Icenian Interview – Colette

Icenian Colette ArmitageWhat year did you begin and leave Langley?
I joined Langley in 2006 in Year 8 and left after my GCSEs in 2010.

During your time at Langley, did you know what career you wanted to pursue?
I had some ideas flying around. I was a keen horse rider so perhaps a professional sports career, but then I read Kate Aide’s autobiography The Kindness of Strangers and I was propelled to have a career that involved helping people. Initially I thought I would do this through broadcast journalism, but realised this was too cut-throat for me so found another way to do it.

Which co-curricular activities were you involved in at school and have they been useful?
I was a very keen sports player and played some kind of sport nearly everyday. I also took my LAMDA (acting) exams at Langley and played the saxophone. Although I haven’t really continued with these things today, I still believe they helped me to be a more well-rounded individual and helped me to develop a range of great skills, such as team work, public speaking, creativity and communication. And who knows, I’m always thinking to pick up the saxophone again and have another go!

What did you study at university?
I studied English and Sociology at The University of Leeds, and for anyone who knew me while I was at Langley the English is perhaps a bit surprising because I remember giving my dear English teacher such a hard time! I’m now doing a masters in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action at Sciences Po in Paris and will graduate in June 2022.

How did your career after school begin?
It took me a while to find out what I really wanted to do. Leaving university, like many people found, the graduate jobs being offered just didn’t seem right for me and I was left wanting something more. Instead of getting a job, I bought an old VWT4 and converted it into a campervan. I then took off across Europe and ended up living in Seville, Spain for six months while obtaining a teaching diploma and working in language academies. I then set off on another trip and ended up in Greece. Once in Greece I found a small local NGO that was working in a refugee camp in the north of the country, who were looking for experienced, qualified English teachers and I sort of matched that description, so they took me on. I was the Education Coordinator, then Field Coordinator and I just fell in love with the work. I had finally found what I really wanted to do. I then worked for a bigger NGO and now I’m at The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

So far, what have been your post-school highlights?
A huge highlight for me has to be converting my van into a campervan and travelling around Europe – I was spurred on by the impending Brexit D-day and feel so grateful I got the chance to go and do it while things were much easier. Another huge highlight is of course working in Greece for two years and meeting such incredible, resilient people who only ask for freedom, dignity and safety. It’s cliché, but it really changed my life and set me on the path which I’m now on.

On reflection, did your time at Langley help your attitude towards career choices and progression?
I’m certain it did. When you spend four years of your adolescence at a place it is bound to shape the person you become in the future.

What advice you would give to students considering Langley, their A-Levels or careers?
With careers, don’t worry if you spend your 20’s driving around Europe in a campervan, although your parents might not like it (fortunately mine did), I’m sure you’ll have an enriching experience that will lead you onto great things. Second tip, learn a language! I never did at school and trust me it’s difficult once you leave education. I’ve quickly found that bilingual people have an edge in the job market over others, and that doesn’t just apply to my field of work. English may not always be the international language!

Your fondest memory of Langley?
In the spring and summer spending our lunch times and activity hour playing outside on the fields, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Final thoughts
To all the teachers who put up with me during my time at Langley, thank you for your guidance and patience.

Published On: February 9th, 2022Categories: Icenians, News