Meet our graduates: Becky Waterton
Deputy Editor of The Local in Sweden, Becky graduated with an MA (Hons) in German and Scandinavian Studies in 2017.
One of the benefits of taking Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh is that, while you specialise in Swedish, Danish or Norwegian, you gain a good understanding of all three languages.
For Becky Waterton, who studied Danish during her MA (Hons) in German and Scandinavian Studies, this flexibility has led to a career in Sweden where she is Deputy Editor of news site, The Local.
Becky first moved to Malmö after completing a masters in Intercultural Marketing with German in Copenhagen. As the course was taught in Danish, applicants needed to be fluent in both languages, so her first degree from Edinburgh was essential.
Like many of our graduates, she had not had the opportunity to learn Danish at school, but started it from scratch in the first year of her degree.
Putting learning to practical use
“I use things I learnt at Edinburgh every day in my work”, says Becky when talking about The Local, which she joined as a reporter in 2021.
The site covers Swedish news and issues of particular relevance to immigrants, such as changes to migration policy and citizenship issues. There are also sites in eight other European countries.
“In my first year on the job”, Becky tell us “I covered the appointment (and resignation) of Sweden’s first female Prime Minister, and the election which resulted in Sweden’s first government backed by the Sweden Democrats, a far-right anti-immigrant party with neo-Nazi roots.”
“We draw attention to issues the domestic media does not always cover, such as the difficulty some immigrants in Sweden had in securing vaccinations or vaccine passports during the Covid-19 pandemic, [and] long waiting times for residence permits and citizenship.”
Using language and intercultural skills
Asked how she got into journalism, Becky says “I don’t have a background in [it], but the fact that I had a degree in Scandinavian Studies more than made up for this when I applied for my current job. It’s such an unusual degree, and so difficult [for employers] to find native-English speakers who can communicate well and are also fluent in a Scandinavian language.”
As the site is published is English, she explains “I don’t just use foreign language skills in my work, where I translate from Swedish to English every day, but also other skills I learnt at Edinburgh, such as communicating information clearly and concisely, and properly researching articles and checking my sources.”
“My knowledge of Scandinavian culture has also proved extremely useful, as we also write cultural and language-based explainers for our readers – I’ve even used knowledge from my fourth year Old Norse Studies module to explain the etymology of Swedish words in our Word of the Day series!”
“The Scandinavian languages are mutually intelligible, meaning that as a Danish speaker, it was relatively easy for me to learn Swedish, but I also use Danish every day in my personal life, as me and my (Swedish) husband speak Danish together – so thanks for that, Edinburgh!”
I liked Edinburgh as it gave me the opportunity to combine German with another less common language. It is a beautiful city where there is a lot going on, without feeling overwhelming, and it's easy to get around. I also think the weather prepared me for living in Scandinavia!
Although Becky’s focus is on The Local’s Swedish site, she has also written for the Danish and Austrian sites, using her knowledge of Danish and German.
She has spoken about Swedish and European affairs on BBC Radio Scotland, the Today Programme and The World Tonight on BBC Radio Four and on Newstalk in Ireland.
Asked what advice she would give someone thinking about languages at university, she says “Choose something that interests you, but make sure you have some idea of what you want to work with when you graduate. And do you want to move to the country where your language is spoken? Have a look at what qualifications are useful for the career you want and match your studies to that.”
“And don’t complain about having to carry out class tasks like translating foreign news into English. I used to think “when am I ever going to need to do this in my future career”, but now it’s literally my job!”
Are you interested in Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland, and one of only two in the UK, to offer undergraduate honours programmes in Scandinavian Studies. You will learn modern Danish, Swedish or Norwegian in the context of Scandinavian culture, past and present. Postgraduate students can take an MSc by Research or PhD in aspects of Nordic languages, literatures, history, culture or society.