A languages degree gives you a huge variety of transferrable skills

What can you do with a degree in languages? We asked Emily Skew, who graduated from the University of Reading in 2015 with a BA in French and Italian, and who now works in marketing. She has excellent advice for anyone wondering where a languages degree might take you:

Emily Skew, a 2015 graduate of the University of Reading, now works in marketing for FEED

French was always my favourite lesson at school. Once I started looking into university courses, I knew a languages course would be for me. I looked at many universities, considering their various combined degrees knowing that I wanted to study French as well as another subject. It wasn’t until I went to an open day at the University of Reading that I made up my mind to study Italian as my second subject, thanks to the friendliness and enthusiasm of the Italian staff. From then, Reading was my only choice.

The Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading was amazing. As students we had so much support and help all the way through the course – something which I didn’t sense I would have had in the other universities I visited – and that didn’t stop when it came to looking at our future after graduation. The University and the department put on many careers events and workshops, which helped enormously to tackle the daunting prospect of leaving university.

A University of Reading Careers Fair

During my last term at Reading I wasn’t sure that a typical languages job, such as translation or teaching, would be for me, so a careers advisor suggested I start looking at industries where I could use skills gained from learning languages. I landed myself an internship in a marketing agency after my exams and I loved it.

Having had so many hands-on hours during my course and a year abroad, I was used to conversing and communicating with lots of different people, meaning a role in communications was probably a good choice. So, while I wasn’t using my languages as such, I was using the many skills my degree had given me. This applied for my next role in PR where my languages helped me get the job even though I wouldn’t necessarily be using them.

I have since moved back to the Marketing sector with an agency called FEED and I am now working on eBay’s global email marketing where I project manage the campaigns by assigning work to copywriters and designers. We look after the French and Italian eBay emails so I finally have the chance to use my languages by checking and editing the emails before they are sent back to the client.

Where will your University of Reading degree take you?

My advice to anyone wondering what to do with a degree in languages? It doesn’t matter if you don’t immediately find a job working with languages. A languages degree gives you a huge variety of transferrable skills which will really impress employers and there is always a large chance you will end up working with languages again. There are so many international companies out there looking for people with invaluable language skills, so you don’t have to go into teaching or translation to make use of your languages.

To learn more about your employability 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.

Are you a University of Reading graduate? Consider becoming a Thrive Mentor.

If you’d like to tell us where your Reading degree has taken you, and perhaps to share a few  memories of the department, please get in touch with our Alumni Officer, Dr Charles Leavitt. And please consider joining the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme to help our students make their transition into the world after graduation.

Whatever you do, remember to subscribe to our blog:


 

One year on

crowtherLucia Crowther graduated in 2015 with a degree in Italian and History of Art. An excellent and committed student throughout her degree, Lucia was the recipient of the Meneghello-Italianist UG Prize for outstanding academic achievements in Italian Studies. Her dissertation entitled ‘The architectural formalisation of pilgrimage in the portico of the Madonna di San Luca’ was awarded the prestigious British-Italian Society Memorial Rooke Prize for the best UG dissertation in Italian Studies in 2016.

In 2016, Lucia won a full EU-funded Unibo Azione 2 scholarship from the University of Bologna to attend an extremely selective two-year Master’s programme in Visual Arts.

Let’s hear how she is settling in the world’s oldest university.

One year on

I’d never formally studied Italian before I began my bachelor’s degree, so in some ways it feels quite surreal to find myself where I am now. One year after graduating from Reading I’m living in Italy and doing my Master’s degree at the University of Bologna. This is the city I came to for my Erasmus year, and I think I’m only just now appreciating how much that year abroad and my whole degree experience at Reading changed my life.

I still remember the first evening I ever spent in Bologna. Late in the day, standing in a bar in the centre of town surrounded by a crowd of new local friends, someone asked me if I was happy to have chosen the city for my Erasmus placement. I shouted back over the music that I was delighted, and couldn’t wait to try my first spaghetti bolognese. Well, the whole place went silent. I now know, as I’m sure almost everyone reading already does too, that ‘spag-bol’ does not exist in Bologna, and that the locals can spot a tourist a mile away as anyone who doesn’t know that tagliatelle al ragù is the dish to ask for in the Italian capital of food.

