Every 9th of May we celebrate the European Union Day, and today we want to talk about one the best decisions in our lives: enjoying an international experience. A big part of the binternational team decided to buy the ticket to one of the happiest periods of our lives. Today we are going to tell you which changes we experienced thanks to this programme.
The desired Erasmus
Finding inspiration in a different country, improving languages, gaining invaluable work experience or having fun. We have enough reasons to talk about Erasmus, a study programme born in 1987 seeking to bring together the students from the EU. This was the perfect excuse for students and professionals to enjoy an international experience at least once in their lifes. And that was ours too.
Álvaro González, International Recruitment Associate and Marketing Specialist at binternational, switched the University of León for the Hochschule Heilbronn (Germany). “I’d like to highlight several things from my stay in Germany: the impeccable punctuality, the effort for not wasting other people’s time, the rectitude and a very organised way of thinking. For example, bringing food into the classroom (and eating it) was totally allowed (something that was completely banned in my Spanish University)”.
Shortly after, Álvaro enjoyed an Amicus grant in the United States aswell. “During my stay there I worked as a Spanish Tutor for American students giving support to the Spanish professor. Again, as in Germany, you learn how to deal with public institutions. Obtaining the VISA is a big headache. Or even guessing if I have to cross out the white or latin race option in an official form”. Álvaro appreciates candidates who have enjoyed a programme like this: “If we are talking about an international position or if the person is going to work in an international team, having an international experience would be of extra value. I encourage any student to enjoy at least a semester abroad. I think it is completely necessary to discover that things are different in other places. If travelling makes you an open minded person, living abroad helps you even more in this regard. Ways of thinking and doing things can be extremely different”.
Francisco Juárez, Business Relations Coordinator, spent a year in Namur (Belgium) studying Management Administration. “I finished my Eramus two years ago but I feel it was yesterday. This fact says a lot about what I experienced. I made great friends from different countries. We still keep in touch and plan trips to gather together again”. Francisco keeps in his mind memorable stories from Belgium, like that one when his friends organised his birthday party, Namur style. “We were coming back home and they told me if you turn 22 the tradition says you have to dive into the Meuse river. At the beginning I refused, but before I realised it, I was in the water. Anyway, joking aside, it is a year in which you are alone (no family but many friends) and you have to pull your finger out. You have to learn how to be organised and that’s one of the blessings of the Eramus programme. And you can apply this to your professional or personal life. I could give you a thousand reasons for a student to spend an Erasmus year. But you definitely have to live it out to understand it”.
Francisco’s housing issues in Belgium
The Erasmus experience was a turning point for Miguel Ángel Estepa, International Recruiment Consultant. “In 2012 I decided to go to Troyes (France) to study the fourth year of Business Administration. In those 10 months I could learn about a different culture, improve my language skills in English and French, discover a different education system and enjoy a new hobby: rugby. I was an introverted and home-loving person, so I consider this experience as a before and an after in my life. It helped me to value my abilities of survival and adaptation and gave me the opportunity to travel. I’d recommend it, no doubt, because you get more than you can lose in both the professional and the personal fields. As a recruiter I believe the candidate who has been an Erasmus student or similar has an extra point. If you are still thinking about it, go for it!”.
Miguel, thoughtful with a coffee in Sacre Coeur
Ignacio Barriendos, Business Director at binternational, was also an Eramus. He din’t obtained an Erasmus grant but he decided to enroll in the Cardiff Metropolitan University (Wales). “The syllabus was the official so I wasn’t treated differently. This requires a big dedication, not only because of the language but of the adaptation to a completely different education system. Cardiff was a multicultural city with people from a lot of various places. It was the first time I lived a whole year alone. My flatmates were Chinese, Indian, British and Welsh. I learnt a lot about their culture and differences”.
