Coronavirus won’t stop student’s Erasmus+ work placement
Phoebe Chubb was enjoying her Erasmus+ year abroad to the full when the global coronavirus outbreak changed everything.
The University of Exeter Politics and International Relations student was working as a marketing intern at Berlin-based tech firm Labforward, gaining valuable employment experience, learning a new language, making new friends, even playing for a local netball club - then the pandemic hit.
Like many students in a similar position, Phoebe was left facing many tough decisions and had to act quickly – ultimately returning home just halfway through her placement.
However, with the support of her university and her employer in Germany, Phoebe’s international experience is not quite over yet – as she continues her internship remotely.
An international internship from home
"After six months of working in Berlin, I definitely became more resilient and gained many useful skills that I thought would help me to find a job after graduating,” she said.
“Little did I realise how quickly I would need to use my new-found skills. Because of the Coronavirus sweeping across Europe, following communications with my university, I had no choice but to return to the UK. Luckily, I was supported throughout by Labforward.
"The whole company was able to transition into remote working, and so I have been able to continue my internship remotely, for which I am really grateful.
“We use a mix of tools to ensure that we can continue to work with some level of normality, such as Slack, Google Meet and email.
“As the company had already introduced a work-from-home focus day, I was quick to adjust to the new way of working back in the UK.
“I continue to have weekly meetings, where tasks are set, and end of week one-to-one meetings to see how I have been getting on with the work.
“I also continue to have my weekly German lessons but, as they are conducted remotely, it has its challenges!”
I have become a more resilient, independent individual, confident to embrace all the opportunities working abroad creates.
Phoebe was one of more than 800 University of Exeter students on placement abroad when the pandemic struck, with more than half funded by Erasmus+, said Global Opportunities Manager, Student Employability and Academic Success (SEAS), Anna Moscrop.
“It has proven to be a logistical challenge for us to say the least,” she said. “We had to act quickly to make sure that all our students were supported to make informed decisions about returning from their placements.
“Fortunately, like Phoebe, many of them have been able to access online learning or work from home for the remainder of their placements.”
New skills for new circumstances
Phoebe admits that having her international experience cut short is a big disappointment, but is still grateful for the time she did spend in Germany, thanks to Erasmus+, and delighted that she can continue her work and new relationships remotely.
"Despite the unfortunate circumstances of how my placement changed, I have still gained valuable experience from my internship that I can use to bolster my CV for post-graduation employment,” she said.
“As I had to make a quick decision to move out of Germany there were many factors I had to organise in a very short amount of time.
“I am thankful that the skills I have gained from my time abroad made me more adept in making tough decisions and I was able to quickly sort out what I had to do.
"Looking back, I can see this internship hasn’t just helped me transfer academic skills into the working environment, it has been a journey which has gifted me many new experiences that I think you can only really acquire by living and working abroad.
“I have become a more resilient, independent individual, confident to embrace all the opportunities working abroad creates.
Seize the opportunity
"I am so thankful that I decided to take part in Erasmus+ and enjoy the six months abroad I had - I took advantage of every opportunity.
“I joined the Berlin Netball Club, where I met and played with friendly people from all around the world. Being a member encouraged me to travel more, both for leisure and tournaments, and enabled me to connect with other people who were in a similar situation to me.
“Berlin always had something going on but nothing beat being there to experience the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall - a momentous occasion that I witnessed first-hand. I was also able to travel more and see many new cities, like Prague, Dresden and Hamburg.
"I will take away a lot from this experience, including an increased awareness of what working life is like, which I think will help me just as much as my entire university course.
“I also think that how I coped with the crisis and carried on working remotely will be a very useful experience. I still talk daily with my German colleagues and am hoping to return at the earliest time after restrictions lift, as nothing beats the real-life experience!"
Want to hear more about using online tools to work from home like Phoebe? Take a look at our blog post for inspiration!