July 21, 2022, by Jackie Thompson
Lauren in Lorraine – From UoN to Nancy, France
By Lauren Ogden (BA Modern Language Studies and MA Comparative Literature alumna, maître de langue – Université de Lorraine)
Having dedicated my life to the study of foreign languages and cultures, I hoped that one day my future career would take me overseas. Living in France during my year abroad ignited a desire within me to settle there – it always felt like home away from home.
My studies at Nottingham
As part of my degree studies, I was obligated to complete a minimum of three months in the countries in which I was studying the language – this led me to complete a six-month internship in a translation agency in Girona, a six-month internship as a pedagogical assistant in Paris and three-month stay in Porto where I studied Portuguese.
This experience was invaluable and life-changing and forced me to really consider whether I should embark on a career in the UK or set my sights on something further afield. Fifteen months abroad allowed me to test the waters in various professional domains, as well as unlocking a desire to further discover foreign cultures. Upon returning from my year abroad, I discovered that my academic interest in literature was flourishing, and considered academia as a potential career pathway, bearing in mind that I knew it could take me anywhere in the world. It was this passion for literature studies that fuelled my desire to pursue a masters in comparative literature.
Navigating graduate life at the height of a pandemic
Graduating from my masters course at the height of the pandemic meant there were many obstacles in my way as far as launching a career was concerned. Given the unprecedented circumstances, and the lack of job availability, I continued working in the retail sector, as I had been doing throughout my studies. I was offered an assistant manager position in the store I was working and thought it would be a practical and safe solution under the circumstances. While I knew this wasn’t a career I wanted to pursue, it aided me in my professional development and allowed me to develop a set of transferable skills that would become useful to me in my future endeavours.
Searching for opportunities: moving to France
After seven years of working in retail, I realised that the job was neither challenging nor fulfilling. While it served a purpose, I wanted to pursue a career that was meaningful to me, a career which involved me employing the skills I had developed during my studies. I had subscribed to Francofil, an email server which posted news related to French and Francophone Studies.
In February 2021, I noticed a job advert for a maître de langue anglais (English Language Teacher) posted by the Université de Lorraine in Nancy. Matching the criteria for the job, I perfected my CV and cover letter in French, applied and was interviewed for the position. In July 2021, I was formally offered the position and accepted without hesitation. After the constraints of the pandemic, I was ready to evolve in my career and embark on a journey outside of the UK. I was eager to reside in the east of France, it is a region that I had never visited with a rich cultural history and beautiful landscapes.
My current role – maître de langue
Prior to arriving at the Université de Lorraine, I had limited teaching experience. I had done some private tuition work, but I had never led a class. When I arrived, I was teaching classes of 60+ students. It was an exciting, yet daunting new step in my career. This year, I taught first, second, and third-year degree students on a range of degree courses. Given my own academic and professional backgrounds, I taught a variety of literature and translation classes.
I also worked closely with students studying dual honours English and law, teaching them how to read legal documents in English, running speaking classes with them to help them employ English in professional situations, as well as classes where students analysed the representation of anglophone legal systems in popular culture. Furthermore, I taught a weekly three-hour lecture in French on cultural studies and the professional world, which was an excellent opportunity for me as a teacher to maintain practising my French skills in an academic setting. All these classes have helped me to broaden my own academic horizons, and to learn and teach about subjects that I hadn’t been introduced to in my own studies.
Albeit difficult at first to adapt to a new role in a new country, I quickly found my feet and I found that my new position is incredibly rewarding and challenges me sufficiently. My current position has also helped me gain perspective of my future career path. Seeing the engagement of my students in classes and their success has encouraged me to want to gain a more permanent position in higher education. Soon, I hope to be pursuing a PhD in France, specialising in comparative literature, so that I can become a higher education lecturer or researcher.
Advice to anyone wanting to pursue a career overseas
1. Research is key: Before committing to moving to a new country, spend some time there first to know if you feel safe, happy, and comfortable.
2. LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s search parameters allow you to search for any job in any country. Put on your profile that you’re actively searching for overseas positions as this will help recruiters find you.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask: There are opportunities for a semester or year abroad with most degrees. If you’re not sure how to go about it, speak to course leaders who can help guide you. Furthermore, the Study Abroad team at the university is incredible and were so supportive when I organised my placements. In the professional sphere, companies are becoming more global, speak to your managers to see where your position can take you. If you would like to read more about four students’ recent experiences of studying in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada, check out their blogs.
4. Network: Social media has groups dedicated to students and graduates for networking. This will allow you to gain contacts and pose any questions or worries you have about starting a career overseas.
5. Don’t let Brexit hinder your decision: With Brexit, many people worry about the bureaucratic obstacles you may face when going abroad: visas, social security, work permits and so on. While this can be stressful, it is so worthwhile going through it once you’re settled. Speak to people about their experiences relocating post-Brexit to ease any concerns.
If you’re interested in a career overseas, take a look at our continent-specific webpages and use Passport Career, an international database of careers information in 80+ countries and job vacancies, highlighted on those pages. Access it free as a Nottingham student or graduate by registering or logging in from one of our continent-specific webpages.
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