Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Meet our graduates: Gemma Burnside

A Development Officer for Lothians Equal Access Programme in Schools (LEAPS), Gemma graduated in 2011 with an MA Hons degree in French and Linguistics.

LEAPS is an outreach schools programme aimed at raising awareness of opportunities in higher education, particularly among young people whose school careers have been affected by adverse circumstances, or who come from communities with little or no experience of higher education.

Having first worked with the programme as a student volunteer, and then as a student tutor, Gemma started her current role after interviewing for a short-term post in 2014.

“My studies at the University of Edinburgh helped in offering me the volunteering opportunities and confirming my belief that education is something that should be available at every level to every person, regardless of background. My positive experience within the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) backed up this passion for Higher Education.”

“Seeing the achievements of the students I work with at LEAPS and the progress they make when going into Higher Education inspires me. It’s really gratifying to see them succeed and to want to come back and volunteer with us to share their experiences with the next rounds of school students.”

A photo of Gemma Burnside
Gemma participating in a panel event at LLC. Image © Graham Clark.

Being in the heart of Edinburgh

Gemma moved from North Devon in England to study at the University of Edinburgh. Reflecting on her time here, she talks about the diversity of the students and the range of study options available as being particularly important to her.

“I fell in love with Edinburgh when I came on an open day and I really liked the idea of taking outside subjects in first and second year. I also appreciated the culturally-based nature of the language courses at Edinburgh and being able to study so much literature during the course.”

Gemma liked the variety of genres and works of literature studied in classes, and says: "I enjoyed the small tutorial group sizes, which really helped me to get to grips with different aspects of learning a language. Particularly as I progressed through the course, I enjoyed the discursive nature of the classes, even in things like translation which could seem quite cut and dry.

“I loved the variety of people that I got to study with. It was great to meet people who were local to Edinburgh and those from much further afield and had very different backgrounds to my own. They had been taught in different ways to myself and there was a lot to learn from them about language and other aspects of the course as well!”

“I loved the look and feel of the city, so vibrant and with so much going on. I liked being in the heart of Edinburgh and there being so many options for students of things to take part in.”

The ‘added extras’

Gemma volunteered with LEAPS throughout her time at university, and cites the experience she gained during this period as having been key to her career progression.

“No two people that I work with have had the same route into the job and the wealth of experience and skills in our team is what makes us good at our jobs. We have to be event organisers, student support officers, advisers, school/university/college liaisons and many other things, so having a range of skills to bring to the table makes you a much stronger candidate.”

“The ‘added extras’ available at university are so valuable when it comes to applying for jobs after graduating. They allow you to build up your skills and help you to realise where your passions lie, and these are key when it comes to working out your career.”

Are you interested in studying languages at LLC?

We offer one of the widest range of languages of any UK university, including all six official languages of the United Nations, and eight of the languages of the European Union. We also offer an extensive range of joint degrees, for example, two languages, or a language with Business, International Business, Social Policy, Politics and more.

Find out more about studying undergraduate French

In November 2017, we were delighted to welcome Gemma back to the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) to talk to our current, final year students about life after LLC. 

Read our feature on Life After LLC

Related Links

Find out more about studying undergraduate Linguistics

Find out more about LEAPS on the programme's website