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:


 

First Year Student at WriteAUT prize giving in London

 

Emily Woodall (1st year German) and UoR-OEAD lecturer Elisabeth Koenigshofer
Pictures: © Elisabeth Koenigshofer

On 24th April 2018, the Austrian Cultural Forum in London awarded students from British and Irishuniversities the first WriteAUT literary prize.

 

Last week, the Austrian Cultural Forum in London invited all competitors and their OEAD lecturers to the prize giving ceremony of the first WriteAUT literary prize. This prize was initiated by OEAD lecturers in Great Britain and Ireland, with a trip to Vienna as its first prize and many books, CDs, and films for all other participants, sponsored by the City of Vienna, OEAD, the Austrian Ministry of Education and the Austrian Cultural Forum.

 

Competitors and lecturers on the balcony of the Austrian Cultural Forum in London
© Elisabeth Koenigshofer

 

The competition was open to German language university students across Great Britain and Ireland and seventeen texts were entered.Students had to write a literary text of any format or style for the topic “2018 – Jahr der Erinnerung / 2018 – Year of Remembrance” to commemorate various jubilees such as the centenary of the birth of the first Austrian Republic, the Anschluss 1938, or the 1968 student revolutions. 17 Texts entered the competition, amongst them one by University of Reading student Emily Woodall (first year German).

A jury of experts then chose the winner and another first prize was awarded for the audience favourite. Members of the public were able to read and to vote for all texts via www.writeaut.at and more than 1,000 people participated in the vote. Iona Charter’s “Werte Entwindet” (University of Leeds) and Conor Gleeson’s “Achtung!” (Trinity College Dublin) won the competition.

Prizes for competitors
© Elisabeth Koenigshofer

The ceremony started with opening remarks from OEAD Lecturers Judith (University of Leeds) and Annelise (University College Dublin) and representatives of the Austrian Cultural Forum. Iona and Conor read their winner texts to the fascinated audience and the afternoon was complete with drinks and the opportunity to mingle with German students from various universities.

 

 

Emily, our University of Reading participant, saw

WriteAUT magazine
© Elisabeth Koenigshofer

the competition as an opportunity to revive her love for creative writing, combining it with her interest in the German language. Her modern fairy tale “Ein Märchen der Revolutionen” can be read in the MLES Resources room in the WriteAUT magazine or online at www.writeaut.at.

 

 

We look forward to next year’s competition.

German Studies Project – Der Fund by Veza Canetti

“I enjoyed working with others as a team to tackle the story of “Der Fund” and present it in a new and interesting way that shows the creativity and diversity of the German Department as a whole. We were able to show that through our common knowledge of the German language, one story could be translated to an audience through a variety o

(from left: Sian Buller (Year 2), Sophie Allen (Year 3), Angelina Lotter-Jones (Year 3), Sophie Payne (PhD student), Emily Stanga (Year 3), Elisabeth Koenigshofer (OEAD-lecturer), Nick Bricknell (Year 1), © Regine Klimpfinger)

f means, be it speech, music, or paintings.” (Sian Buller, Year 2)

While the beast from the east had its icy claws around Reading, some of our talented German Studies students braved the cold and set out to present the outcome of this year’s German Studies

Project “Der Fund by Veza Canetti” at Christchurch Reading.

The project was a voluntary extracurricular activity that should help students to develop and foster their German language and creative skills. For this project, which focused on text transformation, students from all years read a short story by almost-forgotten Austrian author Veza Canetti and interpreted it in their own way through various media.

Sophie Payne, a PhD student in the department, was our host for the evening. She gave the audience an insight into the author’s life and led the Q&A after the recital of the translation.

(Emily Stanga, presenting her translation © Melani Schroeter)

Veza Canetti and her short story Der Fund

Author Veza Canetti, wife of Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti, never stepped out of her husband’s long literary shadow but published extensively from the 1930s onwards. Born in 1897 in Vienna, she emigrated to London with her husband in 1938, fleeing the Nazis who had annexed Austria. During her life time, she published mainly short stories in Viennese working class newspapers but could not find a publisher for her novels. Those were only published from the 1990s onwards.

Her stories focus often on women from lower class backgrounds and their day-to-day struggles. Her short story Der Fund (The Discovery) is no exception, telling the story of Knut Tell, an impoverished poet who is forced to work at a lost property office. There, he finds the letter of an illiterate woman who had been treated ill by her former doctor and lover. Fascinated by her letter, Knut sets out to find her. Love, jealousy, and star-crossed lovers dominate this little gem.

Why Veza Canetti?

Veza Canetti is one of many forgotten female authors of the last century who worked alongside men but did not achieve fame. Like many other artists, Veza had been born into a Jewish family and therefore decided to flee to England when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. She had worked as an English teacher before she moved to London. Veza was chosen because she reflects anniversaries that are commemorated in 2018: the centenary of women’s rights to vote and 80 years since the annexation of Austria and the dissolution of Austria as an independent nation.

