Students criticise Uni’s handling of year abroad

As the University celebrates a surge in the number of students opting to spend a year abroad, Gair Rhydd has received a handful of complaints regarding the handling of overseas study and placements.

The University has seen an increasing number of students carrying out work experience across Europe: this academic year, 105 students took advantage of the University’s international links, an increase of 144 per cent from 43 in 2009/10.

Examples of placements include marine traineeships, foreign language assistant and teaching assistant positions amongst others.

However a number of students who have worked and studied abroad have taken issue with the handling of applications and the lack of communication between the University and their prospective institutions.

“At times it would take up to a week before you could complete a single document due to working around nonsensical office hours and attempting to collaborate with several administrative parties such as erasmus offices, university offices and course specific admin,” said one language student who spent a year studying in a European university.

“All this is further complicated if you have to work through a language barrier, as is the case for the majority of students travelling abroad.

“Once the initial complications of the arrival and sign-up period had passed, things became significantly more straightforward. The vast majority of lecturers acknowledged the fact that you were an Erasmus student (even if you weren’t on an Erasmus-geared course) and offered help/guidance if you approached them.”

The student continued: “The ineptitude of the administrative staff at the beginning of the year is more than compensated for by lecturers offering help, and by native students eager to help a foreign friend.”

Another language student who worked for a year in Europe as a teaching assistant was landed with a €200 medical bill and legal fees whilst on placement. Despite reaching out to the University for help, they claimed there was nothing they could do.

The same student fell ill on a seperate occassion and was forced to fly back to the UK for treatement by the NHS after her insurance, provided by the University, failed to cover her doctor fees

The same student, who applied for the placement through the British Council, spoke about how the University didn’t check-in on her once throughout her time abroad to ensure the placement was running smoothly, but did commend staff who helped her with her teaching application.

A third year student who spent his second year studying abroad describes how the University sent him a pack containing general information “but from thereon in I had no more contact with the ‘study abroad’ office.”

Lydia Kessell, a second-year language student who is currently applying for a work placement abroad, has a more pleasant work experience to report.

Kessell described how the ‘Year Abroad’ tutor advertised job opportunities on Learning Central and the paperwork was for the benefit of Erasmus rather than prospective employers “so it’s relatively simple to get a job offer although it might be more difficult if there is a salary involved,” Kessell said.

A language student who studied for a year in Europe warned: “Application processes are generally handled by the home university, however it is extremely important to keep aware of what stage of the process you are in to keep up with submitting certain travel/university documents required of you.”

The University has recently introduced 60-day traineeships so that students might benefit from summer placements in addition to their staple Erasmus schemes.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan spoke about the inclusive benefits of the work placements, commenting: “Not only do they provide students with ‘real world’ experience, but they can forge collaborative ventures with a range of institutions.

In turn, this helps us attract funding to transform innovative Cardiff ideas into Europe-wide research programmes.”

Departments benefit from having students study abroad as the more students who decide to spend part of their degree programme oversees attract greater funding for their home department.