Scott Wightman's degree has taken him to the British Embassy in Seoul, via au pairing in France and learning Chinese whilst working in Taiwan.
|Andrew Scott Wightman
|MA French with Contemporary European Institutions
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
Like many Scottish students at the time, I chose to go to my local university - I was born and brought up in Edinburgh. But naturally I was also attracted by its reputation. The course appealed to my interest in modern languages and international affairs and it meant I could continue to go to Tynecastle on Saturdays. I particularly enjoyed the courses a group of seven of us did with Dr Ronald Irving on the French 4th and 5th Republics.
I spent my third year as an English Assistant in France. I really fell on my feet: I was assigned to a Catering College with a 3* hotel attached where the students practised hotel management and French cuisine and where I ate every day. The ski slopes were less than an hour away. That summer I stayed on as an au pair, looking after three children. The other summers I spent working in the advertising section in The Scotsman, selling wines and spirits in a branch of Peter Green’s (then in Nicholson Street) and sweeping up flour for two months in a flour mill in Bordeaux where the machinery was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think, let alone try to improve my French conversation.
In my final year I did a special subject comparing the French and Scottish Enlightenments. This was another really enjoyable course led jointly by Prof Peter France and Dr Nick Phillipson.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
I joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) straight after graduating. I had the opportunity to study Chinese, including for a year in Taiwan, before working in the Commercial Section of the British Embassy in Beijing from 1986-89. Other postings have taken me to Paris (including a year on secondment in the French Foreign Ministry) and Rome, where I was the deputy Ambassador. I’ve had a series of interesting assignments in between times in London: jobs in the FCO are very varied and always stimulating.
Remain flexible and seize opportunities when they come your way.
But there’s no doubt that being an Ambassador is by far the most challenging and rewarding thing I have done so far in my career. It’s a huge privilege to represent UK interests in South Korea. The job is a great balance between the political challenges of dealing with North Korea and regional security issues, and helping British (including lots of Scottish) firms export to Korea, or getting Korean companies to invest in the UK.
Career paths often make more sense looking backwards. When I graduated I would never have guessed I would end up working in Seoul. So remain flexible and seize opportunities when they come your way.