Taking up BA Hons Culinary Arts course was very exciting for me. Mostly because I was looking forward to the 3rd year of the studies. Travelling, I had so much enthusiasm thinking of going to Shanghai. I was so lost in my dream of living and learning Asian cuisine that i forgot the biggest challenge of my life. As a parent studying full time is a challenge but going abroad when you have children is insane so many will think but it's possible. I am deliberately posting this for those parents who wants to pursue their dreams but hesitate because they have a family. It is challenging but can be done. I soon realized going to Shanghai should remain a dream and decided on Canada, that did not work out either. The only thing left was for me to think rationally. Northern Ireland was recognized as an international country for students to take up both industrial and academic placement. That was the first challenge out of the way, it meant I can continue with my international placement closer to home. The best part was getting my work placement in Newry which is only two hours away drive to my family all that was very relieving.
The next step was to look for accommodation, I had never been to the North so I had no idea where to start. The hotel had offered me a live in accommodation but I had to turn it down because I could not Live with a three year old at the work place and a childminder. I looked up estate agencies online and private postings, rand a few places but i had no idea how far those places where from the work place. Finally I gave myself a task of finding from Google map the nearest areas to the Mourne Country Hotel and rang the places which where closer and arranged a viewing day. Luckily I fell in love with one of the places I viewed.

 A spacious one bedroom apartment in Warrenpoint just a minute walk to the beach and a playground right across the road it was perfect for me and my little girl. Of course that meant 15-20 minutes drive to work but it was worth. Warrenpoint is a very small town in Newry with loads of tourism attractions. My favorite times were walks on the beach after work and going to the ice cream palour Genoa. I decided to start my placement during summer so I could see my kids more often without worrying about taking them out of school. Also the main reason was so I wont have to worry about find a childminder on top of everything that was going on. Every week on my off days I drove to Carlow and took one child with me to help mind the baby while i went to work. Despite being away from home I got to see my children every week I overcomed the first challenge by planing a little. Accommodation and babysitter was sorted I only had to start work and open the bank account, how hard can that be so I thought.
First I had to get a National Security number, that was not so hard the work place manager helped me making phone call and appointment. Opening a bank account was more challenging that I thought to an extend that I gave up on the idea of having opening one.

By Sindile Vundla @mournecountryhotel. Newry. Northern Ireland

The Mourne Country Hotel Newry is located on Belfast Road in County Down. I t has a medium sized kitchen with only three chefs I was the fourth. The business turnover is very low which was a little challenging in terms of learning. How much you can learn was limited depending on the head turnovers. Having saying that the whole staff from house keeping, managers, chefs and the owner herself they all were very friendly and lovely to work with. I received all the help I needed to learn and develop my skills in that kitchen though it was quiet. All the chefs ensured that I learned something from them all including teaching me products which were not on the menu on extra quiet days. I handled the deliveries, storage and all departments of the kitchen. I had days where I would work a shift alone from seven in morning until five in the evening. Newry is a very small coastal place but beautiful with a lot of outdoors and festivals if you are an outdoor person. The local people I found them very friendly even though there is a religious history that i found very interesting when I had all the stories of it from my colleague. A part of that religious history march and celebrations took place while I was still in Newry.
My message to any future students doing Erasmus year is that life is always full of challenges, how you tackle them will determine the outcome results. Positive thinking, determination and being open minded helped me to overcome the challenges I had to come across during this year. Never loose heart because things did not turnout the way you wanted, rather work with what you have.

By Sindile Vundla @mournecountryhotel. Newry. Northern Ireland.


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