That evening taught me a few lessons: firstly, the people of Bologna are among the friendliest, kindest and most forgiving on Earth. The impromptu night-time tour of the city I was given a few hours later was testament enough to that. But secondly, if you move to a new country you will never stop learning new things, and your life will never be dull (whether you want it to be or not!). That’s why I knew I had to come back, one way or another, and at the beginning of September I unpacked my suitcase here for the second time.

After the brilliant Italian language and culture teaching I had at Reading, I felt confident enough to apply directly to Bologna earlier this year. I was lucky enough to be awarded one of the scholarships reserved for international students, and I realised that Italian universities are really welcoming to foreign students. My MA is in the Visual Arts, which is the perfect subject to study in a country so full of beautiful art and architecture, and it’s also really interesting to see how different the postgraduate degrees are over here. I’m able to study a really broad range of topics, so my courses this year range from art restoration, to iconography, to Museum studies. I’ve also made so many new Italian friends in Bologna, and every time I manage to get though a whole day without saying anything inappropriate about their pasta I feel like an honorary Italian all over again.

It’s not for the faint hearted, however. Italian students usually write 30 – 50,000 word dissertations to graduate from their MA courses, so I’ve got all that to looks forward to next year! But while I was at Reading I already managed to do so many things I never thought I’d be able to. I never expected to go from zero Italian to let’s-move-to-Italy-and-start-a-new-life standards, but my degree got me there. And that’s not all: during my second year my tutor Dr La Penna helped me to get a placement as a research assistant with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP), so I contributed to the databases of the Diasporic Literary Archives project and learned so much from working with researchers from across the University. Then in my final year a module with Dr Faloppa gave us the chance to replace an essay with a personalised project, so I was able to curate an exhibition based on my favourite charity, Amnesty International. After all those different experiences, to mention just a few, I don’t feel worried about taking on a new challenge, and being in this stunning city is all the inspiration I need.

So if you want to see what is, in my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated, lively and cultured cites in Europe, then come and visit any time! You’ll have a lot of new friends before the first night is even over, and if you can get through a whole evening without mentioning spaghetti then it might just be safe to show you where they do the best tagliatelle al ragù in town…

Golden Reading Reunion – A la Recherché du Temps Perdu

previewOn 4th September 2015 Reading University’s Alumni Office was kind enough to organise a guided tour for the 6 of us celebrating, with our partners, the 50th anniversary of our freshman year.

We started our visit in the Library which was just a year old and state of the art when we joined in 1965. No computers for general use in those days, though, no eatery, and no information board offering help with our literacy or numeracy!

Our tour on campus continued with a visit to the Students’ Union – a vastly extended enterprise compared with the Buttery and Bookshop we remembered. The SU was on the London Road site in those days, part of St David’s Hall.

image1-20We then moved on to the Language Department of HUMSS where five of us had enrolled for French or French combined with Italian and one for Classics. The foyer of the building seemed little changed and served to jog a memory of being press-ganged into doing Linguistics as our third subject, totally unappreciative of how privileged we were to be some of the first of David Crystal’s students! Here we met up with Dr Veronica heath who had herself been a student in the 80s, taught by many of the profs and lectures who variously inspired, amused and scared us witless. Much nostalgia was evoked by names from the past, including Prof Lehmann, Michael Holland, Dr Dale, Dr Redfem, Geoffrey Strickland, Prof Meneghello, Dr Lepsky and John Scott to name but a few. All of us spent out third year in image2-18Lyon, those there for the whole year witnessing Les Événements of May 1968 at the first hand. It was here that our long-lasting friendship was cemented.

If it wasn’t for my decision to learn Italian at Reading, I simply wouldn’t be where I am today!

You never know where a degree in Modern Languages will take you. Lora Jury, who graduated from the University of Reading in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Italian, is now in the United States, where she won a Fellowship to pursue a Masters in Italian Studies at the University of Oregon. With the opportunities that a University of Reading degree provides, many of our alumni go on to pursue post-graduate studies, often here at Reading, but also at other universities throughout the UK, and often much further afield. We’ve asked Lora to let us know how she wound up in Oregon and how she’s getting on in her studies. Here’s what she had to say:

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Lora Jury, graduating from the University of Reading in 2015 with a degree in degree in English Literature and Italian

“I first began learning Italian at the University of Reading in 2011, and at the start it felt like the most difficult challenge of my life. Before coming to university, I’d attended a state school and a sixth form college in South Wales, and I’d never studied a foreign language, apart from three years of French and German at secondary school. I’d never studied any Italian and I could not profess to be proficient in any language other than English. Just five years later, I’m now teaching Italian at the University of Oregon, USA!

