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:


 

Second issue of Gendered Voices magazine: “Beyond the Binary”.

I am delighted to announce the recent publication of the second issue of Gendered Voices magazine: “Beyond the Binary”. The magazine is published by the Gender and Sexuality Research Cluster of the AHRC SWWDTP and features work by postgraduate students, academics, and a guest article from the charity sector. This interdisciplinary magazine celebrates diversity and intersectionality. It includes topics such as drag culture, non-binary identity, transgender experience, lgbtq issues, gender fluidity in 19th century France, The Inca Empire, pirates, and much more!

Thank you to all the Reading PhD students who contributed articles and photos to the magazine. The issue certainly demonstrates the richness of postgraduate research in the UK. As we received such a high level of interest from our fellow postgraduate students, we will certainly be publishing a third issue in the future. Watch this space!

The magazine is intended for an audience both within and outside academia, so do please share this magazine with your peers and friends. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

If you’d like to get in touch please contact me by email: genderandsexualitycluster@gmail.com
or via the cluster’s twitter account @swwgender

 

Best wishes

Maria Tomlinson (General Editor)

 

Ashleigh Embling, Runner-up of the Year Abroad Photo Competition 2017

Hello, my name is Ashleigh Embling and I’m a final year French and International Relations Student. I spent my year abroad studying at Sciences Po Lyon, in Lyon. Studying at a Grande Ecole was a challenging experience, but incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.

I chose to study because although the aim of the year abroad is to focus on our language development, I really wanted to keep up the International Relations side of my degree and Sciences Po provided the perfect place to do this, whilst also massively improving my language skills because of the lectures being in French. Studying also provided an environment where it was easy to meet other people doing Erasmus placements, so I had a group of Erasmus friends and our common language was French which really helped improve my level of fluency.

Lyon was unlike anywhere I’ve lived before, it’s the third largest city in France and shows this in its vibrant culture and welcoming atmosphere. Lyon has 9 arrondissements, each with its own personality. My preferred areas are Vieux Lyon which is the historic quarter; home to old churches, a basilica and traditional French streets housing many small ateliers, and Croix-Rousse which is quite a young area with stunning views of the city.

During my year abroad, I travelled to many places including Marseille, Siena, Paris and Madrid. The photo that won second place was taken on one of my trips to Lake Annecy, in a town called Annecy on the Swiss-French border about an hour’s bus trip from Lyon. Being able to travel to so many places was definitely a highlight of my year abroad, and I’m glad I took so many photos like this one to be able to remember each trip!

Venetian Dreams: Merging Languages and Art by Venetia Baker (French and Italian alumna).

When I graduated from the University of Reading in 2012, I wasn’t sure where I wanted my degree in French and Italian to take me. I was passionate about languages, and my confidence in both languages was at its highest. I knew I wanted to use them in whatever career I would enter into. It was the desire to use my languages that spurred me on to accept a place on a Master’s degree in Technical and Specialised Translation at the University of Westminster.

After graduating from my MA, I gained my first full-time job in a large translation company, TransPerfect, based in London. From here, I built on my knowledge of the translation industry and after one year I gained the confidence to go freelance, setting up my own translation business. I loved being in charge of my workload and building up a steady network of clients, both privately and through agencies. After two years of working from home as a translator, however, one of my other passions was niggling at me, and I realised that there was perhaps another career route for me where I could combine my love of languages with my passion for the arts.

I had studied a few history of art modules during my time at Reading and during my year abroad in Padua, and in particular I had enjoyed learning about the art of the Italian Renaissance. I wanted to build on this knowledge and learn more about the field of art curation in a contemporary setting. What better way to do this than by enrolling on a course in Curatorial Practice and Contemporary Art in the Italian heart of contemporary art: Venice.

