My Year Abroad Placement – Alexander Dennis
My name is Alexander Dennis, and I am a student at the University of Exeter, studying Politics and International Relations. I joined McFelder at the end of September, 2020, to complete an eight-month year abroad placement as part of my degree.
Primarily, I wanted to live & work abroad for a year. I wish to centre my career around living abroad, and so saw this placement year abroad as the perfect test case to see if I would ‘sink or swim’.
Ironically, the languages that I study at university are German & French, so moving to Catalonia – a place of Catalan & Spanish – was unorthodox. I didn’t speak a lick of either. Thankfully, the office is an international one, where French, Spanish and English are all used daily, so I was able to improve my Spanish at a natural pace without being completely thrown in at the deep-end.
Marketing & Projects Internship at McFelder
As for the specifics, I was fortunate enough to spend time in both the ‘projects’ section of the business (that which executes the translation projects) and the marketing section.
Being a part of an SME means that you actually matter. What you do during your day, has direct consequences on the output of the business. It is a touch more stressful but this responsibility, in my view, makes this internship so much more worthwhile. Rather than feeling as though one is wasting away simply photocopying or collecting coffee, you have trust placed upon you. It’s the good kind of stress.
What did I learn?
- Website building:
I was fortunate enough to be tasked with building another section of the website. This involved getting familiar with HTML and collaborating with our website development partner, Creative Corner. With our website being served by WordPress, there is both front- & back-end editing that goes on; whether it be tweaking existing pages & posts, or building new sections.
- SEO & Copywriting:
This involves everything from website structure to creating blogs.
Seen as somewhat of a dark art, SEO can be effectively summarised as ‘getting ranked highly on Google’. Optimising this is a game of 1000 small improvements. Whether it be to: the user experience (UX); the speed; the quality of the code; the quality of the site-structure; or the quality of the copy.
As well as building the pages, there needs to be something that fills them. That’s where learning about copy comes in. There is a certain way to write in order for Google to class your content as valuable and worthy to show a searcher.
Marketing is a shared & varied enterprise. With different people having different special skillsets, you need to coordinate with one another to have a coherent response to the challenge of marketing. Furthermore, there are several platforms on which one needs to market: website, blogs, Instagram, LinkedIn, and email marketing.
One of my roles within ‘Projects’ was to conduct ‘Final Quality Checks’ (FQCs). Essentially, this is a final once-over before the finished product is sent to the client. Clearly, it really matters that you pick up any mistakes.
We have all seen a document that has mistakes in it. It dampens your opinion of whom the document represents. Even something as small as a double-space, or a misplaced comma, irks you; never mind a mistranslation.
The best parallel I could give, is that it is a little like detective work. It is challenging but satisfying all the same.
When trying to communicate complex concepts to individuals, you have to be extremely precise in your speech (or email). If you are misunderstood, and the ‘correction’ comes back in a language that you do not understand, the client will receive a mistranslation. You end up putting a lot of time into your wording of explanations; I believe this has fundamentally improved my ability to communicate.
Also, as aforementioned, there are a lot of different languages in the office. Not only did my clarity of communication improve, but it did so in three different languages. For the two of those that are not my native tongue, I have to thank my colleagues: their patience and help were invaluable.
Life in Girona, Catalonia:
The most fantastic thing about my placement year abroad, was the opportunity to live in Catalonia for close to a year. The country is gorgeous, the people fantastic, and the culture vibrant. It has been nothing short of a privilege.
As for recommendations:
Cycle around Girona: Especially when the weather is clear, it is spectacular.
- Visit the variety of Catalonia: The mountains, the beaches, the big cities, and the tucked-away towns & villages.
- Sample the culture: Visit the museums; taste the food & drink; learn a bit of the language (amb només una mica, es pot fer molt); and learn about the politics, too, if you are so inclined.
- Join a club or society: It can be whatever it is that you are interested in as a hobby – for me it was rugby, (visca els monstres de Banyoles!) – but I recommend that you join a club or society. It is the best way, in my view, to meet and be accepted by locals. They are amazing people and show you the best parts of the country that they are so proud of.
Catalonia has quickly become my second home, even during a time as bizarre as COVID-19. As I approach the end of my time here, I am reluctant to trade the Catalan landscape for an English one! I am sure that I will return often.
Find out more about what goes on inside McFelder and our International Internship Program!