Working Abroad: Steppingstones, Benefits & Recommendations

“When I was around six years old my brother travelled to Italy to study. I remember saying to myself, this is something I want to do when I grow up. This dream grew with me and when I got the opportunity to go to Italy on an Erasmus programme, I made sure to seize it”.

Sara Dimech, a 23-year-old studying architecture and a passionate traveller shares with us her experience on working abroad and how having participated in an Erasmus programme beforehand has served as a steppingstone into this experience.

Sara has just returned back from Ghent (Belgium), where for the past nine months she has been working. Having first been accepted for a three-month internship with a Building Information Modelling (BIM) company through the international student organisation IAESTE, Sara made her way to Ghent last June. Once the experience was coming to a close, she decided to look for a job in order to extend her stay, landing herself a part-time job with an architecture company and hence ending up working with both companies on a part-time basis for another six months.

Prior to Ghent, Sara had already spent six months in Italy on an Erasmus programme, accompanied by another Maltese colleague. She believes that this previous experience has helped her become much more self-aware, highlighting what she is capable of doing, what are her limitations and also outlined her independent character.

This opportunity acted as a springboard for this youth to search for similar opportunities which she could experience on her own, mainly driven by the curiosity of how she would manage such an experience without any familiar face to support her.

Being quite ‘adaptable’, Sara explains that despite being her first time travelling on her own, she felt that she settled in pretty quickly in Ghent, loving the freedom and independence that such an experience brings with it. Moreover, when comparing it to the Erasmus experience, travelling alone and having no friends on whom to depend on has pushed her into making the extra effort of getting to know the people around her and thus making more international friends than before. Having been part of the AISTE community has also exposed her to many other international interns, thereby highlighting the benefits of being associated to such an international organisation.

She claims of never having been home sick or felt to be an outsider having been made feel welcome and at ease by all those she met. Being Maltese, seems to be a good thing when seeking to strike up a conversation. There seems to be a lot of curiosity around our small island state, in terms of size, culture, language, population density and actual ‘existence’ just to mention a few. Surprisingly enough, there still seems to be a number of fellow Europeans who are not aware of the Maltese independent state.

One of the greatest benefits of such an experience was definitely the increased access to other neighbouring countries. During the past 9 months, Sara took advantage of a number of cheap flights, buses and friends offering her free lodging all over Europe, so as to visit Paris, Manchester, Holland and Lisbon, amongst others. This highlights the beauty of the freedom of movement amongst the European states. Indeed, having visited over 20 European countries, Sara identifies herself more as a European rather than just a Maltese citizen.

Travelling for such extended time periods have reserved a great number of benefits to my interviewee. Indeed, she has managed to gain greater fluency in the English language and has opened up the doors to new cultures and different ways of life.

Additionally, she feels that travelling alone gives you the opportunity to reinvent yourself, free from any labels or preconceptions that people who know you might have.

Sara has only words of encouragement for all those youths thinking of embarking on such an opportunity. Being a seasoned traveller herself, she also leaves us with two parting points of advise for all those of us who would love to travel alone.

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Firstly, travel light. Remember that once alone you will have to carry all the luggage yourself, the less weighed down you feel the easier your travelling will be.

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Secondly, “CHILL”. New experiences will inevitably lead to you to getting lost or  having to face unexpected turn of events, hence, keeping your cool in such situations is imperative to make sure you still enjoy the experience with its ups and downs.

In the mean time we wish Sara good luck on her future endeavours, as she prepares to apply for a Masters study programme in Europe as well as looking in the possibility of visiting Australia some time soon.

Bon Voyage!

By Maria Giulia Pace interviewing Sara Dimech 
Young Reporter Eurodesk MT

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