Former student Charlie studied at NCW from 2014 to 2018, and had a very keen interest in Modern Foreign Languages!
After completing his A-Levels in Spanish, English, Drama and Theatre Studies at NCW, Charlie went on to study BA (Hons) Spanish and Portuguese at Queen’s University in Belfast, in which he has graduated with a First Class degree!
We caught up with Charlie to find out about his experience at University following on from NCW.
What encouraged you to choose Queen’s University in Belfast?
“I liked the look of the course and it seemed to me, after having visited many universities, that it would be the most accessible out of all that I had seen. Studying in Northern Ireland meant that I had to get used to a lot of new things (accents, surroundings, banknotes, slower pace of life), whilst still having the same support structures that I would have studying in other parts of the UK.”
What feelings did you have about leaving NCW and moving on to University?
“Sad, because it felt like a very homely environment by the time I left. I had made friends there and it was very comfortable, but at the same time, I knew I was ready to leave and take the next step.”
Would you say that NCW helped prepare you for University? How?
“As well as equipping me with a great prior knowledge of Spanish, NCW helped me a lot with independent living skills. I was shocked when I moved to University seeing the amount of people who couldn’t prepare basic meals!”
How would you describe studying Modern Foreign Languages at NCW?
“Having the opportunity to study Languages at NCW was amazing! Studying Spanish one-to-one has been incredible, and an experience that I would never have in a mainstream school. In mainstream, I studied Spanish in the lower sets without accessible resources – just attending classes because I had to, and not enjoying it at all. However, studying Spanish at NCW and receiving such excellent teaching made me really want to continue with it, and so I have done!
Being in such small classes at NCW allowed me to increase my fluency in such a small amount of time, and the exchange between the College, IES Las Fuentes and the CRE ONCE Centre for the VI in Alicante were so useful in giving me friends in Spain to help me to improve even further. I realise that I have been in an extremely privileged situation to be taught in this way and I am so grateful for that because I appreciate that I have reached a level which many students wouldn’t be able to.
If you are doubting which subjects to study, I would seriously consider Languages as an option, even if you don’t know anything – it’s never a bad time to start!”
How would you describe your years and experience during University?
“Most degrees are three years long. Mine was four due to having a compulsory year abroad in the third year.
First year: Getting used to a new city, making new friends, exploring new places and adjusting myself and my lecturers to my accessibility needs.
Second year: Probably the year that I felt most comfortable with my studies and living environment, until the COVID-19 pandemic meant that I had to temporarily return to England.
Third year: Was meant to be my year abroad, but this was not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The university offered some online classes to go alongside independent study materials. I spent six weeks travelling in Portugal and Spain in the Summer of 2021 as I wanted to experience being in a native environment before going into my final year.
Fourth year: Stressful. The amount of work was immense, as well as very academically rigorous and research-intensive, but I worked hard, and ended-up graduating with a First Class degree, with the highest mark in Spanish language and two oral distinctions, so I could not be happier!”
Did you find anything difficult?
“As previously mentioned, the final year was difficult. It is a challenging year for any student due to the amount of work and constant deadlines. Whilst I was given extra time in exams and could request extra time on assessment submissions, keeping up with the amount of independent study expected whilst reading for essays and preparing for exams, was particularly hard due to the amount of visual strain and the extra time needed to keep up with the course alongside my peers.”
What was accessibility like?
“As I’ve said, I chose Queen’s University Belfast because I thought that, out of all the universities that I had visited, it seemed the most accessible. The majority of the time, I did not have issues and many of the staff were aware of my accessibility requirements. However, it was not consistent throughout my whole four years! Sadly, I got to one of my final exams and it was not made accessible. I communicated it immediately and they sought to prepare an accessible version of the exam paper whilst other students were taking the exam.”
Now that you’ve graduated, what are your plans? What are you hoping to go into?
“During my degree, I have developed an interest in human rights, particularly on an international level. I’m currently in the process of applying for internships and jobs in a variety of sectors where I can use my knowledge of many Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries and languages. These range from internships in Embassies, to jobs using Spanish language in various institutions. Keep your fingers crossed for me!”
What a wonderful achievement – well done Charlie! We look forward to hearing how you get on with your job hunting.