"I was an English Language Assistant in Munich, Germany from September 1979 to June 1980 teaching English to final year students at two secondary schools and one grammar school. The work taught me the value of forward planning, creativity in lesson composition to engage the students and in presentation in front of a critical audience. Quite apart from enhancing my linguistic skills, it gave me the opportunity to experience a different culture and outlook, to learn another way of viewing the world. During the summer of 1980 I worked in an electronics firm, which gave me an appreciation for the solid medium sized firms that make up the German industrial base.
I supplemented this year abroad by a 3-week French course in Geneva supported by my University.
What I gained was a love and appreciation for languages and a desire to use them in a European context. Initially I joined the civil service working in environmental protection and then moving to transport issues. However I always wanted to use my languages and managed to beat the competition to become a detached national expert in the European Commission. I had no problems moving (with my family) to another EU country having already done so in the past. My linguistic skills were a positive asset. I then passed an open competition and became an EU official. I use my languages every day in my current employment in the European Commission in Brussels and enjoy the rich diversity that working with colleagues from different nationalities can bring. It is noticeable that there are comparatively few British nationals working in the EU institutions; unlike other nationalities we are way below our 'quota'. Even when British national experts come to work for the institutions, they rarely can speak anything more than basic French, which restricts what they can do."