Category Archives: Work Experience Blogs

We welcome blogs from students when they go out on work experience. It’s a great way to let others know about the types of work out there. Some of these are a little old now but the experiences are still valuable!

Sophie’s Work Experience – Reflections from a far off land

I am leaving today, this far off land of kimchi and hospitality, of bustling roads and spiritual temples, of green mountains and polluted cities, this remarkable land of South Korea.
Mark Twain, (1835-1910) famously said; “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”. I hope before I boarded the plane that I exhibited none of those vices, but certainly it is true that I had not really considered that what divides us is so very much less than what unites us. I think Maya Angelou (1928-) said it best when she wrote; “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends”.
I cannot claim that a few days in Asia has transformed my view of the world, I hope that before the trip I was open to new ideas, different cultures and more importantly I hope that others recognized that I was open to them. What has changed and what is interesting about travelling to a country as different as Korea is that it is easy to see those differences, it is easy to recognize that the language is completely foreign, the writing beautiful but unintelligible, the food unrecognizable, (at times I wasn’t sure if I was eating fish, pork or vegetable). I revelled in those differences, not comparing to back home just excited that this is different.

Seoul is very much a globalised city; Starbucks not on every corner but on every other corner, McDonalds and Domino’s Pizza as well as all the designer brands, but the country and its people retains its unique character. I hope what I have learnt is that when I travel again to countries closer to home that I spot the differences that perhaps I have ignored in the past. Sitting on a Spanish beach is easy to ignore Spanish culture when all around are holiday making Brits, it’s easy to ignore Spanish food when all around us are international restaurants, and it is easy to ignore Spanish music when I am listening to the downloads on my IPod.
Travel does open the body and soul (especially in Seoul), but only if the traveler takes that first deep breath and, as Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) said, “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it”.
Look forward to seeing you all soon…

Sophie’s Work Experience – Working Girl

I had hoped to get away with it, to have a few days away from school and from work. But no, as I walked into the office this morning I was presented with my desk, my computer and a set of tasks. The first challenge was that the computer has a Korean operating system and I was told all I needed to do was click, click, click, click and click. By the third click I was error messaging in Korean!!

My task was to create some banner images for a travel site that the company Afterabc is putting together, all sounded remarkably straightforward, and I suppose after the first 75 mistakes I found my way and produced my first piece of work for an overseas company.
In years to come, hopefully many years to come, I will be reminiscing with my children and grand children – I remember the time when I had to work in Korea, unpaid, on a Korean computer, but wow, back to reality more photographs to resize and upload.

Sophie’s Work Experience – Temples and Churches

I suppose if I was asked before visiting Korea, I would have guessed that Koreans were Buddhist. I hadn’t really thought that Christianity would be the dominate religion. It seems that about 30% of the population are regular church goes and about 20% regard themselves as followers of Buddha. At night, the neon crucifixes stand out in the city skyline selling religion like the great M of McDonalds.
The Buddhist temples seem somewhat more discreet, perhaps the notion of evangelical conversion is non Buddha. In the middle of the high rises sits a beautiful Buddhist temple, as I walked through the welcoming gate, the stresses, strains and even the noise of the city seemed to disappear. Maybe it is my imagination, but the idea of quiet contemplation really does cause one to put into prospective what’s really important.

The Bongeunsa Temple is opposite the beautiful 5 star Intercontinental Hotel and yet it is a whole world away, resident monks sit before the statue of Buddha as do many visitors, I too felt compelled to kneel. The temple originated in about 794 C.E and was the head temple during the Joseon dynasty and was central in the revival of Korean Buddhism away from the teachings of Confucianism. Towards the centre of the temple complex is the Mireuk Daebul, Great Statue of Maitreya Buddha. The statue is 23 metres high and is based on the story of Maitreya coming to earth to save all those who are suffering (it is remarkable how the great religions have so many similarities). Nearby, is another great statue of Haesu Gwaneum-sang, once again the concept is a figure who sees, hears and feels the sounds of suffering. It is hard to convey the spiritual nature of the Temple; I do not claim to have had a religious experience but I do understand how place and peace can have effect on the inner being.

