Stand out from the crowd with a language
Take a language at degree level and you could find yourself travelling, discovering a new culture and learning a valuable life skill that’s in demand with many employers.
“Studying a language degree is an adventure,” says Dr Jo McCormack, principal lecturer in languages at Nottingham Trent University. “You’ll be able to immerse yourself in other cultures and see the world from a different perspective.
“Studying languages involves lots of skills – writing, reading, listening, speaking; translating, intercultural skills; and knowledge of foreign cultures to name but a few.
“Language students typically spend six to twelve months studying or working abroad, improving their language skills and experiencing another culture, so there are plenty of opportunities to experience other cultures, travel the globe and open your eyes to a world of opportunity.
“If you study Italian, you’ll have access to one of the richest European cultural traditions and to the language of fashion, industrial design, architecture, film, music and opera. Or what about Spanish? For thousands of years, Spain has been one of the cultural centres of Europe with an extraordinary artistic heritage ready for you to explore. Look further afield to China, and you’ll be studying one of the world's oldest cultures.
“We live in an increasingly global world, where we are more likely to travel, study, work and live abroad, work for multinational corporations, or have foreign colleagues and customers. Only 6% of the world’s population speak English with UK businesses acknowledging that they need to fill positions that specifically require foreign language skills.
“Studying a language will help you stand out from the crowd; you’ll develop the language skills and international experience and knowledge that employers are looking for.
“If you haven’t studied a language previously, don’t worry – it’s not too late to learn. Many universities offer the opportunity to study languages from scratch, so you don’t always need to have studied languages at GCSE or A-level.”
Get your hands dirty with history
If you’re thinking of studying history at university, don’t presume you’ll spend three years with your nose in a book.
“Imagine standing in the middle of a battlefield, observing the terrain to establish exactly where the competing armies stood at dawn, just before combat,” says Dr Kevin Gould, a principal lecturer in history at Nottingham Trent University. “Or spending time in a prestigious archive, tracking down important documentary evidence relating to your historical subject. How about writing tour guides for the Holocaust Museum or cataloguing weapons of torture in the dungeons at a medieval castle? Each of these activities, and many more, are possible on a history degree.
“History syllabuses are broad and varied. Students always say that one of the most exciting things about a history degree is that you will undoubtedly encounter past events, relations and spaces that you have never had the opportunity to previously consider.”
Not only do you get the opportunity to research the time periods that truly fascinate you, you also develop skills that will make you stand out – the kind of research, analytical, communication and teamwork skills that employers love.
Study the literature you love
Studying English won’t leave you with a pile of great novels and no job. On the contrary, you’ll pick up plenty of transferable skills that will look impressive on your CV.
“Employers in many fields recognise the skills that English graduates bring to their organisations and value those graduates as considerate, tactful, and effective colleagues,” says Dr Jenni Ramone, English course leader at Nottingham Trent University.
“A degree in English literature is evidence of your ability to communicate with precision and care. Your degree will train you to be alert to the nuances in language so that you can be diplomatic in conversation, engaging in public speaking, persuasive in essays, and rigorous in reports and meetings.
“Written and spoken communication skills are essential to a range of popular career destinations including publishing and writing; teaching and training; PR and marketing; human resources and management; public-facing roles in local government and arts and culture.
“Students of English literature frequently say that their degree has ‘opened their eyes’ to the world around them. You will have the opportunity to do lots of reading and research, and much of this reading will include texts, contexts and authors that you may never have heard of before.
“Most English degrees include literature from the very earliest written texts (Beowulf, Chaucer) up to the very most recently published work. You will read texts from the UK, but you could also read texts from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Africa, and the Caribbean.
“Not only is the content designed to inspire you, it is also intended to offer you the opportunity to make your own choices. You are expected to undertake a combination of set reading, guided reading, and independent research: your ideas in response to the texts, and your arguments are important to your lecturers.”
If you decide to study for a degree, the subject you go for is a very personal choice. But if you’re interested in the humanities, don’t rule them out because you’re concerned about where your subject will take you. The skills, creativity and innovative thinking that you’ll learn could take you far.