Apologies that I haven’t posted in a while. For the last few weeks I’ve been preoccupied with Surrey Decides, the elections for students who will be working for the Student’s Union. I will be talking a lot more about that in the next post.
However, this time I want to discuss Placement that’s one of the biggest opportunities and challenges that University of Surrey students have.
What is a Placement?
A placement year usually takes place between the second and final year at University. It is also known as a sandwich course. There are three modules that you can take during your Placement year: you can work (usually full time, can be 9-12 months depending on job/company), study abroad (1 or 2 academic semesters) or do both (6 months study abroad followed/preceded by 6 months working).
Why should I do a Placement?
Most students choose to do a professional training placement because it allows them to have work experience while still being a student and supported by the University through your assigned placement tutor. You can consider it an opportunity to test whether you would actually enjoy working one of your career paths and seeing whether that is right for you.
Whether you find out you are on the right track or change your mind about what you want to work with, the experience is life-changing and worth it as it will allow you to make connections with companies which might become future employers. Networking is, after all, one of the most essential parts of building a career.
Students at the University of Surrey have worked with various companies in different areas; for instance: Disney, Warner Bros, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Nestlé, British Airways, Teach First, Barclays, HSBC, Vodafone, etc.
If you are an international student, there is also the fact that the fees for the placement here are much lower than annual fees. It varies from course of course, but it comes at about 15% of the usual annual fees. Considering most placements are also paid, that means not only are the fees low, but you get your money back as well.
Why should I do a Study Abroad?
Personally, I chose to do a study abroad because it will allow me to continue doing my course but in another country like France or Germany which will give me multiple opportunities to learn new languages, experience a different culture and meet new people.
I also get to choose modules which will add to the ones I’ve already studied at Surrey or entirely different subjects which will enhance my learning development.
The process of finding a study abroad is also a lot more straightforward and less complicated than finding a placement because it doesn’t include necessarily writing CVs and cover letters. Fees are similar but even lower to the Professional Training ones so that’s a plus.
How do I search?
After you decide to take a placement, probably the first thing on your mind will be where can you search for opportunities. Well, the University does support you by advertising many of them on Pathfinder. You can filter the jobs by duration, course and area; making it easier to find the perfect placements for you.
You can also search for organisations that offer work in your area on the website. Alternatively, if you already have an idea of the company do you want to work for, you can just go to their website.
Other possibilities to have a broader view of all their placements available is looking at websites like RateMyPlacement which is quite popular, TargetJobs which shows placements and internships and Going Global which shows placements abroad. You can also use LinkedIn, Indeed and Glassdoor since they do include shorter term jobs and internships.
Another way that the University is there to support are you it’s by offering weekly online and in person sessions with the Career services when you can check your CV, Cover Letter or LinkedIn page. They also have longer placement specific sessions to discuss logistics. You can book these on pathfinder, though I recommend booking in advance since students do take advantage of this service.
When do I start planning?
It’s hard to give advice on when to start planning for your placement year. If I was writing this to UK students, I would tell them they don’t have to worry about it until they reach second year.
However, since this blog is targeted to international students like myself, I have to warn you that if you apply for a three year course and later decides to do a placement, the process of extending your Visa to include the placement year/study abroad can take up to 6 months. Therefore, it might be good for you to think about whether you want to take one before you begin applying to university.
Personally, I didn’t apply to the 4 year programme and have managed to successfully extend my visa in time, but on retrospect I would have rather applied to the other option to avoid complications. I believe there is more benefit to choosing the 4 year program and possibly changing your mind than having to apply for a visa extension.
Now, visa complications aside, you do not need to be worrying or planning for a placement year during your first year at university. You will probably only learn about it by the end of your first year through a webinar organised by your department.
In the beginning of your second year you will hear more from the University about Placements and opportunities will be advertised on the website from around October. Big companies like Disney and Warner Bros begin their recruitment process around that time until March.
However, that doesn’t mean this is the deadline for you to choose a placement. Far from it. You have until the end of your second year to secure one and there will be opportunities advertised throughout the whole year. I’d say not to worry too much unless May comes and you haven’t found anything.
Overall, this is what I believe is most important for you to know about the placement year. It’s a truly amazing opportunity that we are blessed to have while studying are Universities like Surrey. If any doubts remain, feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Look out for the next blog when I will discuss the Student’s Union, the impact they have on students and why it is so important to vote in Surrey Decides.
Have a great evening, everyone!