I hadn’t realised what I had let myself in for when I landed in Venice last October and made my way to my rented apartment, just outside of Venice in a town called Malcontenta. I was hopeful that the name of the town wasn’t an omen of how the year to come would pan out! Taught completely in Italian, in a class of 20 Italian students, I was truly immersed from the word go, and was suddenly grateful for all the intensive language skills classes Enza had put us through in fourth year! I particularly loved the location of my school in Campo Santo Stefano, near to the Accademia bridge. I would take my morning “caffè ginseng” in the campo before attending lectures on curatorial practice, art project management, fundraising, graphic design, press relations and conservation in the crumbling Conservatorio di musica Benedetto Marcello. The course worked towards the creation and realisation of an art exhibition, which we designed and managed as a group. The best part of this process for me was working with internationally renowned contemporary artists, getting to discuss with them their artworks, and helping them throughout the exhibition process, from choosing the artworks to their arrival in Venice and installation. It was an exhausting but incredible experience, and to top it off we got to attend the openings of several exhibitions as part of the Venice International Art Biennale, meeting artists and networking.

During my time in Venice, I also managed to fit in a one-month internship at the amazing Peggy Guggenheim Collection. I loved being surrounded by the incredible artworks in the collection, from Picasso’s, Dali’s, Matisse’s, Miro’s, Giacometti’s and Brancusi’s, to Pollock’s, Still’s, Bacon’s, Warhol’s and Fontana’s. The art collection of the PGC is out of this world, and I absolutely loved guarding the galleries, selling tickets and preparing talks for the public on the life of Peggy Guggenheim. My favourite part however was putting the artworks to bed every evening, by placing their “pyjamas” over them and being the last ones left in the museum after the crowds had left. What a dream! This experience also enabled me to learn more about the running of a small art museum, and a particular highlight for me was having a private guided tour of the collection by the Director, Dr Philip Rylands.

Having returned to the UK in May, I am now working at Royal Museums Greenwich as a Bookings and Customer Service Coordinator, having started in the museum as a Visitor Assistant. I love my job and couldn’t ask for a better place to have my office – a Unesco World Heritage site surrounded by wonderful artworks and historical artefacts. My team are from all over the world, and I use my languages on a daily basis both with my colleagues and our visitors, and I’m hoping to develop within the museum, and perhaps one day move into the curatorial department, if the opportunity arises. Amongst all the craziness of my time in Venice, I also got engaged there at the start of my course. A perfect place to be proposed to, being the lady of Venice! My fiance, a fellow Reading Modern Languages graduate, and I are now busy planning our wedding and looking forward to building our future together.

Venetia Baker

Michael O’Hagan, Winner of the Year Abroad Photo Competition 2017

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Hello, my name is Michael O’Hagan and I spent my year abroad in Paris for a 10-month internship, working as a purchaser/product manager. Obviously completing an internship abroad is a bit more fast-paced than studying abroad, but it was just so worth it.

Well, what can I say about Paris? It’s an incredible city. I didn’t actually live in the centre of Paris (to save money), but in a very small town about an hour’s commute south of the ‘périphérique’ (ringroad) which encircles central Paris. Although the commute was long, it was really nice to be out in the quieter countryside with fields and a forest, but still close enough to the centre of the capital.

To give you a bit more of an insight into my internship, I worked for a company which buys and sells new and used cars in France. I was a purchaser of new cars, so I was contacting suppliers all over Europe to buy cars from them and import them to France. The first few weeks completely flew by as I tried to take in all the French I could, and learn the principle tasks of my internship. Once I settled in, I was quickly given a lot of responsibilities, which was awesome, seeing as some French internships offer interns seriously limited responsibility. As I speak Czech too, I was able to travel to the Czech Republic in December for 4 days with my manager, to meet new suppliers who I had made first contact with over the phone. This was the toughest but also the most rewarding experience of my whole life.

I could go on forever about my internship, but I should instead say to all future languages students looking to potentially do an internship instead of studying abroad, to not hesitate even for a second to search and apply for internships. It will change your life, and give you some serious experience to help you stand out from other candidates in applications for jobs after university.

