There’s a whole lotta learning going on in East Oxford this month as Firstline IT plays host to a group of interns from Switzerland, who are studying at the College of International Education in Oxford.

“We are all doing apprenticeships in Switzerland, studying one or two days a week in school while working three or four days in a real job,” explained Taulant, one of the interns.

“We came to Oxford to improve our English, and doing the internship with Firstline is a great way to practise our speaking and understanding in a work situation. We have to speak English to the guys here and with our host families, as we have no other way of communicating with them!”

The interns are working hard on setting up new computers for First Line’s clients, installing updates, crashing hard drives (on purpose – it’s a way of making sure that all data is permanently stripped from an old drive), and even creating a new virtual server and VPN.

They are all employed in IT departments in large, international companies, so the IT work is nothing new to them. But working in England, and in a small company, is.

“The first difference we noticed was in the working hours,” said Alex, another intern. “In England the standard working day starts at 9am; in Switzerland everyone is at their desks by 7.30 or 8am at the latest.

“But in Switzerland we have to leave our desks at lunchtime. I was very surprised to see everyone here working through their lunch hour and eating and drinking at their desks. I think they probably work later here, too, though we don’t know as we have a regular meeting with our CIE tutor at 5pm.”

Taulant said he is enjoying the chance to work with computer hardware. “In my usual job I am just dealing with databases and applications; it’s good to get a chance to see different aspects of IT management.

“I also like the fact that, when dealing with small companies, you get to fix things. In a big company such as the one I work for, if there’s a problem with a piece of hardware, you just replace it. I can see why they do that – but it is more satisfying to find out what the problem is and make it better.”

Both Taulant and Alex are enjoying their internships, and say they are very grateful to both CIE and Firstlinefor arranging them.

“I know it takes time to deal with us and to organise and manage the internships. We are really happy to be enjoying this experience,” said Taulant.