IAESTE (The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience), founded in 1948, is a student exchange organisation with over 80 member countries worldwide. It provides degree-level students of science, engineering, technology and the applied arts with paid, course-related, technical training abroad and promotes international understanding and goodwill among students of all nations. IAESTE UK is managed by the British Council, the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.
As a student, you can benefit from an IAESTE exchange not only through work placement relevant to your field of study, but also through the enriching cultural experience of living and working abroad for 6-12 weeks.
Initial registration of interest in IAESTE must be submitted by early December, and most applicants find out by May the following year whether they have been accepted on the summer exchange programme.
If you're a Durham student seeking an IAESTE placement abroad, you can find full details of the application process at: http://www.britishcouncil.org/iaeste-uk-based-students.htm
Ashley Johns, who spent a placement in Prague in the Czech Republic in Summer 2012 said,
“My IAESTE placement was a summer position at the Institute for Chemical Technology. For six weeks I worked in a research lab looking into catalysts that can be used during the synthesis of polymers and my role followed on from the work done by a previous student. I spent most of my placement synthesising variations on known catalysts but also had the chance to test what I had made on basic monomers (with mixed results). This utilised skills that I learned as part of my chemistry degree in Durham, but also gave ample opportunity to augment them with new techniques. This gave me a valuable insight into postgraduate studies and offered the chance to do a sustained chemistry project.
The placement was also a lot of fun outside of work. I had been expecting to make few friends out there on the basis of language barriers but I couldn't have been more wrong. There were loads of other IAESTE trainees doing similar things, all of whom spoke excellent English and we formed a lively and diverse group. This was an enormous privilege and it was great to be able to share life together, making things like exploring the city (which is truly beautiful) and free time enjoyable. There was never a dull moment. The placement gave me an international perspective and friends all over the world."
Carl Reynolds spent 2 months at the University of Rostock in Germany and reported,
“working with a PhD student on a carbohydrate chemistry project. It was a really good opportunity to learn new skills and practice what I’d learned in university in a real research environment. I was worried at first about my language skills in German, not have spoken any since GCSE, but the work was in English, and most people I met could speak English very well. I was however interested in practicing my German and there was plenty of opportunity for that, my colleagues were happy to have a chat in their native tongue and help me along when I got stuck. Also, while living in the country, you are surrounded by the language and you pick things up without even noticing; when you’re out shopping or trying to catch a train.
The IAESTE committee there was student run, and the people in charge were really nice, they sorted out our accommodation and made sure we were settling in. They also organised some events for us to get to know the other students doing similar placements across the university. There were students from all over the world and after a few meetings we were organising things ourselves, we went most weekends to a different German city and I got to see alot more of the country than I had expected. We met up most evenings, often armed with disposable BBQs and set up camp in and around the city, visiting places that the students who lived there didn’t know about themselves.
To anyone considering an IAESTE placement I’d say go for it, you’ll have a great time and it also looks great on your CV, I am currently doing interviews for my fourth year placement and my time in Germany is something I get asked about a lot. I really would recommend these placements and would consider doing another myself, it was a really useful and enjoyable experience for me and one I’ll never forget."
Laura Beckett, writing while still on placement says,
“I am coming to the end of my 3 month internship at the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Araraquara, Brazil organised through IAESTE. I have been working on testing the performance of a catalyst for the conversion of glycerol to acrolein. This has included a large number of new techniques and pieces of equipment and has given me some excellent experience of working in research, and also some new challenges to overcome – temperatures around 35 °C in October/November is not a problem you often have in Durham! Not only has this internship given me work experience, it has also been a brilliant opportunity to live abroad and meet people from all over the world. I live in a student house with 3 other IAESTE students and 5 Brazilian girls who have shown us the lifestyle over here.
I would definitely recommend IAESTE to anyone interested in applying. As well as organizing the placement and accommodation, the local committee here has run several trips to places like Rio, São Paulo and Paraty. The university here has put on a free course of Portuguese lessons for exchange students and is very open to giving time to travel to see more of the country.
My advice would be to register now for placements next year – if you don’t you will not be able to access the list of placements when they come out. My second piece of advice would be to choose placements somewhere you might not normally consider. I nearly didn’t apply for this placement in Brazil because of the distance and the fact I don’t speak Portuguese. I am very glad I did now as there are far fewer opportunities to do something like this in South America than in Europe and I am having a great time - the people here are friendly and helpful, even when my language skills fail me!"
If you're an undergraduate student outside the United Kingdom and you're interested in an incoming IAESTE placement, you need to apply through your national IAESTE office. You can find their contact details at: www.iaeste.org.
If you have specific questions about IAESTE opportunities in Chemistry, please contact Andrew Unwin (firstname.lastname@example.org).