Whilst at the University of Reading I undertook a whole range of courses in Italian language, history, politics, intellectual history, and literature. I found Reading’s Department of Modern Languages and European Studies to be an environment in which I could really develop as an independent thinker. The kinds of assessments I was set by my Italian lecturers encouraged me to develop my own research topics, and also acted as a kind of exercise in learning the rubric of academia (proofreading, citing, creating a bibliography etc.) The most unique opportunity for me was being able to take up a foreign language without having any prior qualifications – if it wasn’t for my decision to learn Italian at Reading, I simply wouldn’t be where I am today.

During my final year at the University of Reading I followed a course on Modern Italian Poetry with Dr Daniela La Penna, and that’s when my love for Italian literature really began to develop and flourish. When Dr La Penna recommended me as an applicant to the University of Oregon’s MA programme, I was full of doubts. Still, even as I wondered whether I would be admitted to this competitive programme, I went ahead with my application. To my great surprise I was offered a prestigious Graduate Teaching Fellowship in Italian Studies. This means that, while I pursue my MA in Italian language and literature at the University of Oregon, all my fees are paid for! I also receive a monthly stipend, which pays for all of my living expenses, as well as health insurance and a whole range of other benefits as well. In exchange, I teach Italian language courses to undergraduate students at the university.

Lora Jury is now pursuing an MA in Italian Studies and teaching Italian language at the University of Oregon, USA

Lora Jury is now pursuing an MA in Italian Studies and teaching Italian language at the University of Oregon, USA

Pursuing a Masters Degree in the US has been an amazing experience, but it’s not for the faint hearted. This is much more than another Erasmus year. It’s the act of transferring one’s whole life to the other side of the planet, and not only learning as a student but also developing as a professional and an academic. At times my colleagues and I work under intense pressures, given that we are teachers and post-graduate students at the same time. Even so, this first year has been great. I’ve learned an unfathomable amount.

My studies in literature and language at the University of Reading definitely gave me an advantage when it came to studying for my MA at the University of Oregon. Some candidates may initially struggle when it comes to the deep analytical and theoretical work, but I definitely never felt this pressure. The courses I took at Reading were particularly rigorous, allowing me already to engage with some of the material I now work with as a post-graduate. I also think that a lot of our assignments had a practical application – for example we were often assessed on the presentation of our research at the undergraduate level, and this is now a crucial part of my everyday work. Studying at Reading taught me to be a confident and vocal young thinker; my lecturers inspired me with the notion to question absolutely everything, to think radically, and this philosophy has always added new elements to my work.

Lora Jury, enjoying life inside and outside the classroom in Oregon

Lora Jury, enjoying life inside and outside the classroom in Oregon

Like Reading, Oregon provides a really comprehensive and well-rounded education. I’m incredibly grateful that I have the opportunity to work for all of this and not to have to pay for my Masters programme. I still have one year left, in which I’ll take four more courses in Italian Studies, as well as two four hour exams, while also presenting my research at a post-graduate forum, completing an MA thesis, and reading around forty books. It sounds like an awful lot when I put it like that! But I love it. My professors in Oregon are incredible people. They only encourage the very best from their students. Plus, working in Oregon has opened up other opportunities as well: the Department of Romance Languages will fund my summer studying at a language school in Sorrento, Italy, where I’ll also work on a research project I’ll then present back in Oregon at the Graduate Student Research Forum in the Fall.

Studying in the States has opened up a wealth of opportunities to me. For instance, earlier this year I presented a paper on Italian Neorealist Cinema at a conference at the University of Wisconsin, and I’m hoping to do this again in New York in October. I am also going to apply for PhD in Culture and Theory at UC Irvine, and this is something which I simply would have never considered had I never gotten the opportunity to study at two great institutions like the University of Reading and the University of Oregon. I’ve been able to meet and network with a lot of exceptional academics and to learn more about their research, which also helps me to think about what I would like to research and where I would like to conduct my investigations.

There are so many advantages to being a part of this unbelievable experience. Most days I wake up and can’t believe that this is my life! But I intend to find a PhD programme in the States after finishing my masters.

The 2016 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.

The 2016 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.

