Endless opportunities: from an Italian degree to the fashion industry:

With the graduation ceremony for the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading just around the corner, there’s no better time to celebrate the successes of our recent graduates. This week we’re featuring an inspiring story from Alice Boulton, who earned her BA in Italian Studies in 2016, and who now works in fashion. We asked Alice to tell us how she found the transition from uni to her career, and how she thinks her languages degree has helped her in the fashion world. Here’s what she had to say:

Alice Boulton received her BA in Italian Studies from the University of Reading in 2016.

A degree in languages without a doubt sets you apart from many other candidates when applying for a job. Not only does it demonstrate your ability to learn, but it also exemplifies your ability to adapt and to conquer the many challenges that you may face. When people ask me what I studied, I always get the same response: Wow! I am so proud to say I earned my degree in Italian Studies at Reading. I know it played a huge role in how I secured my current position, and all of my prior positions as well.

I currently work as a Product Admin Assistant at the British clothing brand Boden. A PAA is essentially a hybrid between a Buying and Merchandising Admin Assistant, which allows me to gain the skills and knowledge to further progress in either field in the fashion industry. I spend my days switching between two lines in Womenswear, currently Accessories and Softs (basically garments like dresses and skirts), both of which vary greatly day to day. For the Merchandising side of my job, I do a range of tasks from creating purchase orders to our warehouses in the UK and US, ensuring new collections will arrive on time for launches and line drops, to minimising backorders and creating finance plans for new seasons. With the Buying team I create style plans, uploading new designs to our systems, ensuring all colourways, size ranges and style codes are correct, as well as checking each style on our website and catalogues are correct before going live, and creating comp shops; comparing competitor styles and prices to our designs for the upcoming seasons. Additionally, I make sure our showroom is prepared for fitting sessions and meetings with Head Buyers.

I thoroughly enjoy my career. Boden is an amazing place to work. I love that each day is different, and I love the fast paced nature of the fashion industry. I find it really interesting how a product evolves from the initial ideas on a moodboard to the actual finished item. The fashion industry is a competitive field and one that constantly keeps you on your toes, but I truly believe my degree prepared me for the challenge. Throughout my studies, whether it was at Reading or during my Year Abroad, I was consistently using my initiative. Additionally, my knowledge of languages is important in my career, given Boden’s aim to expand further throughout Europe. It certainly helps that I can speak to our many Italian fabric suppliers in their mother tongue.

I’ve always wanted to work within the fashion industry, but I never wanted to do a specialist fashion degree. I didn’t want to narrow my opportunities after university, especially if I eventually decided to pursue a different career path. I believe that a degree in languages offers endless opportunities for work, at home and abroad.

Alice Boulton and Milly Bolton on their Year Abroad in Florence

My degree in Italian undeniably paved the way to me securing this position. I was able to intern at the Italian fashion designer Ermanno Scervino during my time in Florence as part of my degree at Reading. During my Year Abroad I worked backstage at Milan Fashion Week during their catwalk, and gained experience in a fashion house. In addition, the Year Abroad helped me develop so many life skills, from improving my language to boosting my confidence in challenging – as well as in general-day-to-day –  situations. After that, nothing feels too challenging. An interview in English? EASY! If you can enroll at a university overseas, take an exam in a foreign language, or debate over the phone to a late taxi driver in his mother tongue, you’ll find it easy to explain in English why you’re the right person for a job. That’s as simple as ordering your morning coffee.

Alice Boulton and Milly Bolton show off their well-earned first-class marks on their dissertations.

A lot of people think that a degree in languages is simply learning a language. It’s so much more. My degree covered the golden age of Italian Cinema way before the glitz and glam of Hollywood; the history of the Fascist period; the literary icons Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch; the history of the Italian language; linguistics; poetry and literature from from the Medieval to the Post-War period; and so so much more. A languages degree is like every other degree mixed together along with learning a language, which is the cherry on top.

The Year Abroad was a fantastic experience, it’s hard to put into words just how great it was, I now return to Florence as much as I can, just to bring back that feeling of living there again. With such an array of topics to study overseas, you become agile and gain skills in a variety of subjects that mould you and allow you to jump into any industry, be it straight into work or in further education. My degree also gave me the confidence to apply for jobs in Italy, of which resulted me interviewing for a job in Florence, one which I would never have been able to do if I had not pursued this degree.