The photo I took is of the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, in summer time after my placement had finished. It was easily 30-35 degrees at the time! Not bad for Paris, I know. The photo shows that although Paris can be a really loud, bustling, and busy city, there are so many chilled and relaxing parks you can go to and take some time out.

Another year, another cohort, another graduation ceremony: A parent’s view

Another year, another cohort, another graduation ceremony. What is unchanged is our happiness to be celebrating our students’ present achievements and our excitement at the thought of their future achievements, all accompanied by that touch of sadness at seeing them go. Graduation is also the opportunity for us to meet our students’ families, and rejoice with them on such a special occasion. This year we had the extreme pleasure of meeting the family of one very special student, James Dowds, who graduated in French and Italian, winner of the 2017 Welson Prize for Italian, as well as of the Student of the Year award for being one of the most engaged students of his year, a true example of active participation, citizenship, and resilience. This is what his mother, Dympna Mc Donnell, had to say about James’s – and her own – experience (including the ‘bumps’) during the years here at Reading:

Photograph courtesy of Cre8ive studios http://www.cre8ive-studios.com 

As a parent it is difficult to support a child through university as there is little contact with the university and the student is away from home.  I was also very aware that in supporting James from afar, it was important that he learned the skills and techniques he needed to get him through difficult times.  Whilst this was a challenge in years 1 and 2 it became more difficult in his year away.  All students find coping away from home challenging and James was not unusual in feeling lonely and homesick.  In his first week away in France I know he contacted you (as indeed I did as I was concerned about how low he was feeling).  The university was quick to respond in making contact with James and giving him the advice he needed.  I know that in both France and Italy James was helped by lecturers and staff in Reading.  Without this support I think he may have questioned if the trip abroad was a worthwhile and manageable event for him.  In fact, the support James received was key in making the year abroad the success it turned out to be.  In France, he made many friends and had a thriving social life.  I went out to see him with his brother and sister in October 2015 and was so impressed with the quantity of local knowledge he had accumulated.  He guided us around Poitiers, showing us many lovely churches and courtyards and was clearly happy and relaxed.

On graduation day, the department’s lecturers remarked that James returned back to Reading for his fourth year with a very different attitude and approach towards his studies.  He had matured in his time away and dealt with many issues that were making him unhappy.  He felt more confident in his ability to deal with the challenges life presents us with.  He worked hard at his studies and secured the 2.1 degree he wanted to get.  He got involved with extra curricular events such as the radio show and the video promoting foreign languages.  He was much more positive and wanted to do well.

To the department I would like to say: never forget or underestimate the profound positive impact you and your colleagues have on the young people who are so lucky to have you. Imparting knowledge, preparing and delivering lectures is such a big part of what you all do but it is very clear to me that you provide so much more to your students. You reassure, listen and support. Alongside that pastoral care, you set high academic standards, which ensure students, reach their potential. I have no doubt whatsoever that your care and your professional skills were key to James’s success.

Dympna McDonnell

The Christopher G. Wagstaff Film Collection

Thursday April 6, 2017 marked the official launch of the Christopher G. Wagstaff Italian Film Collection at the University of Notre Dame. Wagstaff, who retired from the University of Reading in 2015 after four decades as a teacher and scholar of Italian, delivered a short talk at the event, which recognised his distinguished career as well as the generous donation of his personal film archive to Notre Dame.

Chris Wagstaff, who taught Italian at the University of Reading for four decades

As Wagstaff’s former colleague Professor Zygmunt G. Baranski has said, in his long career at the University of Reading Chris “worked tirelessly and, at times, eccentrically, to develop new undergraduate and graduate courses, to build a major film library, to establish national and international contacts and networks, to enlighten and encourage students, and, most importantly, to demand the highest standards of scholarly seriousness from himself and his students.” With that in mind, we want to take this opportunity to recognise Chris’s contribution to the University of Reading and to the wider Italian and Film-Studies communities.

