Sitting down once again to try and wade my way through more heavily worded critiques of a variety of literature I care very little for, I once again ask myself why, at the age of 18, I decided that a university education in Modern Languages was for me.
At that time, they said “Go study languages, so many doors will just open for you, the world will literally be your oyster”. Why is it then that four years later, I am very tempted to return to my school and demand my money back? Is it the illusion I was sold that after 3 years of intensive language training and a year abroad I would be a fully fledged linguist, able to communicate with all manner of people in any business setting? Already fully certain that I want to work in the ski industry, I have become astutely aware that whilst my good conversational level of French and German will almost certainly come in handy, the nearly £4000 a year I have paid to stress about essays which account for 70% of my degree, almost certainly will not.
The thing is, we are sold this illusion that “university will prepare you for the wider world”. We will develop analytical skills, partake in clubs and societies, become fluent in multiple fluent languages (insert other skill here) and employers will be begging for us to work for them, well maybe not quite.
At the moment, I think I am on track for a 2:2, not something that I am especially proud to admit, given the fees I am paying. However I cannot understand why I am paying approx. £150 a week for lessons which simply do not inspire. Is it my own fault for not being passionate enough about my subject? Or is it not understanding the product I was sold before signing the contract to buy it? The impression I was under, when I signed up for a Modern Languages Studies BA was that I would be studying LANGUAGES-the key word in my degree. Whilst understood that there would be elements of essay writing, I did not quite realise that it would only make up for one third of the entire annual credits.
These “content module” credits are supposedly meant to be a form of cultural enrichment, but whilst it is all very well and good to know about issues such as immigration, gender power struggles and 19th century poetry, it is not teaching me about “real life” culture in France for when I go and visit.
On my year abroad last year, I was not equipped with the conversational etiquette needed for a casual conversation with French people my own age, nor, as a matter of fact with Germans. We were not warned that generally French people are not quite xenophobic, but a little hard to mix with. Breaking into a friendship group is the hardest thing you can try and do as a foreigner, and when your starting line is “how do you feel about gay marriage” or “what do you think about the current political climate of Europe at the moment” you are going to be considered a bit of a dick.
What I am trying to say, in a rather roundabout way, is that given the chance to study language again, I would just have spread my wings, gone abroad, and worked in a bar, whilst actually earning money and learning social skills. Throwaway the “flashy” BA in French with German and become an electrician instead. People need an electrician or plumber more than they need an analysis of Baudelaire.