Drafting an architectural future through international work experience
Northolt architecture graduate Patrycja Smola has grand designs on a career after taking part in a three-month work placement in Seville.
The young Londoner went on an ErasmusPro placement in Spain, organised by REY Europe.
With dreams of a future in architecture, Patrycja’s placement with a specialist firm has given her an insight into the industry and the next steps she needs to take to reach her career goal.
“I applied for this placement because I have always wanted to live and work abroad, as well as learn a new language," she said. "I was encouraged by the warm climate as well as the opportunity to see some of the most famous and traditional architecture in the city.
A day in the life of an architect
The Erasmus+ experience gave Patrycja a real insight into life as an architect.
“I had an opportunity to work in an architectural office on real life projects in Seville," she said. "Some of the tasks I was given involved drawing scaled plans, making physical models or taking measurements on the site.
“I was part of the team that consists of three architects. Each day I would be given a new or different task to work on which kept me motivated throughout the placement."
While testing her technical knowledge and developing industry-specific skills, Patrycja was also able to work on a foreign language – a highly sought-after skill by employers.
“Moving to a city where English is not widely spoken, I had to use the local language in many situations. My biggest achievement during my placement was learning Spanish.
“Three months doesn’t seem like a long time to learn a new language; however, I feel that after this short period of time, I can now understand some of the basic phrases and even have a small conversation,” Patrycja said.
The experience I have gained during my placement will help me with my career
Outside of work, Patrycja was also able to learn about the local Spanish culture.
"The work placement was close to the city centre, which allowed me to visit and see many monuments during my free time.
“I was very surprised to find that Seville had so many different cultural events happening throughout the year. I was lucky enough to experience events such as carnival in Cadiz – the most famous Spanish festival, happening in the Andalusian region where I was doing my placement."
A CV that stands out
With a clear goal for her career, Patrycja was looking for practical experience that would help her stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs.
“The experience I have gained during my placement will help me with my career; I have been put into new situations that I have not experienced before and learnt how to adapt quickly in these cases,” she said.
“I believe that working in another country will make my CV stand out in the future. Some of the skills that I have gained from this international experience are independence, confidence, sense of adventure and open mindedness. I believe these skills are what every potential employer is looking for.”
Lisa Atamian, Partnerships Manager at REY Europe said: “We often find students come back and they are a lot more confident, more independent, a lot better at communicating and it’s also raised their aspirations for the future – it’s really nice to see.”
Advice for future Erasmus+ participants
Patrycja shared her advice for other young people considering a work placement abroad.
“Moving to a new country means that there will be difficult moments. Whether it is missing the people you are used to seeing every day, the language, or just not being able to find your way around," she said. "But the people you meet on your way will help you to settle down and feel at home.
“Whether your placement is for a few weeks or a couple months, it really does go quickly, and one thing I would strongly recommend is to get out of your comfort zone and see what the new place has to offer.
“Be organised with your time and try to see as much as you can, whilst being focused on your work placement. Speak the local language whenever you can. Finally, be positive and enjoy what you do!”
Funding to reach more people
While Patrycja feels there will be clear benefits for her future, the coordinating organisation, REY Europe, has also benefitted by taking part in the Erasmus+ programme.
“For REY Europe, Erasmus+ projects have been a great opportunity to expand the number of young people and partners that we are able to work with,” Lisa said.
“We have been able to increase the amount of Erasmus+ funding we receive over the last few years, so we have been able to be more ambitious, working across more countries and subject areas. It’s been great for helping us grow as an organisation and helping us to support more young people.
“A lot of our young people have never travelled abroad before, so just the experience and the confidence they gain from that is huge.
“Similarly, not all of them have had work experience before, so just going to work and finding out what that is like is really valuable as well in terms of preparing them for life after college.”
Now that Patrycja has returned to the UK, she is looking for her dream job and the experience she gained in Seville is helping her search.
Taking part in an ErasmusPro work placement helps young people get a taste of their desired industry. It also serves as a brilliant opportunity to increase their work-readiness and employability skills by working with new people, communicating in different ways and being pushed outside their comfort zone, as Patrycja was.
Found Patrycja's tips helpful? Visit our Advice for participants page to find more helpful information to start your Erasmus+ experience!