NAME: Amaya Floyd
DEGREE/EMPLOYMENT: Graduated with a degree in Law with European Union Legal Studies at Reading University and finished her LPC in 2005. She takes up a training contract with legal firm Withy King from September 2006 and is currently working at the Great Western Ambulance Service as a personal assistant.
Work Experience: Amaya spent three months doing pro bono work at the offices
of a human–rights lawyer in Belize, which is between Mexico and Guatemala in South America. During her time there, she lived with a family in Dangriga, the largest town in southern Belize. The placement was set up by Challenges Worldwide, a volunteer recruiting agency.
What was your motivation? I was quite late applying for training contracts as I wasn’t sure which area I wanted to go into. In my final year I applied for and secured a position with Withy King but had some time after I graduated until my start date with them as people usually apply for training contract well before graduation. This wasn’t a problem for me, however, as I’d never taken a gap year and I wanted the chance to go abroad and work.
What did the application process involve? Through my university I came across Challenges Worldwide, which offers overseas work placements for applicants who have skills to offer. They helped me find a placement which was right for me. The cost of the placements varied – mine was more than Â£2,000, not including flights, and I also put money aside for extra travelling.
What did you do? I worked with human rights lawyer Antoinette Moore. Challenge Worldwide usually send people with legal experience to non–governmental organisations, as this was a private firm I was only involved in doing pro bono work. Initially, I was involved in quite small cases such as getting four Cubans out of prison, which I did on my own. English is one of the main languages spoken in Belize, which helped. Other cases were bigger, such as helping the legal team who were challenging the government, which had granted a US company an oil permit for exploration in one of the internationally protected national parks. This got a lot of press coverage in newspapers and TV and there were meetings between the team and the prime minister of Belize.
How did you sell the experience on your CV? Before I went, I wrote to Withy King and explained what I was doing. I asked them for some sponsorship as I felt many of the skills I would be developing would be of benefit to them later, as my employers. They’d never had a request like it, but they agreed.
Did you enjoy it? It was amazing. Another case I was involved in was helping file the first ever torture claim against the police in Belize.
What did you learn? I learned that I can do things when I put my mind to it and I’ve developed the confidence to attempt projects that I wouldn’t have done before.
Best part: The satisfaction from the cases I was working on and the knowledge that I could do it again. My placement was very successful and Antoinette allowed me to take longer weekends to go travelling as long as I made the time up later.
Worst part: Being on the placement by myself. It was very expensive to call England and a couple of times I felt quite isolated.
Advice to readers: Don’t go with any preconceived expectations – because you never know what you’ll get. You need to be open to the experience, and I’d advise people not to plan or dwell too much on what it will be like.
Get ahead working overseas
Whatever your skill level, you should be able to find a useful and exciting project to work on abroad. If you already have some skills under your belt that you’d like to exercise,
it’s worth checking organisations like www.challengesworldwide.com Another one to consider is Raleigh International, a youth development charity for 17–25 year olds (www.raleigh.org.uk). The charity aims to inspire people from all backgrounds and nationalities to discover their true potential by working together on challenging projects around the world. Student organisation AIESEC also gives students a chance to acquire a set of marketable and transferable skills, while working abroad for a good cause. It offers placements in 86 countries lasting two to 18 months (www.aiesec.org.uk)