We asked Tracy Bergstrom, Curator of Italian Imprints and Co-Director of Digital Library Initiatives and Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame, to tell us about the archive. She explained that the Christopher G. Wagstaff Film Collection is built around roughly 2,000 Italian films and television programs donated from Wagstaff’s personal collection. These films are currently being catalogued and made available through the Hesburgh Libraries, as well as digitised for preservation purposes. Both digital and commercial copies are supplemented by the University of Notre Dame’s large print collection, housed in the Hesburgh Library, which explores the history, culture, and aesthetics of Italian media.

The Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame, new home of the Christopher Wagstaff Film Collection

Brendan Hennessey, Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Binghamton and the archive’s first curator, further expanded on the significance of the archive. “The Christopher G. Wagstaff Film Collection aims to become a centre for the study of Italian film and television that will be open to scholars and students, a North American cineteca at Notre Dame, the first of its kind, capable of supporting extant research while promoting future projects in Italian screen studies.

The mission of the Wagstaff Collection is not to preserve individual films, but to permit the study of a corpus of cinematic works facilitated by their digitisation. It will nurture research, screenings, curated film series, and scholarly events. In so doing it perpetuates Christopher Wagstaff’s original vision to expand our understanding of Italian cinema through the study of all types of Italian media production. Over the course of his prolific career as both teacher and scholar in Italian studies at the University of Reading, Christopher Wagstaff’s role as amateur archivist reinforced his position as one of Italian cinema’s most respected interpreters.

During his career at the University of Reading Wagstaff published several path-breaking studies, including this magisterial examination of Italian neorealism

As an archivist-scholar, Wagstaff brought precision to the study of both “classics” and non-canonical films, with a particular interest in exploring how production contexts (and their illuminating empirical data) could be gateways for sharpening Italian film hermeneutics. Evidenced by the titles in the archive, his tastes are indeed eclectic: art-house staples, rare versions of neorealist classics and auteur films from the 1960s neighbour popular genre films (science fiction, action-adventure, peplums) and an extensive assortment of spaghetti westerns. Recent scholarship attests how such an expansive horizon of types was prescient for Italian screen studies in the twenty-first century. Today, as the reverence for traditional canons and their inevitable hierarchies are on the wane, collections that stretch beyond the precincts of the post-war Italian art film are increasingly vital.”

We at Reading are proud of the work that Chris has done and want to congratulate him on the launch of the Christopher G. Wagstaff Italian Film Collection at the University of Notre Dame. Well done Chris!

Incredible Thank-you from Alicja Kobylecka, a BA German and Italian graduate

The winking robot Maria by Alicja Kobylecka

Staff in Italian and German studies were overwhelmed when Alicja Kobylecka, a BA German and Italian graduate, brought in a gift: three of her paintings based on films she studied with us. Two of the paintings depict films from the German final year module Cinema of the Weimar Republic. A third depicts a film from the second year module on Italian cinema.

The winking robot Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) is dedicated to the German staff; a second painting showing “German Expressionism entering HumSS Building” is based on F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) and is a thank you to the Senior Tutor of DMLES, Dr Wölfel. The third painting depicts Gelsomina from Federico Fellini’s La strada (1954) and is dedicated to all of the Italian staff.

With the paintings a thank-you note to the Italian section from Alicja came:

German Expressionism entering HumSS Building by Alicja Kobylecka

Understanding the enigmatic world of a new culture through learning language in a social context is a fascinating but also quite challenging process. It definitely changed my perception of the world forever. Additionally, after being introduced by my lecturers to Italian Neorealism and German Expressionism, I was lucky enough to find an inspiration for my artworks. What a bonus! Therefore, to all the lovely people from the German and Italian sections I would like to say a big thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and for the amazing support all the way!

The paintings will remain displayed in the Edith Morley building. There is nothing more rewarding for us then getting something so exceptionally creative back. We know that we are only as inspiring and productive as our students are. Thank you, Alicja!