I definitely believe that other Reading students could follow in my footsteps. As a woman I feel that we are sometimes conditioned to believe that the positions of success and power are not reserved for us, but the role models I had at the University of Reading were testament to the contrary. The Department of Modern Languages and European Studies has a large population of female students, and I believe that we should encourage these young women to aim high. There are so many opportunities here in the US within academia, and I know that students at Reading are well prepared to compete in this market.”

To learn more about how competitive you can be 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.

If you’d like to tell us where your Reading degree has taken you, and perhaps to share a few  memories of the department, please get in touch with our Alumni Officer, Dr Veronica Heath. 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:


 

I found a job doing exactly what I wanted to do!

We’re really proud of the work that our graduates do after they leave the Department of Modern Languages at University of Reading. In the coming months, we’ll feature stories from some of our former students in order to highlight the wide variety of careers that our alumni pursue.  It’s clear that a degree in Modern Languages could be the key to a career that could take you anywhere in the world.

Joely Justice, 2015 Reading graduate and Project Manager in the RWS Group

Joely Justice, 2015 Reading graduate

This month, we asked Joely Justice, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in French and Italian, to tell us about her new career in translation:

“I began studying Italian at the age of 14, at which point I’d already studied French for 2 years. From then onward I knew I wanted to pursue a career in languages, and more specifically in translation. After all that time, I still haven’t changed my mind. That’s what led me to apply for the job I’m doing today.

I work for the Eurofile department of RWS Group as an Intellectual Property Services Co-ordinator. The job is a project management role, and involves managing the process of the translation of European Patents into European languages, as well as the national validation of these translations in Europe. On a daily basis we process any new orders from our clients, send the documents to be translated out to freelance or to in-house translators and deal with any queries from either the translators or our clients.

Joely Justice, Project Manager in the RWS Group

Joely Justice, Intellectual Property Services Co-ordinator at the RWS Group

The best thing about this job is that I get to use my languages; I mainly use French as I deal with French clients and translators every day, which is great. I didn’t know I’d be able to be using my languages so much in my first job after graduating.

I found my job by signing up to receive emails from different websites. On applying for the job I went through an agency called Park Street People, which was really helpful as the lady I spoke to arranged everything for me and gave me advice for the interview. I was doing my final exams at the time, so it was a real help and a relief to have some guidance at such a stressful time!

During my final year, a representative from RWS came to a University of Reading Careers Fair, where several individuals from different companies came in and spoke to us about their companies and the kinds of careers we could pursue as a language graduate. Of course, since I have always wanted to work in translation, I was mainly interested in RWS Group. It was a great opportunity and I hadn’t realised before that I could do a project management role so soon after graduating.

The careers events that were put on were really helpful and it was inspiring to see how many different routes there are to follow with a language degree. It is especially beneficial if you’re not entirely sure what you want to do, as you

A University of Reading Careers Fair

A University of Reading Careers Fair

can see all of the possible alternatives and explore your options. The University really helped by putting on these careers events.

I would definitely recommend going to as many of these events as you can during your time at Reading and to make the most of these opportunities, as they are always insightful and helpful whether you know exactly what you want to do or you’re undecided.

The support we receive from the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading is amazing, not just academically but also on a personal level. Our lecturers were always passionate in their teaching and were always there to support and encourage us.

I found a job doing exactly what I wanted to do so soon after leaving university and I will always be grateful to the department and to the university for giving me the opportunities that they did.”

It’s wonderful to hear stories like Joely’s. They make clear that a degree in French, German, Italian, or Spanish at Reading offers promising career prospects in so many different fields .

If you’d like to find out more about a career with RWS, you can contact Joely at joelyjustice@hotmail.co.uk. To learn more about the many career opportunities for students of languages, be sure to follow our blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed, 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.

Are you a University of Reading graduate? Be sure to keep in touch with us!

Are you a University of Reading graduate? Be sure to keep in touch with us!

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 the blog of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies.

If you’d like to tell us where your Reading degree has taken you, and perhaps to share a few  memories of the department, please get in touch with our Alumni Officer, Dr Veronica Heath. And please consider joining the University’s Thrive Mentoring Scheme to help our students make their transition into the world after graduation so that you can help more students like Joely find a job doing exactly what they want to do.

