Órlaith O'Shaughnessy is a final year Biological Sciences student at Queen’s University, Belfast. She spent the summer of 2016 on an IAESTE placement at Politechnika Łódzka in Łódź, Poland.
Why did you choose to take part in IAESTE?
I chose to take part in IAESTE because I love travelling and learning about other cultures and I knew IAESTE would allow me to do both.
Also, I wanted to gain work experience to boost my employability. So the chance to get out of my ‘comfort zone’, meet new people, live in a different country for the first time and gain valuable work experience, sounded like the perfect way to spend my summer.
What are your favourite memories from your time abroad?
Spending time with the other IAESTE trainees I became friends with. I formed very close bonds with so many people and I am still in contact with a lot of people I met during my time in Poland.
I’ve never had such a fun summer before in my life and the memories I made with friends will always stay with me.
Also, I’ve always had an interest in Poland so making Polish friends through the Local Committees and IAESTE Poland Weekends was a fantastic experience and I have lots of people to improve my Polish with!
How has your time abroad benefited you in terms of your skills and employment?
Its made me a lot more independent, mature and confident in my own abilities. I had never gone abroad alone before and as a result of my placement, I’ve had the opportunity to navigate around an unfamiliar country alone and challenge myself.
I have also greatly improved my communication and teamwork skills through meeting people from all over the world and I'm a lot more aware of other cultures.
I believe all of these skills and qualities I’ve developed are really highly sought after by employers.
What aspect of going abroad were you most worried about before leaving and how did you deal with it?
I was worried about whether I would settle in well on placement and whether I would miss home.
I dealt with this by researching the city I would be living in, Łódź, well and thinking about the benefits of taking part in IAESTE.
I needn't have worried because all of the students I lived with in the dormitory made me feel really welcome and couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. I actually didn’t miss home once during my time in Poland and I was really sad to leave!
What advice do you have for people thinking about going abroad? Or taking part in IAESTE?
I would advise anyone thinking about going abroad or taking part in IAESTE not to hesitate for a second.
I would urge anyone interested in IAESTE internships to carefully prepare their application and definitely send it off because the experience is really unique and you make amazing memories and new friendships with people from all over the world for life.
That means you have so many fantastic places to visit when you meet up again with the friends you made, like I have already done.
After finishing university and getting a job, the chance to have this experience of living another culture is much more limited so take the opportunity while you have it and you won’t regret it!
What did you miss most when you went home?
The people I met in Poland.
I was one of about 60 IAESTE trainees from all over the world living, working and socialising together which was unbelievable fun and a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I also missed the local people, i.e. the Polish students I met, because they were so warm and caring. My time in Poland has made me even fonder of the country and I can’t wait to return someday soon.