Lecturer work placement abroad: ‘I now remember what students are going through’

    Foto: Beeldveld/Wilfried ScholtesLecturer Marise Khemissi arranged a work placement in Singapore for herself. Students also reap the benefits of her move. “I’m still in touch with former colleagues who turn to us for help in tackling their problems.”

    “I was incredibly nervous for my first day at work. I had had a terrible night’s sleep. I had to get to know all the colleagues and get used to all communication done in English. I can now identify with students embarking on their first placement much more easily.” Marise Khemissi, Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the School of Economics and Business Administration, did a five-month work placement in Singapore.

    ‘Internationalisation is such a key aspect of our teaching that I believed I had to experience it for myself’

    Lecturers going on work placements are not a new phenomenon at this school. Khemissi however was the first who decided to go abroad for it. “Internationalisation is such a key aspect of our teaching that I believed I had to experience it for myself.”

    Hands-on experience
    She got talking to the vice president of HR of a packaging company after a career event held at Avans. “He had just arranged a placement in Australia for one of our students, so asked him if he could arrange placements for lecturers too. He had never even heard of them. After my explaining, he asked me in which country I wanted to do a placement. I told him Singapore. That’s how I got my work placement.”

    For Khemissi it was important to gain some hands-on experience again, having spent the past couple of years teaching. “Of course my company visits as a placement and graduation counsellor enable me to keep in touch with the industry. However, it’s just not the same as actually doing the work yourself.”

    ‘I’m still in touch with my former colleagues in Singapore who turn to us for help in tackling their problems’

    Student assignment
    Khemissi says lecturer work placements really bring value to the department and the curriculum. “As early as my second working week I was Skyping with students of the HR Advice minor. My placement company wanted research carried out into staff retention in China. These students looked into this and presented their findings, live streaming it from Netherlands. After that, the department received more assignments through my placement company. And they keep coming our way. I’m still in touch with my former colleagues in Singapore who turn to us for help in tackling their problems.” For Khemissi it’s clear that a work placement enables a lecturer to establish contacts that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.

    ‘I can now explain much more convincingly why taking up a work placement abroad is a real challenge that will help you grow’

    The fact that it has enabled her to better empathise with her students is another big plus, according to her. “I can now explain much more convincingly why taking up a work placement abroad is a real challenge that will help you grow, especially on a personal level. I now know what students are going through because I know what it’s like to start working at an unfamiliar company in an unfamiliar city and to start a new life at the same time.”

    Job offer
    The company also took a leap in the dark when they offered Khemissi a placement. “They had never heard of a lecturer work placement so they had no idea what to expect. Although they knew I had worked in the industry for 11 years before switching to teaching, it was still a bit of a gamble.” In the end, the company was so happy with the work she had done they offered her a job. “That was amazing of course. Still, even during my placement I realised that my work at Avans was not finished yet. I enjoy working with students too much to say goodbye at this point.”

    “Developing your skills and talents and leaving your comfort zone every now and then is key for both students and lecturers. Of course a five-month work placement abroad is not for everyone but there are other possibilities, such as a ten-week teaching period at a university abroad.”

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