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…

Language studies posted the second-highest salary gains

Heads up, business majors: Employers are newly hot on the trail of hires with liberal arts and humanities degrees.

keep-calm-and-learn-languages-4Class of 2015 graduates from those disciplines are employed at higher rates than their cohorts in the class of 2014, and starting salaries rose significantly, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ annual first-destination survey of recent graduates in the workforce.

Degree holders in area studies—majors like Latin American Studies and Gender Studies—logged the largest gains in full-time employment and pay, with average starting salaries rising 26% to $43,524 for the class of 2015, compared with the previous year’s graduates. Language studies posted the second-highest salary gains.

Though area studies majors comprise less than 1% of all graduates in the survey, the pay numbers show employers are seeking hires
with communication skills and comfort in multicultural environments, said Edwin Koc, NACE’s director of research, public policy and legislative affairs.

Overall, pay for liberal arts graduates rose sharply for the class of 2015, moving closer to business graduates’ starting pay, according to Mr. Koc.

“I’ll be interested to see if it’s a one-year quirk or whether it continues to boom in that direction,” he said.

Those with degrees in English and in foreign languages also brought home bigger paychecks, with starting salaries rising 14.3% and 13.6%, respectively.

Behind the numbers is a growing desire among employers for hires with strong communication skills, said Mr. Koc. After complaining that new hires’ soft skills are not up to par, “employers may be reconsidering how they’re approaching recruiting college graduates, and may not be so focused on hiring a particular major,” he said.

Computer-science graduates posted the highest starting salaries in the survey, reporting an average of $69,214. They unseated petroleum engineering majors, who usually top starting-salary rankings but have dipped amid the energy-industry crisis.

Not all liberal arts majors are enjoying boom times. History majors’ starting pay rose 3.7% year-over-year, and visual and performing arts majors were the sole group of humanities students for whom employment declined, with 2.3% fewer graduates employed six months after graduation.

NACE collected employment and salary information from 279 U.S. colleges and universities and 244,000 bachelor’s degree graduates. Overall, more than 80% of 2015 bachelor’s degree holders were employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation, according to NACE.

To read the original post click here

Celebrating Halloween and the Day of the Dead



The carved pumpkins, fancy dress and Trick or Treating activities popular in North America have spread to Europe, says Dr Veronica Heath, who teaches on our 19th century European Novels module. However there are also very different traditions unique to Great Britain (such as 5th November Bonfire Night), to other European countries and to Latin America.

In France, Halloween is more popular among children than adults. Dr Marjorie Gehrhardt, who teaches 20th century French history, says that since the 1990s, you can see groups of children dressed up on 31st October, going around the neighbourhood asking for sweets sometimes late into the evening as the following day is a bank holiday. On 1st November, known in France as La Toussaint [All Saints’ Day], many people take chrysanthemums to the graves of their loved ones. Traditionally the Day of the Dead is 2nd November, but this is a working day, so families tend to gather on 1st November instead. The story goes that as chrysanthemums resist well to the cold and frost, they were used to flower the graves of fallen soldiers after the First World War.

Our postdoctoral researcher on Translation and NGOs, Dr Wine Tesseur explains that ‘in Belgium, families get together on 1st November and eat pancakes, waffles, and/or beignets. On 2 November, there is usually a requiem mass. If someone from your family has passed away in the previous months, a little wooden cross with their name is put on a special notice board in the local church. On 2 November, after mass, you can collect the cross and take it home’.

In Austria, Halloween is more of a children’s celebration, whereas all ages celebrate Allerheiligen [All Saints’ Day]. Like in France, 1st November is a bank holiday and most people go to visit the graves of their loved ones on that day. They light white candles that sit in red glasses, and leave fresh flowers. Another tradition, our German Lektorin Elli Königshofer tells us, is for godparents to give their godchildren a striezel, a sweet pastry containing raisins, shaped into a braid (traditionally women would cut their braided hair in sign of mourning).dia-de-los-muertos-03-full

In Italy too, people remember the dead, visit their graves and eat special food as part of Ognissanti (All Saints Day, on 1st November) and I Morti (2nd November), our language coordinator Enza Siciliano-Verruccio explains. It is the time of the year when the first caldarroste [roasted chestnuts] are eaten and many regions have their own local specialties, like the Frutta di Martorana [a fruit-shaped sweet] in Sicily.

Our Spanish teaching fellow Ivan Ortega, tells us that in Spain too, people go to cemeteries to tidy up their relatives’ graves and bring fresh flowers. Spanish people also have food traditions, such as huesos de Santo and buñuelos de Viento, which are two typical sweets eaten during these festivities.

ev_3_la_catrinaIn Mexico, both 31st October and 1st November are big celebrations. Dr Catriona McAllister, who teaches Latin American history and culture, describes Día de muertos traditions for us: ‘On 2nd November (coinciding with the Catholic festival of All Souls Day), Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead. The festival offers the opportunity to remember and honour departed loved ones and has its origins in pre-Hispanic traditions that were later combined with Catholic practices. Celebrations can take place over several days, and it is traditional to visit cemeteries where loved ones are buried and to prepare an altar at home. Altars usually contain a range of objects including flowers (particularly cempasúchiles, or marigolds), the favourite food of the departed loved one, candles, objects belonging to the departed, photos and decorated sugar skulls’.

