Being a students’ tutor in a work placement abroad is really challenging and in some ways adventurous at the same time.”Why?“ Somebody might ask. You never know what will happen and sometimes you have to solve delicate situations.
I have been taking students from my school in different countries since 1999, when at that time the projects were called “Leonardo projects”. I remember the first destination, that I visited together with my students – it was an agricultural college in the centre of the countryside of the south of England, far away from the nearest town. In the past, like 20 years ago, students used to attend some English lessons, but as they had also to work, some of them got up very early at five in the morning and went to the cowshed to milk cows. Since they didn’t have time to change their clothes after finishing work, they used to come afterwards to the language course stinking unbearably. It was funny back then and we were laughing and joking, because nobody wanted to sit near them.
As our school in Italy has not livestock, but it is on an arable farm, the group learned a lot about animals in general, but got to know also the exotic ones, which the college had – it was sort of a small zoo with parrots and snakes.
After all these years I can tell about many episodes, but the most significant one in my opinion was when two years ago in Derry my students and I were attacked by a group of Irish teenagers outside a pub . I had to call the police and we got escorted home by them. But even such experience didn’t ruin our stay with the project – at the end of the three weeks stay, the students and the teenagers had become friends, took pictures together and exchanged their contacts through Facebook and Instagram. This is what happens even though there is always a lot of mistrust on both sides of the project at the beginning.
Normally such projects last three to four weeks, but everything beginns very early in October when the students are informed about the start of the selection and then start dreaming. The year goes by with fear and anxiety of not being in the list of the selected project participants, till the school announces the names of the selected students and their destination of internship. During this time they are coming to me, asking a series of questions about the job, that they are going to be doing abroad, the apartment, where they are going to live, the food they will be tasting, the family with which they will be staying and the period of time of the project and the clothes they would have to take with them.
It is surprising that even students who have never done anything at home by helping out their families in the daily tasks, while they were growing up, after being abroad they learn how to cook, to wash and manage their daily life, whether they live in an apartment or with a Host family.
Often happens that when they start doing an internship at their work placement, some students are not satisfied and they want to change, so in such cases my task is to convince and support them, by saying that the goal of such projects abroad is not only the work, but also the experience in its entirity. Any experience is remarkable and helps indeed to understand other cultures and mentalities, widens the horizons and makes young people become citizens of Europe and the whole wide world.
Article written by Renata, tutor-teacher, that came to Berlink earlier this month with the project “Welcome II”