Date: 12 Oct 2011 05:55 am (UTC)
In France very low-paid stages are common. For engineers, typically the one between their first and second years is a stage ouvrier which for a current student has recently involved sluicing out boats in Nice harbour. However, I managed to wangle my way out of that (having had a gap year in which I'd spent 13 weeks doing apprentice training on lathes, grinders, milling machines, soldering etc. and 13 weeks working on the shop-floor re-designing stuff, writing documentation, and trying to get the place up to ISO 9000 specification) and got three research-y (not well-paid, but enough to pay the rent and to do plenty of sightseeing if I was willing to walk most places, which in Paris isn't difficult) stages instead, which I will never regret as they have been the only office jobs I've ever had that haven't had me wanting to tear my hair out within weeks. The working environment is just so much better than in England (or at least it was then).

The culture of unpaid internships has now hit the UK in many fields, as well of course as the long-term unemployed being forced to work for free. There's a reason I left the UK ... and politics had a lot to do with it. Now I live in an anomalously right-wing/centrist town in a hugely radically left-wing (US politicians would say communist, but the Parti Communist is something else entirely) and fiercely nationalistic (being a frequently invaded small island does that to places, I find) area. When I try to talk about the social problems there are in the UK, people think I'm making them up (the streets here are not, frex, littered with seriously damaged homeless veterans from two certain mad wars, so it's hard for them to imagine what it would be like to live in such a place).

For all I'm having a bit of trouble settling in and making friends, I know in the long run this is a better place to be .... (and making friends isn't something that just happens overnight anyway; acquaintances, maybe, but friends are a long-term investment!)

Sorry for tangential ramble; am waiting for painkillers to kick in so can go back to sleep, but thought maybe a weird lefty European (and I think I am now weird lefty even by European standards) comment might be interesting.
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