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.

If you’d like to receive regular updates from our blog, be sure to subscribe:


 

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.

2014 Alumni Reunion

The Department of Modern Languages and European Studies Alumni Reunion took place on Saturday 21 June. It was a great opportunity for past and present staff and students of European Studies, French, German, and Italian to meet and to share their memories. It was also a chance to see whether current students and staff could match the alumni for knowledge of the University of Reading: congratulations to the Translators’ team who took home the prize in the quiz performance on the history, cultural and academic life of the department!

Current students in the department really enjoyed the opportunity to learn what Reading graduates had gone on to accomplish in the world. Melis Parmak, a student in German and Management, said that “the Alumni event was such a great experience! Those sympathetic Alumni were a reflection of myself in the future. Their experiences and their stories opened my eyes and mind to appreciate what I have right at this moment. It encouraged me to try my best and never to stop believing in myself. This event was supportive, encouraging and motivating and I would therefore advice others to participate in such an incredible event. Thank you for the invitation!”

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.

And of course we would love to hear from you in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies. We’re introducing a new regular feature on our blog: Meet a Reading Graduate. Our alumni are to be found all over the world doing wonderful things. If you’d like to share your story, as well as a few  memories of the department, please get in touch with our Alumni Officer, Dr Irene Fabry-Tehranchi. Tell us where your language degree took you.

Our alumni shared a few photos with us at the reunion. See anyone you recognise? If you have photos you’d like to share, please do send them our way. We’re very Happy at Reading and we love to remember all of the happy times that we’ve shared together.

SPhotocopie14062414511a

Backstage at a department theatre production of Aucassin et Nicolette (2-6 March 1999) featuring (from right to left) Chris Rock, Malcolm Rowe, Wolfgang van Emden, Claudia Solaro, and F. LE Saux. 2-6 March 1999.

Photo 1
Alumna Dany Milman, who graduated with a degree in Italian in 1994, with Prof. Baranski.
18th Century French Tutor Group Mar 95
18th-Century French Tutor Group, March 1995
French Cabaret Dec 1992
French Cabaret, December 1992
French Cabaret Dec 1994
French Cabaret, December 1994
French Finalists photo Jun 95
French Finalists, June 1995