During my year abroad, I studied business at the University of Potsdam and then went on to do a 6-month placement at The Walt Disney Company Germany. Being able to combine both my passion for business and languages into one was a deciding factor in coming to Henley Business School. Ultimately, this was the ideal solution for my academic, professional and personal growth.
At the University of Reading the study abroad office allocates you to a partnered university. For my semester abroad, I was allocated Potsdam. Potsdam is so much more beautiful and vast than I’d initially thought and it’s located a short 20-minute train journey from Berlin. The university comprises of three campuses that are located in different parts of the city. The main campus is located in Park Sanssouci, which holds the New Palace; the vacation home of Frederick the Great (King of Prussia, 1740-1786). Misty mornings quickly turned into studying in a real-life fairy-tale kingdom. This was quite distracting at times.
I spent as much time as I could close to the New Palace and ensured I passed all my exams. A top tip for everyone learning a language abroad is surround yourself with local students. This will ensure that speaking English is not an option!
Unlike many fellow students who do their placement year in the U.K. and are guided by Henley Careers, applying to an internship in a foreign country is a lot more challenging and different. My plan was to go on placement in September, for which applications open around May – this compared to the U.K. is very different.
In Germany it is more typical to do a placement after graduation. This meant that in the application process I found myself competing with native speakers that had already graduated and in some cases even already had relevant work experience. On top of all this, I still had to familiarise myself with the application process and learn what a German CV and cover letter should look like.
A long story short is that, unfortunately, I didn’t get a placement for September. This meant having to study abroad for the winter semester (October-February) and applying for a 6-month placement. In all honesty I believe that I only got my placement thanks to Potsdam. I was able to receive tutoring from German careers advisors and so bumped my chances exponentially. Fast-forward 40 applications later, I was in Munich drinking a “Maß” (1L Beer glass) at the local Beer garden. Nonetheless, the journey to it included endless days of drafting and submitting scrutinized applications. I’m sure some of you can relate: it’s not fun.
I genuinely loved my placement at The Walt Disney Company. The organisational culture can be described as friendly and business casual. Being a product management intern within a world-leading business in the media and entertainment industry is quite eye-opening. To work on brands like Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel does suck you into the glamourous Hollywood bubble. It most definitely was exciting, but I made sure I balanced it out with a snap-back into reality. For me, that was enjoying the traditional and elegant city of Munich. You could live off eating sausages and the “weissbier” flows endlessly. Munich is a fantastic city to live in spring and summer. The English gardens are the perfect location to refresh yourself after a long day in the office. Student picnics engulf the meadows and you can even brave a dip in the ice-cold Isar river.
Lastly, year abroad can even be a good opportunity to save up some money. This might be quite surprising as you spend most of your time travelling. However, as an Erasmus student you get a maintenance loan of €300/month. If you then are on placement, you’ll most likely be paid for your work. In all, whatever your studies are I most definitely would suggest going on a year abroad. Regardless of where you end up studying or working it will be a very valid experience. You will enhance your cultural awareness, learn and live a new culture as well as building your language skills.
By Fabio Scaffidi-Argentina, B.A. International Management & Business Administration with German