During an employability lecture we were given the advice to explore further afield when considering work placement choices. So as my children are grown, and my husband is very capable of looking after himself, I considered the idea of going a little further than a few miles down the road.
I wanted somewhere that I could compare to the UK and had a port, so I chose the British Territory of Gibraltar. As it is a British territory funding to help with travel or accommodation costs was not available as when travelling to the EU. Still, I received lots of support from my placement advisor and the careers staff, and I very happily sent off a tentative email and CV to the Environmental Agency of Gibraltar.
I was also lucky enough to be able to stop off at Gibraltar during a holiday. I took the opportunity to drop into the Agency and introduce myself, mainly to put a face to my application form. I was extremely nervous but was greeted enthusiastically and received the excellent news that I had been accepted for a placement.
I left for Gibraltar in June. Travelling alone was a new experience for me, but from the first moment I arrived to getting on the plane to come back home I fell in love with Gibraltar and the community. Gibraltar is a 2.6 square mile peninsular at the gateway to the Mediterranean connected to Spain and is nicknamed ‘The Rock’. It’s full of heritage, packed with culture and has a community of 30,000 proud Gibraltarians – and about 160 Barbary Apes!
Working with the Environmental Agency introduced me to the self-reliance of the people of Gibraltar. They draw in sea water and produce drinkable water by reverse osmosis (removing the salt), and in the summer months with the heat the population and tourists can use up to seven million litres per day – amazing! I had some fabulous days, including when I joined the team at the frontier – most of Gibraltar’s day-to-day provisions come over the frontier and need to be inspected. I also had the opportunity to be join them while they completed a ship sanitation inspection.
Air quality and water quality is monitored to protect the environment and the population. The water quality at the four beaches is also monitored, and I admit I spent some glorious weekends on these! The water has received the highest classification due to the hard work of the Government and Agency staff. There is even an ice cream van that comes to the beach AND you can have pizza delivered to you there – how fabulous is that?
Presently access from Spain or after arriving on a plane is gained by crossing the airport runway. When planes are due to arrive, traffic is stopped, and the runway is swept for safety. One of the planned visits the Agency had arranged was to the construction site for the new tunnel underneath the runway for traffic and pedestrians. This is pencilled in for completion before the end of 2018 making life a little easier for the ten thousand or so people who cross the border into Gibraltar each day.
I cannot express how much knowledge I have gained from my work placement. To be able to put into practice my academic learning was invaluable. Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. I know that this is not always possible for many students because of family commitments and finances, but my advice would be if you can, put in that phone call or application email. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Go for it!
Read more about Cardiff Met students learning on the job with our work placement blogs.