Becoming a language teacher by Mariana Gregorio

Growing up, I remember admiring my teachers from the carpet while they wrote on the whiteboard and I remember thinking how ‘cool’ it would be for me to one day own a pack of those different coloured pens. I recall coming home from school and playing teachers (with my imaginary class of students) and re-enacting the day’s events, even to the point of having my very own class register and marking with a green and red pen those who were present and those who were absent.

Mariana Gregorio 2

However, my imagination was soon taken with other things and the answer to the question ‘what do you want to be when you’re older?’ changed from being ‘a teacher’ to a number of different careers; the answer ‘teacher’ didn’t return till the age of 14.

 

In 2007 Italian television aired a mini television series on the life of Maria Montessori, on Canale 5. The influence she had had with her teaching method, not only in Italy but also all around the world, instantly fascinated me, and further reading into Maria Montessori’s life was what made me say, “I want to be like her”.

 

From then on I had decided; I wanted to pursue a career in teaching. I wanted to become a teacher but this time it was different. It was no longer a matter of wanting to copy what my teachers did but instead I wanted to be able to make a difference as a teacher.

Mariana Gregorio 1

I was in the middle of my GCSE’s when I first said that I wanted to become a language teacher. Italian language school was always something I looked at as a chore, but just as almost everything in life; the things you hate, in the end, become the very things that you love. I began to see an interest in not only the Italian language but also in its culture. This interest accompanied me throughout my secondary and collage school years, until finally leading me to graduate from the University of Reading with a BA (Hons) in Italian in July 2015.

 

I began to view my knowledge in the language as a positive factor that determined who I was; Italian at the end of the day is what I know best.

It was only when, while reading through my brother’s A-level work and finding myself going mad at the sight that he had not used the subjunctive correctly, that I realised that teaching Italian was something I wanted to do.

 

I owe most of my interest in Italian to the many language teachers I’ve had through the years, but my determination, enthusiasm and will is definitely something I’ve acquired through my experience as a student at university. Just as when I was a child, I look up to and admire the work of those whom I’ve had the privilege of being taught by while at Reading. Their enthusiasm and knowledge in transmitting the subject to their students is yet another factor I wish to be able to one day possess.

 

I have recently completed a training course at the Italian Cultural Institute in London to teach Italian as a foreign language. The first hand experience received has given me the confirmation that teaching Italian is what I want to do. However I do not consider myself a language teacher just yet. Being qualified is only the start of the journey, years of experience is what, I believe, makes you the teacher and in any case mine has just begun.

 

While I wait for the journey ahead to fully take off, I imagine myself to one day have my very own class, in which I can invoke the same amount of enthusiasm in the culture and language, as I was lucky enough to have had. Most importantly, I wish to positively change my students in their knowledge and understanding of the language that I’ve been so fortunate to possess as from childhood.

Meet a Reading Graduate: Speaking French every day

In recent years, even in times of economic uncertainties, more than 80% of graduates in Modern Languages at the University of Reading have begun a career or undertaken post-graduate studies within six months of graduation. Our graduates’ employment track records show that a degree in French, German, Italian, or European Studies at Reading offers successful career prospects in many different fields and countries. We’ve asked Marcus Anderson, who graduated with a degree in French in 2011, to let us know how he uses languages in his career. Here’s what he has to say:

Marcus Anderson, 2011 graduate in French Studies and Training & Performance Quality Manager at PhotoBox

Marcus Anderson, 2011 graduate in French Studies and Training & Performance Quality Manager at PhotoBox

I chose to study French at Reading because I knew that having a modern language in the world of work is an attribute which not only stands out, but can be extremely useful for working abroad and with foreign organisations. More importantly, once I graduated from university, my main goal was to find a job which, even if not using my French from the very beginning, would have given me the prospect of using my French at some point.

I was very fortunate to find a job two months after graduating from Reading as a Customer Service Advisor for Photobox UK, an online photo printing company. Even though I was solely working for the UK team when I started, I knew there would be several opportunities to use my French one way or another as the company itself was French. One thing I realised, however, is that in order to use my French I had to use my initiative and inquire what opportunities there were for me and how to best get my foot in the door.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing a job that you find comfortable, whether it be due to the close proximity to your home, quick money or simplicity of the job role. I made a promise to myself that I would not follow this mindset and made it my mission to source out all opportunities to be able to use my degree as much as possible.

