Having studied Mandarin for 4 years at university, I wanted the language not just to be peripheral, but central to my job. So, when I saw the GCHQ Mandarin Language Talent Programme advert, I was pretty excited.
The language testing was a nervy, but fascinating day, seeing so many students of Mandarin in one room at one time. The vetting process was lengthy, but the interview with my vetting officer wasn’t as bad as I had feared – we managed to consume nearly a whole pack of chocolate biscuits between us!
As I started on the programme, I told myself that the job couldn’t possibly be as exciting as in the films, but the reality has been even better than I expected. And the GCHQ building is truly incredible– really light, airy and vibrant.
The placement has been thoroughly rewarding. Personally, the highlight of the programme was being able to use Mandarin every day in a productive way, and to continue develop my skills. I was really struck by the opportunities to improve my language - shadowing my language mentor, attending in-office courses and fortnightly classes. It’s great to be doing something where I know I’m making a difference and it’s fantastic to know that I’m actually putting my degree to good use.
I have been struck by how people are genuinely excited and enthusiastic about their work. The friendly atmosphere really stands out - absolutely everyone is approachable and willing to help you, no matter how small the problem may be. People are happy to talk to you about what their job entails which can help you decide if you would like to do a similar job after graduation.