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Maggie McNeil-Smith (BA French 1998)


As a newly graduated mature student, being offered an exchange place as a Lectrice at Poitiers University, was a dream come true, as was being offered a permanent job working in the Maison des Langues. In 2003 I took and passed the CAPES exam, thereby becoming a French Civil Servant! Taking early retirement, my husband and I headed to Canada in order to research a book he was writing. This also gave us the opportunity to drive across Canada from British Columbia to Ontario before heading back to the UK and the Isle of Wight which is where we now live.

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

Initially I chose the University of Reading because I originally wanted to study Linguistics but I finally opted for French instead and have never regretted my choice neither of subject nor alma mater, close to where I was living at the time.

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

Without doubt the excellence of the French Faculty teaching staff, whose legendary names and expertise will live with me for the rest of my life, as will the memories of my fellow students, some of the nicest people I have ever met, so kind to someone of my advancing years.

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

Don't be put off by age. As a mature student I was so lucky to be welcomed and made to feel part of the family, so to speak. I would strongly advise any student beginning their studies at Reading to work hard and play hard and, above all, ENJOY a fabulous experience.

If applicable, how did you benefit from spending a year abroad / a year in industry?

The year I spent at Rennes 2 University was amazing. Not only were the teaching staff utterly inspiring but the students were very kind and friendly The social and cultural life was also wonderful with the renowned Music Festival and exploratory trips out with friends to the legendary Forest of Broceliande and elsewhere in Britanny and nearby Normandy.

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

Happily retired and living on the Isle of Wight. We came here from Canada where I was so homesick that after five years we decided to come back to the UK and have never regretted our decision.

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

Teaching is a wonderful experience, especially if your students are university material.

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

Reading helped me realise a dream: to live and work in France and to achieve not only academic success there but also to meet and work with some of the most renowned French university professors who were so supportive and helpful. I feel honoured to be have been given this opportunity.

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

Go for it and don't be put off if you are not successful the first interview you attend. There are plenty of opportunities for bright, dedicated and determined young people out there, be it in the UK or elsewhere.

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

The University of Reading will stay with me for the rest of my life as an extremely happy memory and a wonderful experience. My favourite memory is without a doubt the French Department teaching staff, who were wonderfully kind and patient and, above all, inspirational. Might I mention three professors who, sadly though no longer with us, affected not only my career path but also my way of life. I remain eternally grateful to Professor Peter Noble, Professor Wolfgang Van Emden and Professor Gerald Strickland. Their inspiration remains with me to this day.

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