How IWLP British Sign Language influenced my future career path

a young woman with long brown hair smiles in a graduation outfitMy name is Esmé O’Mahony and I studied English Language and Linguistics. I took on British Sign Language Stage 1 in my second year of university and progressed to Stage 2 whilst in my final year. I’d always had a keen interest in languages and BSL was something I had always wanted to learn, especially as I felt taking a language module would complement my main degree.

I enjoyed every aspect of the BSL course – learning the vocabulary and signing with my peers was fun, but the most interesting thing for me was learning about Deaf culture. I found the content itself fascinating, especially having the lectures signed and interpreted. In my final year, I chose to write my dissertation on how deaf children are taught to read and from there, I pursued a career as an audiologist – something I would not have considered for a moment before taking the BSL module.

Something I was nervous of prior to starting class was the practical elements; I am an academic person and knowing that I would have to utilise my practical skills was daunting at first. Fortunately, there was a good balance between practical lessons and interpreted lectures so I was able to develop new skills and enjoy a format I was familiar with.

BSL classes were a refreshing change from my main degree because of the different methods of teaching and how the content was delivered. Several aspects of the course overlapped with my degree (for example, the study of linguistics within BSL), so it felt like I was aiding my learning rather than juggling extra work.

I learned so much more than the language in the BSL course; it has had a substantial impact on my life and introduced me to a rewarding career in audiology. I could not recommend the module highly enough for anyone who is thinking about taking it, the skills and knowledge I have gained and the passion the lecturers have for the module is invaluable.


IWLP Italian: “Studying it alongside my degree is so refreshing.”

In this post, we hear from Yagmur Adademir, another Business and Management student who did a year of IWLP Italian Stage 1 and then studied at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. Like Darcey, she studied the English curriculum but was able to use her Italian in her daily life in the country.

a boat on a canal in Venice in front of a grand buliding with a domed top

I believe language plays a gatekeeping role in understanding a culture. Although English has become almost a globally known language, there are always some elements of culture that get lost in translation. I was dreaming about spending a year in Italy and participating in the Erasmus Programme ever since I started university, so I thought taking the IWLP Italian module would be helpful for my future. In Venice, I interacted with so many locals with whom I got to practice and develop my Italian. Taking an Italian module was a good starting point for me, as I was able to and motivated to have short conversations as soon as I arrived in Italy.

I first started taking Italian classes during covid, before I went away. Although everything was online, learning something new and interacting with new people from different courses was very enjoyable. Therefore, after returning from Venice, I decided to continue with IWLP Italian, and being present in the class made everything even better.

I felt nervous when I first chose the module – I was worried about my level of Italian. However, once I went to the class, I got over it since everyone was almost at the same level as me. The class environment is very collaborative, and I was inspired by other students’ motivation to learn Italian as well. Our lecturer encouraged us to ask questions and interact with other students in Italian. The portfolio assignment gave me chance to observe and reflect on my progress in Italian, as it required me to be up-to-date with the lectures and revise the materials consistently. Additionally, through the portfolio I have discovered many cultural elements that my home country, Cyprus, and Italy have in common. I’ve also learned that I have learned some stereotypes that have been attached to Italian culture were not true.

For me, my degree and my IWLP module go in hand in hand. I try to work for short periods of time for Italian, and studying it alongside my main degree is so refreshing. My main degree is based on theories and sometimes it gets a little bit overwhelming whereas learning Italian is more practical, interactive, and dynamic.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that I will be remembering or use most of the theoretical knowledge that I have learned at the university in my daily life. However, taking an IWLP module is sensible for both career and social life. It could help you make new friends, and meet new people not only in your university life but in the future as well. As a business student, I know many multinationals are looking for people who could speak at least more than one language. Therefore, it could create good opportunities in your career path. Next year I am planning to work and take a B1 course in Italy.


Using IWLP Italian with Italians in Venice

In this post, we hear from Darcey, a BSc Finance and Management student who took IWLP Italian Stage 1 in her first year before she did a year abroad at a university in Venice. Darcey did the English language curriculum at Ca’ Foscari University but, as she explains, learning Italian before she went really helped her make the most of living there – just like Yagmur, who has also written about her experience.

My course is a joint degree with Ca’ Foscari University and I decided to learn Italian as I thought it was important to have a basic understanding of the language before I went to Venice. Although my first year at university was very disrupted by the pandemic, my only in-person class was Italian with Ugo. It was great to be able to interact with people, and I felt this is a crucial part of learning a new language: being able to speak and practice.

The module layout was unlike any other I have taken whilst at university. We had weekly lessons with recommended exercises to do before the next session, but alongside this we had a portfolio. The portfolio not only allowed us to get familiar and confident with the fundamentals, but also gave us a chance to explore areas that interested us, for example discovering Italian music, media and culture. It also gave opportunity for self-reflection and evaluating and improving our own work as we improved our skills. I think getting advice from others and correcting my owa mother and two grown daughters smile in the sunshinen mistakes significantly lowered the amount of errors I made in the future speaking to Italians. In my portfolio I mainly focused on scenarios I would come across in Venice, e.g. conversations in restaurants, supermarkets and so on.

