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MLC Graduations - The Exeter Languages and Cultures Blog

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MLC Graduations

Where Modern Languages can still take you: Catching up on Graduations in 2022
In June 2022 teaching staff in Modern Languages finally caught up with our graduates from 2020. Alessia, Alice and I spent several joyful hours with those who had studied Italian as part of their degree, most often alongside a range of other languages. It felt like a long time since that dreadful March 2020 when we had last seen them, just before life as we knew it was blasted apart by the COVID-19 pandemic. In some ways, at least as far as education was concerned, that cohort of students were the lucky ones. They had nearly made it through university without anything resembling an online lesson. It was the year after that we were really to descend into the madness of endless hours on Zoom, with cameras off or on, wondering who on earth that student using their Mum’s Zoom account was. Nonetheless, what characterized those early days in March 2020 was total disorientation for students and staff, not the ideal experience just as you are about to embark on final exams. The sudden intimacy of seeing students or staff you have always seen in a neutral classroom sitting in their home environment, family figures and pets often hovering around us, altered the chemistry of how we related as humans. Rather than driving us apart, it brought us closer, strengthening our usual bond with students, and explains in part why we were so moved to see them in person two years later.
In the graduation address, invited speaker, alumnus and sports commentator Rob Walker entertained us with his breathless recreation of the Tokyo mens’ 100 m commentary. But he also reminded us that what is most important about university are the friendships you forge there; friendships that can last you a lifetime and carry you through all life’s major events. How many of us have fallen back on those friendships these last two years? I certainly have, and I hope for our students that they get to keep those bonds too. One of the nicest things about meeting up again is to see how many are still in close contact, or even still living together.
‘So, what are your plans for the… ehm… summer?’. Normally as staff we tend to be quite cautious, in the graduation get-together that follows right after final exams, in enquiring about future plans. No-one wants to add to the high anxiety that often accompanies the big question: What am I going to do with my life? At that age I felt like what I did next would determine everything, and forgot the maxim that life, if we’re lucky, is long and offers us many potential new turns, and even u-turns. This time, however, not only did we meet old friends, but different people. These graduates were forged through two years of experience and experimentation in the ‘real world’ during a moment of global crisis. It had clearly marked them and shaped them dramatically. Sometimes we stood open-mouthed at their maturity and confidence, but it was the diversity of their work choices that reminded us why Modern Languages is such a positive door-opener. The fields of work our 2020 graduates are currently engaged include: recruitment, financial services, communications for Visa, data analysis, interior decorating for an international company, subtitling for ITV, further study in translation, but also in speech and language therapy. It is encouraging to know that at least seven of the eighteen students we met with are going on to teach Modern Languages in schools, often introducing Italian onto the curriculum or via a film club. We can’t wait to meet the 2021 graduates! Watch this space for an update.
Danielle Hipkins (with Alice Farris and Alessia Risi)

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