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Preparing to Go

Introduction

Being on a practicum placement often involves significant changes in your lifestyle. If you haven’t prepared for these changes, your first few days on the job could be marred by unforeseen complications such as arriving late because you misread the bus timetable. To make sure that you do not suffer unnecessary stress due to lack of attention to practical matters, ‘do your homework’! This will help you focus 100% on the practicum as a professional learning opportunity, and help to make it an enjoyable experience.

In this module we look at practical preparation for local/metropolitan placements, rural/remote area placements, overseas placements, and foreign students doing their placement in Australia. When you have completed this module, you will have:

  • Identified domestic, work and travel arrangements that may affect the practicum.
  • Identified pre-requisites such as first aid certificates, police checks, immunisations.
  • Researched accommodation and services available where you will be placed.
  • Researched overseas placements.
  • Researched Australian information (foreign students).
  • Become familiar with web searching for information related to practicum preparation.
  • Prepared an effective CV.

You may like to make notes or comments (personal reflections) while reading through this module and completing the activities. You can put these notes in your Portfolio together with the completed activities for assessment and/or for use as a placement resource. It will also be useful to revisit this module and update your checklists after completing all other modules.

Some practical matters before you go

When you enrol in a course that involves a practicum topic, find out as much as possible about the placement requirements, particularly the timing and length of the placement, and begin preparing straight away. The practicum is very demanding. You don’t just go to work, get paid, come home and have time for your other responsibilities or leisure. You will find that you need to juggle all of your normal responsibilities and activities with the added demands of the practicum and possibly a drop in income.

Perhaps the most useful way to prepare for the practical matters that will both affect you and be affected by the practicum, is to write yourself a ‘preparing to go checklist’ of practical things you will need to organise/reorganise/check out before going on placement. This will vary according to where and when your placement is. It is essential to make arrangements to cover everything in your checklist well in advance of the placement to avoid any problems. The following guides should be useful, but you will benefit from carrying out a web search and talking to other practicum students about their experiences.

Also refer to Module 5.3 for information on strategies to overcome academic or industrial/professional organisational problems that may arise. It is essential that you are prepared in all aspects of the practicum before going to your placement to avoid or minimise the potential for problems to arise.

Checklist

A generic checklist of practical matters to consider for all types of placements might look something like this:

  • Paid work - will you have to change the times for your part-time job? Will someone else have to cover for you? How will you organise this?
  • Transport/travel – how will you get there? If using your own car, does it need a service? Can you afford the petrol? Should you catch a bus instead? What transport fits in best with your start and finish times each day? Timetables?
  • Accommodation – availability? Access to workplace? Condition? Cost? Who pays?
  • Family/household responsibilities – how will these be affected? Will you have to leave earlier (and return later) than usual? Who will pick up some of your duties?
  • Childcare – will you need to alter the normal hours/make alternative care arrangements?
  • Finances – will there be any allowances/remuneration? Will you need to rejig your budget?
  • Study commitments – will you need to make special arrangements? Are you up-to-date with your academic assignments?
  • Appropriate clothing – will you need to obtain this or is it supplied?
  • Appropriate equipment – will you need to obtain this, or is it supplied?
  • Required medical certificate – do you need to get one?
  • Required insurance?
  • Required immunisations – do you need to get these?
  • Security checks (eg police) – do you need to have one done or updated?
  • Required licences – do you need to get these?
  • Required certificates (eg first aid) - do you need to get these?
  • Communication – access to phone? Internet? Will you need a mobile? Videoconferencing?
  • CV - is this up-to-date and relevant to the placement? It is a good idea to prepare an up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV/resume) well in advance of the placement. This avoids the last minute panic of having to produce one quickly if an employer asks for it when considering placements. It also indicates your capabilities and hopefully will prevent problems such as the employer giving you unsuitable work, or the supervisor giving you too much or too little supervision. The Resume Express prepared by Career Development and Employment at RMIT can help you prepare an effective CV. See also the fact sheet on developing a CV.

Depending on where you undertake your placement, you may need to add to this list. Rural/remote placements require additional preparation, as do placements in other countries – either Australian students going overseas or foreign students coming to Australia – where issues such as visas and travel insurance add to the list.

Local/metropolitan placement
If your placement is in the metropolitan area your preparatory arrangements will probably be minimal. The above checklist should contain everything you need to consider.

It is important to note that there can be marked differences in the character of local communities in the metropolitan area - in terms of SES factors such as education and employment levels, as well as demographic data on age profiles and cultural mix. For quick access to such information check out the Census Basic Community Profiles & Snapshots (click on the map and view the Profile or Snapshot), or the LGA website (via ABS). You may find this information helpful, particularly in conjunction with information from Module 1.

Rural/remote area placement
For students who spend their practicum far from home there are the added issues associated with physical relocation, as well as those associated with having to operate in an unfamiliar social community outside the workplace. Three of the most important preparatory considerations are:

  • Travel - how will you get there? What transport will be available once you are there? Cost?
  • Accommodation - where will you stay? What condition? Cost? Safety? Alternatives?
  • Communications equipment – mobile phone (CDMA)? Access to CB radio? Internet? Videoconferencing?

It is also important to know about services in rural/remote locations to ensure you can access what you need. Consider:

  • Shops - is there a comprehensive range? Will you need to stock up on necessities beforehand?
  • Services - dentist? Doctor? Bank? Hairdresser? You might need to get your teeth fixed before you arrive!
  • Leisure - what is there to do in your free time? If you are staying for an extended period, it might be worth joining a local sporting club.
  • Local community – demographics (age, ethnic mix, Indigenous)? What is the town’s history? What are the main industries?

To help you prepare for a rural/remote placement, seek information from your host organisation and also check out the RACV website, the STA Travel website or the Victorian Tourism website. To get a ‘feel’ for the community you will be working in, check out the local newspaper from the State Library, the white pages telephone book for the district, and/or listen to the local radio station. After thorough research, write another checklist of things you might need to get done before you go, and things you will need to take with you. Also, have a look at one student’s experience of accommodation problems. How do you think these could have been avoided? Put your thoughts in your Portfolio.

Overseas placement
If you are doing your placement overseas, your preparation will be more substantial. Some of the general checklist items will need more complex arrangements (e.g. your household responsibilities and part-time job) and it would be wise to consider the rural/remote advice. Added to this, overseas travel has its own necessities:

  • Travel arrangements – including travel and health insurance.
  • Visa, passport, injections? Check out the STA (as above) and Lonely Planet websites.
  • Financial matters - money supply! Traveller’s cheques? Cards? Money transfers?

To ensure you are prepared for your overseas placement, find out as much as you can about the country you will be working in, and in particular the city/area. The SBS World Guide Website is an excellent source of information.

Foreign students doing their placement in Australia
If you are a foreign student undertaking a work placement in Australia, you will need to access information about visa, travel and financial arrangements before leaving home, as well as accommodation, regulations regarding part-time work and the possibility of bringing your partner/family. You will need to contact your own travel agent or the Australian Consulate or High Commission in your country.

You will also need to ensure that you meet any conditions made by your educational institution or your country’s governing body. Contact the RMIT University International Students Information & Support, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for reliable sources of information. Access the other websites referred to previously in this module for more information about Australia so you know what to expect. Consider the general checklist plus the additions for rural/remote and Australians undertaking their placement overseas.

Now that you have read all of the information in this module and accessed the website resources, you are ready to do the activities and place them in your Portfolio.


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