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Sandra Idele, a Health and Social Care learner from London, had her first taste of international work on a two-week placement at a care home in Esposende, Northern Portugal.

Organised through REY Europe, Sandra was part of a group of 16 Health and Social Care learners from Hackney who undertook placements at care homes for the elderly or childcare facilities. The group were matched with a placement based on their course specialism and future career interests and Sandra feels much better prepared to chase her ambitions after the trip. She talked to us about her experience, and this is her story.

Preparations and expectations

I have always wanted to work abroad and live abroad. I moved two years ago from Austria to London. Therefore, moving to London was already moving abroad and starting a career. However, being able to travel again and work in another country gave me the motivation to continue travelling and also to live in that country for some time.

I applied for the Erasmus+ placement because I wanted to expand my soft skills as well as my practical care-giving experience. I saw this placement as a challenge and stepping out of my comfort zone.

I found about this opportunity through my college. Everyone was able to apply, but there were some conditions we had to meet such as being on track with all our coursework, and having a good attendance record.


Young girl playing with an elderly woman

A fun fact is that I was not worried about anything and I was really looking forward to this trip. I needed to do this, and the time seemed ideal. I believe one of the reasons I was not worried is because I got plenty of information from my teacher, who gave me the reassurance that I would be in safe hands. However, I guess I was a bit worried about the language barrier, and I kept asking myself if I would be able to communicate in Portugal. Luckily, that worry vanished as soon as I got there!

Work and local community

My placement was at a care home for elderly people, so my tasks were mainly assisting the elderly people and supporting them with tasks that they were not able to do. I also helped with serving their meals and ensuring that they were all able to participate in activities such as seated yoga and Zumba. Through this placement I have come to the realisation that I am very good at overcoming challenges, for example the language barriers, faced with some of the people I was caring for.

My biggest learning achievement was being able to get to learn about the Portuguese culture and people.

Another factor I would consider as an achievement would be that the old people in our care home were very happy with us - some of them were even crying when we had to leave!

Skills learnt – Culture discovered

Working internationally has helped me a lot. The skills I learned during my placement will help me with my future care aspirations as I now have experience of how to interact with different types of individuals, even when we don’t speak the same language. This will be useful if I go on to become a Paramedic as you never know the people you are going to meet at the place of accident and if they will be able to speak the same language, so I will have experience in dealing with these situations.

I loved everything about the experience, but what I loved the most was the hard work the hosts put in to ensuring that everything went well, such as planning trips to different cities for us. They really made sure that we saw the beauty of Portugal. I also loved the way our supervisors at the care home took care of us, they really made sure we didn’t lack anything.

Portugal allowed me to breathe again and made me realise that there is world bigger than my four walls in London.

Group of young volunteers working with elderly residents


Next steps (for Sandra and for you!)

My next step will be going to University and either studying Paramedic Science or Adult Nursing. The advice I would give to the future Erasmus+ participants would be that they should not be afraid, as they will be OK. They will take away amazing memories and get to explore the world a bit more.

Another tip I would give to young people in general is that they should step out of their comfort zone and try out new things. Opportunities like these are not found very often, so they should take the chance and they should try to live the moment and enjoy themselves.

While developing her professional skills, Sandra was also able to develop a strong bond with those in the care home – despite the language barrier. Lisa Atamian, Partnerships Manager at REY Europe said: "On these Erasmus+ projects, the learners develop a lot of skills specific to the course they are studying. In this case, Sandra was able to get a really practical experience of working with elderly people but also benefit from the soft skills development.

"With an ageing population, there is currently a real need for care professionals in the UK. Through this experience, Sandra has been able to improve both her practical and communication skills, as well as becoming more aware of the different cultures and communities she may meet in her future profession.''


Sandra Idele studies Health & Social Care at BSix College in London. REY Europe worked with BSix for the first time this year, sending a group of their learners to Portugal for 2-week work placements in March-April 2019. Sandra hopes to go to University in September to train as either a Paramedic or an Adult Nurse.


Thinking of working abroad? Learn more about different available opportunities visiting our work abroad dedicated webpage. We hope you can find something interesting for yourself!