By Cassandra Murphy
At age 12 I stepped foot in Paris and knew I would return. I was sure that the next time would be for more than 72 hours. Fast forward 8 years and I’m sitting in my Parisian office in front of my Mac emailing well established bloggers. Typical start to a Hollywood comedy right? Luckily for me it as a reality. This was my coop experience.
When it came to organising coop I was a bit all over the place. My first choice was to organise my own. I always knew it would be hassle to try to get a placement I either the psychology or law sector. After one failed attempt early in the planning stages I decided it was not worth the hassle as my heart wasn’t 100% in it. Option two was Grupos. I had studied Spanish in first year, it might be fun to live in Barcelona, but the placement really wasn’t for me. I am quite independent. The idea of working in a very large group of people who I already know did not appeal to me. So I moved onto option three: Argentina. This plan lasted all of five minutes before I decided I wanted to stay in Europe as I am very close to my family and going abroad for six months was going to hurt both parties a lot. Finally I made my decision. FRANCE. Why not? I studied French for the Leaving Cert. Surely I could dig deep enough to find a few ‘mots’ to get me by. I submitted my CV and hoped for the best. Considering I didn’t study French at UL there was always a possibility of them saying no. Luckily for me I sweet talked my way around the coop office and managed to secure myself in France. More importantly, in Paris.
Every day I think about how grateful I am to the coop office. I don’t think my placement could have been any better for me. I was working in a small start-up company called My Jolie Candle. The company made candles with jewellery hidden inside. While the company was based in France they shipped their produce to the UK. This meant my job was in English. I was their community manager. This included customer service and marketing. I managed the social media accounts, the website and contacted multiple bloggers throughout the semester to feature the product. Every day I was surrounded by sweet smells, trying on new jewellery and packing boxes with crepe paper and glitter. It was never a bad thing to get caught on YouTube or Facebook. What more could I have wished for? The workforce was also a dream come true. My boss was the eldest on the team at 28. There was a total of six of us in the office, including three interns. Three companies worked out of the one office spaces, all co-founded by the same people.
It became clear to me that not much research was done into the UK market before I arrived. My boss realised also. This led to him setting me many research tasks. I learnt so much about European economic, social media strategies, marketing, social media and the business world in general. With the hit of Bexit and the lack of funds to invest fully into the UK market my boss decided it was a waste of both of our time to make me focus all my days on the English side of the company. He decided it was up to me to figure out how amazon and eBay worked for businesses and to set the French company up on both. So if anybody has any questions on either, I am your woman!
After the six month I was sent on my way with a suitcase full of Swarovski jewellery and candles and a brain full of knowledge and experience. I got to see the ins and outs of a small enterprise. I saw what happens when it fails, and what happens when it succeeds beyond anybody’s expectations. I got to experience the heartbreak and excitement of the ups and downs. And I got to experience it all in a family like setting.
Paris. What can I say? I struggle to think of a boring day. I chose to emerge myself in the culture. From ballets to football games. I did it all. Every Thursday after work was museum day. Every chance I got I sat at Trocadero and watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle or sat in front of Sacré Coeur and stared out onto the city. I met my friend for some wine and a baguette along the Seine or met her by her apartment near the Louvre. I know the metro like the back of my hand. I sang with the Irish for the Sweden match in Stade de France and fell to the ground on Champs de Mars for the Italy game. Being an Irish person in France during Euro 16 meant something special. I got to experience that. I got to enjoy art and explore architecture. I got to try different cuisines and improve on a language. I was even mistaken as a Parisian on multiple occasions. (Until I tried to speak French. My accent gave it away.) Paris gave me all I could expect and more.
None of this would have been possible if the coop department had not believed in me and my ability. They believed in my ability to not only take on a job that I was not trained for, they believed in my ability to do it in a foreign country where I could just about form a sentence. My coop experience gave me a chance to grow and improve and most importantly, discover where I want my future to take me.
About Cassandra Murphy:
I come from a little island off the South West coast of Ireland but moved to the big city of Paris for 6 months of coop. Normally I study psychology and criminal justice but at the moment I’m in France for Erasmus trying to string together a few sentences of French to avoid dying of starvation. It’s safe to say I like a challenge.