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Student Experiences

Student Experiences

Kiera Hughes - Estonia

I am a veterinary student and I carried out my work placement in Tartu, Estonia. I attended three different places during this time, the first being the University Vet Clinic, where I got the opportunity to carry out a number of tasks including surgery preparation, administering injections and assisting in X-rays. I gained a lot of experience through shadowing other doctors in various departments, for example, surgery, MRIs, blood testing and dermatology. I got the opportunity to work with both dogs and cats, with a range of different ailments. As many of these experiences were new, I feel that I have benefited greatly from this work placement.

My second work placement was a private veterinary clinic, dealing with small animals. Again, I got the chance to assist in surgeries, X-rays and administer medications. As it was a small animal clinic, most of the procedures were small such as neutering, spaying, dental procedures or vaccinations. I learned a lot about the preparation for various procedures, as well as the daily routine of a vet. I feel like I would not have got as much experience, especially hands-on, here in Ireland.

The third work placement was an animal shelter for dogs and cats, but most of my time was spent with the cats. The work opportunities were limited here as once the animals were cleaned out, we were sent home. We requested to bring the animals out each day for walks, however, we were not allowed. Due to this, I feel the work experience was lacking in this placement. The tasks I carried out here were the same every day, as the same procedure is used daily for cleaning out and feeding. There were both indoor and outdoor areas for the dogs but the cats were kept indoors the whole time. 

The overall experience of my European work placement was a positive one. The staff that I worked alongside in the veterinary clinics were very welcoming and helpful. I had some great opportunities to be hands-on in a variety of different medical situations, and I feel that this has added to my knowledge and practical work since. It also gave me the chance to put my learned skills into practice. I have included some photos from my European work placement below.

Tamara Eakins - Estonia

I attended the Erasmus+ Project and got to go to Estonia for 2 weeks with a few of my fellow classmates as well as students from other courses. I attended 3 types of work experience:

1. Animal Shelter

We were paired up with another person doing the same course for each work experience. Our first was the animal shelter, we spent 3 days there. We were brought in and showed what to do, we had to exercise the dogs and clean out their kennels everyday to keep their kennels free from disease. We also had to clean out the cat area, they were not allowed outside so they stayed in the room while we cleaned out their cages. All the dogs were tied outside for fresh air, they had a place to lie down and also some toys around them to keep them entertained. They were mostly big dogs and some were quite vicious, we weren’t allowed to go near them ones. This was my favourite work experience.

2. Private Vet Clinic

The private vet clinic we went to was small and very quiet when we went there. We got to stand in while the vet was seeing the animal and giving the consultation to the owner, it was hard for us though as they spoke in their own language so we didn’t really know what was wrong with the animal until the vet told us after. We got to stand in and watch a couple of cats getting neutered which was very interesting to see how they did it differently in this country. We also had to do other things like sweep and wash the floor.

3. Vet University

The vet university was very interesting. It had a massive vet clinic for small and large animals, a physio/hydro therapy room, dentistry room and much more. Every day we had to change into scrubs. We got to stand in on operations in a big operation room. It was all about keeping the area disease free as this is very important. We got to look after the sick patients after their operation. There was also a university area where students would come and learn Veterinary Nursing. We got to out and look at the large animal section that deals with horses, cows and much more large animals. Unfortunately there were no large animals in at the time we did our work experience but it was very interesting to see.

Aaron Conlon - France

As part of my Professional Cookery course in Cavan Institute, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to take part in an Erasmus programme in the South of France. In total there were seven of us who would travel together. I was the only male student so of course this was a challenge in it.

Before our departure, everything was arranged for us, we knew where we were going, we were asked the sort of an establishment we wanted to be placed in and meetings took place. As I was already working part time in a Fine Dining Restaurant, this was my choice for my placement.

We travelled to Marseille Airport and had to take the train to a small town called Port de Bouc. My placement took place in a village approximately fifteen minutes from Port de Bouc, called Martiques. They were very different areas. Port de Bouc was a small oil refinery village and Martigues, was a beautiful picturesque fishing village with lots of boats. Our group was placed in establishments in both areas.

I was working with a chef called Fabian Morreale. In France he is a top celebrity chef. He has 2 restaurants called Le Garage and Gusto Cafe. He also has a beautiful bakery, Gaspard Boulangerie. Both Le Garage and Gusto are fine dining restaurants, open 5 days a week.

Fabien knew I worked in a restaurant and was impressed by this and in order for me to get the most from my time in France, he told me that I could work for one week in Le Garage and the second week in Gusto Cafe. I was very happy with this. My duties included anything and everything that needed doing as part of the everyday running of the kitchen.

One day in particular, it wasn’t so busy because there was a bus strike. When there was only a few meals left to be sent out, Fabien left it to me.

I really enjoyed my time working alongside him. It was a wonderful opportunity and one I am privileged to be given. Fabien did tell me he was opening a restaurant in a hotel in February this year and I would have a job if I wanted it. I declined in this as I wanted to continue my studies and I am currently studying Culinary Arts in Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Abigail McDonnell - France

In May 2016 I had the privilege of travelling to France on an Erasmus work experience trip with several of my classmates. We were in France for two weeks, and I can honestly say it was one of the best and most enriching experiences of my life. My two weeks in France were spent doing work experience in a local restaurant, travelling and seeing different sites around the Marseilles area, and enjoying the company of the friends I went out with.

