Once you have an idea about what you want to do, you can then ask for directions on how to get there. I had a rough plan for myself post-graduation, but I realised that it would be most beneficial to make use of the fantastic careers resources on offer at UEA, before I finished my degree. Knowing that many students before me had followed the same steps, and having an inherent desire to live and work in France, as well as wanting to seize UEA’s international connections, I found my feet stepping towards the Study Abroad Office. Fortune favors the bold as Virgil rightly said.
It is no secret that finding good employment after graduation is seriously competitive. By the end of my degree I felt the need for balance, conscious of my final deadlines as well as looking ahead to see where my studies could take me. So when the Study Abroad Office introduced me to Erasmus+, a new mobility programme for recent graduates, I seized upon the opportunity and wanted to find out as much as possible. I understood I could receive funding whilst working abroad – an ideal way in which to apply my degree, language skills and experience further afield.
So with a passion for visual arts, I applied to as many art galleries and institutions in Paris during the summer as I could, quickly learning the ‘quartiers’ that specialised in particular types of art. After being invited for an interview, I was thrilled to be accepted for a six-month placement at Galerie Fatiha Selam, a happening contemporary art gallery in Le Marais, 3eme A. Moving to Paris in September for La Rentrée came with a heightened awareness of just how much of a culture shock I was about to experience. Since then, the majority of the important lessons I have learnt since being here have occurred during this shift from studying at UEA to working in France.
Despite being thrown into the deep end at first, and sometimes struggling with the level expected of me during my placement, the skills and experience I have acquired have proven invaluable to me, expanding my potential both practically and linguistically. Whilst working for Galerie Fatiha Selam, I went to my first fashion show, visited the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) at the Grand Palais, and helped to organise the gallery’s first British exhibition at Lancaster Gate, London. I have gained confidence in my abilities and built an international network. Still based in Paris, I am lucky enough to be on my second placement working for a photography agency, currently sourcing photographs for a retrospective exhibition about the Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
The Erasmus+ Work placement traineeships have enabled me to discover how my sector functions abroad (visual arts) and made me more aware of my strengths and preferences, something I consider to be vital in ensuring that when I eventually get round to applying for a permanent job, it is right for me.
Lastly, I want to thank UEA. I would highly recommend making use of the CareerCentral because looking back, the three-day CV workshop in my last semester was a wonderful way to boost self-confidence for this next step of my life. I am also really thankful for the support of the Study Abroad Office throughout this entire programme.
My year abroad has taught me to be active and to make my life my own. But it has also reinforced the notion that I should take every opportunity thrown at me. Therefore, instead of dismissing the idea of something just because it may be different, I try to see a new experience as a chance to do something positive.
Olivia Wills studied History of Art at UEA and is on an Erasmus+ Graduate Internship