We are happy to keep offering Erasmus internships in the UK in 2023!
1 Why did you choose the UK as a country for an Erasmus+ graduate internship?
For the UK, specifically Northern Ireland, I decided because of the initial plan to move to this country and start my professional life as a pharmacist there. It was also a big attraction for me to get to know a different healthcare system than the one we have in Slovakia. Even before traveling to Belfast, I knew that local pharmacists have greater (or different) powers than here. After the specialization courses, they are authorized to prescribe certain groups of drugs, to vaccinate people in the pharmacy (Slovakia is also moving towards this), or to focus on a specific area of improving the patient's health - e.g. for obesity. And since they say - It is better to see (and experience) once than to hear a hundred times, I set out on this adventurous journey.
2 How was the process of preparing for an internship in this particular country and cooperation with a partner organization?
Since I cooperate in parallel with the Slovak institution Workspace Europe and the institution in the UK - ESPA - it was necessary to resolve many documents before the start of the internship. I have had a positive experience with both organizations, the course of communication was quite smooth. Processing visas may seem like a difficult step, since we have this obligation after Brexit. The partner organization ESPA has been doing its job for several years and doing it well. If I happened to have any doubts, it was no problem for me to write more than one e-mail or call them. Other preparations mainly included the purchase and planning of plane tickets, insurance for the entire length of the internship, rational packing of luggage (packing the necessary things for half a year can be a real challenge).
3 How was the selection process? Why do you think you succeeded?
As part of the selection procedure, I completed interviews both with the partner organization ESPA and with the future employer in Belfast. I think they saw me as a suitable candidate, as I was a fresh graduate of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Comenius University at that time. I also assume that they were interested in my previous internships in Malta, the Czech Republic, or other school and extracurricular activities. In this way, I would also like to encourage university students to be really proactive, because it pays off in life.
4 How was the processing of work visas? Do you find this step complicated?
The visas had to be processed at least 2 months in advance. If the student (graduate) carefully follows the instructions of the organization, it can be managed. At the same time, it is necessary to point out that the student (graduate) pays for the visa himself/herself.
5 Is there anything that surprised you during the internship, something you didn't expect?
During my internship, I was definitely surprised by the different system of pharmacy operation and health care provision. As a rule, the pharmacist does not stand behind the counter, as it is the case in our country, rather he is at the back, where he checks the medicines and medical devices issued to the patient. However, if the patient has a clinical question, he will ask the pharmacist and he will gladly advise him. However, communicating with him is more of a privilege than a matter of course, which is why, in my opinion, pharmacists are more respected here. At the same time, the pharmacist concentrates only on the correct and complete dispensing of medicines and medicine devices, he is relieved of the duty of working with the cash register or choosing cosmetics for the patient. Medicines and medicine devices are pre-prepared for the pharmacist in small baskets by dispensers, of which there are several in the pharmacy. This makes the process more efficient, safer and, thanks to our robot (which, after reading the prescription, prepares some specific medicines directly from the warehouse) also faster. I believe that we will soon see such progress in Slovakia as well.
6 If you could give advice to those interested in an internship in the UK before they travel, what would it be?
If it really has to be just one piece of advice, it would be: HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS. Whether from the place of internship, your competences during it, or from the country. Because if a person does not expect anything in particular, he cannot be subsequently disappointed, but on the contrary, at least pleasantly surprised.
7 Would you recommend an internship in the UK to other graduates (if yes, why)?
Of course, I would recommend an internship abroad to anyone who thinks about it at least for a while. Although the administration process may seem stressful and complicated, the experience is truly worth it in the end. This unique opportunity will give a student (or a graduate) the opportunity to discover their own personality, grow professionally, gain a lot of experience, skills, improve a foreign language... And the best benefit is undoubtedly friendships and networking with other people from all over the world.