Q&A with Kate Samways

Kate has just graduated from the University of Cardiff with a degree in French and Italian.

She is now about to start a PG Diploma in Broadcast Journalism which is something that has always been of great interest to her. Here she talks about her favourite content modules and what she enjoyed about them the most.

Why did you choose to do French and Italian?

I originally enrolled to do French and Language Studies (linguistics) as a degree but I picked up Italian because all humanities students at Cardiff have to do three subjects in their first year. I loved Italian so much I decided to change onto French and Italian instead of French and Language Studies which then meant I could go to France and Italy on my Year Abroad as well which was absolutely awesome!

Are you originally from Cardiff?

No, I actually come from Birmingham! I’ve managed to lose my accent though. I work as a student ambassador with Routes into Languages and I’ve spent today in a school in Pontypridd so I think I’ve picked up a slight Welsh twinge!

So what made you choose Cardiff?

I choose Cardiff because I’d heard the music scene in Cardiff was really good which appealed to me. I visited lots of universities but I felt at home when I went to visit Cardiff so that’s why I chose it.

What content modules did you do in your first year?

In my first year I did a module on the geography and politics of France. We talked about the parts of the economy e. g. the farming side, and it was very factually based. For the assessment we had to choose a topic and write an essay about that aspect of French society.  I also did an Italian history module, which was the most interesting module I’ve ever done. I didn’t do GCSE or A-level history but I picked it up in first year because we had to do it. We looked at Mussolini, the First and Second World Wars and the Mafia.

What did you enjoy learning about the most in the Italian history module?

The Mafia. There are so many films like Goodfellas and you hear so much about the Mafia, I loved actually studying it and seeing how it came about, why it existed and where it comes from. It makes you think of things in a very different way.

Was writing history essays difficult as you hadn’t done them before?

Yes, but not in a negative way. There was a lot of support with essay writing particularly in the first year so I was able to learn how to write history essays but it was probably a bit harder for me to learn than someone who had done History at GCSE level as I didn’t even know how to quote from a book!

What final year modules did you choose?

I chose Italian cinema which was a more in depth version of European cinema I had taken in my second year. I studied La vita èbella by Roberto Benigni.It’s set in a Nazi War Camp but it’s got a different spin on how you can look at a Nazi War Camp, they set it as a game and it sounds a bit weird but it’s a really good tragicomic movie and my favourite! For my French module I chose European Translation.

What was different about the European Translation module?

We looked at translation from the view that it isn’t just the translation of language but also the translation of ideas. You had to really open your mind to a French man’s opinions that translation was a series of symbolic observations. So for example, he had the ideology that being born could be called translation as you translate from a foetus into a human being, it was really interesting!

How were your modules assessed?

They were two semesters long so they were either assessed by two essays of around 2500 words or by an exam. If they were assessed by an exam as well that was in either January or June.

Did you look into the content modules that you could study at university before applying?

I didn’t actually. I looked into the ratio of language study to culture units and I knew I wanted to study them 50/50 but I didn’t really look into the content.

What was your class size like?

In first year there were about 50/60 people in a lecture and then in second year we were in classes no bigger than 30 and the class size was even smaller in final year with about 15 people in a class.

What did you enjoy the most from your degree?

This might sound a bit geeky and sad but I actually enjoyed all bits of my whole degree. I used to really look forward to my translation class and then to my Italian cinema class, I just loved it all.

Is there one particular moment or memory that sticks out?

Definitely from my Year Abroad. In Venice, I lived with a crazy Italian man who worked as a critic so he got lots of free tickets for shows and plays. I found this concert I really wanted to see, a UNESCO classical music one, and made a deal with him that if I could go and see it then I’d write the review for it. He said yes so I went along and when I picked up the envelope with my free tickets in, there was one for the after party too! I was astounded by the quality of the concert so I couldn’t miss the chance to mingle with the famous musicians back stage so I went along, picked up a glass of champagne, and started chatting to people! It was a really memorable night and so much fun.

Why did you choose to do a diploma in broadcast journalism?

I worked at a radio station when I was 16 and loved it so it’s always been in the back of my mind. My mum gave me really good advice when choosing what to study at university; she said you’ll be there for at least 3, maybe 4 years so you should choose something you love and enjoy doing which for me was French. I did some bits and bobs on the student radio and community radio whilst I was at university and really enjoyed it which made me want to go into journalism.

Will your languages come in useful?

Definitely. As I speak other languages there are so many more opportunities available to me. I can be an international journalist on a radio station abroad or work for the BBC as a foreign correspondent in France, Italy or even Quebec! When I was interviewed the panel were very interested in the fact that I studied languages and it helped me get onto the course. Languages show you can communicate with people an essential requisite for a journalist. My ultimate goal is to be a producer and languages will help me get up there.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about studying languages at university?

I’d say if you’ve got a passion for languages then go for it. You’re at uni for 3-4 years so make sure you’re there doing something you enjoy. Languages are great because they give you a really varied day. One day it’s translation, the next it’s Italian cinema, then French grammar, then you read a book, it’s very varied.

Can you sum up language study in one word?

Variety.

Languages give you great variety