17 June 2019

My UEA Story: Rachel Launay

Rachel Launay, French and German linguistics graduate, speaks about her time at UEA, and how it led her to working for the British Council.


“With hard work you can be anybody you want to be”

What were your career aspirations when you joined UEA – did you know what you wanted to do?


I knew I wanted to work with languages, which is why I studied French and German with Linguistics. At first I wanted to be a translator or interpreter, but changed my mind while at UEA. After completing the final year interpreting module I decided that this wasn’t for me, so I was unsure about my career when I first left.

How did you get to where you are now? Was there anything that particularly helped?


In 1990 I trained to be an EFL teacher and went overseas for 15 years. I started working for the British Council in 1996 and have been with them ever since. Several of my posts have been helped by my French and German, but in the case of my current role; ‘Country Director Germany’, German was essential.

The best thing about my job is…


Using German on a daily basis. Being able to communicate with senior stakeholders in their own language builds bridges and creates a more collaborative, intercultural working environment. With the UK having triggered article 50 to leave the EU, there has never been a more important time for British nationals to demonstrate their open-mindedness and desire to interact in other languages and cultures.

"The teaching was excellent and full immersion.  I still have good friends from UEA who did the same joint honours language course who use their languages - for work and life."


The biggest challenge in my job is…


Working in Germany post-Brexit and keeping the view /perceptions of the UK strong.

What does it take to do your job (skills, strengths, etc)?


Behaviours: connecting with others effectively across cultures and languages, setting the direction for strategy, creating a shared purpose and vision. Skills: German language, leadership experience, change management, people management, coaching approach, resilience, and excellent communication skills – both verbal and written in both languages.

What do you think sets you apart from your colleagues?


Experience of the world beyond Germany and beyond Europe. Embracing change, not fearing it. Believing in life long employability and not lifelong employment.

What personal achievement are you most proud of?


Always looking for the next challenge, not being afraid to change, and keeping my languages at a very good working level – C1 – for the last 30 years.

Where are you heading next?


I hope to be a Country Director in another country.


"I am a senior manager in a global organisation, using the skills I learnt at UEA on a daily basis."

How did UEA prepare you for your career/help you make decisions?


Language learning was key – and it really was language not literature. Going on the year abroad was critical. I was a language assistant in France and worked in Germany in the summer holidays before and afterwards. I don’t think UEA helped with deciding on my career as I was too young at the time to know, but my overall outlook on wanting to live overseas as a result of learning languages pushed me into teaching and so UEA was a contributor for sure.

Since leaving UEA have you taken any further qualifications, and if so what are they?


Yes I have: CELTA and DELTA – EFL teaching qualifications. MBA at Leicester – not completed so only got the PG Diploma. Then MA in ELT and Applied Linguistics at Kings College London in 2012.

What made you decide to study your particular course?


CELTA: I wanted to teach English and live overseas. DELTA: I wanted to have a further teaching qualification and have a more senior role. The DELTA was the reason I got a job at the British Council. The MA was because I had been out of teaching for a few years and at the time was disillusioned with my job in London, so I wanted a distraction. I loved that course and got a Distinction for the MA.

My best day at UEA was…


Winning the hockey league!


What are your top tips for current students, or anyone considering studying at UEA?


Make the most of all the opportunities that are offered to you on a plate at university! My best times were playing hockey – UAUs and local league. I also sang in the choir there.

What do you think was distinctive about your UEA experience?


The languages degree was language focused and not literature focused. At the time it was very difficult to find this kind of course. The teaching was excellent and full immersion. I still have good friends from UEA who did the same joint honours language course who use their languages – for work and life.

The most important thing I learnt at UEA was…


With hard work you can be anybody you want to be. I was an average student but worked really hard at my languages and graduated with a 2:1. Now I am a senior manager in a global organisation, using the skills I learnt at UEA on a daily basis.


Rachel studied Double Honours Language and Linguistics (French and German) at UEA, graduating in 1987. She is currently Director of the British Council in Germany. 


School of Politics, Philosophy,
Language & Communication Studies