Sophie’s Work Experience – A visit to F1

I have a confession to make I am not an F1 fan. The idea of spending a weekend watching cars drive round in a circle is not really my idea of fun. However, the company my dad works with has a contract with F1 Korea, hence we were invited for the weekend to the Yeongam circuit to watch the second Korean Grand Prix.
Yeongam is it seems thousands of miles away from Seoul. We were confidently told the journey would take 4 hours by coach, it seemed more like 20. Nevertheless, even for a somewhat bored teenager it was comical to watch a bunch of middle-aged people having fun singing karaoke songs and playing silly games, but it wiled away the time, and I can always tease my dad about his appalling rendition of Queen’s ‘We are the champions’. The westerners on board scored a woeful 68, whilst the lowest for our Korean friends was 92. (The stereotypically image of Welsh singers took somewhat of a bashing).
We stayed about 10 miles from the circuit, in a lovely little seaside hotel, fish soup for breakfast was a little challenging but the company of Korean visitors could not have been friendlier. Blonde hair in Korea made me stand out from the crowd.

The most amazing thing about Formula 1 is the noise. I thought it was going to be loud. It’s not loud it’s deafening, even 40 yards away from the cars and with ear defenders, it’s hard to hear yourself think. The rest was a bit of a blur, a chap called Vettel won and the Brits second and fourth. A little better than an afternoon of homework but quite a close run thing. NO NOT REALLY, I loved it! Sebastian Vettel is amazing and never disappoints. The race itself was a little bit predictable, but the speed is hard to convey. The cars are reaching speeds of over 200 miles an hour and the decelerating to 50 miles an hour to go round a sharp corner.


I am a F1 Convert!

Sophie’s Work Experience – Seoul: a chaotic urban sprawl

Seoul is a city of about 10 million people and is unlike any city in the UK. The city is built on the banks of the Han River that meanders for miles. For those that have visited London, the river is about 5 times as wide as the Thames, and in a similar way to London, the character of the city differs on the North and South. One side of the river the commercial buildings are lower normally 5 or 6 storeys, on the other they are skyscrapers, not New York but certainly very modern and very clean.

Unlike London, Seoul is surrounded by mountains that act to contain the city. As far as I can tell the city does not have a recognised centre, there are no districts as such, no area just for shopping or no area just for finance or no residential area. It’s all mixed together, in a great hubbub and higgledy piggledy mess, such creates almost permanent traffic jams on the main arterial roads that run each side of the river, the road network is reminiscent of spaghetti junction on speed. It’s not that the city is ugly, it has many beautiful buildings but there is no sense of a great architectural plan, but more a sense of just build, build, build. Such was a consequence of the desire to transform the country after years of war and occupation.
I suppose what I did notice most is the lack of trees and open space. The colour is grey.
I understand that almost all residents of Seoul live in apartments and that most of the apartments are identical. (one doesn’t have to be here for long to recognise that group uniformity is much valued and that individualism is discouraged). The apartments are normally about 18 storeys high and are either 2 or 3 bedrooms with a kitchen and living room area combined. It’s important to understand that it is normal for Korean people to live with their extended families, so a 3 bedroom flat may well have parents, grandparents and children all under one roof.

The result today is a city with some charm but lacking the old and new that we in Europe are so used too, it’s either 30 years old and decaying or brand new and amazing. There are no great historic buildings, and at the same time it’s not Dubai, it’s not a showcase city but a working hub that buzzes 24/7.
We are staying at the Seoul Olympic Parktel , a hotel built just after the Seoul Olympic games in 1988 and it’s surrounded by a beautiful park. An oasis of green space in the otherwise urban sprawl, the Olympic stadium surrounds the park, and incredibly there are numerous exercise equipment that are free to use and are non vandalised and unmonitored. It’s worth saying again, that within the parks and in many other areas along the riverbank, there is equipment that is free to use, open to the public and not damaged or covered in graffiti in any way.

Work Experience in South Korea 14/10/11

Sophie Thomas in year 11 is spending 2 weeks in South Korea for her work experience.  She will be updating her blog throughout her visit – Miss Bunce.