Alice Boulton, Milly Bolton, and Dr Paola Nasti

It’s almost impossible to pinpoint my fondest memories from my time at the University of Reading because there are just so many incredible times. I remember my daunting first language seminar, where I met Dr Chiara Ciarlo, who made me feel at ease straight away. I even remember visiting Reading for the first time and meeting the fabulous Enza (da Potenza) Siciliana Verruccio, and I knew this was where I wanted to go. I remember how Dr Federico Faloppa and Dr Paola Nasti managed to make Linguistics and Dante enjoyable. Dr Charles Leavitt, who was my tutor throughout my degree, managed to keep me grounded while I was writing my dissertation abroad. And Dr Daniela La Penna inspiring me with her extensive knowledge of the Italian poet Ungaretti (and so much more). Each and every lecturer that taught and supported me along the way, made my time at Reading unforgettable.

Graduation day was bittersweet, I had gained a degree and ready to move on into the world, but at the same time I was leaving a family and amazing memories behind.

Celebrating success with the staff and students of the Italian section at the University of Reading

If I could give any advice to prospective students it would be: Do it! You will not regret it. A degree in languages prepares you for so much. I would also say do a degree that you will enjoy, rather than what you think sounds prestigious or what you imagine will get you that high-rise job in the city. You can get that job with a degree in languages. Some people may wonder what you can do with a degree in Italian Studies, since it may seem like you’re bound to become a teacher or a translator. You can pursue those jobs, of course, but in truth a degree in Italian opens up endless avenues, especially with the rising demand for bilingual applicants. My advice to current students, of whom I am extremely jealous, is: Make the most of it, work hard and enjoy it, because it’ll fly by and before you know it, those 9ams will feel like a lay in! Keep up your language skills, watch Netflix with subtitles, keep in contact with those you meet abroad and finally don’t be afraid to apply for jobs abroad.

The staff and students of the Italian section at the University of Reading

I cannot stress enough how incredible the Italian section at Reading University is. They made every day at Reading a joy and they become your family away from home, the support you get is sky high and they make every seminar and lecture interesting and enjoyable, even if it is Dante at 9am. My time at Reading was the best 4 years of my life (so far), and if I could do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Thanks Alice. We loved working with you at Reading and we’re so happy to hear that you’ve found success in your career in the fashion industry.

If you’d like to learn more about how a degree in French, German, Italian, or Spanish from the University of Reading can prepare you for a wide variety of careers, including a career in fashion, check out our careers page. Be sure to follow our blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed, too, so that you can keep up on all the news and events of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading.

The Edith Morley building at the University of Reading

If you’re a Reading graduate, we’d love to hear from you about your career choices after university. Tell us your story. The University of Reading publishes alumni profiles online. If you’d like to share your experiences, all you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire.

When you do, please consider submitting your story for the “Meet a Reading Graduate” section of our departmental blog. And please consider joining the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme to help our students make their transition into the world after graduation.

And remember to subscribe to our blog:


 

The best way to develop yourself and find a new passion

With the 2018 University of Reading graduation ceremonies just around the corner, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the amazing things that our graduates do after they leave university. With some of our graduates, however, just because they leave Reading doesn’t mean they’ve left university. Many graduates go on to postgraduate studies. Among them is Katie Sparrow, who graduated from the University of Reading in 2015 with a BA in French and Italian, and who last month received her MA in Italian Studies from the University of Notre Dame. Now she’s going on to pursue a PhD in Italian. We asked Katie to tell us how she chose this programme and how her degree in Reading prepared her for advanced study. Here’s what she had to say:

Katie Sparrow (right) at the 2015 University of Reading graduation ceremony, with Dr Paola Nasti (left).

The most memorable part of my undergraduate studies at the University of Reading was definitely the community in the Italian Studies programme. It was truly because of my passionate and committed lecturers that I, like many others, only needed one year of classes to become completely captivated by all things Italian.

