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:


 

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: