It’s the last week before our mid-semester break and time for another profile of a recent graduate. This time, Emma Goodall-Copestake, who graduated in 2016 with a BA Hons in French, has plenty of great tips for anyone interested in using their French to find a job working a ski season in the Alps… “Stirling University has offered some pretty great opportunities over the years, but for me, none were half as good as the chance to take a whole year out to go and work with the British Council in France. Why bring this up now? Well, it was during my time with the British Council that I became involved in the local ski club in the town where I worked, which took me out every week to different Alpine resorts. This gave me my first real taste of what life in the Alps might be like – skiing, parties and great experiences (or so I thought…).
Even though these were realistically just day trips off to the slopes, I was hooked on the idea of coming back to the Alps and spending a whole winter season there and skiing as much as possible. And there it began! I was determined to do a season after uni, so once the dissertation was handed in (phew!) I started looking into jobs.
A lot of employers won’t start really looking at applications until June or July for the winter season. I was a bit different though. One application that I filled out in September (which is in some ways quite late when looking for winter season work) brought me to a small, family-run chalet company by the name of Chalets1066 which even has a wee Highland Westie as a key member of the team. Having already looked around at quite a few, this job really took my fancy, so I sent in my application and crossed my fingers!
I first heard back a couple of weeks later, and following a quick phone call and further phone interview, I was asked to interview in person… in Maidenhead. For someone who lives in the Highlands, to have an interview literally at the other end of the country was a bit of a leap of faith! What if I spent all this time and money on travel and interview prep to not get the job?? Still, I had high hopes that all would work out in the end.
The job I was applying for was an admin assistant, which involves everything from making reservations for the 23 chalets that we run, to helping with checking clients in and out, to helping deal with the business finances. Literally, this job does it all. For this role, French was an absolute MUST. During my interview, they asked about my French and were very pleased to hear I had a good degree from Stirling. Among other things, this pretty much secured the job for me and they offered it to me there and then! My boss has since confessed that having the level of French I do was definitely the reason I was chosen. Lucky me!
So that was it! I packed my bags and ski boots, then headed out to start my season!
Going out for a ski season is about 10x easier if you have a good level of French. Employers find you much more valuable, meaning you’ll find it much more likely to get a job as even though many visitors are English speaking, many are still French so it makes a big difference. Even just going into town, or popping into the ‘saisonnaires’ pub, you’ll find many seasonal workers speaking amongst each other in English. Being a saisonnaire that speaks French is something that most people find very surprising and unique, which really works in your favour! Even with the most basic French, you will be more likely to get a warm welcome from the bar staff, will be able to meet even more people who can become your best ski buddy, and get involved in many more opportunities than you would if you had no French at all.
A little word of warning though for those of you also tempted by the idea of a ski season. A ski season is HARD work. If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like early mornings, or who has trouble keeping to uni deadlines or having to drop what you’re doing and sort out an urgent crisis, then you might be able to get away with it every now and then. Not here though! The mentality of work hard, play harder definitely becomes your way of life out here. Despite the tough work conditions at times, most saisonnaires would tell you that it’s all worth it when you get to hit the slopes. Being able to finish your shift or go out on your lunch break and spend a few hours hitting up the powder, then you can’t imagine anything better! Plus there is always a huge crowd of other saisonnaires doing the exact same thing so you can always guarantee that you’ll have someone to ski with.
Anyone thinking about doing a season, Les Gets is a great wee resort. A small French town, with piste connections on both hillsides either side, already offers you a good range of slopes. On top of that, you can ski through to neighbouring Morzine and can even make your way all the way to Avoriaz which being a bit higher, gets more snow too! All in all, you’d be doing pretty well to ski ALL these pistes over the whole season. It’s also a little Scottish haven in the Alps, which even includes the Scottish restaurant Alba where you can find yourself a full Scottish fry up (including Haggis!). It’s not often you can get a good Alpine haggis dealer, but when you can have a haggis supper for Burns night in the Alps, life feels pretty good!
So, if you asked me if I’d still be out here if I hadn’t had my British Council experience, or didn’t have my degree, then I honestly don’t know if I would be. I’m not saying you can’t do a season without these things, but it made all the difference for me. Making great contacts around the Alps through the British Council helped me find the ideal job in a place I love. Gaining the level of French I have has given me the confidence to really feel at home here and make the most of this experience. All in all, a ski season is the best way to make the most of your degree.”
Many thanks to Emma for having taken time out from a hectic work (and skiing) schedule to send us this post, enjoy the rest of the season and keep us posted on what comes next!