Life beyond Erasmus
Besides the grant in honour of Erasmus of Rotterdam, there are also programmes for international internships which are very valued. In my case, (Marta Benayas), I made the most out of my Leonardo da Vinci programme for doing an internship as a Digital Assistant at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (UK). I was successful in all the interviews and got the job but I needed the grant, aroung €600 per month for board and keep that I finally got from the University of Salamanca, because the Museum didn’t pay interns. Surviving in the most expensive city of the UK with that amount of money is a story for another article, but the opportunity was amazing: I was looking for inspiration, and working in a place devoted to Art, Design and Decorative Arts was a gift I could not miss. I had the chance to work for V&A Images that provided pictures from the Museum collection to publishers, media and other museum companies, to dive in its photographic archive and to learn how to plan the annual content of the website, to work with other departments and to live up to the expectations of an institution as the V&A.
At St. James Park with the London Eye in the background
In other cases, the first international stints are developed before the University. Elena Gómez, Business Relations Coordinator, studied the second year of Secondary School in the United States. “At the beginning, the idea of Kansas was disappointing for me. When you think about USA you picture NYC, LA, Miami… But for me this was a golden opportunity to dive into the country culture. I clearly remember when my host family picked me up: the only word I understood was broccoli, and this was the only thing I ate”. When we ask her about what she learnt, she has it clear: “I consider myself a very different person if we talk about maturity, knowledge and even character”. I have learnt how to deal with very different kind of people, something bigger now that I study in an international University, and it has helped me to have the first contact with clients. I think a candidate is better positioned if he has this kind of life lessons in his CV. At the end, these are going to be people driven by curiosity and the charming of discovering places and cultures. These experiences allow them to think out of the box and they can become more effective in both the personal and professional fields”.
For Leandro de Gabriel, Business Relations Manager, the trip to improve his English in 2003 finished as an adventure of 5 years in the United Kingdom. “I chose a hotel as my first job abroad. It was the only thing I had real experience with after being the Commercial Director of Hoteles Silken. But my aspirations were higher than what I expected. I was about to start as a Receptionist but my level of English took me to only polish the cutlery!”. As soon as he improved his skills he worked in face to face jobs until he became a Bar Manager. Thanks to his savings he started buying in Auction Houses and his experience in hospitality allowed him to end up running The Greyhound Stroud, a club with live music, and an events company. At the same time, he started teaching Spanish in the Stroud College and a new opportunity arose: becoming the Commercial Director of Mevalco Fine Foods from Spain”.
In 2008 the Amberley Publishing Ltd President called me and offered me to open the subsidiary of the company in Spain. […] United Kingdom is a place who trusts people’s passions and based on that, they develop them professionally. I don’t have education in Languages or Teaching and I became a Spanish Teacher; I didn’t have experience running companies and they trusted me to manage two; I had read a lot and loved photography but I had no idea how to make a book, how to edit a text or how to run a publishing company and they gave me the opportunity to do it all. To sum up, they trusted me and my passions, my capabilities. My experience has been highly rewarding and has led me to be who I am, a person with interests in different areas and who works in what pleases me since 2003.”
Leandro at Oxford
Crossing the pond
For others, finishing the first part of their degree opened the doors to a new continent. For example, Carlos Pinilla, Managing Director at binternational, enjoyed a year in the UDEM in Monterrey (Mexico) studying the fifth year of Business Administration and did an internship at Multimedios, a television channel. “I was working at the Marketing Department. I learnt how to read people very well, and it’s something I use in my personal and professional life. I consider that this stage is as shocking personal experience that you only live once, so you cannot let is pass”. Regarding the value for a candidate, he disagrees: “As I see it, it is something valuable but not essential, because you grow as a person, and it helps you shaping your personality but, in general, the professional part doesn’t exist in that period”.
Very proud of her experience, Valeria Savani, International Recruitment Associate, did an exchange of five months in the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia. “I only remember a call to my father where I said: Dad, I have never been as happy as I am now. This is what being young feels like. It was one of the best experiences in my life, in both sides, personal and professional. I was in love with Spain and now it has become my home. I consider this stage as positive because I could learn other ways of living and I could open my eyes to new opportunities. In the professional field, I learnt about a new level of exigency, because I studied Master subjects and lifted the name of my country. On the personal side, I learnt that there are no international borders, that all of us are one despite of the different languages. And there is always something beyond what we see and the curiosity is essential to be big”.
Valencia was the perfect discovery for Valeria