Are we there yet? It’s amazing isn’t it? However often we travel and however exciting the journey may be it is the destination that we yearn for. This time however, I was determined to enjoy and experience, I mean really experience the journey. I’m travelling to South Korea, a country that we all seem to know little of, but a country that creates images in our mind of alien traditions and far-away people.  Amazingly, I am not sure I’ve ever met a Korean person. I probably have without realizing it, but certainly, I haven’t been to a Korean restaurant, or seen a Korean film…it just too exciting, it’s all going to be new.
The day of the trip started like any other adventure, those last minute; “have I gots”; have I got my passport? And do I have my camera? I think I checked, or rather my mum asked me about 20 times.
Heathrow, terminal 3: it’s hard to imagine how it could be more unpleasant.  No luxury, no glamour, how I yearn to be a 1950’s traveller.  The headscarf, the bright red lipstick and the brown suitcase with stickers affixed from far off lands. Today it’s all gone. No glamour, just queues.
The plane, an Emirates airbus A380, what a revelation!  Even in the back of the jet the seats are wide the leg room a-plenty and the service so very different from the Easy Jet offerings on the flight to Sunny Spain. Entertainment system plugged in, we were off on the first leg to Dubai.  Dubai airport is reminiscent of a bazaar…. full of intermingling cultures and the omnipresent sounds of hustle and bustle. I thought Heathrow was a melting pot, but it has nothing on Dubai. So many people from so many lands, and all so wonderfully foreign.
After yet more security checks we’re onboard again for the 7 hour flight to South Korea. All international flights to Seoul arrive at the new Incheon airport.  I read on the plane, that the airport was built in preparation for the World Cup and is often voted as one of the top 3 in the world. It didn’t disappoint.  Huge, clean and efficient, even the immigration official smiled as he stamped my passport. So exciting to have a stamp, (in all my trips to Europe it would be so good to have a record in my passport).
We were met at the airport by a colleague of my Dad’s, we bowed.  He bowed, we bowed again and he bowed again. What’s the etiquette? I know that I’m supposed to bow lower than my elders but how low? And how many times? It didn’t seem to matter but I think my efforts were appreciated.

So, I’m in Asia. Was there to be poverty on the streets, starving children begging for food, was this to be like India? NO! As we drove to Seoul, it soon became apparent that this is a very 21st century country.  Let me give you a little of South Korea’s history:  Until relatively recently, Korea was an insular place, existing under dynastic rule for centuries, with hundreds, some say thousands, of invasions over the centuries. However, the 35-year Japanese occupation from 1910, the split of the peninsula after WWII and the subsequent Korean War shattered all that. Difficult times have however made the Koreans a resilient lot, succeeding economically whilst still holding onto their unique traditions and fascinating culture.
The demilitarised zone, the border between North and South Korea is an eerie place – the tension is so trumped up it seems it should be a Hollywood film set, yet there is no denying the barbed wire or the potential attack by the North. In the rest of the country, Korea is littered with fortresses, temples and palaces, many of them UNESCO World Heritage sites, making a trip here rich with discovery.
We checked in to the Olympic Park Hotel. Really funny place. The décor seventies, eighties and ninetiues, a hotch potch of influences, but its clean its homely.

The tiredness disappeared as the realization continued to grow that this was all new: the food, my first Korean meal. I suppose we all know about eating dogs. Was I to have my first Labrador? Or was dalmatian the delegacy on offer? Predictably no. Whilst dog is served in some restaurants, it’s rare. We had kalbi, which is barbecued beef, served with lots and lots of side dishes, many of which were impossible to determine the origin… the big difference was sitting on the floor, and using thin metal chopsticks but no one seemed to care as I struggled with my chopstick control.

Lots more to see and do, and will update again soon!

Matthew Ingram’s Work Experience Blog 4

I was in the Front of House department today, and I was called for the evening. Needless to say, I was very appreciative of the opportunity for a lie in and the chance to spend time with friends during half term!

At 6pm, I was greeted by Debbie, the Supervisor at the Front of House department. Doors were not open until seven o’clock, so I spent this hour preparing myself for six the six hundred people who would come flooding through the doors of the auditorium. When the doors did open, however, I was overwhelmed by the flood of people wanting to know where they were sat, and went on a must have walked the length of a marathon ushering people to their seats!

A support act was billed, but didn’t show up. Meaning latecomers (it’s even harder to find your way around that place in the dark!)…and complaints.

Despite the numerous complaints, my coveted “Complaint of the Evening” award had to go to a middle-aged woman from Yorkshire, I was told, and her daughter, who complained about the fact that they weren’t allowed to dance where they were dancing…which was in the view of ten to fifteen others who were sitting down. After I had told her she couldn’t dance there, and gave her alternatives of where she could dance, she stormed off to her seat, her boots cluncking on the wooden floor like a titanic robot, her arms swinging like a pendulum.

It was then after the performance that I saw her saying, rather shouting, her piece at Debbie, who backed my corner. I walked over calmly and explained the situation firmly, but not rudely, to Debbie and this woman. It seems that she had forgotten to mention that I had given her alternatives on where to dance. So, she strode off again, into the distance, and out of the Hall.

And, in the words of William Shakespeare: “All’s well that ends well.”

Matthew Ingram’s Work Experience Blog 3

Today could, quite possibly, be hailed as the greatest day of work experience I will ever encounter, even when I’m actually working!!!

I arrived today bright and early at nine o’clock to be greeted by Simon, the Technical Manager of St David’s Hall. He put me in the capabilities of Emma, one of the technicians, and I was put straight to work lowering the lighting grids, and helping with the get-in (yep, you guessed it, the time where they get all the equipment in) for today’s show…“Fireman Sam: Pontypandy Rocks – LIVE!”.

