take a break and chat with your colleagues, ask advise and I wanted to wake up every morning to go to work, as it was always busy, never boring and always fun. UH employees are very friendly and helpful: even though the organisational structure of the university is quite hierarchical, you can always contact anyone who is higher in the pyramid and ask for advice and help.
One of the biggest problems in such a big organisation is always communication, as you do not necessarily know who to contact in certain cases and you cannot act before receiving the answer. The email turnover is huge, therefore it is always easier to call if you require an immediate response. University is a service providing organisation, therefore the customer service standards have to be very high. Sometimes it was very challenging to help students, as we did not have power to solve the problem ourselves and the only way we could assist them was to direct them to the correct body.
Overall, England is an amazing place to work as the employment law is very generous in here, for example in relation to sick leave or holiday length. University is a great place to work, as employees get a lot of support, staff discounts and staff development activities. University of Hertfordshire is an organisation where all employees and students are like one big family. Unfortunately, only UH students can apply for the placement positions, but any other positions are open for everyone. So, if you are at the University of Hertfordshire and you are looking to have a placement in Study Abroad Office or any other department, please keep an eye on Studynet starting from February, as the Interview processes are taking place already in March.”