Erasmus Work Abroad Journal

  • After a bank holiday on Monday, the new year is underway. My work with the website, data sheets and presentation has for the most part finished. These tasks required me to learn to use a range of different programmes from Adobe Illustrator to Photoshop Elements to Joomla, an online web-building tool. The latter also required that I awake my basic HTML knowledge (acquired in my early internet days of using forums and making fantastically basic web pages) and develop it further. Playing around with the coding was interesting in the way that I always found maths to be – the challenge was stimulating as was the idea that I could potentially, finally find a solution but the process demanded a little too much brain power at times. Especially when the web software decided to edit out everything I’d done when one character was left out.
  • Last “term” I also got the opportunity to engage in a bit of PR when a representative from Heat Trace, our English partners, came to visit. On two separate occasions, I was asked to bridge the linguistic gap. This allowed me to sit in on an important meeting and act as a translator between our boss and the Heat Trace representative. Another time, I was taken to Lecco for the morning to walk beside the lake in the sunshine and relax with coffee in a beautiful piazza before heading out to lunch with the Temar management team. It’s a hard life.
  • At the moment I am waiting for any final tasks relating to the website although this has already gone live ( . My tasks for the moment are to finalise the English translation and to research how to compile a ‘mansionario’ which is a very detailed job description. I will be interviewing all of my colleagues so that I can write up a complete description of all of the roles within the company. This ensures that there are no miscommunications between staff members over who is required to do what and it also means that there is a clear list of roles available which can help identify suitable candidates in the case of hiring new members. This is primarily a HR task which is quite exciting as it adds another bow to my string (although just how excited I’ll feel halfway through is another matter.) After this, finance and balance sheet analysis looms but it’s all CV fodder.

In other news…
  • Happy New Year! Although I was happy to spend the holidays at home in England, I do sometimes feel like I'm missing out on the cultural experiences abroad. However my colleagues have informed me of the crazy Italian activities that break out on the evening of the 31st December, including throwing flaming bottles in the piazze (but why?!) and in the south, firing guns upwards and throwing plates out of windows! Most newspapers break the new year with pages of obituaries. There was even a tragic case in which an 8-year-old was killed by a bullet that came into his home! Safe to say I'll be keeping away from the peninsula in the festive periods to come.
  • The intense freeze has finally lifted meaning I can cycle to work and keep both of my hands even though I’ve lost my gloves.
  • Trying to be New Years healthy is proving difficult when the lunch option is a giant heap of smoked salmon and cream pasta, your colleagues keep calling for fresh baskets of crusty, softhearted bread and your boyfriend decides he wants to try the new restaurant over the road (which was a reassuringly vegetable-y meal until pudding time). Needless to say, I have brought salad in a box today.
  • Last night on the other hand I swam 2.6km in 40 minutes (BOOM) although this did inevitably mean a somewhat aggressive overtaking method, which I did try and make up for by throwing a few apologetic grazie at my fellow swimmers (although let’s be honest now, should you really be swimming in the fast lane if you can’t put your head in the water or swim more than one length without stopping?) My legs are aching terribly.

Recipe of the DAY/week/month

Spaghetti con pomodori e ricotta salata

·         Spaghetti (100g per person – don’t be cheap now, Tesco Value simply won’t do, if you want the real deal, buy Da Cecco, it’s really very good and often on offer in Sainsburys because only Italian expats buy it)

·         Cherry/baby plum tomatoes (again, sorry, no scrimping here! I want you to find the richest, sweetest tomatoes you can find! You may have to mix some sugar in to compensate for Britain’s agricultural failings)

·         Extra virgin olive oil (…)

·         Garlic

·         Salt (preferably rock salt)

·         Pepper

·         Basil leaves

·         Cheese (now this is the difficult one because as far as I know, ricotta salata is not readily available in the UK. It’s a hard, crumbly cheese but when you grate it on pasta it becomes creamy like the ricotta you know and love. But it also has a fantastic rich flavour that normal ricotta doesn’t have. So, urm… use a small dollop of ricotta to get the creaminess and follow it with a sprinkling of your favourite, most farmy-flavoured hard cheese?)

·         Chilli flakes


1)      Put a couple of glugs of olive oil in the frying pan and toss in a few chilli flakes if you fancy. Whack a couple of garlic cloves in (whole and with the skin on) and leave to sizzle whilst you chop the tomatoes in half.

2)      When the pan is cooking away nicely, chuck the tomatoes in and put a big saucepan of water on to boil with the lid on. A big saucepan. With lots of water. I’ve seen what happens when students think they can save on the water bill and it turns out that it just means a bigger bill in Tesco’s home department.

3)      Chuck a couple of small handfuls of salt into the water. I measure this out by filling the area at the top of my palm where my fingers join my hand with salt. If you’re cooking for one, one will do. Two for two. I’d probably stop at three though.

4)      When the water is boiling, dump the pasta in the water, take the lid off and keep the heat up. Stir occasionally. It is very important that the water is already boiling when the pasta goes in. I don’t know why but many Italians have told me so.

5)      By this point, your tomatoes are probably dissolving a bit which is perfect. Take them off the heat once they’ve reduced and everything is looking juicy.

6)      When the pasta is nearly ready, test it by taking a strand out and checking where it is on the al dente scale. You have to be able to chew it but you shouldn’t be able to suck it through a straw.

7)      To drain the pasta, drop it into a colander in the sink. Place the saucepan on the side and immediately lift the colander up and into the pan to collect the remaining hot, salty water. This is to add to the sauce if it needs cheering up.

8)      Flop the pasta into the frying pan with the tomatoes, put back on the heat and give it a little stir. It should be looking good now.

9)      Dole it out into pasta dishes if you feel fancy. Do your thing with the cheese (at this point we would just grate some ricotta salata on top so put whatever you’re having on but remember it has to be creamy and farmy!)

10)   Garnish with a couple of basil leaves and a bit of pepper. E’ pronto!