Newham College students’ eyes opened by working overseas

Overseas work experience has opened the eyes of Newham College students to living in other European Union countries.

The Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility programme, based at Newham College, gave 17 students a chance to work in Germany, Italy and Finland for two weeks in April.

Students and teachers got together recently to review the EU-funded programme that encourages ‘intercultural working’ across the union.

They spoke about having to deal with different languages, environments and, for some, living away from home for the first time.

Leonardo inspired hairdressing student, Gentjana Bejko, 26, from Mile End, to try to match the professionalism of the Finnish people she worked with in the small town of Kotka.

She said: “If I could take my family, I would want to live there. It’s a very nice country and I would recommend anyone to go.”

Business student, Ola Akinwande, 19, from Dagenham, spent time working in a large company and in a shop in Gallipoli, Italy.

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She said: “I had a wonderful time. I learned so many things in terms of culture and how you relate to people. Working overseas, mixing with different people and environment, working with a team.”

Steve Smith, the College’s deputy director, told the assembled students: “You’ve had to come to terms with some of your fears and you challenged yourself. Having a successful work placement in a foreign country has increased your confidence and improved your skills.”

The College put in a lot of effort into this programme and recently the awarding body, Open College Network, has approved its Level 1 and Level 2 accreditation in Intercultural Working.

The EU has already approved another 20 students working abroad next year and has extended the countries to Spain.