Alumni profile - Lara Conboy
There is a huge demand for language graduates. Not only are they able to show off their linguistic abilities, but they have also developed unique interdisciplinary skills, ranging from communication and project management, through to creative thinking and a high level of writing.
(French and German BA, 2019)
Why did you choose to study French and German at Queen Mary? Did you have a particular career path in mind?
I chose Queen Mary to study French and German because of the diverse area of London in which the university is situated. It is really close to central London but has parks, galleries, and music venues on your doorstep. I went to other London universities for their open days but was not welcomed as warmly as at Queen Mary; the students and staff made me feel instantly included and the modules sounded really engaging compared to the other, more traditional university modules. There was a buzz of diversity and I fell in love with the green surroundings of Mile End immediately.
I did not have a particular career in mind when first starting my undergraduate degree. My idea of becoming a translator arose quite late during my year abroad where I had lots of free time and wanted to spend it productively. Career events and panel talks from guest speakers are organised very early on at Queen Mary though, which gives students plenty of food for thought.
You never feel like you are alone or can’t reach out to someone. Lecturers went out of their way to help me where I needed extra support.
What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable and was there anything that surprised you in your studies?
I loved the fact that there were so many modules to choose from and Queen Mary doesn’t just offer the ‘traditional’-style modules of grammar, reading and writing, history and politics. We were able to study photography, film, art – so for a more diverse educational background focusing on creative things, this university is perfect.
I also really appreciated the close relationships I built with lecturers, especially my dissertation supervisor in final year, and my personal tutors throughout the whole degree. You never feel like you are alone or can’t reach out to someone. Lecturers went out of their way to help me where I needed extra support.
Were you involved in any extra-curricular activities while you were a student?
I was Social Secretary for the German Society in my final year of university, where I had the freedom to organise German film nights, Glühwein gatherings around Christmas, and ‘Year Abroad’ panel discussions for first and second year students. This was an awesome experience as I could improve my own organisational skills, while playing a crucial role in promoting languages at Queen Mary.
What was special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of your most memorable moments?
Honestly, my graduation was one of the best days of university – I spent a beautiful sunny day with my family and my best friends, celebrating what we had achieved together, and it was just amazing and quite emotional. I was able to thank my lecturers and have nice conversations with them as though I had been at Queen Mary for many, many years. I also loved helping at German workshops and the German Society events with like-minded and friendly people.
Can you describe your career path to date and your current role?
After my undergraduate degree, I went on to study Specialised Translation at UCL. Studying French and German and having some translation classes during my undergraduate degree, gave me a nice introduction into the world of translation and localisation.
I started working for LEGO as a German-speaking customer advisor and have now been promoted to Level 2 Consumer Specialist (within 10 months) which I am thrilled about. I am working with the whole German-speaking market (Germany, Switzerland and Austria) and manage complaints and more specific feedback via telephone, email and Live Chat. My team consists of people from all over the globe - France, Hungary and the Netherlands to name a few! I have been working for the translation team as a side project and thoroughly enjoy this.
How did you gain work experience in your field of interest while you were studying?
I did a three-month internship at a translation company called Language Line Solutions, based in Canary Wharf, London. There, I was trained up as a junior translation project manager, gaining insight into how to deliver a project, from first communicating with a client to assigning tasks to linguists, to delivering a project to the client. I also learnt how to use different machine translation applications which put me in amazing stead for the MSc in Translation.
How did your understanding and proficiency in French and German change and develop as a result of your degree?
During my first two years of university, my language skills were advanced, but I did not feel that I was a natural French speaker (I am native in German). After spending the year abroad in France, I felt completely fluent and at ease and all our classes were conducted in the target language during final year, so we were speaking in a high level of French.
My understanding of French and German grammar definitely improved as time went on; I always found grammar the most difficult part of learning languages – it is the more mathematical side of learning languages. However, the frequency and consistency of grammar classes really helped me to improve this.
What are some of the skills you gained through your degree that you use in your work today?
Communication! I am a natural extrovert/people-person, however, during my degree I really built up the confidence to put across my opinions and ideas in clear and concise ways. This is a skill that I need every single day as I liaise with teams across LEGO, customers, and my superiors.
I have also been able to gain extremely organised time managements skills through my university schedule being filled with classes, self-study time and extra-curricular activities and events.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
I am a freelance translator for an artist/designer. I also love reading fiction and non-fiction books in both French and German and watching lots of different movies ranging from black and white films to modern sci-fi movies. I am also a keen runner and cyclist when the weather isn’t terrible!
What would your advice be to students who are interested in studying Modern Languages?
Languages are becoming less and less popular from school to university level – this means there is a huge demand for language graduates. Not only are they able to show off their linguistic abilities, but they have also developed unique interdisciplinary skills, ranging from communication and project management, through to creative thinking and a high level of writing.
I would really recommend studying a language with another discipline such as Film, Business or Literature. A combination of subjects will put you in great stead for the world of work by giving you a diverse range of skills. Another crucial piece of advice is to really make the most of opportunities provided by the university, excursions and volunteering at workshops and events is so useful for future employers and shows you have a hands-on attitude and a passion for your subject.
This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Lara or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at firstname.lastname@example.org.