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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Sophie Wright (French & Spanish, 2007)

Sophie Wright photo

I studied French and Spanish and dabbled with beginners’ Russian and Italian during my time at Durham and Collingwood College. I was also heavily involved in music at university, singing in the choral society and playing in the concert band. I was Arts Officer in my second year at Collingwood and directed the College musical in my final year. I knew that my ideal job would combine my two great passions, languages and music, perhaps by organising tours for one of the great orchestras or in classical music artist management.

While perusing the ‘arts and heritage’ page of the Guardian jobs website I discovered Martin Randall Travel (MRT), a cultural tour operator based in London organising small-group holidays for people interested in art, archaeology, history, architecture, gastronomy, gardens and classical music, all accompanied by en expert lecturer. MRT also organises its own brand of music festival for larger groups of anything from 120 to 220 people. The package includes flights, accommodation, guided tours and private classical concerts by professional musicians in historic buildings. They were looking for an Operations Assistant with two European languages to organise their tours and festivals and I was lucky enough to get the job, starting soon after I graduated.

At first it was daunting speaking my languages on the phone in an open-plan office, but I was thrilled to be using them every day and settled in to a lovely company, working with like-minded people. I travelled to France and Spain a few times a year to familiarise myself with our tour destinations, inspect hotels, accompany groups as a tour manager and, as I gained experience, played a role in planning new itineraries.

Eight years later I am still at MRT and am now Operations Manager, supervising our tours to France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium. I also manage the classical music festivals including one in Seville that included a private concert in the Alcázar. A couple of years ago I was very excited to be told I could develop tours to Latin America. It makes my friends very jealous when I tell them I had to visit Machu Picchu for work! I have learned a great deal not just about the travel industry but also about art and culture. MRT has paid for me to undertake an art history course at the Courtauld Institute, offers annual membership to the Royal Academy or British Museum and, thanks to the music festivals and our corporate sponsorship of the Wigmore Hall, I have attended many concerts and worked with top-class musicians such as the Gabrieli Consort. It is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling job and I would recommend anyone graduating in French, Spanish, German or Italian to send a CV and covering letter to as we are growing and may well be hiring.

Martin Randall Travel website