I spoke with my manager a few months into my role and asked what tasks were available for me to do where I could have used my French, and fortunately there was no one in charge of our French courier tracking system. No sooner than I requested to be in charge of this, I managed to secure this additional task which required me to call our French delivery couriers to get updates on our deliveries as well as sending emails to track the orders.

A Career Fair hosted by the University of Reading's Careers, Placement and Experience Centre

A Career Fair hosted by the University of Reading’s Careers, Placement and Experience Centre

After a year in my role as a Customer Service Agent, I was promoted to Continuous Service Improvement Co-Ordinator, where I was in charge of all audits for our UK Customer Service team. Once again, I was still not satisfied just doing this for the UK, so took it upon myself to inquire if there was someone in a similar role to me for the French team. Once I got in touch with the head of the French department, she mentioned that the current auditor was saturated with audits and would appreciate assistance if available, so I jumped at the chance to assist and split my time between English, French/Belgian audits. As well as audits, I had to prepare a report at the end of the month in French to show the quality and performance of the French team and discuss results via conference call with their Head of Management team.

By this point, I was very happy to be implementing my French in my day to day role. I had also built up a great relationship with our French team inhouse as they also acknowledge my bilingual abilities for any future resource.

After a year in this role, I was then promoted again to my current role as Training and Performance Quality Manager. I am now managing two auditors; one auditor for the UK and one for France. I am now speaking French every day, travelling to France regularly for work trips and have a strong relationship with the French team in general, hosting meetings and interviews (and training) in French.

My three years at Reading and my year abroad in France have assisted me greatly in my job, and I have no doubt that whatever my future endeavours, I will continue to keep French at the core of my working life.

To keep up with our students, staff, and alumni, and to learn about all of the Department’s other activities, follow this blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed.

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Meet a Reading Graduate: The Perfect Start…

A degree in Modern Languages and European Studies could be the key to a career that could take you anywhere in the world. Our graduates’ employment track records show that a degree in French, German, Italian, or European Studies at Reading offers successful career prospects in many different fields and countries. In the coming months, we’ll feature stories from some of our graduates in order to highlight the wide variety of careers that alumni of the Department of Modern Languages at University of Reading have pursued. The tremendous achievements of our graduates deserve to be celebrated. We’ll begin with Nigel Luson, who says that studying Economics and French “was simply the perfect start” for a career in international finance:

Nigel Luson, graduate of the University of Reading and former CEO of Lloyds Belgium

Nigel Luson, graduate of the University of Reading and former CEO of Lloyds Belgium

I had decided by the end of my second year reading Economics and French that I wanted to work, and was naturally attracted towards international finance or banking.  So immediately after returning from my year abroad in Grenoble I started applying for graduate positions with leading banks, accountants, and even the Bank of England, and spent the following six months refining my CV, chasing up applications, going to first, and sometimes second interviews, taking psychometric and other tests, and eventually received two or three offers which really interested me (I also received good feedback from others along the way which helped me to decide what kind of work and work environment I was best suited to).

I opted to join the two-year management training programme for what was then Lloyds Bank International, and spent a thrilling 24 months in London, Amsterdam and Paris, before being offered specialist Financial Markets on-the-job training in London and New York. That led to an opportunity to set up a Treasury dealing unit in Toronto, Canada, and after a couple of years I moved over to standard corporate banking in both Toronto and Montreal (back to French again!).  After four years in Canada, I was offered a Senior Corporate Account Manager position in the bank’s large Brazilian business, spending four years in Sao Paulo, then moving up to become Branch Manager in Belo Horizonte, a huge centre for mining and steel industries.

I should mention that I married Marilyn, a fellow-student at reading, just after graduation, and we both loved the international life, adding two children and three new languages (Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish) along the way.  During this time I also followed a regular programme of professional development including residential courses at UK business schools.

The Henley Business School at the University of Reading. Students can pursue a variety of joint degrees with languages, business, and economics.

The Henley Business School at the University of Reading. Students can pursue a variety of joint degrees with languages, business, and economics.

