A graduate’s guide to landing your first job in PR

A graduate’s guide to landing your first job in PR

Natalie Clarke and Charlotte Goss are Account Executives at Holywood based PR and experiential agency, Clearbox. Coming from two different degree backgrounds, and with nearly a year of agency life under their belts, they’re here to serve up some of their best advice for soon-to-be graduates on getting a job in the world of PR… 

We’ve been there. You’re finishing up your dissertation, exams are on the horizon and after that… PANIC! What do I want to do after uni? Where would I like to be? What jobs are out there? What skills and experience do I need to get a job?

One year later, we’re working in a great company with great clients and just generally living our best PR lives. But we know it’s not that easy to just walk straight into a job once you graduate. It can  be a daunting task to get into the PR industry in Northern Ireland – it can feel like everyone knows everyone and competition is fierce.

While university is a great starting point for gaining the basic skills, we felt there were a few extra things worth noting before you start the job hunt.

It’s not all about your degree

We both came from different disciplines: Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University and History and International Politics and Conflict Studies at Queen’s. The courses are very different in terms of subject area, and it goes to show that not everyone in the industry starts off in the same way. You don’t have to have studied PR to get a job in PR; having a broader knowledge of the world around you will set you apart from other applicants. This is particularly important within Northern Ireland where you have to be aware of different ways of thinking, and sensitivity around certain topics of discussion. Having a deeper understanding of these issues is a very useful trait to have. Travelling the world and having interesting hobbies are also great for giving employers a better feel for who you are; it helps them to know if you’re a right fit for their team. Make sure you include the sports team you’re involved in, that summer you worked at Camp America or the time you spent Interrailing on your CV – these are great ways to show your personality and that you have more to offer.

Werrrrkkkk that networking life

It sounds cliché because everyone is always telling you to ‘network’. It seems a bit awkward and forced, doesn’t it? Getting out there and surrounding yourself with people in the industry is important, but try and do it in a way that works for you. That could mean joining a collective like ‘Netwerk’, being a student member of the CIPR and attending industry events, or (if you aren’t ready for all the small talk) just getting in touch with local media on Twitter. Simple things like knowing your Cool FM presenters from your Q Radio presenters can help you to stand out as a graduate who is comfortable with the local media landscape and is ready to dive in to their first industry job.

Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?

Knock on everybody’s door. You don’t have to wait for a company to be hiring to hand them your CV. Putting a face to a name is also a great way to get an employer to notice you, whether that’s asking to meet for a coffee, or hand delivering your C.V. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth, especially in somewhere as small as Northern Ireland. A friendly face and a positive attitude goes further than you’d think.

READ READ READ READ READ READ READ… you get where we’re going with this

PR professionals are multi-tasking machines covering content creation, media relations, social media management, SEO, event management… the list goes on. It’s useful to know what new skills are being demanded of PR graduates and to take some time to read up on them to give yourself an edge. Free online webinars and industry publications like Campaign Live, PR Week and The Drum are a great way to keep up to date. Seeing how brands and agencies launch new products, pull off stunts and do things a little differently can also be a great way to spark your own creativity. Keeping up to date with the news agenda is also an essential part of the job – you need to know what the world is talking about to help build your campaigns and speak to your audience. If a PR-related scandal is happening in the media, read about it and formulate an opinion – how would you deal with it? What can we learn? It’s a great conversation starter and helps you to show you’re engaged in the industry.

The writing’s on the wall

A huge part of any PR job is being able to write compelling and creative content. Building a portfolio of your work is a great way to show potential employers your flair for writing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a post for the Ulster PR Student blog or Facebook posts for your dad’s business. Get drafting, offer to contribute where you can and don’t be afraid to have an opinion in your writing. Make sure to also ask for feedback on your work so can continue to improve your tone and style. Writing experience is great for your CV and gives you something to chat about when it comes to the interview.

There are hundreds of things we wish we knew before starting out, and a lot of that comes with being in the job and experiencing things first hand. Our advice is to put yourself out there and grab every opportunity you can. You never know who you’ll meet or where it will lead.