I joined the course a few weeks late, so my initial reservations were around the skills of my peers. I haven’t been a beginner in a language since I was 14, and it really throws you back into the school-like experience, where you have no knowledge on the subject before you start. As I knew that I would be using what I learnt in my 2nd year in Venice for I was also nervous about the transition between class-learning to real life situations. Luckily I lived with an Italian in 1st year so I was able to talk to them, practicing in an informal setting really grew my confidence. Along with this, we had lots of chances to do speaking tasks with other students too.

I was able to use Italian a lot in Venice. As I got familiar with my surroundings, I found my favourite cafes and bars to go to and built relationships with locals, and they really encouraged me to speak Italian. I also had Italian friends who would test my skills and try to get me to communicate with them in Italian as much as possible, only correcting me when dramatically wrong, which really helped me build on what I had learnt in the course and gain confidence.

If you have the opportunity to take an IWLP module, do it. Even if you don’t think you will use the language day-to-day, breaking up your learning with someone more creative made my first year much more interesting and less repetitive. Also being able to communicate with others in a different language is cool and the best way to integrate yourself into a culture, even if it is just for holidays!



Go Places with the IWLP and Study Abroad

Are you an undergraduate with at least one year left in your degree? Have you heard about the Study Abroad opportunities at UoR? Study Abroad is a golden opportunity to enrich your degree, broaden your horizons and, most importantly, have fun! (Note: this is different to the Year Abroad for students taking a language at degree level.)

You will study in English at the university abroad, but if you have some of the local language under your belt already, you will get so much more out of your experience.

IWLP Stage 1 modules aim to give you survival skills for travelling, so even with just one year’s IWLP study, you can understand the basics and the sounds of the language, decipher signs, greet people, introduce yourself in detail and order food in a restaurant or drinks in a bar.

Stages 2 and 3 expand on these skills, so the more language you learn before you go, the easier you will find it to get around and fit into the local community. And once you come back, you might be able to carry on with the IWLP and keep up your skills.

Reading has partnerships with universities in countries that use these IWLP languages:

French: France, Canada, Switzerland

German: Germany, Austria, Switzerland

Italian: Italy

Japanese: Japan

Spanish: Spain

You can apply to study for one term or a whole year, as well as summer schools in France and Japan that offer a summer-only programme.


Not convinced? Read some of these student testimonials to whet your appetite:

EM Strasbourg Summer School, France

Tübingen University, Germany

Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italy – additionally, Darcey and Yagmur both took Italian Stage 1 and then studied in Venice – read about their experiences here and here.

University of Geneva, Switzerland


Please note that all Study Abroad opportunities have limited places and are subject to an application process, and there may be additional costs alongside the funding provided. You must also apply the year before you travel abroad, so it’s important to get organised and get the information you need as early as you can.

For more information, head to the the Study Abroad website.


From learning Chinese at the University of Reading to using Chinese in Nanjing

a young woman stands in front of a white building in China

In Summer 2019, IWLP Chinese Stage 2 student Giang had the opportunity to travel to China and use her newly learnt language on the Nanjing International Youth Exchange Programme. She spoke warmly of her experience when she returned…

There is a famous saying: ‘You live a new life for every new language you speak’. For me, learning Chinese has brought so much fun and opened a new world. I am so grateful to have had Mrs Li as the first teacher in my learning Chinese journey. She not only guided me in the first step with Chinese but also gave me an opportunity to discover China. Mrs Li introduced the Nanjing International Youth Exchange Programme to my class in 2019. Thanks to her unfailing support, I got a chance to take part in this programme in Nanjing for 20 days – and it  was my greatest summer ever. I met many new friends from all over the world. We explored the historical city and had a real look at Chinese people’s lives today. The programme also offered us to intern at local companies at the industrial park. It was a golden opportunity to experience real-life business as a student. NIYEP was such an awesome program that I could use Chinese more and immerse myself with Chinese culture. Learning Chinese has truly helped me to live a new joyful life!

IWLP Chinese: Diversify your degree


Hi there, myThe author of the post is a young man smiling in a white shirt name is Morgan, and I graduated with a Business degree in 2022. I did IWLP Chinese for two years and I really enjoyed it as my tutor helped me find a very difficult language very interesting. One thing learning with the IWLP has given me is massive inspiration to undertake an internship in Taiwan, which I will be doing for around three or four months. I will be working for a renewable energy company and practising my Chinese, which is a very cool opportunity. One of the other reasons I really enjoyed IWLP Chinese is because it gave me a bit of diversity from my degree and shifted me away from the standard marketing and accounting stuff. I feel that this opportunity to diversify is an incredibly invaluable part of the IWLP modules.