After 15 years away, I returned to work in UK Commercial Banking, still with Lloyds, but by this time international opportunities were on the wane. Local executive recruits were doing the jobs previously done by expatriates, and this is very much the case today.  The previous pool of UK managers abroad had now become an international cadre of multi-national management, with as many Brazilians working in London as Brits in North and South America combined.  From a career point of view, however, it is vitally important to work in the company’s home-country so as to be able to act within and be seen as part of core power networks in the organisation.  Out of the blue I was parachuted into the Lloyds Private Banking operation with a view to taking it to a new level, which entailed the pleasure of an office in Mayfair – and the pain of studying and sitting for professional exams as a regulated investment adviser! Two years there led to two years running private banking and investment funds in Luxembourg, and then a move up to become CEO of Lloyds Belgium (back to French again..).  In business terms, the time in continental Europe was fulfilling and successful, and led to an opportunity to become Country Manager of Colombia, based in Bogota, and three years later Deputy Director for Latin America.

I had by now spent an amazing 28 years at Lloyds Bank, easily outlasting all the 15 or so graduates who had originally joined with me at the outset (many of whom followed extremely successful careers elsewhere). As the recession hit in 2007, I decided to take an early retirement package and see what else I might do outside of banking.  I became Chairman of an international chamber of commerce in London and accompanied the Lord Mayor on trade missions to Colombia; I was asked to lecture at the European School of Economics, running modular classes in International Business, Global Challenges, and Innovation Management; I formed a private consultancy and in time became a Non-Executive Director of a fast growing AIM-listed company drilling oil in South America.  I have time to play a bit more golf and I have just started taking piano lessons!

Any student reading this is probably unlikely to spend so long with the same company – and I think that is on balance for the better – but if they share the passion I have always had for international business, today’s globalised world offers a huge variety of opportunities.  Each will measure success in different  ways, but I believe that it is really important to find work that you enjoy, to commit to it by application and training, and to find the work/life balance that works for you.  Looking back, the platform provided by my degree at Reading was simply the perfect start.

A group study area in the University of Reading main library. Your studies here may be the start of a career that could take you anywhere in the world.

A group study area in the University of Reading main library. Your studies here may be “the perfect start” of a career that could take you anywhere in the world.

If you’re a Reading alumna or alumnus, we hope to see you at future reunions. But you don’t have to wait until then to get in touch. Tell us your story. The University of Reading publishes alumni profiles online. If you’d like to share your story, all you have to do is fill out an online questionnaire. We’re proud to say that more than a dozen Modern Languages graduates have already filled out alumni profiles, and we hope that many more of you will choose to do the same. When you do, please consider submitting your story for the “Meet a Reading Graduate” section of the blog of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies.  If you’d like to tell us where your Reading degree has taken you, and perhaps to share a few  memories of the department, please get in touch with our Alumni Officer, Dr Irene Fabry-Tehranchi. We’d love to hear from you.

For more information about European Studies, as well as the other degree programmes in languages at Reading, please visit the website of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies. To keep up with all of the Department’s students, staff, and alumni, follow this blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed.

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Student Life: European Studies with Two Languages

Students in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies often pursue joint-honours degrees. Whether combining two languages, such as German and Spanish, or a language with another subject, for instance Italian and Classics, joint-honours students are able to pursue a variety of interests during their time at the University of Reading.

LondonFor students with a particular love of languages, there are even opportunities to expand their studies still further, through a degree in European Studies with two languages. We’ve asked Despina Georgiou, who graduated in 2014 with a degree in European Studies with French and Italian, to let us know what it’s like to pursue that course of studies.

Despina, who interned with the Cypriot Government while studying at the University of Reading, assisting on the preparations for the presidency of the European Council in 2012 while at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before going on to work at the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Rome, has chosen to live in Limassol, Cyprus, after graduation. As she explains, her decision to study two languages with European Studies has opened up a world of possibilities:

My interest in exploring the history, culture and politics of different countries as well as my passion for languages had found the best guidance at the University of Reading with European Studies and Modern Languages. The study of the socio-political aspects of the formation of the EU and its member states complimented my passion for learning new languages.

montpellier 2European Studies and Modern Languages is the ideal course for those who wish to acquire a more detailed view of how the EU works; for those who wish to learn as much as possible about different countries; for those who wish to travel because here with this degree course we are given the opportunity to travel and live in other European countries with the purpose of perfecting the language, meet new people and most importantly to create experiences and memories that will stay with us forever.

With this degree course our career path is limitless: it can lead to job fields you would never even imagine. Studying European Studies with French and Italian has given me new dreams to pursue and new horizons to explore; I’ve made the right decision!

For more information about European Studies, as well as the other degree programmes in languages at Reading, please visit the website of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies. To keep up with all of the Department’s students, staff, and alumni, follow this blog, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our Twitter feed.