YOU GOT THIS!

You can follow Natalie and Charlotte on Twitter (@NatalieClarke9 / @CharlotteGoss94) and LinkedIn (Natalie Clarke / Charlotte Goss)

You can also keep up with all things Clearbox on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

F U T U R E (Scary 6 letters)

F U T U R E predicting one day to the next, which may or may not happen.

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Where did you see yourself 10 years ago? Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years? Something we don’t often stop and ask ourselves.

 ‘Dream big’ a phrase we are often told when we are young, inspiring to be a singer, air hostess, celebrity the list goes on. Looking back now, surely, I couldn’t be the only one that laughs so much?? An air hostess??? Me who only recently has half got the hang of flying.

Young, full of energy and not a single care in the world at a young age wondering where do we see ourselves in 10-15 years.

Choosing a career path?

Primary school (best years of your life, well best years of my life for sure). I think I potentially changed my mind on what my future career was going to be on a monthly if not daily basis???

I grew up as a pure tomboy in primary school, only for the fact I had long hair looking back at photos it’s the only thing that gave me that feminine side! Everybody has them cute as a button little primary school photos around their houses in frames full of pride and joy! Not me, definitely not. I think I have hidden the majority of my primary school pictures that well I couldn’t find them if I tried.

Never the less, my point is, going into secondary school and beginning first year was an amazing experience. At such a young age, everyone is thinking of their future. Going to careers classes, hearing that the people in your class want to be vets, doctors, nurses, accountants, mechanics, hairdressers, beauticians, zoologists (which I hadn’t even heard of) the endless list of potential jobs was amazing.  It is when I eventually began to realise, I have absolutely no idea what I want to be.

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I loved animals and loved people (I still do!). I always thought of myself as a vet from a young age, (after my air hostess fascination), probably due to the fact of living on a farm, having a dog and pretty much being a cat lady minus the old age!

But the thought of 7 years at university was scary plus the fact my weakest subject in the world was Science plus the fact the closest university to study veterinary was Dublin and I was the world’s worst person with euros (still no better). The thought of an animal dying was emotional never mind witnessing it. That went out the window slowly but surely. (So much respect for vets, they really are stars).

Then come along 3rd and 4th year, I had my life planned out, nursing was the way to go. I was going to be a great little nurse and care for the elderly. Little did I know shortly down the line, I really do hate the sight of blood, and especially needles, they both make me uneasy. Around came work experience, inspiring to be a nurse, I went to an elderly care home to see if I liked the thought of nursing as my future career. An eye opener to say the least, nursing wasn’t for me. I have so much respect for nurses, the long hours, the long days, on your feet 24-7 caring for patients, they are an absolute inspiration.

Never the less, nursing wasn’t for me, I concluded that on day 2 of placement and didn’t return.

Really in a tizzy, what career path was I going to follow and actually like??

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The light-bulb switched in my head one night, after researching many courses which I found interesting, I thought, would I like the PR industry? I decided to go on work experience alongside already having completed a work experience, I went to the Ulster Herald in Omagh which is my local weekly newspaper. That’s when it clicked, bingo, I really could see myself in this industry.

To cut a long story short for I really could talk for days, my future goals and inspirations had changed dramatically over many years. I felt I had found the path I wanted to go down. After researching many courses at universities, I loved the idea of studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing BSc (Hons) at Jordanstown. The industry is massive and being able to go into either of these sectors would be amazing. With high grade boundaries to this course, it seemed so unrealistic to get into, therefore I had many many backups, which are basically the same course as both courses share many modules.

Meetings with teachers began at secondary school which consisted of advice and guidance on courses etc. I was told that my course was ‘unrealistic’ for me to achieve the grade boundaries, not to get my hopes up and look at alternatives or something similar. Any human who hears them words are cross, your heart drops. But, instead I took a completely different approach. From that meeting, I began to keep my head in the books and work hard on my coursework to ensure that I would get the grades to prove them wrong. I was determined.