The range of modules offered by Reading’s Department of Modern Languages and European Studies also allowed me to explore whichever avenues of culture or periods in history appealed to me, and the lecturers’ evident passion for their subjects encouraged me to study whatever I found most stimulating. I think that it was this freedom to pursue my own interests that stood out to me at Reading. Dr Paola Nasti‘s first-year module on Medieval and Renaissance culture, in particular, first introduced me to the work of Dante, which I found fascinating, and which has since become the topic of my BA, MA, and PhD research.

After graduating from the University of Reading, I worked for almost a year before I realised that I wanted to return to university and to continue with my studies. With the help, advice, and encouragement of many of my former lecturers in Reading, I applied for an MA program in Italian Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA. I was fortunate to be offered a place and a fellowship at Notre Dame, which meant that my tuition and health insurance were entirely paid for and that I received a generous stipend to cover all of my living expenses as well.

Katie Sparrow (left) and some of her fellow Notre Dame postgraduates on a visit to Chicago.

Arriving and adjusting in the US was certainly an experience, but I soon found myself occupied with a long list of reading to do and with classes that tested my skills of analysis and critical thought. I was also tested on my knowledge of key Italian texts in two oral examinations in my first year. I believe that the most useful skill I have developed over these two years at Notre Dame is confidence in communicating my ideas, thanks to frequent class presentations and the opportunity to present my MA thesis at the Italian Research Seminar.

On top of this, I also teach an Italian language class to Notre Dame undergraduates each semester, which at first was a surprising challenge for me personally. (Why was it so difficult to remember the language exercises my own teachers had set us in class?!) Despite the initial struggle, however, I learnt to love teaching and now feel confident addressing students in Italian. Overall, the wonderful professors at Notre Dame have given me a very solid and comprehensive education that I can build upon as I progress to a PhD.

Katie Sparrow receiving her MA in Italian Studies from the University of Notre Dame.

I spent a semester of my MA preparing and sending applications for PhDs, both in the US and the UK, and eventually decided to stay at Notre Dame, where I was offered full funding. It was not an easy decision. It would be wonderful to study closer to my friends and family in London, but I know that my professional development will benefit most from the excellent professors and resources at Notre Dame.

My advice for anyone considering postgraduate study would be: push yourself to get involved in new things, even those of which you may be afraid or unsure (like teaching your own class or moving to the US, in my case) because it is the best way to develop yourself and find a new passion. Also, remember your personal and mental well being along the way, since it is very easy to overlook with everything that grad school throws at you!

To learn more about how a degree in French, German, Italian, or Spanish from the University of Reading can prepare you for postgraduate study, as well as for a wide variety of careers, check out our careers page. Be sure to follow our blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed, too, so that you can keep up on all the news and events of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading.

Old Whiteknights House, home of the Graduate School at the University of Reading.

If you’re a Reading graduate, we’d love to hear from you about your career choices after university. Tell us your story. The University of Reading publishes alumni profiles online. If you’d like to share your experiences, all you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire.

When you do, please consider submitting your story for the “Meet a Reading Graduate” section of our departmental blog. And please consider joining the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme to help our students make their transition into the world after graduation.

And remember to subscribe to our blog:


 

My languages degree has prepared me for the wider world

Graduation is just around the corner, and many of our 2018 finalists are already starting the next phase of their lives, after university. We wanted to take this opportunity to check in with one of last year’s graduates, Charlie Ashton, who completed her degree in French and Italian at the University of Reading in 2017. Charlie’s now about to earn another degree: an MSc in Real Estate, and she already has a new job lined up for after graduation. Here’s what Charlie has to say about how her languages degree prepared her for her new career:

Charlie Ashton, receiving her BA in French & Italian from the University of Reading in 2017

I chose to study at the University of Reading because of the expertise of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, as well as because of the beautiful and award-winning green campus. The two combined ensured me that it would be a place I would be able to settle in and call home. Five years later, I have not been disappointed and I am still here!

The opportunities to study a variety of subjects at Reading made the transition from A-levels to my languages degree really appealing. Over the course of my degree I studied literature, art, history, culture, politics, linguistics as well as doing modules in Spanish and German in my first two years at Reading.

Along with her the Russian, Portuguese and German friends she met in Siena during her Year Abroad, Charlie took a trip to Bologna.