The trip gave me a much deeper knowledge and insight into the French language, culture, and people. It helped me to understand better how they're culture works, such as how they appreciate it when you at least make an attempt to communicate in French and will be much more willing to then meet you halfway with whatever English they possess. Another aspect of the French culture is that they usuallly shut down for the afternoon. Many of the restaurants will close after lunch, and then reopen again in the evening for dinner.

My work placement was in a little restaurant which operated next to the theater. It served traditional french food. It was fairly quiet, but gave me a lot of insight into the french cuisine and the people were very friendly and helped me with the language. One of my favourite parts of the actual work experience was when they took me along to a desserts exhibition, which was a really great experience and I really enjoyed. Afterwards they took me out to a lovely dinner at a restaurant situated along the port of Marseille.

During our trip we also went sightseeing. We took a tour around Martigue, and visited Marseille. In Marseille we visited the Notre Dame and took a boat trip to la Calanque, which was a really nice experience. For lunch most of chose to each some delicious Moules (mussels) a la creme - typically french food.

Lastly, this trip deepened the friendships with the other students who went. As a group we were already close, but once we went to France and were in essence living together for two weeks, we became a lot closer, and this aspect really made the trip amazing.

I am really grateful to have been able to be a part of this trip, and have a lot of fond memories of the time spent in France.

Cliodhna Connaughton - France

My trip in France was a great opportunity not only to experience a different country but also a different way of life. This trip not only did it enhance my overall experience living away from home, but it improved my language skills.

In terms of cultural trips and seeing the area, we had ample opportunity to do so. We got to see a snapshot of Marseille, along with Martigues and of course Port de Bouc. In Marseille, we took a tourist train around the town and it stopped off at the Notre Dame À La Gare. This church was a memorable visit, from the many levels it has to the glistening gold statue, it was incredible.

The view of Marseille from this church was unmatched to any other. The entire city could be seen from one look. We also took a boat trip around the Calanques. We had lunch in Marseille and most of us opted for the traditional speciality of the region, mussels and chips.

Whilst in Marseille we also got to go to a little pop up market and most of us indulged in buying some handcrafted Marseille soap. Something which Marseille is renowned for.

Martigues was equally as beautiful if not more. Picturesque is an apt description of Martigues. From the many boats, open air restaurants, to even people fishing along the water, Martigues was an incredible place. With a few nice, select backstreet shops like the Jeff De Bruges chocolatier shop, or the Fleur de Coton shop which boasted an array of souvenirs and gifts that represented the region, shops like these made the place.

Port de Bouc was your typical French town. Most people didn't speak English, but that was part of the charm. It forced you to come out of yourself, build your confidence and try and converse in French and get out of your comfort zone. Everything, was a stones throw away of a walk. Along the port there was a line of restaurants and an ice cream parlour, Le Marie Madeleine's was a glorious ice cream parlour owned by a lovely, lively French woman, her kindness never wavering. A favourite spot of ours, was also this pizza van that was parked just after the bus stop to Fos sur Mer. It opened at night, and you could order off a menu and these two men made it for you fresh, in an authentic pizza oven built into a camper van.

As much of a holiday as it sounds, the work was good too. You get to experience a kitchen in a different country and things are a lot different than at home. For one, peak hours are between 12-2, lunch is there big service over there. Most restaurants don't open particularly late and close around 10-10:30. As well as that, most are not open on a Sunday, even some don't open on a Monday either.

Another thing is the style of food, and the types. For example Langoustines aren't a typical food that you would find at home in Ireland but over there it's almost expected because of the location on the port. Restaurants over there are on a much smaller scale. In my restaurant we did maybe, a maximum of 35 covers in a day.

However, the difference being that in France lunch is taken very seriously. Most French people sit down for a three course meal at that time, usually coupled with a glass of wine, or water.

I worked roughly 6 hours a day and they also provided me with a dinner. Once I was finished work, me or any of us were free to do as we wished. Some days we played tennis, other days we went to the beach. I also had Wednesday's and Sunday's off and I got to do as I wished around that time.

Overall I vastly improved my French. Mostly to do with the fact that in my work place they spoke no English. As well as that you were received better by the French if you tried to speak in French before automatically looking for them to speak English. I got to converse with native French speakers and I learned more French. The work was a great opportunity and I learned a few things. The free time that we shared together as a group brought us closer together and the trip in itself.

Sylvie, Marie Christine, Eric and all the teachers and students from the Charles- Mont grand school were accommodating , helpful and they went above and beyond to ensure that our stay was comfortable and satisfactory.

The hotel rooms were great. You had your own balcony, kitchenette, bed, toilet, and shower and a wardrobe to put your clothes. We were all close together 4 of us on the one floor with one above us and two below us. We could get to each other easily by taking the stairs. There was also a facility for washing, drying and ironing clothes. A sauna and gym was also available for use in the hotel. Unfortunately, the swimming pool at the hotel doesn't open till June.

I would recommend this trip to anyone. It was a once in a lifetime experience, not only to experience a different culture and setting but also to live independently and it boosted my language skills considerably. The trip overlapped between a holiday and being work. To be honest it didn't really feel as though it was work at any stage.