  • UCAS BH42  for pending offer
  • Grades BH42

I received confirmation, I had successfully got into my first choice. I was stunned! Plus the face on your principle when he hands your results with a cheesy grin really is amazing and unforgettable! Realising how much they have did for us in 7 years, all in the space of seconds.

Next steps;

  • Begin the life of a student studying CAM BH42
  • Live the life of a lord in first year BH42
  • Shop to you drop and moan about not having a loan left BH42

Final steps;

  • Crap myself when I hear the word dissertation BH42

Four years down the line from applying to UCAS (feels like 10 years ago, ageing by the day, over dramatic as always) I am over the moon to say I am now nearing the end of my final year studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing. I really, without a doubt recommend my course.

Not in a million years did I picture myself where I am today. I’m speechless and so happy, so much changes in 4 years and I really and truly am blessed to gain so many great friends for life!

I was never an intelligent person at school, nor am I today! Something that seemed so distant at the beginning, I now have at arm’s reach.

So, my advice is dream big for the future, and if you think you’re dreaming big, dream bigger!!!!

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Let your dreams stay big and your worries stay small

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(I say this so much, I probably say it in my sleep)

Exams approaching, dissertation nearing its due date, graduation creeping around the corner, all so exciting and nerve wrecking. But where does the f u t u r e hold for little old me now? Stay tuned!!

Create your future YOU want, not anybody else’s and let the past fizzle away.

Breige Hollywood is a final year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/breige-hollywood-a7b035116/and Twitter @ HollywoodBreige

Choose PR

Before heading back to uni in September I had to choose which modules I would like to undertake as part of my final year degree. The choice was between; Communication and Organisation or Critical Perspectives of PR. Being a Communication, Advertising and Marketing student made me think the communication module would go more in line with the title of my degree. However, aware of the fact that in previous years I found the communication modules to be lifeless and a bit ‘dull’, I opted for the PR module and quite frankly, I’m so glad I did.

If you had asked me at the beginning of the semester, ‘whats PR?’ I would have responded with some sort of amateur answer like ‘free advertising’. But with a little more milage under my belt it’s clear to say, that’s certainly not the case.

At the start of the semester I was a bit overwhelmed, the lectures seemed to be made up of a string of riddles and the weekly readings left my head in a ‘spin’ and I was starting to rethinking my choice of a module in PR. However, I found that, after the weekly seminar, if I re-read the reading, it all made a little bit more sense. Sometimes it just takes you to look twice at something to comprehend what it’s trying to say.

 

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As the weeks rolled in, the lectures and seminars left me with many questions and wondering what was actually said but, I started to realise that this was the aim and therefore got me thinking about what the lecture meant and forming my own opinions.

The more I came to terms with PR, the more I found the classes fulfilling. PR is endlessly interesting due to it’s highly creative nature. It allow you to express your own opinion about what you believe to be right and wrong. With creativity and writing being such fundamental players in PR; it’s so satisfying when you finally think you’ve ‘hit the nail on the head’ with a creative idea to fit the job at hand. With consumers responding to emotions more than sales pitches now more than ever before and storytelling being a vital component of PR today, how could it be boring?

Throughout the module I have realised the importance of PR in business. In order for businesses to compete, constant human interaction and communication are central functions.  We live in a world where it’s easier to criticise now more than ever, with social media and the internet we can ruin reputations with the click of a button. Failing to acknowledge PR can increase the risk of the public assuming the worst if something does go wrong and ultimately, destroying the reputation of the business. Having a PR employee will mean that you can combat these risks and divert public attention, saving the name of the business before things get out of hand. With consumers expectations on the rise along with ease of criticism, PR is an essential part of success today.

PR is a mix of everything and definitely not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ subject. PR involves writing, pitching, researching and strategising which means you’ll rarely be doing the same thing for too long. Being such a broad subject helps to keep up the momentum and excitement, keeping you on your toes. One minute you’re writing a press release and the next working on promoting a product; so being able to adapt quickly is a must! Being such a fast-paced industry that is constantly changing and evolving, it’s great for those who like a variety and get bored easily.

