Co–op: An Eye-opening experience

By Roisin O’Donoghue, BA New Media & English

My Co-op experience is one I don’t think I could ever forget. I can still remember going to the seminars and signing up for an international placement. This was very unlike me. I had never been abroad by myself before and knew nothing about booking flights or searching for accommodation. I don’t think I gave it a lot of serious thought just the idea of living and working in another part of the world seemed so sophisticated and amazing and I wanted it to be something I could do.

The whole process of Co-op was quite stressful but also exciting. Being interviewed by international companies felt like an introduction to the real world for me. I was kind of worried that it would take forever to get a placement or that I wouldn’t get accepted for one at all. However, that was not the case as I was accepted after my second interview for a magazine located in the south of France. I was delighted with this as it was the kind of job I was interested in and in the south of France no less!

As my placement drew nearer and nearer I began to feel the panic. I kept asking myself “what have I done?” I had little French and knew nothing about living alone without my parents being close enough to rescue me if something went wrong. Part of me felt that the whole thing was going to be a complete disaster and that I was going to hate it there. All my friends and family kept asking me what exactly was I going to be doing and all I could say was I’d know when I got there and the more they enquired about it the more stressed I got.

On my first day, I explored the city of Nice where I was going to be living for the next few months. At first, I was incredibly lonely which I thought was strange as normally I really enjoy time on my own. There was just nothing and no one familiar around me and this really knocked me for six. I can remember one night in my second week of Co-op and my mam sent me a snap of my two dogs. It only hit me then how alone and homesick I was. However, once I settled into my accommodation and into my placement I felt so much more comfortable and the loneliness passed. I also enjoyed my work with the magazine, Riviera Insider, too. It had content I was unfamiliar with as it was quite high-end like Michelin star restaurants, operas and luxury vacations. It was a broad range of topics so I really learned a lot about different ways of writing certain articles. It was stressful sometimes but it was still an amazing feeling to see my name printed under an article I had written.

I’m really proud of my time in France and although it had never been a place I was particularly keen to visit before Co-op it now holds a lot of significance for me. It was where I learned to live with people I wasn’t related to, where I learned to grocery shop for myself and where I did work that I enjoy and want to pursue a career in. Basically, it was where I learned about what I could achieve in life and that is an experience I’m grateful for.

 

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My jolie co-op

By Cassandra Murphy

At age 12 I stepped foot in Paris and knew I would return. I was sure that the next time would be for more than 72 hours. Fast forward 8 years and I’m sitting in my Parisian office in front of my Mac emailing well established bloggers. Typical start to a Hollywood comedy right? Luckily for me it as a reality. This was my coop experience.

The process

When it came to organising coop I was a bit all over the place. My first choice was to organise my own. I always knew it would be hassle to try to get a placement I either the psychology or law sector. After one failed attempt early in the planning stages I decided it was not worth the hassle as my heart wasn’t 100% in it. Option two was Grupos. I had studied Spanish in first year, it might be fun to live in Barcelona, but the placement really wasn’t for me. I am quite independent. The idea of working in a very large group of people who I already know did not appeal to me. So I moved onto option three: Argentina. This plan lasted all of five minutes before I decided I wanted to stay in Europe as I am very close to my family and going abroad for six months was going to hurt both parties a lot. Finally I made my decision. FRANCE. Why not? I studied French for the Leaving Cert. Surely I could dig deep enough to find a few ‘mots’ to get me by. I submitted my CV and hoped for the best. Considering I didn’t study French at UL there was always a possibility of them saying no. Luckily for me I sweet talked my way around the coop office and managed to secure myself in France. More importantly, in Paris.

The Job

Every day I think about how grateful I am to the coop office. I don’t think my placement could have been any better for me. I was working in a small start-up company called My Jolie Candle. The company made candles with jewellery hidden inside. While the company was based in France they shipped their produce to the UK. This meant my job was in English. I was their community manager. This included customer service and marketing. I managed the social media accounts, the website and contacted multiple bloggers throughout the semester to feature the product. Every day I was surrounded by sweet smells, trying on new jewellery and packing boxes with crepe paper and glitter. It was never a bad thing to get caught on YouTube or Facebook. What more could I have wished for? The workforce was also a dream come true. My boss was the eldest on the team at 28. There was a total of six of us in the office, including three interns. Three companies worked out of the one office spaces, all co-founded by the same people.