If Halloween, pumpkins and trick-or-treating are becoming more popular, the countries whose cultures and languages we study in the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies also have their own fascinating traditions!

New for 2017! Spanish Single Honours Degree

SpanishWe are very pleased to announce that we have launched a Single Honours degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies, starting from September 2017!

Immerse yourself in the diversity of the Spanish-speaking world by taking modules in language, culture, history and society that reflect the cultures of Spain and Latin America. You will have the opportunity to study with a dynamic team of staff who are internationally-recognised experts in their fields, and to gain a deep understanding of the Spanish-speaking world today.

You will be able to apply for this course to start in September 2017.

For more information visit our website or email


Translating in danger zonesIn a globalised world we are confronted with an increasingly diverse mix of languages and cultures, bringing new challenges to language professions. This series explores the role of language and translation in danger situations, and considers what it takes to work as a translator or interpreter in these contexts. Presented by a mix of practitioners and academics, it will demonstrate how language professions have changed because of these situations, and how translating/interpreting involves more than linguistic knowledge.

First event:

Dr Carmen Delgado Luchner, University of Geneva 

Training field interpreters for humanitarian organisations 

26 October 2016, Room 2s12, URS, 5 pm


Looking for extra guidance on your studies?

Study Skills PosterTo all students of Modern Languages and European Studies!

The department is offering weekly drop-in sessions for study skills advice specific to undergraduate students (all years) of MLES, run by the department’s study skills advisers. Do you have questions or worries about making the transition to university life, writing or structuring essays, building vocabulary, grammar, exam technique, note taking, time management, etc…? Come along to our sessions when we will be available to answer your questions.

We can’t proofread your work, or give you specific answers to your assignments, but we do have experience of how things work in the department, and are uniquely placed to give you advice based on our knowledge as successful postgraduate students. If your query is beyond our scope, we’ll suggest the best person for you to contact.

These sessions will take place on Mondays 1-2pm in HumSS 274A, the Resources Room. It is not compulsory to attend all sessions; come as and when you have a query.

Hope to see you there!

Maria, Sophie and Stefano

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.

Welcome to new staff in the French section and new developments for 2017!

Photo Marine French seciton blog postWe are delighted to welcome our new Teaching Fellow in French Language, Miss Marine Orain, in September 2016. Marine joins us from Birkbeck College and she will be teaching Language modules. Marine holds an MA in Teaching French as a Foreign Language from the University of Cumbria and she is completing her PhD thesis on French intellectuals.

Marine says:

‘After 9 years in London, I am delighted to be joining the University of Reading. I can’t wait to meet the students of the Modern Languages department. In today’s world, I believe that promoting multilingualism and intercultural understanding is more important than ever. I particularly enjoy teaching beginners and introducing them to my native culture and language.’

Our dynamic Language Teaching team is indeed preparing to launch a new Beginners’ Language module, which will allow students who did not study French at A Level to take French as part of a Joint Honours Degree. For more information on the wide range of degree programmes we offer check our website or contact us at!


French @ Reading

Welcome to the new staff in Spanish and Latin American Studies

We are delighted to welcome two new members of staff to the Spanish section as of September 2016.


Dream Team

Meet the new Dream Team

Dr Catriona McAllister (Lecturer in Latin American Cultural Studies) joins us from Brunel

University, where she taught extensively and was also Head of Academic Skills Development. Catriona gained her doctorate at the Centre of

Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge, where she completed a PhD thesis on ‘Rewriting Independence in Contemporary Argentine Literature: Postmodernism, Politics and History’, which she is currently re-working as a book.


Catriona says:
‘As a Latin Americanist specialising in Argentine literary and cultural studies, my research focuses on discourses of national identity and rewritings of history in contemporary fiction. I’ll be joining the Spanish section in August and look forward to meeting new and existing students in the Languages department’.

Iván Ortega Galiano (Teaching Fellow in Spanish Language) joins us from the University of Strathclyde where he taught Spanish language for several years. Iván holds an MA in Linguistics Applied to the Teaching of Spanish as a Second Language, and will be bringing a Castilian flavour to the Spanish language team (with his colleague Raúl Marchena representing Latin America!)

Ivan says:
‘For me, being part of the Spanish section team is a golden opportunity to inspire all our students to succeed in their learning of the Spanish language and of the Spanish speaking countries’ rich culture’.

Welcome to you both from the MLES Department @Reading!