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PR is an excellent skill to have and in many ways is totally invaluable. The world is not decreasing in problems anytime soon, only increasing so there will never be a shortage of PR jobs. It’s true that people usually do not get employed solely based on what they have learnt, but often on what it is they can add to the future of a company and PR gives you the ability to add value to any business.

Jessica Patterson is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @JessPatterson16 / LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-patterson-79a755113/

My year in the Weapons Industry

My year in the Weapons Industry

If you had of asked me “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” while I studied for my GCSE’s, the answer would have been somewhere in Liverpool studying Advertising or Graphic Design. All my career prospects revolving around the idea being able to see a Liverpool game whenever I wanted and drawing cartoons. Immature and hopeful thinking, especially as I have never been the best student, “Curtis has plenty of potential but just needs to apply himself” a phrase that my dad was sick of hearing year on year at parent teaching meetings.How things have changed. I never thought back then that I would be where I am today. Although on the surface a lot is still the same; I’m still working in the same job I had when I was 16 (Shout out to Peacocks) My friends are still the same as when I was sitting my GCSE’s (lads, lads, lads) .. But what has changed is how much I’ve grown up and mainly just in the past year. Even my harshest critics in my dad would have to agree somewhat… although I get the feeling he won’t be completely convinced for a while yet.

What has changed in the past year? Well I spent the last year on Placement at Thales UK for my placement. An opportunity I am very grateful to have got. Last August in typical Curtis fashion I had left getting placement until the last minute. Two interviews later and I was starting my chapter as Internal Communications Intern for a company I knew very little about never mind the industry they are in. Thales is a global company with sites located in England, France, Australia, Germany, USA and Northern Ireland. In Thales Belfast or AOW we focused on Air Operations and Weapon Systems. As you may have guessed this is an area in which I have absolutely no background in, unless you count all the hours I dedicated to playing Call of Duty while at school. (It absolutely does not count). Luckily I wasn’t hired to know anything about Engineering or Weapon Systems.

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I was tasked with creating the Role of Internal Communications across the business line. I effectively became the point of contact for Internal Communications for 500 plus employees.

For someone who had only ever worked in bars and clothes shops this was a daunting task at first. I found myself frantically re-reading all of my notes and beginning to panic thinking I was not up for the job. To be honest it was those notes that really got me off and running within Thales. I carried a small notebook around with me gathering information on everything from every person I met from different fractions throughout the business. When I say everything, I really mean it literally. I even made note of what people looked like as not forget their name. It was this almost psycho level of detail that allowed me to create an extensive SOSTAC analysis in which to pitch to the leadership team.

The morning of the pitch I suited up got in extra early to arrive in and find that Fridays are actually ‘dress down Fridays’. As I stand there dressed to the nines while literally shaking with nerves, I make my pitch and much to my surprise I am greeted with a wave of compliments and support. It was from that moment on I knew to have confidence in what I was doing, the content I had learned from the lectures in the past two years had actually paid off! (Who knew that paying that £3,000 a year was anything more than an excuse to go out 4 days a week?!).

I then began to implement a series of my ideas, a lot of them through trial and error and it was then I learnt the importance of time keeping and how important it was. For years I have heard teacher moan and cry about these aren’t assignments you can’t do the night before and well I had a very big wakeup call when I had bit off more than I could chew and determined not to let my new employers down, I found myself working straight through the night trying to meet the harsh deadlines I had set for myself and when I found myself nodding off at my desk the next day, I learnt the importance of planning.

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While in the most part my time at Thales was plain sailing even with my incredibly cringe worthy and ‘puntastic’ email blasts and embarrassing myself to the tune of ABBA at the staff do.

I then began to grow into my role, becoming more and more involved with every aspect of the job. From seeking more responsibility in joining up with the corporate section of the business; by getting involved with air shows and All Employee Road Shows. To becoming a member of the Charity Group and the Society working group and helping them with their many fundraisers and allowing me to use a more creative side and also get some training from the Graphics team in creating posters and newsletters.

