Ali Hood graduated with a degree in History of Art and Russian in 2012. After graduation, she went to work in Moscow as a teaching assistant. She is now working in London as a Translator and Communications Assistant.
What was the best thing about studying at Birmingham?
I chose to study at Birmingham because it offered the best course and teaching for both subjects and was the most organised in terms of combining two subjects. I also really valued the wide range of module choices available. On the Russian side, I could choose additional language modules or focus on Russian economics or politics. However what really stood out for me were the opportunities to study abroad. I took Russian ‘ab initio’ so spent a month in Petrozavodsk after my first year, and my second year of History of Art involved a study trip to Berlin. By far the highlight of my degree was the year abroad in Russia. The opportunity for study trips to Petrozavodsk and Berlin appealed very much to me and was something my other university choices didn’t offer.
What are the positives about studying a Joint Honours course?
I am pleased that I chose a Joint Honours course as it provided me with a breadth of interest, both academic knowledge and thinking skills to tackle problems and projects in the working world, and confidence in a language that is sought after by employers both abroad and in the UK.
What did you learn in your year abroad?
I studied for a year in Russia, spending one semester in Yaroslavl and one semester in St Petersburg. I chose Yaroslavl to really get the ‘Russian experience’, being away from the globalisation and English language that you find in a big city. I travelled a lot, saw many different new things (and temperatures!) that I would not have otherwise been able to. There were challenges in becoming acclimatised to a different culture, but the process was instructive and enhanced my life skills.
St Petersburg was incredibly beautiful - I chose it for the culture, to complement my history of art studies. Volunteering at the State Hermitage Museum was a real highlight for me. Living and studying abroad is an incredibly valuable experience, I learned so many things and really developed as a person. I’d jump at the chance do it again.
My year abroad was an invaluable experience as it not only improved my language skills, but it gave me the opportunity to enhance my CV by volunteering at a local orphanage and at the State Hermitage Museum alongside my studies.
What is your current role and how did you get to where you are today?
My current job role is Translator and Communications Assistant at ITE Group in London. The company organises trade fairs, exhibitions and conferences, specialising in developing markets and has offices in 30 different countries.
Since graduating I’ve had a range of different experiences within the Russian art field. I’ve worked in an auction house (Sotheby’s Russian Department). My internship was fantastic. I used my language skills to speak to high end clients, translate texts and research artists and art works to write material for the sale catalogue. My knowledge and understanding of Russian art increased greatly and I had an insight into the workings of a major auction house, I also worked at a private contemporary gallery in Moscow (Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture), and a Russian art online magazine and events organisation (Russian Art and Culture). The Russian art world is a really niche field but my degree was perfect for it and I could not have done any of the roles without it. Some of the positions were voluntary, but they were all useful steps in my career and all gave me an insight into certain aspects of the art world.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I am really pleased to be able to use my language skills on a daily basis. I am the company’s only in-house translator so I am much in demand. I also really enjoy the international and multicultural aspect of the company. I am always meeting new people from around the world.
What advice do you have for prospective students thinking of studying at Birmingham?
Do it! And don’t do it by halves – join every club possible, try new things, go on trips, and, of course, study hard. The University of Birmingham also really does offer the best of both worlds in that it is a campus university but it has such close proximity to the city. Birmingham is a very student-friendly city and the university campus has a safe and friendly atmosphere.