It became clear to me that not much research was done into the UK market before I arrived. My boss realised also. This led to him setting me many research tasks. I learnt so much about European economic, social media strategies, marketing, social media and the business world in general. With the hit of Bexit and the lack of funds to invest fully into the UK market my boss decided it was a waste of both of our time to make me focus all my days on the English side of the company. He decided it was up to me to figure out how amazon and eBay worked for businesses and to set the French company up on both. So if anybody has any questions on either, I am your woman!

After the six month I was sent on my way with a suitcase full of Swarovski jewellery and candles and a brain full of knowledge and experience. I got to see the ins and outs of a small enterprise. I saw what happens when it fails, and what happens when it succeeds beyond anybody’s expectations. I got to experience the heartbreak and excitement of the ups and downs. And I got to experience it all in a family like setting.

The City

Paris. What can I say? I struggle to think of a boring day. I chose to emerge myself in the culture. From ballets to football games. I did it all. Every Thursday after work was museum day. Every chance I got I sat at Trocadero and watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle or sat in front of Sacré Coeur and stared out onto the city. I met my friend for some wine and a baguette along the Seine or met her by her apartment near the Louvre. I know the metro like the back of my hand. I sang with the Irish for the Sweden match in Stade de France and fell to the ground on Champs de Mars for the Italy game. Being an Irish person in France during Euro 16 meant something special. I got to experience that. I got to enjoy art and explore architecture. I got to try different cuisines and improve on a language. I was even mistaken as a Parisian on multiple occasions. (Until I tried to speak French. My accent gave it away.) Paris gave me all I could expect and more.

None of this would have been possible if the coop department had not believed in me and my ability. They believed in my ability to not only take on a job that I was not trained for, they believed in my ability to do it in a foreign country where I could just about form a sentence. My coop experience gave me a chance to grow and improve and most importantly, discover where I want my future to take me.

cassandra

About Cassandra Murphy:

I come from a little island off the South West coast of Ireland but moved to the big city of Paris for 6 months of coop. Normally I study psychology and criminal justice but at the moment I’m in France for Erasmus trying to string together a few sentences of French to avoid dying of starvation. It’s safe to say I like a challenge. 

Studying Languages: The social degree

By Elle Walsh

I chose to study languages at third level mostly because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I knew for that I enjoyed French in secondary school, well I enjoyed talking… to anyone, in any language. I have been “blessed” with the gift of the gab. From the moment I learned to speak I have not stopped. I will to anyone, about anything. I have communication skills in capital letters all over my cv, and similarly too chatty on every school report.  By choosing to study two languages I have no widened my potential pool of potential conversations by 449 million people!

Studying languages at UL has opened so many doors for me. Last year I spent nine months working and living in France. Six of these were spent in the French Alps working in a ski resort and the other three consisted of living on the French island of Corsica looking after two children. I was also lucky enough to spend some time in Berlin, learning about the history and culture of the most amazing city in the world. Without my language skills I would never had put myself in these situations.  Some of which were the best times of my life!

And that is only the beginning of my travelling thanks to my degree, this coming January I will be packing my bags once again to move to Germany to work in a German company for six months. A compulsory part of my course! Then that September I get to study in France for a semester, also compulsory! These are things that so many people don’t have the opportunity to do, but with a language degree in UL it’s just the beginning! Every summer people most of my course migrate to different parts of the world to improve their language skills and soak up the culture! Trips like these are ones that create friendships and memories  that will last a life time.

Although I sit in German grammar classes and wonder what I ever did to deserve a fate like this I would never change my degree for the social benefits that come with it.  I chose to study languages without really knowing if it was right for me, I can say now that it definitely is.  My  degree has given me the ability to form friendships with people I would have never have spoken to and made me feel at home in a foreign country miles away from anyone I knew! This alone without even considering the advantages language graduates have, makes my degree worth while!

This week, the University of Limerick marks Languages Week – check out the full programme here: http://www.ulsites.ul.ie/mlal/ul-languages-week-2016

ellewalsh

Elle Walsh is a 2nd year Applied Languages student at the University of Limerick. Last year, Elle took a gap year to improve her language skills and travel around Europe. This semester she is back in Limerick studying French, German and Politics.