At times working in Thales seemed surreal, I felt like it was a dream that I was going to wake up from at any moment. Meeting Astronaut Tim Peake, Being sent across the water to spend a few days working in London and Southampton, training on a military helicopter simulator, attending an air show, meeting members of the Malaysian government and royal family and not to forget being asked to represent Thales at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards. There would even be model missiles left on my desk in the mornings…

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No day was the same and rarely boring! Although I can’t pretend my head wasn’t turned when my housemates made their regular appearance to FLY Monday’s… I’m still a student after all.

I had fully expected to be making Tea and Coffees and doing the jobs that no one wanted, so I was over the moon to be granted the freedom to do my job my way. My manager was supportive from get the go, I can’t thank Thales enough for the role they have played in getting me to this stage of my development as Public Relations professional.

Who knows maybe I’ll be back one day?

Curtis Cregan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter: @CurtisCregan17, and Instagram: @CurtisCregan7.

How To Increase Your PR Job Prospects In Northern Ireland

 

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When considering a career in the Public Relations industry I believe there is a few important questions you must ask yourself before diving into a career in PR. Due to the fast paced, forever changing, and high-pressure environment you will be working in you must have an acquired skill set, hold a great level of determination and drive to prosper within the industry.

 

The first question I would ask myself is…

 What is PR?

Well much to the dismay of many people it does not involve being responsible for promoting nightclubs across social media nor is it attending lavish events and living this glamorous lifestyle that the media portray a job in Public Relations to be.

One of my favourite definitions of Public Relations is one from the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) which states “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Public Relations is essentially all about reputation and relationships which is something we touched on in our lecture about PR, Rhetoric and Persuasion in week 2.

 

Am I interested in what is going on in the world around me?

Having an interest in current affairs and reading about what is happening in the environment around you is a very important aspect of a PR practitioners job as they regularly analyse trends and brainstorm campaign ideas with various clients daily. Therefore, being informed and knowledgeable about what is happening in the world around you will set you apart from others.

 

What does a job in PR involve?

A job in PR can be quite varied and diverse depending on the company you work in so it’s hard to specify, although the ability to be a flexible, highly organised individual with the ability to work under pressure and possess excellent written and communication skills is a must.

 

So, with the above questions in mind. How do you go about increasing your chances of employment in this field? I thought I’d share some of my own personal top tips to help anyone that is considering a career in Public Relations!

 

CIPR membership

For an excellent discounted rate of £35 annually for students the Chartered Institute of Public Relations will provide you with endless opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge of PR to help you climb further up your career ladder through providing courses to attend, achieve chartered status and hosting events with likeminded individuals who you will have the opportunity to network with.

 

Follow Key PR Influencers/Blogs

Getting involved in the world of online blogging by reading, commenting and sharing PR related blogs online. Check out PR Week, PR Daily, PR News Online and follow key influencers on Twitter for example @CIPR_UK, @PRstudies, @BobPickard and @pracademy to stay abreast of the latest news!

 

 Work Experience

Get your foot in the door – offer yourself up for paid/unpaid internships in local agencies to get real life experience of the job because when you start a career in PR you will automatically be expected to know how to write a press release, develop a campaign strategy, plan an event, liaise effectively with journalists and so on. This is also a great way to determine whether the job is for you or identify areas in which you would like to specialise.

 

Public Relations Courses

Enhance your CV with a PR qualification – there are plenty to choose from both online and face to face through the PR Academy. These CIPR accredited courses will provide you with working examples to give you a more thorough understanding of the industry.

 

Be Passionate

The ever-changing nature of the PR industry means passion is key to success. Stay abreast of latest news, get involved and prepare to be forever learning!

