Care in a new community: developing in-demand skills through work placements abroad
Sandra Idele, a Health and Social Care learner at BSix College in London, had her first taste of international work on a two-week placement at a care home in Esposende, Northern Portugal.
Organised through REY Europe, Sandra was part of a group of 16 Health and Social Care learners from Hackney who undertook placements at care homes for the elderly or childcare facilities.
The group were matched with a placement based on their course specialism and future career interests and Sandra feels much better prepared to chase her ambitions after the trip.
“I have always wanted to live and work abroad,” she said. “I applied for the Erasmus+ placement because I wanted to expand my soft skills as well as my practical care-giving experience.
"I saw this placement as a challenge and stepping out of my comfort zone.
“My placement was at a care home for elderly people, so my tasks were mainly assisting the elderly people and supporting them with tasks that they were not able to do. I also helped with serving their meals and ensuring that they were all able to participate in activities such as seated yoga and Zumba.”
While developing her professional skills, Sandra was also able to develop a strong bond with those in the care home – despite the language barrier.
“Through this placement I have come to the realisation that I am very good at overcoming challenges, for example the language barriers faced with some of the people I was caring for.
“Another achievement would be that the older people in our care home were very happy with us – some of them were even crying when we had to leave!”
Lisa Atamian, Partnerships Manager at REY Europe said: “On these Erasmus+ projects, the learners develop a lot of skills specific to the course they are studying. In this case, Sandra was able to get a really practical experience of working with elderly people but also benefit from the soft skills development."
Sandra hopes to go to university in September to train as either a Paramedic or an Adult Nurse, professions that are both currently in high demand in the UK.
“Working internationally has helped me a lot. The skills I learned during my placement will help me with my future care aspirations as I now have experience of how to interact with different types of individuals, even when we don’t speak the same language,” said Sandra.
“This experience will be useful if I go on to become a Paramedic as you never know the people you are going to meet at the place of accident and if they will be able to speak the same language, so I will have experience in dealing with these situations.”
Portugal allowed me to breathe again and made me realise that there is world bigger than my four walls in London
A new culture and community
As well as gaining valuable work experience, learners were also given the chance to explore Portuguese life through meeting the locals and going on day trips organised by their hosts, Euromob.
“I loved everything about the experience but what I loved the most was the hard work the hosts put in to ensuring that everything went well, such as planning trips to different cities for us. They really made sure that we saw the beauty of Portugal,” said Sandra.
“My biggest learning achievement was being able to learn about the Portuguese culture and the people there. I also loved the way our supervisors at the care home took care of us, they really made sure we didn’t lack anything.
“Portugal allowed me to breathe again and made me realise that there is world bigger than my four walls in London.”
Sandra shared her top tip for those thinking of taking part in Erasmus+:
“The advice I would give the future Erasmus+ participants would be that they should not be afraid as they will be in good hands. They will make amazing memories and get to explore the world.
"You don't find opportunities like these often, so they should take the chance, try to live in the moment and enjoy themselves."
A positive experience
Saamiah Salam, Health and Social Care Tutor at the college commented: “Everything went really well from our perspective. The students learned a lot from their experience and we were all made to feel very welcome.”
“The reports we get back from their tutors are always really positive when they reintegrate into the college," said Lisa. "They are more punctual, they are more professional, their work is of a higher standard, so the tutors really see the difference that going away on the placement makes for a student.
“This group became really close after having been away together and having this shared experience and the tutor noticed there was a really nice atmosphere in the class when they came back.”
Both the participants and the community they visited were able to learn from this experience, working and living alongside a group of people they would not otherwise have met.
“It’s a really good opportunity for them to work with different people from outside their community – both for the learners and the locals,” Lisa added. “This is a really small town in Portugal and having a very diverse group of girls from London descending on them ended up being a really positive experience for them.
“Everywhere the group went people wanted to speak to them – they were fascinated by them. And especially working with the elderly in the care home was really beneficial for all involved, in terms of seeing new and different people and finding different ways of communicating.”
With an aging population, there is currently a real need for care professionals in the UK. Through this experience, Sandra has been able to improve both her practical and communication skills, as well as becoming more aware of the different cultures and communities she may meet in her future profession.
Interested in a work placement abroad? Find out where you could go on our participating countries page!