How an Erasmus+ project placement led to a full-time job for Zulayiha
Challenging and enriching - these are the words Zulayiha Umupfasoni uses to sum up her Erasmus+ experience.
Zulayiha undertook a six-month internship with European Placement Network (EPN) in Bristol as part of the MATCHSI project, funded by Erasmus+. She did so well that they offered her a job.
EPN was also the lead partner for MATCHSI, which sought to improve the 'matchmaking' of trainees, VET providers and host companies ahead of international work placements through the creation of an easily adaptable and user-friendly toolkit. The goal was to significantly reduce the number of participants and organisations left disappointed or disillusioned when placements didn't work out as expected for one, or both, parties.
Zulayiha’s successful placement and subsequent employment at EPN was one of the project's first success stories. Following a friend’s recommendation, and motivated to improve her English, Zulayiha had travelled from Belgium to take part in the project and work in the UK.
“The MATCHSI toolkit really helped to clarify what I wanted for my internship and to have the perfect match for me and for the company." she said.
"Also, it helped me to know more about the job market and my sector as I had to do some further research in order to explain the tasks that I was expecting to do during the placement.
“The MATCHSI process of producing a video CV to present myself, my skills and my motivation was quite scary at first but it taught me a lot and really helped me to get my dream internship.”
Boosting language skills and self-confidence
The process also helped Zulayiha develop a clearer idea of what she wanted for her future.
"It mostly helped me by showing me exactly what I wanted to do in my professional career.
“I came to this work placement with ambitions of working in the recruitment sector but soon changed my mind as I realised that I wanted something a lot more people-focused.
“If I hadn’t done my internship at EPN I probably wouldn’t have been hired to work as a full-time employee.
The MATCHSI toolkit really helped to clarify what I wanted for my internship
“My main goal was to improve my English and I truly believed that doing an experience in the UK would be valuable for my future career.
“If I hadn’t been immersed in an English environment, I wouldn’t have had the chance to improve my English as fast as I did.
“Also, I learned how to be independent and autonomous as sometimes, when the coordinators were in business meetings abroad, I had to manage the office by myself and it was the first time I had so many responsibilities on my shoulders.”
Testing of the MATCHSI toolkit and feedback from participants showed that many, like Zulayiha, increased in confidence and improved soft skills, such as being able to adapt to change and to cope with new situations, as well as developing language skills.
In her role at EPN, Zulayiha now helps others to secure a fruitful international work placement - and she has plenty of first-hand hints and tips to offer.
“I would say it’s the best experience you could have but also be prepared for it, because it isn’t easy," she said.
"You would need to make new friends, to adapt to a new culture, deal with the fact that you are far from your family but, in the end, the experience makes you grow.
"Also, if you travel alone it's important before your departure to check that you can use your phone abroad and that you have internet access.
“Something that could be useful as well is to download translation apps onto your phone. They will be really useful when you are stuck for a word or for an expression.”
The MATCHSI toolkit is freely available to download on the project website to help anyone planning international work placements and EPN and their partner organisations have produced follow-up resources, such as MobMan and Compétences+, also designed to enhance such mobilities.
Want to know more about VET international placement opportunities? Take a look at our dedicated webpage!