 

Nicole Hanna is a final year BSc student in Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://goo.gl/pLviS8 or on Twitter @NicoleHanna101

Sun, Sangria and Siestas – A Placement Year in Barcelona

Sun, Sangria and Siestas – A Placement Year in Barcelona

As I wound through the country roads the morning of July 22nd 2016, memorising the all too familiar miles of green around me, I tried to imagine what the following year had in store for me. The weeks of last minute packing and goodbye parties were actually over and I was exchanging the Emerald Isle for Barcelona. For real. Not just for a holiday but to live and work there for a year.

Of course, there are the obvious pros of moving abroad, like meeting new people, learning a language and broadening your horizons, but we’ve all heard that before now, haven’t we? Whilst sun, sangria and maybe even the odd siesta are all part of a year in Barcelona, there are many more reasons why moving abroad is, in my opinion, simply the best thing an individual can do.

  1. International Experience is in Demand

It’s a vicious cycle that is continuously driven into the mind of students, employers want graduates to have experience. It’s become a broken record! It’s not all doom and gloom however, as an often overlooked, potentially easier way to get this all-important experience, is to work abroad. There are countries out there crying out for employees with knowledge of the English language as a native speaker. Obviously this is dependent on the country, but if you work in a company alongside non-native English speakers, you will automatically be given high levels of responsibility and instead of being the one asking the questions; people will come to you to acquire knowledge. We all know that experience on a CV is a requirement, but international experience? That is very much a desired asset to have as an employee. More and more, companies are turning their focus to the international arena so with an understanding of different cultures and business practices, your CV will stand out amongst the sea of students in your position!

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  1. Personal Development

Working abroad will push you to the limits of your comfort zone and beyond, compared to if you were to remain at home. Your experience abroad will drive you to gain independence, attain indispensable skills in a personal and professional sphere and grow umpteen amounts in confidence. Working abroad will not only help you realise your full potential in your professional life but it will also benefit you personally too. I can safely say it has enabled me to make relative, positive and effective life choices!

  1. The PEOPLE

 It wasn’t all smooth running. I had my down moments, let’s be realistic – everyone does. There were times when I simply didn’t want to socialise. I was stressed from work, missing home comforts and wanted to go home. It was times like these that my Barcelona family pulled me through. It is amazing hat a combination of good people from varying backgrounds and a few beers can do! In fact, as I write about the amazing people I met; a Lithuanian, a Spanish and a Czech are on a flight to see the wonders of Northern Ireland. It is my turn to be the tour guide! As cliche as it may sound, they really are friends for life.

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  1. Travel Opportunities

It should go without saying but working abroad will allow you to extend beyond the border of your country of choice and explore the world! Whilst you may not be able to travel in the traditional sense, you can still make the most of your weekends and public holidays. You could also extend your time abroad after your placement to travel fully so take advantage of your geographic location and see a different side of the world! If you are lucky enough to get some work holidays and use them to take a trip home, you will realise how much we take things for granted, in addition to learning who the most important people in your life are!

  1. You learn SO MUCH

The world may be slowly transforming into one global village, but national and local customs still govern the daily lives of many populations. Doing a year abroad is a funny (but awesome) thing – you feel a bit like you’re on holiday, whilst simultaneously settling into a new home. When you move abroad, you automatically learn about a new culture, other people and languages without even trying, but mainly, living in another country pushes you out of your comfort zone. When you know you’re only in a country for a limited amount of time, you just want to make the most of every opportunity, say yes to everything (within reason), travel everywhere and yes, eat everything. My justification? It’s one year in a lifetime, embrace it.

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It has been nearly 3 months from I arrived home from my year abroad, and it is safe to say that the ‘Barcelona Blues’ are well and truly getting to me. It’s hard to believe that I’ve just spent a whole year abroad, on my own, and survived – for anyone who knows me well, this is a miracle!

My point is, moving to Spain was nothing like I expected it to be – it was 10 times better. As far as I’m concerned, if you can conquer your year abroad, you can do just about anything. I know it will not be for everyone, but if you believe you could see yourself working abroad, in an international environment, then get out there and do it – life is too short!

Check out this short video summarising one of my typical after work picnics on the beach, it’s really not your standard placement!

Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/