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Ellen Setterfield (BA (Hons) French and English 2010)


I joined the University of Reading to study French and English in 2006, fresh out of school and with no game plan beyond studying two subjects that I enjoyed and was good at. I studied at Universite Rennes 2 during my year abroad and it was there that I started to develop an interest in teaching English as a foreign language, although even then I don't think I ever dreamed that a year after graduating I would be moving to Russia, and that two years later I would be calling Moscow 'home'. 

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading? 

I've always been a country girl at heart and so one of the things that attracted me to Reading was the site itself - after all, how many universities can boast of having a lake on campus? On the academic side, Reading had a great reputation, as one of the first universities to incorporate a compulsory year abroad into their foreign languages degrees, and an attractive range of modules to choose from.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading? 

The University of Reading provided an amazing environment for me to grow, develop, and mature. I was able to move out of my comfort zone and feel more independent, whilst still having a background support system.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies? 

Simply put: work hard, play hard. At university you have the most incredible opportunities to meet people, to get involved in things, and to try new hobbies - opportunities that you won't necessarily have after you graduate. It might seem too early to think about it, but remember that employers see involvement as a really positive thing, and work experience or participation in a student society might make all the difference when you're out on the job market after you finish university.

What are you up to now? How did you get there? 

Immediately after graduating I spent 5 months working as Chaplaincy Assistant at the university, during which I took 5 weeks off to take the Trinity CertTESOL. I then spent another 5 months working on a temporary contract for a language school company based in Oxford, where I worked in their Head Office. Now, I work as an English teacher for International House in Russia. My students range from 8 years old through to adults, and from almost non-existent English to near native-level speakers. I also am a private tutor, teaching French, and during my summer breaks I work in activities management at summer schools in the UK. My plan is currently to gain as much experience as possible before moving towards starting my own school.

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

My year spent studying abroad was a great basis for the job I do now, not least because it gave me my first experience of what it is like to live in a different country and to be completely immersed in that culture. If your course gives you the opportunity to study or do a work placement abroad, even if it's just for a term, definitely take it! Get to know some of the international students - Reading attracts students from all over the world and it can be a great way to widen your horizons without even going anywhere. Learn a foreign language: even if the number of people studying them is in decline, the demand for them when it comes to the job market certainly isn't. It doesn't matter if you're not fluent, even a few basic phrases can be helpful.

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path? 

I honestly believe that my degree from Reading has got me where I am today. Aside from the academic knowledge and the ability to speak another language, Reading taught me to be confident, independent, and to aim for what I want. 

Do you have any top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

Be ambitious, be driven, and know what you want. Attend the careers fairs on campus, take some copies of your CV with you, and don't be afraid to talk to people. Find out what they do, how they feel about it, and how they got into the area. Get some work experience. Be proactive about applying for jobs, and don't leave it all until after your finals. Many of the graduate schemes have early closing dates, so bear this in mind if you're hoping to get a place on one of them.

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

The University of Reading will always hold a warm place in my heart, not least because I feel it is where I truly became 'me'. I loved walking around the lake in summer, wandering through the campus in the snow and feeling as if I were in Narnia, eating Sabine's legendary Soup Lunches at the Chaplaincy Centre, and taking part in RUDS summer Shakespeare performances.

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