This continued for a couple of hours, and over that time, I had been talking to the cast, who had been recalling memories of their tour so far, such as:

“Today, Robyn walked into the hotel room, looked around and said ‘Oh my God, there’s a microwave in our room!’ I rushed over straight away, took one look at the microwave and said ‘No, Robyn. That’s a safe.'”

Well…they were from Essex.

With the get-in complete, Simon and Emma took me to one side. “You just follow Emma.” Simon told me. I nodded and was led away. This part of the building was unfamiliar to me, so I had no idea of what was about to happen. All I knew was that we were walking up some stairs. “You don’t have a problem with heights, do you?” Emma asked. I nodded nervously, anticipating what was about to happen. “Okay, you’re going to be perfectly safe.” she told me, and after one last staircase I found myself standing in about 60ft above the auditorium, on the walkway bridges of the lighting rig.

Looking down, terror engulfed me, and each step I took was more nerve-wracking than the last. And the fact that my legs were shaking did nothing to calm the thoughts that I would trip and somehow drop to the ground below me. Eventually we reached the lights that we were going to be focusing, and I found myself becoming increasingly calm and my fear of heights seemed to dessipate, to my relief. And I had done it! Despite shaking fingers and a racing heart, I had calmly focused the lights – to a good standard I was told.

I then observed the plotting of the lights on the board and took my lunch break, and watched the 1:00pm performance of Fireman Sam from the lighting and sound desk, carefully observing Emma as she easily operated the lighting board, though the plan was fairly simple. Noticing this, I took a chance. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. “Emma, would it be alright if I operated the lights for the next performance?” Silence. “Yeah,” she told me, answering my prayers; but presenting me with another challenge: providing the lighting for a professional show for 11oo paying customers. The pressure was on. But, as I settled into my seat, I found myself in total focus and concentration, and it was only after the performance that I had realised what I had achieved – my first time lighting a professional show – and it went without a hitch!

After the second performance, a grin spread across my face and didn’t disappear until I realised that I wasn’t going to be there tomorrow. But there was more. I was invited back to a week placement in the Technical Department, which I hope to complete next summer. That smile wasn’t going anywhere now!

Terror, excitement and opportunity – now can you see why I called it the best day ever???

Work Experience at Western Power Day 5

western powerOn the final day of work experience feelings and emotions scorched through my very veins like molten tallow. As I waited for eight o’ clock to arrive so I could begin my working day, I was unsure if I was happy for the end of a long week or actually disappointed.

During the day, I remained in the office assisting with the operation of the various computer screens. I had a great chat with some of the gentlemen and enjoyed observing the goings-on during the office.

Later on in the day I had to have a meeting with my mentor. Daunting thoughts flooded through my mind. We would be talking about how well I had performed during the five day period at Western Powers. Overcoming my fears, I spoke as if we had worked together for years.

It was then when I realised the true essence of my emotions: I was actually going to miss the time I had spent there, the nice people that I had worked with and so much more. I said my farewell and solemnly traipsed away, gazing at everyone I passed. Perhaps I will return, I thought, Perhaps.

Matthew Ingram’s Work Experience Blog 2

I write this blog post in the Apple store in the St David’s 2 shopping centre during my lunch break. Firstly, because today has been so busy I could already write a full blog post about it and secondly because I am can’t see any change in what I’ve been doing to happen this afternoon!

I arrived this morning to meet Jo (remember her from my last update?) and had the now routine morning cuppa – in my new mug (remember that from my last update too?).

Then it was down to the reception desk to the Box Office, where I met Karen, the Box Office Manager, and Muriel, who was to be helping me today.

I was quickly seated by Muriel, and given a whistle-stop demonstration of the computer software I’d be using to deal with bookings, returns and enquiries. And then I was thrown in at the deep end.

My heart was racing as the phone rang for the first time. “Bore da, Matthew speaking, how can I help?” I asked. My first booking.

This booking, and the next few were not smooth, but I was getting the hang of it, and Muriel, who seemed to be slightly impatient, helped me where necessary.

But as time progressed I got the ropes and found taking all bookings and enquiries incredibly easy. I was also dealing with customers on the front desk, which meant that there wasn’t a spare minute to have a break!

Muriel, who had been incredibly helpful as well as slightly impatient, was even commending me on my performance at the Box Office, before she excused me for lunch.

Now: Off to Gregg’s, before continuing the rest of the day’s work! Apparently, a sculpture from has been stolen from the Hall and held captive in the visitor centre – I will keep you updated!!!