Andrew Mason9 December 2020
Cardiff Business School
Erasmus+ Study Placement
Where did you go?
I studied a Finance and Marketing Masters at Kedge Business School in Bordeaux France.
What type of placement did you complete?
Erasmus+ study placement for a year.
What motivated you to take up a year abroad?
When applying for a global opportunity the main reason that was at the forefront of my mind was the invaluable and unique experience being offered by Cardiff to go and spend time in a wide range of different locations across the world. The chance to immerse myself in a completely new culture and country was going to be my biggest challenge to date and there was not a chance that I was going to let the opportunity pass me by.
What were your top 3 highlights from your time abroad?
Being away for an extended period of time in a new place leaves me with many more than just 3 highlights but if I had to narrow it down it would be the following.
- When starting at university or moving to a new country you always worry about making new friends and not meeting anyone but the complete opposite happens. The student society at my host university dedicated to incoming students organised many different events where you could meet other students that were in the same position. In Bordeaux there is a bar called BodeGon that only gives student discount to Kedge Business School students so naturally a lot of the events started off there as a meeting place before going to many different places to meet even more people so there’s not a chance that you come out of any of the events with no one to talk to. This is where I met most of my friends whilst I was away which lead to a lot of unplanned and hilarious memories that I will keep with me forever.
- Bordeaux is classed as the wine capital of the world and is in the heart of the world’s kitchen. This means that around every corner you can find any kind of establishment to satisfy your cravings and speak to your inner Sous Chef. I was able to try so many different dishes from different cuisines during my time abroad and found things that I can no longer live without including Algerienne sauce, French tacos and Chimney cakes.
- When first moving to Bordeaux me and my parents hatched a plan to drive all the way from Manchester to Bordeaux which totalled over 800 miles each way. This way my parents and I could experience France whilst driving through it and staying in random cities along the route. This allowed me to show my parents where I was staying and on the way back I could take them to all the places that I found in Bordeaux and give them a summary of my time abroad in a few days before returning back home.
What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
During my time abroad I faced many challenges and a whole period of uncertainty presented to me in the form of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. There were points in time where me and an English friend that I met there were debating whether we would be able to return to France if we went home to visit family. There was a whole lot of my first semester spent on every website provided to stay as up to date with Brexit as possible and the constant threat that we wouldn’t be able to return home or receive funding or healthcare whilst we were away was always in our minds but no one knew what was going so we just had to keep up to date with what was going and plan for every eventuality.
Another challenge that I faced was with Covid-19. I remember being in a lecture discussing a hypothetical situation about Covid-19 taking over the world and what we would do as a business to still survive, in that exact moment I got a notification on my laptop from Sky News to say that the WHO had classed Covid as a worldwide pandemic. Less than a week later my host university had shut and less than week after that I was back home in Manchester with the rest of my studies to be completed online. This is a challenge that thousands of students from across the world faced but the challenge of also storing and retrieving my belongings left me with quite a dilemma but thankfully my landlady was more than happy to store my items until I could come and collect them later on in August.
How has your placement been beneficial to your studies at Cardiff University or your future career?
Alongside learning a new language, which I still have plenty of room for improvement, I learnt so many things about myself that would have been extremely difficult to find out otherwise and managed to prove to myself that I could do things that I did not expect. I have proven my ability to adapt to any situation I put myself in and come out the other side with a positive manner.
Before my time abroad I wasn’t the best student at Cardiff University having to undergo a repeat year before I could progress to my year abroad. I could not have imagined the motivation and change of mindset that my time abroad gave me ahead of my final year. I managed to achieve full marks in more than one of my assessments and achieved my highest yearly average in university so far. A year abroad already gives students a leg up when getting a job compared to other students and the lessons and experiences only add to setting you apart from everyone else.
What is the one thing you wish you’d known before you left?
One thing I wish I’d known before leaving for my time abroad is the general budget you need for living in Bordeaux which is totally down to me not preparing enough. Bordeaux can be quite an expensive place to live and you can definitely survive but I wanted to add to my experience and do as many different activities and adventures as possible which add up over time and can leave you struggling financially if you don’t plan properly.
One thing I wish I’d known before leaving Bordeaux is the amount of time I spent there. I had to finish my time abroad 3 months early due to Covid-19 which, as with everyone in the current world, ruined quite a few plans that I had made and left quite an abrupt ending to my time in France. I fixed this by travelling back to Bordeaux in August to collect the rest of my belongings and say a final goodbye to my home for the last academic year.
What would you say to a student that was unsure about spending a period abroad?
When preparing for my time abroad I spent a whole lot of time nervously trying to prepare for the forthcoming and the anxiety it presented was like no other but once you take that initial step then it’s only benefits from there on.
It’s totally normal to feel nervous, anxious and all the other feelings that follow in the run up to your time abroad but once you get there it’s a blur with the amount of activities you can do that you soon forget about your worried feelings to begin with.
Whilst spending time abroad I was in constant contact with Cardiff University and my host university about any issues that I was facing and they were resolved before I had any issues so there’s never the feeling that you are alone in a foreign country with no help as both organisations worked together to improve my time away.
What are 3 things to do in Bordeaux?
- Bordeaux is situated on the river Garonne which runs through the heart of the city. The walk alongside the river is incomparable as not only do you get to enjoy a peaceful walk on a sunny day surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city but you also walk past a whole lot of what Bordeaux has to offer. This includes hundreds of restaurants and bars, museums (including La Cite du Vin), parks and so many more. I used to rent an electric scooter and just ride up and down the river on sunny days to fully take in the city and everything it had to offer.
- Bordeaux is one of the major cities in France and thus has great transport links including the main train station Gare Saint Jean, which was just around the corner from my house. The opportunity to link up to so many different European destinations with ease is something that I used a fair few times including to visit Paris, Toulouse and even rent a car to drive to Barcelona with a few people that I met in Bordeaux. Bordeaux airport also offered £10 flights to London Stansted which allowed me to come back to England for far cheaper than once thought.
- As Bordeaux is classed as the wine capital of the world there are many different wine bars and establishments dedicated to wine including La Cite du Vin which is the famous wine museum which cements itself on Bordeaux’s skyline. The wine is always flowing in Bordeaux and being in France it was paired with food that you could only imagine as to the quality and taste.
Please sum up your experience abroad in one sentence.
The most uncertain but exhilarating period of my life so far.
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