My name is Hollie Chappell and I’m just coming to the end of the first year of my BA (Hons) English Language and TESOL. As part of the employability programme run by the Department of Applied Linguistics, I recently attended a talk by Dr Walter Brooks who is Head of Education for the British Council, Wales.
According to his bio for the talk, ‘Dr Brooks was born in Patagonia, in Argentina, where they speak both Spanish and Welsh. He moved to Buenos Aires to study languages and translation at the University of Buenos Aires. His passion for languages an interest in his family roots led him to come to Wales to learn Welsh. After undertaking a range of Welsh for Adults courses, he was offered a position as a Research Assistant at Cardiff University, working on two projects funded by the Leverhulme Trust studying the sociology of the Welsh language in the communities in Patagonia. He then did a multidisciplinary PhD working with the Schools of History, Archaeology and Religion and the School of Welsh at Cardiff University. The study focused on the role of Welsh language newspapers in the Welsh Community in Patagonia.’ (biography notes for the talk, 2020)
What was interesting was that not only was he fluent in Welsh, English and Spanish, I noticed him conversing in German with another lecturer before his talk began – a truly inspirational linguist! I couldn’t wait to hear him talk.
After learning to speak Welsh, a host of opportunities came his way. Notably, Dr Brooks was employed by the British Council in 2014 as a coordinator for a series of cultural events related to the arrival of the first Welsh settlers in Patagonia. He now works as Head of Education at British Council Wales, helping the Welsh education sector link with counterparts in different parts of the world, and ensuring that examples of best practice from Wales are shared with the British Council’s global network.
I didn’t know a lot about British Council Wales, and so this was the perfect opportunity to find out more. In promoting and showcasing what Wales has to offer in both cultural and educational spheres, the British Council Wales’ mission is to enrich the lives of those living in Wales, as well as abroad. They attempt to connect people across the globe, whether they are students and teachers, academics and artists, but always aiming to develop skills and encourage the exchange of ideas.
What I also didn’t know was that The British Council Wales works prominently in the education sector, working to provide Welsh people with skills and opportunities to succeed in a career in Wales, or internationally. They do this by supporting the internationalisation of Welsh Universities, colleges and schools. Additionally, they offer jobs for people in Wales to work in the UK or abroad. This interested me greatly as with my degree scheme, it is a common misconception that in order to find work, we must go international. However, Dr Brooks indicated that through the British Council, jobs are available for those with a passion for language here in the UK, as well as all over the world.
Dr Brooks explained some of the programmes that the British Council has already put in place for students. The British Council’s programme Global Wales Discover, is funded by the Welsh Government and by Global Wales. This programme allows Welsh undergraduates to study, volunteer and work around the world by supplying Welsh Universities with funding. The Global Wales Discover programme gives students have the opportunity to spend from 2 to 8 weeks in countries like Argentina, USA, Canada, Sweden, Belgium, India, Greece and more – I was excited to hear about this amazing opportunity, as it would give me the chance to expand my skill set and gain work experience while exploring one of those wonderful countries! As well as relating to my degree, this is an extraordinary opportunity which would allow me to gain work experience before I go out into the world of work after my degree.
Most importantly, Dr Brooks expressed how crucial it is to have a career in something you are passionate about. As Dr Brooks detailed the various stages in his career: from studying languages and translation in Buenos Aires to doing a multidisciplinary PhD, working with the Schools of History, Archaeology and Religion and the School of Welsh at Cardiff University, it is clear that we should not be afraid to be open to variety and opportunity and to follow our dreams. Dr Brooks reinforced the idea that we should not be afraid of changing our minds about what we do; that is, it is a great idea to be adaptable. It’s easy to think that what we are working towards now in our degrees will be what we end up doing. However, there are also so many opportunities out there for us to embrace that we often end up doing something we might not have thought of when we were at university – embracing experience is key!
I’d like to say a big thank you to Dr Walter Brooks for taking the time to give us such a fascinating employability talk. It was inspiring and enlightening.
Thank you, as well, to the Department of Applied Linguistics for organising these events!