Our students

Nick Bricknell, Year 1, used music to make the text accessible to the audience. During the presentation he played variations of Bach’s Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme Cantata 140 which reflected

(Sophie Payne, introducing Veza Canetti © Melani Schroeter)

the mood and events in Canetti’s text. Nick deliberately chose a lesser known work by a famous German-speaking composer. He has worked as a church organist at Christchurch since the beginning of his studies at Reading and impressed the audience with his skills.

Sophie Allen, Angelina Lotter-Jones and Emily Stanga, all Year 3, put their translation skills to practice and produced a great translation into English. All three worked hard throughout the last months and weeks because Veza’s language is quite different from what our students work on in their translation classes. During the presentation, all three translators read their texts aloud to the audience, accompanied by the organ recital.

Angelina: “Prior to this project I had not heard of Veza Canetti before and there was not an English translation in existence at the time we did this project. What attracted me to participating in this project was the opportunity to have more practice translating.”

Sophie: “I was able to use my methods from my university classes to write the translation, which involves envisioning the target audience and retaining the style of the text.”

(Sian Buller, Der Fund No.1 © Sian Buller)

Sian Buller, Year 2, proved herself as a visual artist. She created four canvases to accompany the narration. She chose a different style and media for each piece, for example acrylic paint, paint-pens and artist pencils. Her fascinating work added a visual dimension to the way in which a text can be interpreted.

Sian: “Through my participation in this project, I felt that I have learnt many valuable skills. I had to be organised and time efficient, in order to give myself enough time to complete each canvas to a suitable level of standard on time, whilst still keeping up with my own university work. I also needed to be conscientious whilst thinking of designs that would be clear to an audience and fit in with any narration or musical pieces created by other participating students. Additionally, I had to make sure that the pieces were captivating as they were used in advertised posters around the university and so served as a public representation for the project itself.”

All participants showed great interest in the project and dedicated a lot of time, energy and effort to their tasks. It is great to see that our students are so engaged and were able to transfer their skills to a new and experimental project. The audience on the evening of the presentation was small due to the weather condition but our students made it worth coming out that evening and the audience truly enjoyed the presentation.

If you would like to see their great work for yourself, the project is exhibited in room EM 274 (Resources Room) in the Edith Morley building.

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!

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

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!

Ze Germans and ze British: Just good Frenemies?

A lot of people know about the German connections of the British Royal Family during the 18th and 19th centuries. But did you know that what was to become British Gas was founded by two German chemists in the 19th century? That Germans were the largest group of foreigners in Britain in the 19th century? That German academics are the largest group of foreign nationals working at British Universities (including at Reading University)? That the Germans are obsessed with a British comedy sketch, Dinner for One, which is shown, and has been shown for decades by every German TV station throughout the day each year on New Years Eve for decades? That two Germans invented the Doc Martens’ air cushioned sole?

A pop-up travelling exhibition, provided by the UK-based Migration Museum Project, explores such relations between Britain and Germany. It is currently on show at the University of Reading and will remain here until 24 March. It can be visited anytime between 9am and 5pm on weekdays in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building on Whiteknights Campus, room 274A. More directions and a couple of weekend dates for external visitors can be found at the bottom of this post.

The panel discussing “The Brelephant in the Room” on 15 February

The exhibition consists of a small number of panels that explore different groups of German migrants to the UK, from the Royal family to the poor and the refugees during the Second World War. It also explores different economic as well as cultural connections between the UK and Germany from Early Modern Period onwards. There is also a panel about stereotypes and sport – yes, football gets a mention, too; but did you know that a German doctor working in London inspired the Paralympics? Each panel provides specific examples as well as a short text about the historical background. Showing this exhibition is timely – with a view on a pending Brexit – and equally interesting from a German as well as from a British perspective, as it describes a part of British migration history and illustrates how (groups of) migrants contribute to the country that they make their new home, and partly also the difficulties that they may face.

Part of the audience at the panel discussion

A little programme of events around the exhibition also attracted visitors, such as a panel discussion about “The Brelephant in the Room: Living in post-referendum UK as an EU citizen”.

Two more events are coming up: A guest lecture by Dr Stefan Manz about “German Immigrants and the First World War. A Centenary Perspective” on Wednesday, 1 March, 4-6pm and a presentation by Final Year German Studies students who interviewed German academics working at the University of Reading on Wednesday 15 March, 4-5:30pm (meet in HumSS 274A for both).

The exhibition and events are supported by the Vice-Chancellor’s Endowment Funds for academic events, the School of Literature and Languages and the Heritage and Creativity Institute.

The Humanities and Social Sciences Building (HumSS) is located on Whiteknights Campus, building number 1 on the map: Room 274A is on the second floor. The exhibition is also open to visit on the following two Saturdays: 4 and 18 March, between 8am-12pm and 2-4pm. Please contact Dr Melani Schröter  if you would like further information.

Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell visited the exhibition earlier this month

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