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Marion Grace Woolley (BA Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies 2002)

Biography

Left Reading, started working in the Voluntary Sector after travelling around Australia for a year. Helped develop Rwanda’s first Dictionary of Sign Language with VSO, published in 2009. Went freelance as an international development consultant. Led the development of Armenia’s first national strategies for Policy & Advocacy and Fundraising in Disability. Moved back to Rwanda in 2014 to set up a consulting firm. Also wrote several novels and became a published author.

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

Originally I was planning to take a gap year, but the course I wanted to do only ran once every couple of years at the time. They made me an offer, there was nowhere else in the country I could do it, seemed silly to refuse.

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

I was on Bulmershe campus, which was a satellite of Reading’s main Whiteknights campus. It was like living in a small village, a community of people who all knew each other and hung out at the same bars.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?Street theatre performance on Reading High Street

Enjoy yourself. You get three years to be an undergrad. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, almost as much as you’ll learn from books. Embrace your mistakes, live every minute of it.

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

I currently run an international development company in Rwanda. How I got here is still something I’m trying to figure out. Kigali is a fabulous city, very green and safe. In between all of that I started writing fiction and my next release is due out this year (2015). I’m excited about that. I’ve been writing seriously for about six years now and this is the book and the publisher I’m most proud of so far: Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran.

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

In international development: Get volunteering! INGOs are looking for experience in the field, organisations like VSO are a fantastic way to start gaining that experience.Waterstones signing at booQfest Northampton 2012

In writing: Don’t write what you know, write what you love. You need a lot of love to make it to 100,000 words. Get inspired about something, then sit down at the keyboard for a long time – and I don’t mean Twitter.

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

The TAEDS course was perhaps the only one in the country that offered the opportunity to combine two loves: theatre and sign language. A niche market. The course was taught bilingually, so my sign language improved hugely. I later worked in the Deaf Community before studying Deaf People as Victims of Crime in the British Legal System for my MA. Without all that, I’d never have been involved in the Sign Language Dictionary project in Rwanda all those years later. It was a good springboard for my interests.

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

Sadly, the employment climate in the UK isn’t great (hence I’m in Africa). Don’t get down on yourself, and don’t expect to find your dream job right off the bat. There’s Fancy dress at Bulmershe campus bar (in the top hat) more to living than working, and it’s through living you’ll find the things that interest you and meet the people who will give you a career break. Get out there, explore the world.

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

The greatest lesson I learned was from our Physical Theatre tutor Shane Irwin: “The floor is your friend.” Don’t be afraid to fall.

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