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Armagh student’s three months in China were ‘out of this world’

An Armagh student is encouraging others to apply for a programme that offers students paid international work experience.

In summer 2019, the Queen’s University Belfast student Finnóla Mallon took part in the IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) programme and spent three months working for the Wanhua Chemicals Group in the Yantai, Shandong Province in China.

IAESTE, which is managed by British Council Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for the Economy offers science, engineering, technology or applied arts students, the chance to undertake paid work placements lasting from six to 52 weeks in over 80 countries across the world.

It is open to degree level students in the second year of study and above and the majority of traineeships take place in the summer months, although longer periods are also available.

The 22-year-old, who is studying for a master’s in chemistry, said: “I took part in the IAESTE programme to allow myself the opportunity to gain relevant technical experience in my area of study.

“I was interested in material chemistry and found an ideal placement which gave me the opportunity to gain industrial work experience, travel, learn and experience a different culture.

“It sounded too good to be true but it ended up being out of this world!

“Throughout my three months in China I immersed myself into an industrial Chemical environment, a new culture and a new way of living.

“University or research laboratories are very different to laboratories in industry and it was a vital experience that equipped me with a phenomenal amount of technical skills that are used throughout the analytical chemical industry.

“This experience has allowed me the opportunity to expand my horizons, build on my skills, capabilities and knowledge, gain confidence in my abilities and identify the career path I would like to lead. I have made new friends from across the world for life and have expanded my personal and business networks. I would recommend every student in university to undertake a placement through IAESTE.”

Other students thinking of applying to the programme could find themselves working in a wide range of areas, from cutting edge electronics in Japan, to earthquake detection technology in Colombia, with the skills they gain significantly contributing to their future employment prospects when they return to Northern Ireland.

Speaking about the programme, Jonathan Stewart, Director, of British Council Northern Ireland, said: “International business connections and partnerships are vital for economic success and growth. Exchange programmes like IAESTE facilitate these connections by sending out our future business leaders into the international marketplace to gain international experience and build partnerships for success.

“This kind of work experience enhances independence and flexibility as well as communication and foreign language skills and contributes to personal and academic development. Employers know that if students have successfully overcome the challenges brought on by international work experience, they will stand out from the crowd at interview.”

IAESTE runs in more than 80 member countries, with over 4000 traineeships exchanged each year and is the largest organisation of its kind in the world.

To apply for IAESTE visit – deadline for applications: Thursday, November 28 2019.

For more information on programmes available through British Council Northern Ireland visit

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