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Our International Graduates Return Home

The restrictions placed on our lives have been an adjustment for everyone, but for our international graduates, the restrictions meant they were separated from their families for a lengthy period of time.

Six months since the initial lockdown measures were enforced, we are thrilled that our 4 international graduates have been able to get home and be reunited with their families.

They’ve kindly shared their experiences for us…

Rebecca is on rotation at Hodge Bank but her family live in Andorra. She tells us what happened when the boarders closed and how she’s feeling now she’s finally been reunited with them.

“Going from working at the office every day and being around so many people, to suddenly having to work from home was certainly a shock to the system. Being in a shared ‘Uni style’ house with questionable internet (as everyone was using it at the same time), where some of my housemates were furloughed and others were trying to work from home was difficult to say the least.

My family had come to the UK to visit the week before the trial for ‘working from home’ was to take place, which was supposed to be for just one day. Unfortunately, the Andorran boarders were about to close, so they had to rush back. By the time I realised I would be working from home for the unforeseeable future, it was too late to get into Andorra where my family live because the boarders had already shut.

After months of being in Cardiff, it was such a relief when the boarders re-opened and I was able to travel to Andorra with my younger brother who had just finished uni. I’ve adapted well to being back with my family, have enjoyed strong internet, good food and the freedom to do things as restrictions were easing in Andorra. I have also been fortunate to travel to other countries on holiday which we were able to drive to, and to work from there.

My organisation has always been flexible, even before this pandemic hit. But, during the pandemic they have been very helpful across the business and everyone has adapted well to this ‘new normal’. In some ways I feel we are able to communicate more as a team than we would have in person. My manager in particular was very helpful in the process for me to be able to work from home from abroad.

I feel grateful that I have been able to continue some sort of normal life and have kept busy. I know how bored some of my furloughed friends have been. This whole experience shows that we can operate just as efficiently from home, and I can imagine a more flexible working life in the future which will give people more freedom of choice.

Hana is working at The Principality but calls the Czech Republic home. She tells us why she values having a flexible employer:

“I currently work at Principality; I joined the company on a fixed term contract for 9 months in lockdown in June 2020. Later on, in July, I was allowed to spend two months in the Czech Republic, working remotely from home.

It was such a great and valuable opportunity that I had been offered from my employer during the pandemic. Being able to spend some time with my family and support them during those difficult and unpredicted times meant so much to me.

My dad is vulnerable and lives on his own was so it was great that I could be on hand to support him. I can’t even imagine how incredibly miserable and worrying it would have been if was unable to be with him and the rest of my family during the pandemic.

My team and my manager were very understandable and flexible when it came to the time difference. I was allowed to work on a slightly more flexible schedule, staring at 8am and finishing at 4pm Czech time (7am-3pm UK time). This was great as I would nearly always have the whole afternoon free which I could spend with my family.

Regular team catch ups ensured I stayed up to date with all projects that the team were working on and virtual lunches provided some much-needed normality. I played games with my colleagues and talked about our lives. This social side is very important when we’re not being able to meet each other face to face.

Although it would have been more reassuring if I was able to stay for longer until the potential second wave is over, I am now required to return back to the UK due to the employment law and tax implications which I of course fully understand.

I am very thankful for those two months I had at home and to Principality for being such a flexible organisation who stands by their employees and supports them and their families in every situation.”

Erika is from Italy and has also been on placement at Principality Building Society. She’s also grateful for their flexible approach:

“In July flights were back running direct to Milan and I had the opportunity to go back to Italy, my home country.

I am grateful to Principality Building Society for allowing me to work remotely and they have been very supportive during these times.

My team have made it easy during the transition and have remained flexible, allowing me to work 9am to 5pm following the local time zone (+1hr GMT).

Working from my home country has given me the opportunity to balance my workdays better and focus on wellbeing, as I have been able to complete the work efficiently during the day and spend my evenings with my family, as well as catch up with some friends.

Overall, I feel very thankful to Principality for the opportunity.”

Nikolas is from Cyprus and is currently on placement at Propel Finance, he tells us:

The past 6 months have been a challenging period for everyone. I never thought that we would still be working from home up until today.

Thankfully, travel restrictions were lifted early in July and I got the chance to visit my family and friends back in Cyprus. I spent 4 weeks in July-August working from there, and I must admit, it was very easy to adapt.

I initially thought it would be a challenge because of distractions from family members or friends, however, it was a very smooth process.

There is obviously a time difference between UK and Cyprus, but my manager was really supportive and allowed me to work flexibly. If I had late afternoon meetings, I would have to work based on the UK time zone, however, I spent the rest of the days working in accordance to the Cypriot time zone.

I am very thankful I got the chance to go back, as the past few months have been extra difficult for me. Seeing my family and friends gave me the boost that I needed.

I do miss the office environment, but I must say, I am now used to this new remote way of working, and I believe I am more productive and efficient. I would not be surprised if some companies adopted this working environment as the new normal.”

We’re so pleased to hear that being able to visit home and see family and friends has given our international graduates a real boost.

Thank you all for taking part and sharing your experiences!