My biggest fear when starting university was that it would be like school all over again. Despite having amazing friends there, I hadn’t really enjoyed A-Levels and the micromanagement of the school environment. Thankfully student life was completely different!
I chose to study BA French and Management, at the University of Reading, as I loved languages and I wanted to work in business, however, wasn’t sure exactly what career path I wanted to go down. I knew that language skills were highly sought after by employers and that the practical skills developed through Management Studies would enable me to enter several commercial roles.
In first year, many of my modules were compulsory and effectively introduced me to a variety of subjects such as accounting, marketing, French culture and literature etc. The marks for this year didn’t count towards my final classification, but it definitely provided me with a solid foundation for my subsequent years! In hindsight I wish I hadn’t stressed quite so much about this first year, but I do know some people who didn’t take it seriously at all and then struggled in second year so it’s definitely good to find a balance.
The variety of my degree always kept things interesting as in a typical day I could be discussing the SNCF strikes in France one moment and analysing Tesla’s business strategy the next! I also made the most of living on-site in halls to enjoy the beautiful campus and its facilities. I joined the Mixed Hockey Society, playing competitive matches against other universities, I took part in a variety of exercise classes at Sports Park and could often be found enjoying a coffee at Dol.cHe Vita Café or a pint at Park Bar. Ensuring a healthy balance between academic work and social activities definitely helped me throughout my degree.
From second year I was largely free to tailor my degree to my interests and pick modules that I was really excited about. I even started to learn German from a beginner’s level through the IWLP (Institution-Wide Language Programme) which I would highly recommend. This was my favourite year at Reading as I had fully settled in to university life and got more involved in other areas on campus such as being a French Language Learning Advisor and doing a weekly tandem with a French exchange student who remains one of my closest friends. Both of these things helped me to improve my French out of class time in an enjoyable way and look good on my CV.
Third year-the Year Abroad-was undoubtedly the highlight of my degree. For this I chose to study at EM Strasbourg Business School in France. All of my classes were in French and I had the opportunity to take modules that were not offered at Reading- ‘Theatre skills for Management and Business’ anyone? I met loads of amazing people and travelled all around Europe in my free time.
Honestly, whether you are studying a foreign language or not, if you have the opportunity to spend some time abroad as part of your degree then take it. You learn a lot more about yourself and how you handle situations without your usual support network. If you are studying a language, you will be surprised how quickly your target language skills improve. I remember the first French language class I had back at Reading the following year was interesting because everyone had improved so much, with some having even picked up a bit of a regional French accent!
That being said, my final year at Reading was definitely the most challenging. I put in many more hours of study compared with previous years and didn’t have as much time for socialising. I found all my modules interesting, but more demanding. What kept me going was imagining how good it would feel for all my hard work to pay-off, as well as support from friends, family and encouragement from staff members (especially once the COVID-19 lockdown happened and all exams and assessments moved online!).
When it came to revision, the variety of my degree undoubtedly helped, as when I was fed up of revising one subject, I would just switch to another. However, I think doing dual honours requires more organisation than a single honours degree as sometimes the rules or preferences for submission were different and you could have a lot of deadlines all at the same time. I can say that the extra effort and hours in the library were worth it as I achieved a First-Class Honours, and as a plus was awarded the departmental Mary Bryden Prize for Excellence in Translation.
The helpful feedback from faculty members as well as the passion they had for their subjects contributed to my final results. They truly transferred their enthusiasm and made even the most frustrating topics, such as the French subjunctive (if you know you know) enjoyable!
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed my blog!