My name is Jonathan Patterson and I am a British Academy Post-doctoral Fellow in French at Oxford. In March 2015 I took part in a careers event for Year 11 and Sixth Formers jointly organized by two local schools in Oxford. I was asked to stand in for a colleague manning the ‘careers with modern languages’ stall. Armed with a stack of brochures from our Faculty office, and with a winsome smile, I set off to try and convince teenagers that studying modern languages at university opens a wide array of interesting careers. It was a thoroughly positive experience. I was paired with a graduate student in Spanish and together we fielded a range of questions. This made us remember what it was like to be a Year 11 student trying to figure out what A-levels to take, and what it would be like at university and beyond. I found that the students were on the whole very thoughtful. Many had already thought quite carefully about their options, but appreciated the opportunity to discuss these further with us in order to get an ‘inside view’.
I think that as early career academics we have much to offer in promoting our subject to teenagers. I found the careers fair particularly useful for affirming students who were already thinking of studying modern languages — although, as I’m all too well aware, there is much more work to be done in winning over others. Events like this are a good opportunity to learn how to dispel some of the hang-ups surrounding arts and humanities degrees, and to suggest a range of careers that might follow.