Get the Most Out of Your University Placement

Semester two of university is back in full swing, bringing with it all kinds of responsibilities, due dates and competing demands. For some of the student community, it also signals the beginning of work placement and internship components of their courses.  

This can be an intimidating prospect to many – especially when managing other life considerations like paying rent, finding accommodation, paid work commitments and relationships. How can you get the most out of your placement without it taking over your life?  

To answer this question, I spoke to a variety of students who had previously undertaken work placements and internships in fields such as teaching, nursing, social work, nutrition, sociology & criminology and law. Here are their hot tips on how to not only survive placement, but thrive! 

Before:

Preparation is the key to success. The lead up to placement is vital in being able to put your best foot forward, so make sure you are aware of any mandatory requirements, such as having up-to-date immunisations, the rough dates of your placement, where you are going and the name of your supervisor. With these basic facts in mind, it can help you make any adjustments you may need, such as organising accommodation and leave from employed work, purchasing appropriate clothing and enrolling in the correct courses.  

Make sure you have clarified anything you need to with the University and are clear on any pre-placement training you may need to complete. If it is a field that you are not familiar with or if you wish to be extra-prepared, research can be a handy tool. The University’s Policy on work placement can be a helpful start.  

Work-life balance whilst on placement can be a juggling act so it may help to sit down and use a weekly schedule to work out how many hours you are expected to cover at placement, in conjunction with paid work, other commitments, exercise and a social life. Try to keep on top of any additional coursework you may need to undertake by writing the dates on a calendar, noting due dates and assignment types. This can help ensure that you are scheduling in other important factors in your life, such as self-care. 

During:

When I asked all the students what worked best for them during placement, one common factor was having regular contact with their friends, their cohort and supervisors. Placement allows you to practice and develop skills in a real-world setting, but that also means relying on what you have learned so far. Having a strong group of people to check in with and reflect with is a vital part of placement.  

Another tip was to be as open-minded and kind to yourself as possible; you are on placement to learn, not to know the most. If you have questions or something you want to check, don’t be afraid to ask or write it down so you can ask later.  

Looking after yourself on placement is important. One common thread from the people I spoke to was meal prepping – channel your inner gym bro and cook yourself something that is easy to assemble at the start of the week. Schedule in regular exercise, before or after your placement hours. Try to get as much sleep as possible. 

If you are dealing with a heavy caseload or pressurised situations, find ways to decompress. You might want to try things like meditation apps, finding a safe person to talk to, or writing in a diary to help yourself reflect and process what you are experiencing. If you find that you’re struggling for any reason do not hesitate to reach out to the University or your course coordinators for support.  

After:

After placement is over, make sure to check in with your supervisor and thank your clinical educators. This can be a time to ask for any constructive criticism and feedback, reflect critically on what you have learnt and look forward to the future.  

To read up more on placement, check out the FAQs on the University website.

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