Have you ever been jealous of your friends jetting off to study abroad? Cathy Lee argues that every course should offer the opportunity.
As it stands today, you normally have two options to be able to go on Erasmus. Either you get more points in the Leaving Certificate to get into the higher points courses that include Erasmus and/or placement, or you prove yourself grades-wise in college to show that you deserve to spend a year out of your degree working in a placement setting or heading off somewhere on Erasmus to study abroad.
I can see the reason for this set up, rewarding good work with something of even more value. But looking at it on reflection, it really puts those at a disadvantage who are maybe doing absolutely fine, average or standard in their courses who may indeed be extremely well suited to Erasmus or even a placement to prove themselves. A relative of mine went on Erasmus and came back a very changed person and even said it was the best thing she ever did in her college years. I really think the lack of opportunity to gain a place for Erasmus or placement as a regular diligent student is something truly wrong within the current system.
We all want to stand out when it comes to our CV’s and even doing interviews for job opportunities down the line. I really think it is our experience that is unique to us, the one that shows off who we are, who we want and intend to become and what we’re willing to do to achieve that, is what's needed to prove your worth – be it voluntary work, voluntary placement or even a voluntary trip across Europe or America. Your Erasmus or placement is something that is unique to you that you have completed, no matter what your degree title is.
At the moment, as part of my journalism course, I’m doing a series of placements in various locations. When I started my course almost three years ago, I thought the placement year was going to be something amazing and adventurous. It has been a very different year to what I expected and at first, being honest, I was disappointed by this. But certainly, it has been a time of incredible learning outside the class setting and brought about the realisation of how the world of work in this area is like. You really learn the lesson of responsibility for yourself and your own work, even more than college teaches.
Doing an Erasmus or a placement can reveal so much about you, more than just your degree can. It shows how you can make the most of an opportunity offered, which I see as the very point of taking on a job or role within anything that you apply for. A number of my friends are currently on Erasmus in places like the Netherlands and France as well as the UK. From the most out-going people to the least, I can clearly see how Erasmus is making them into better versions of themselves.
I’m not saying Erasmus or placement is a magic antidote that makes you into a better person. It may not suit you, but I just think every student should have the option available to them and their own ability to make the decision. Some people who were in my course up until now decided to skip this placement year, preferring to finish the degree quicker, and I think that’s all well and good too. It’s about having the choice to choose your own path, to develop and shape your degree how you see fit.
Wouldn’t it be awful if everyone had to do the same modules in college and we had no choice? I think not having a placement is something like that. I know from doing my placement where I see my future going after college. I’m going to make choices around the knowledge that I’ve gained from work experience. These are tough decisions for anyone to make with regards to their future but I really think having the time (that being a year of your degree) to see what the real world of work is like makes a huge difference.
Whether it be Erasmus or placement, both show you something you couldn’t see from just sitting in your lecture.