Meet a Reading Graduate: An Exchange as a Lectrice d’Anglais in the 1990s

One of the best parts of a degree in modern languages is the opportunity to live, work, and study abroad during university. It’s a life-changing experience that our alumni remember fondly. Here is a reflection from Heidi Nicholson, an alumna of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Reading, who worked as a Lectrice d’Anglais at the University of Poitiers in 1995-1996.

Lecteurs 1995-6Job prospects for new graduates in the early ’90s were scarcely better than those of graduates during the recent economic downturn. Training schemes were closed by big companies, lots of people were in precarious temp roles and still others were working for free in the hope of getting their big break. It is an all too familiar picture.

I decided that a more positive step would be to apply to be a lectrice d’anglais as part of the French Department’s exchange programme with the universities of Poitiers, Lyons and Nîmes.  I had done some English tutoring during my Erasmus exchange to Pavia in 1994 and then spent the summer qualifying to teach English as a Foreign Language. Even though I was also applying for jobs with private language schools, I thought a lectriceship would be an excellent and unique way of gaining some experience in the classroom.

Given the circumstances of the time, there were more applications than there were positions available. As a result, each of us had to go through an interview with Dr Tony Simons and Prof Peter Noble and the outcome was posted to a noticeboard. Coming top in the interviews, I got first choice of where to go and I chose Poitiers for its academic reputation, its long connections with Reading University and, yes, I also had some friends there.

I chose not to live in the ‘lecteurs’ flats’ in the centre of town, choosing instead a studio in a cottage that clung to the hill close to the River Clain. My neighbours were a young couple of students, Anita and Victor and also a lecturer in the English Department, Brendan Prendiville (who, I think, did his PhD at Reading). It was a bit like something out of ‘A Year in Provence’ by Peter Mayle and some of the tales I have to tell from that dwelling would certainly be reminiscent of that book. Those are perhaps for another day.

I have two stand-out memories of my time as a lectrice at Poitiers. The first is a personal achievement and the other is a circumstance of the time.

Let’s start with the achievement. One of the courses that I was put down to teach was the oral class of the Maîtrise in Langues Etrangères Apliquées. Speaking to the course leader, an American lecturer called George Ottie, it was clear that the format of the oral classes needed refreshing. Previously, the classes had consisted of two students giving a speech on a chosen subject to the rest of the class, which, while testing for those making the speeches, meant that in practice, the rest of the class was not engaged. I put a proposal to him to make this livelier, drawing on my experience as a TEFL teacher. The course that year became about news reports, interviews about what the different students had done during their industrial placements and political panel discussions. The last was based on ‘Question Time’ and I had had my parents video an edition and post it to me. I also encouraged the students to tune into Radio 4 long wave (obtainable in Poitiers even before the days of the internet) and listen to ‘Any Questions’ for this project. Don’t worry, I never asked them to re-imagine ‘The Archers’!

At the window of my flat in Poiters May 1996As to circumstances, the end of 1995 was marked by a general strike in France. The trains stopped and so did the post. Fortunately, there were no power cuts in western France, though I understand not all areas were so lucky. There were marches in the streets and the pictures from Paris led concerned friends and relatives to enquire whether I was OK. All was fine, Poitiers wasn’t Paris and nor was 1995 1968.

There was, nevertheless, a student strike and this heavily disrupted the term from November until Christmas. As foreign employees we had no rights to join the strikes, even if we had wanted to, and so all the lecteurs (me, Rebecca Davies (also from Reading and doing her second year as a lectrice), Alex Godbold (Arcadia, Canada), Behnaz Soulati (Iowa, USA) and Ruadhan Cooke (Galway, Ireland) had to turn up to teach our classes. The rule was that we had to count our classes in. If we had more than half of the students for a class, then we taught; if less than half, we had to cancel the lesson. It was hugely disruptive and made the students who disagreed with the strike angry. The truth was about one-third of the students were actively striking; one-third were actively against the strike; and one-third used it as an excuse to go home for an extended break. The term lost all of its momentum and I used a lot of the unexpected free time on my hands to plan my lessons forward into the period after Christmas.

I returned at the end of the year and later moved to London to become a marketing consultant. While I didn’t continue in teaching, and even though I’d completed my undergraduate year abroad, Poitiers had certainly taught me some important lessons in living and working abroad.