What is Leonardo da Vinci and how did you come across them?
Leonardo da Vinci is part of the European Commission’s ‘Lifelong Learning’ program. Along with the better known Erasmus (for university exchanges), its essential purpose is to promote mobility - basically, to encourage EU citizens to broaden their horizons and discover study and work opportunities outside their own country. Leonardo da Vinci is not an organisation, it is simply a name under which funds are distributed for internships. It is organised by outside companies who get the funds from the EU. The company that ran mine was called Twin UK, and I found out about them from an email advert I was sent from a graduate jobs’ mailing list.
How did your interview pan out and what sort of questions were asked? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to get into?
My interview with Twin UK was quite easy. They were trying to find out about me and if I would be able to adjust to working abroad, so there were none of the tricky questions that prospective employers sometimes ask. There was nothing really I could prepare for the interview, except knowing a little more about that sector of work and being prepared to speak French for a few minutes. Twin UK do not organise the internships unless they are in the UK. All the ground work in France was done by a French company called Cap Ulysse, and it was they who found me a place to work. All I had done was specified that I would like to work in the Marketing department of a charity, but applicants had to be:
- Aged 18+ on the departure date
- A citizen of the European Union, legal resident in the UK
- Employed, self-employed, job seekers or graduates (including recent)
- Able to commit to full programme duration
- Able to attend an interview in London
- Committed to developing language skills before departure (if applicable)
- Open and flexible
They say: "We are looking for people who can express why they would benefit from such an opportunity, how it would contribute to their future employment prospects and how committed they are to the programme. We discuss with applicants about previous overseas travel experience to determine how quickly and easily they will settle themselves into a different country and culture. By discussing this in an informal and relaxed manner, it’s easier to bring out the true personality of the applicant and assess their expectation. Our recommendations, along with their application forms are passed to the Host Organisation for their approval and in turn to prospective employers in your chosen sector. Choosing the most suitable candidates for the internship is obviously very important and a lot of “behind the scene” work goes on prior to accepting anyone on the programme."
How much do you get paid?
There was no payment per se. I received part of the EU grant for living costs, but that only added up to £270 for the two months that I was there. The rest of the funding goes towards accommodation (which is entirely paid for), flights (which are paid for), and insurance. However, I did meet Leonardo participants from other places who were paid more, so I think it entirely depends on your sending organisation.
What kind of support is there for you once you're out in Europe from Leonardo back home?
While abroad, most of the support is with the host organisation (in my case Cap Ulysse, who organised things on the French end). If I experienced a problem at work, I was expected to speak to them directly (fortunately, I didn’t) or if I needed any other kind of help. There was a small amount of communication with Twin UK, mainly concerning paperwork and the progress reports we had to fill in and send back, but otherwise they mostly left us to get on with our work.
Do you get help for accommodation?
As I mentioned above, the accommodation is entirely paid for by the EU grant. On top of this, it was all organised and ready for me on my arrival in Bordeaux. I had no flat-hunting and no hotels to deal with and no bills to pay because Cap Ulysse had already found me a place to live. The other side to that is that you also have no choice on where you end up. In my case I was very lucky because I had a large apartment all to myself, but I had friends who lived in an annex of an old lady’s house who ended up giving them a bit of grief. However, I think they were unlucky and that is more the exception than the rule.
How long/short can any given internship last? Is there a maximum number of internships you can do? Is it just for uni students or can anyone join?
The internships generally last for a set amount of time. Twin UK’s longest one was 9 weeks, which was the one I did, but I have heard of other organisations which send interns for as long as 5 months. It just depends on what the organisation that sends you has to offer. I specifically asked if it was possible to do the Leonardo da Vinci programme more than once (with the specific intention of signing up again and going back to work at the same place), and annoyingly I was told that this was not possible, even if I signed up with another organisation.
The point of Leonardo is that it is not restricted to university students, unlike Erasmus, so anyone over the age of 18 can join! You don’t even have to have studied the language of the country you want to go to, although some basic language knowledge is necessary.
I hope this has answered some of your questions and encourages you to do the Leonardo da Vinci program. Not only is it great for the CV, it is a really great experience all round! Here's a link if you're interested in more information.