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David Parke, Modern Languages, Cambridge University

7 min, 41 sec read
10:30 AM | 6 January 2015
by Adam Oldfield
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David is in his final year studying modern languages at the University of Cambridge after spending his year abroad at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, and is looking for work in PR, advertising or media after he graduates later this year. He has been heavily involved in the comedy scene in Cambridge, having been president of the Cambridge Impronauts, and also enjoys presenting and producing his own radio show on Cam FM, Cambridge’s student radio station.

You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn, or drop him an email.

Describe your journey to where you are now

My first foray into the world of media and communication was when I studied media studies at school. Our coursework included rebranding a popular TV series, designing our own magazine for a niche demographic, and producing a short animated film. It was around this time that I started playing about with Photoshop and Premiere Pro and realised I loved having the ability to tell a story through an image or a film.

"I worked on a number of accounts, including Facebook, Virgin Atlantic and Instagram."

Later I was offered a place at Cambridge to study modern languages, where a friend of mine suggested that I should take a look at advertising and PR as potential career options. On his advice I did several weeks of work experience at Blue Rubicon that summer in order to get a flavour of the PR industry. During those weeks I worked on a number of accounts, including Facebook, Virgin Atlantic and Instagram, and I was thrilled with the amount of input I was allowed to have. I loved the environment, the work and the people, and I would be very keen to get into the communications industry after I graduate this summer.

Tell us about why you chose to study modern languages at Cambridge?

I started learning German and French in my first year of secondary school and from that moment I was completely hooked. For me it’s all about communication – languages not only give you the opportunity to interact with millions of new people from around the world, but they also allow you to see the world through the eyes of a totally different culture.

”Languages not only give you the opportunity to interact with millions… but they also allow you to see the world through the eyes of a totally different culture."

It sounds cliché but you really do find yourself being steered by the language you’re speaking, whether it’s being more precise and logical in German, or subtly conveying opinions on things by using lots of diminutive forms in Italian and Spanish.

Although I’d thought about doing something vocational at university like law or journalism, I wanted to keep my options open after I graduated. After doing some research I discovered that modern language graduates are hired in a wide variety of different job sectors and have some of the highest employability rates.

Another incentive for studying languages at university was the prospect of being able to study abroad on the Erasmus Scheme, funded by the European Commission. I have always loved travelling and this was the icing on the cake!

What was it like studying in Berlin for a year?

How can I sum up Berlin in one word? – incredible. The prospect of studying abroad for a year can be daunting – new surroundings, new culture, having to make friends in a foreign language – but Berlin felt like home after just a few months.

The city is unlike any other in Europe: consistently ranked as one of the hottest cities for startups, it is full of young people who work hard and play harder. Berlin is great for sources of inspiration too, and with so many unique locations and events it is never hard to get fresh new ideas for projects.

In your spare time do you have projects to keep you busy?

I’ve recently been involved with organising an event called the Selwyn Snowball, an annual black-tie ball held in Cambridge. With almost 1,000 guests, the event requires a lot of preparation and our committee worked on the plans for 12 months. The theme of the ball was Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”, and so we transformed the venue into a magical wintry scene, complete with a Scandinavian tavern, ice bar, and live reindeer.

"In my spare time I produce and present my own radio show on Cam FM, Cambridge’s student radio station."

In my spare time I also produce and present my own radio show on Cam FM, Cambridge’s student radio station. The show is a satirical current affairs programme and the content is a mixture of news, interviews, games and music. I normally have one or two guests with me each week in order to be able to get a tongue-in-cheek discussion going about recent news and events. I have always enjoyed getting involved with comedy at university and having creative control over a radio show is a great way to combine comedy with student media.

Which company would you love to work for after graduating and why?

I have always been a great believer in keeping an open mind with regard to career specialisms – why restrict yourself when you can broaden your horizons and try lots of different things? For that reason I would love to work for Weber Shandwick as they offer a vast range of speciality areas, including country branding, healthcare, and entertainment. The international aspect is also very important to me and the fact that Weber Shandwick has 125 offices across five continents is a big plus in my book.

I would also love to work for Blue Rubicon as I thoroughly enjoyed my time there on work experience. I was given plenty of opportunities to contribute ideas to various projects and my suggestions were always taken seriously. There was an excellent sense of team spirit in the office and everyone seemed genuinely passionate about the work they were doing – definitely the kind of environment that I would love work in after graduating.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced so far?

Organising the Selwyn Snowball in Cambridge and making sure everything ran smoothly on the night would definitely be up there! I made the decision to apply for the position on the committee while I was still in Berlin, meaning I had to hit the ground running when I returned to the UK.

My role involved the organisation of drink stock, bar staff and the bars themselves, which were all crucial elements of the event. At the beginning of the planning process I managed to secure high level sponsorship deals with several companies, including Absolut, Molson Coors and Jägermeister, and liaised with them thereafter on behalf of the committee. After drawing up an initial budget and negotiating prices with the companies, my next task was to work out the logistics of the drinks service on the night. As a side project I coordinated the design, delivery and set-up of a 3 metre-long ice bar and two ice sculptures, which tied in with the theme of the event.

On the night itself I managed the bar workers in their duties and executed contingency plans when faced with obstacles, such as running out of a particular product. All in all it was a fantastic evening and an excellent taster of event planning and management.

Who would you love to share a desk with?

I think I’d have to go with Mel and Sue from the Great British Bake Off. For me, I’d want to be sharing a desk with people whom I could bounce ideas off and who were good at giving feedback, and I think they’d be ideal for this. As a comedy duo they’re witty and spontaneous, and always know how to keep up morale when the going gets tough. The one drawback is that the office snacks would probably disappear fairly quickly!

Sell yourself. Why should someone hire you once finishing uni?

With the growth of social and digital media across the world, individuals with skills in multiple languages are an increasingly valuable asset for multinational companies, particularly in terms of their public relations. I am fluent in German and proficient in Russian and Dutch, with a proven facility to acquire and master languages in a short space of time.

"As well as having a broad range of creative talents I can use my experience of other cultures to understand an increasingly varied market."

As well as having a broad range of creative talents I can use my experience of other cultures to understand an increasingly varied market. I am motivated, diligent and make a point of staying up-to-date with current trends in social media and online communications.

As part of the radio programme that I produce and present, I am required to keep up-to-date with current affairs, and through my work on the Selwyn Snowball I have a proven track record of identifying and negotiating with key partners to produce practical outcomes in event planning and management. I have also sought and held positions of responsibility on both my college’s student council and the committee of the Cambridge University Improvised Comedy Society.

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