Kim Chamberlain came to Edinburgh as an undergraduate to study French but after taking Linguistics as an outside object enjoyed it enough to change her degree, years later she still uses the concepts learnt in her professional life.
MA (Hons) Linguistics
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Your time at the University
Coming from England, Edinburgh was very appealing not only because of the university’s reputation, but also because I was keen to live in a ‘foreign’ country and learn its ways. On my first morning in Baird House, Pollock Halls, Jean the cleaner breezed in saying “It’s gey dreich the day, hen” and I was suddenly filled with a fear that I was living in a country where I might not be able to understand anyone.
During Fresher’s Week a few of us walked down to Princes Street, and I was stunned at the breath-taking view of the castle. The beauty of the city, its variety of locations and general ‘Scottishness’ were a continual fascination for me. I acquired a Scottish lilt to my Liverpool accent which comes to the fore every time I meet someone from Scotland, even now, 30 years on.
I loved living in different parts of the city, I loved meeting people from different backgrounds, and I loved going to the chip shop with friends at 3 o’clock in the morning on the way back from a party.
I actually went to Edinburgh to study French, taking Linguistics as a secondary option, but enjoyed it enough to make it my major, and to take it to master’s level. There were only 10 of us in the 4th year of our degree, and I enjoyed being part of a small group.
My final week in Edinburgh was spent meeting up with all the people I knew, to say goodbye. I cried every day, and left the city with a deep longing to be Scottish. Each summer for 15 years I went back to the Festival, only stopping because I moved to the other side of the world.
On my first morning in Baird House, Pollock Halls, Jean the cleaner breezed in saying “It’s gey dreich the day, hen” and I was suddenly filled with a fear that I was living in a country where I might not be able to understand anyone.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
Three passions have always been drivers for me - words, language and communication; setting up new services; and a desire to move to new places. These have led me to work initially as a careers advisor; then move into self-employment as an author for a New York publisher, international speaker and trainer in presentation skills. I’ve been fortunate to win an international writing award and a national speaking award; run a communication skills training business; gain professional speaking qualifications, teach English as a Foreign Language; work as a volunteer helper for students with reading and writing difficulties; and produce several newsletters and email services. I’ve been able to directly or indirectly use a lot of the concepts I learned in my Linguistics degree (and I still can’t resist the urge to analyse people’s accents). One of the concepts we learned in semantics classes was that ‘meaning is contextual’, namely that meaning is gained from the context. I came to learn that this is useful not only for semantics, but for the whole of life as well – we can gain the meaning of why someone says or does something, once we understand the context (such as environment, culture, beliefs etc.) they are operating in.
Over the years I’ve established new services that are of benefit to others, including an annual careers expo for people with special needs, women’s business network groups; a support group for people with home based businesses; a chapter of the professional speakers’ association, and an email speaking practice service based on a Dale Carnegie principle.
Given a completely free choice, I would move to a different country every two years or so, though my husband and children don’t share this passion. However I’ve managed to squeeze in living in ten places in five countries on three continents. Having always felt drawn to East Africa, I moved with my family to live in a small town Uganda from 2008 until 2010 where I helped establish a small school for local children, which I ran for 18 months. My long term plan is to live in a developing country again. I now live 12,000 miles away from Edinburgh in Wellington, New Zealand, something I attribute to being born on a Thursday, Thursday’s child has far to go.
Taking – or making – opportunities to have new and varied experiences can enrich your life significantly.