I still meet up with the friends that I made during my degree and at least go for coffee once a week with them! My fond memories consist of the small classes, getting to know everyone including the fantastic lecturers. This is one of the best things about Reading: the lecturers really are there to listen and help with any queries you have. The classes are more intimate that any other degree subjects and this allows you to maximise your language learning at Reading. Now that I’ve graduated I really miss the department and the friendly chats whenever you walk down the corridor. It felt like family.

A quick trip to Capri during the Year Abroad.

My third year came around ever so fast. This was the Year Abroad and was the scariest and best experience of my life!  I chose to go to Toulouse and Siena. Of course, the Year Abroad came with some incredible challenges, but I wouldn’t change it for the world! They are all valuable life experiences that you can apply in almost any situation. When I came back from my Year Abroad, I felt like I could tackle anything. I have amazing memories of my time in Toulouse and Siena, along with all the friends I made there. I am still in contact with my Erasmus group and we already met in Hamburg to celebrate the New Year together! It is my turn to host them in England very soon!

During my Year Abroad, I had the opportunity to reflect and think about what job I would like in the future. This can be one of the hardest things to consider, because the career options are so wide for a languages student. With so many options available it can be difficult to pinpoint a particular profession.

I realised that as a language student, the opportunities are truly endless due to the skills that you acquire over the four years of your degree. I have always had a passion for art and architecture. This came to life as I was travelling around Italy taking in the stunning views and towns. I realised that I had a real passion for the built environment and maybe this was something I could look into further.

Charlie and some postgraduate friends celebrating the end of the academic year in Henley-on-Thames

On return to Reading I looked into postgraduate degree  programmes. I found the MSc Real Estate programme at the University of Reading and signed up for the Open Day. I loved it and applied straight away for a place on the course.

Perhaps you’re wondering what are the links are between French & Italian and Real Estate? Well, the skills you learn as a language student are invaluable. Effective communication with a wide range of people, not being afraid to speak your mind in a constructive way and to be passionate about what you want to pursue in the future. These are three attributes in particular that I’ve drawn on a lot this year in my Masters programme. They are the same skills that you acquire in a languages degree and that you call on nearly every day during your Year Abroad! Enthusiasm, determination and openness are qualities that you gain from being a languages student at Reading. I would say that my languages degree has really opened my eyes and prepared me for the wider world.

The postgraduate life: enjoying the lunch at the Greenlands Campus before a boat trip!

Now I’m about to begin my new career. During my interview for my upcoming job I was asked, ‘So how do you feel about the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers and engaging in conversation?’ I knew that the interviewer was referring to industry events, which are held quite frequently. For many people this can be a terrifying prospect, one that you’d want to avoid. But I said ‘This was something that I had to do frequently on my Year Abroad, and usually in a foreign language. So I’d say it would be something that I would enjoy.’

I am now going to work for a luxury property developer called Millgate Homes, which is based in Twyford. I’ll work in the land and planning team, where we will locate sites and appraise them for development opportunities. The quality and care that are put into Millgate homes is something that attracted me to the company. During my interview I was asked if I liked Art and I was told that I could get involved with design projects for the in-house design & architecture team if that was something that interested me. Of course I said yes!! In the next few years I will be trained to become a land buyer. I will be dealing with agents, landowners, the public, councils and other government bodies in my day to day life.

The graduates of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading. You never know where a languages degree will lead you.

When I started my degree in languages at the University of Reading five years ago I had no idea that I would be in the position I am today! The Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at Reading has enriched me as a person and opened so many doors. I would encourage anyone to choose to study a modern foreign languages degree here because there are so many career possibilities along with the opportunity to learn in a truly fantastic department! I still love to read and watch programmes in French and Italian because they have a big place in my life. I am going to the South of France in September and I can’t wait to speak French again. I am also eager to organise a trip to Italy next year. My experience at Reading always stay with me!

To learn more about the possibilities available to you with a degree in French, German, Italian, or Spanish from the University of Reading, check out our careers page. Be sure to follow our blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed, too, so that you can keep up on all the news and events of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading.

If you’re a Reading graduate, we’d love to hear from you about your career choices after university. Tell us your story. The University of Reading publishes alumni profiles online. If you’d like to share your experiences, all you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire.

When you do, please consider submitting your story for the “Meet a Reading Graduate” section of our departmental blog. And please consider joining the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme to help our students make their transition into the world after graduation.

And remember to subscribe to our blog: