Why did you choose the University of Bristol and your subject?
Although I knew from a young age that I wanted to pursue a career in law, I chose to study French and Italian as I knew that the skill of speaking two foreign languages was not a skill I wanted to lose.
I specifically chose to study joint honours because I had studied both at A Level and it seemed a natural progression to study the two at university.
What are the best things about studying Modern Languages here?
There is a huge variety of modules available that means there really is something for everyone. By the time I reached final year I had chosen to specialise in medieval literature, both in French and Italian.
The small classes meant that you really could focus on your desired subject area and peer discussions were just that much more fruitful.
What have you gained from your work placement or year abroad?
From my experience, employers are always impressed by the independence and resilience that embarking on a year abroad shows you as a candidate to have.
I was asked a number of times why I chose to study in Geneva and Bologna in interviews: it provides the panel with something slightly different to talk about that other candidates may not have.
Although it seems the norm whilst at university when you’re surrounded by linguists 24/7, it’s good to remember once in a while that it is rare skill to be fluent in one or two foreign languages, and one that many employers find attractive.
How do you think your degree has helped you to fulfil your career plans?
After leaving Bristol, I went on to complete the Graduate Diploma Law (GDL) and the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) to become a barrister.
I am currently completing pupillage with a specialist Family Law chambers in London. Although languages are not seen as a direct or common route into law (with most conversion course students having studied history or politics), law is an increasingly international career option.
Many city solicitors firms will offer secondments to other countries where your second and/or third language(s) will be an invaluable contribution to the firm and its work.
As a barrister, it is my job to be a good communicator and to answer questions from judges, which can be complete curveballs, with relative ease. I found that the oral classes I attended as part of the course helped enormously with impromptu questioning and with the ability to speak about a range of topics in front of my peers.
I also joined the Debating Union and the Bar Society to gain further practice of oral argument and public speaking.
The analytical skills I gained as a linguist are fundamental to my career: we are paid to draft well-written and grammatically-accurate documents for clients and for the court. It seems a trite point but it is true nonetheless that an excellent grasp of language will set you in good stead for a career in law.
What has been your biggest achievement as a student at Bristol?
My biggest achievement at Bristol was undoubtedly navigating the Italian part of my year abroad. Having had the luxury of living in Geneva for the six previous months, where the university had organised everything for its Erasmus students, the quotidian chaos of Italy came as quite the shock.
As I said above, on a course where all of us go abroad, we take it for granted what a big achievement it actually is to uproot yourself and move to a different country, immerse in a different language and adjust to the quirks of a different culture.
Samara Brackley, BA French and Italian (2014)
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