Spotlight on Alumni : Océane Labalette


Océane Labalette graduated with honours from SIS in July 2011. She was an ES student in the German Section’s DSD group. Member of a Franco-German family, Océane joined SIS in September 2007 when she was in 3ème after spending her previous school years at Dupanloup in Boulogne. Her international experience at SIS gave her the confidence to continue her studies abroad. Océane has now earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography, Politics and International Relations from Royal Holloway University in the UK and a Masters in International Journalism from City University London. Why did she choose the UK? Where is she now? Océane shares her unique story with us.

Why did you apply to universities in the UK?

Océane: I was in a “mixed class” in Terminale with students from both the English and the German sections. It was very nice to be able to mingle with the English students. I was at ease in English because I have cousins who are Australian. My parents have always encouraged me to speak English and they even sent me to boarding school for 3 months in 5 ème. A lot of my friends were applying to the UCAS system in England and because everyone was doing it and I was a bit lost with the “APB”, I thought it would be a good idea to apply to UK schools as well – although I didn’t expect to get in. 

Why didn’t you apply to schools in Germany?

Océane: I didn't know if I was good enough in German to go to Germany. I wanted to study Journalism but knew that I had to start with something else before specialising in Journalism.

How did you find yourself at Royal Holloway?

Océane: At that time I had a neighbour who was attending Royal Holloway which is 30 minutes away from London. So I did research about it. At first I applied for a degree in Economics, Politics and International Relations because I thought it would be a good mix of what I was interested in and that it would give me a good background for Journalism. I soon realized that Economics had a bit too much math for me, so I switched to Geography which turned out to be a great fit.  In September 2011, I started with a pre-sessional English language programme which allowed me to get familiar with the university and to get settled in by the time classes started which meant I wasn't stressed at the start of the course. 

What type of English test did you have to take in order to study in the UK?

Océane: To get into Royal Holloway, they told me I needed a 13/20 overall on the BAC and I had pass the IELT. I took it and got a 6.5. 

Were your friends mostly British or International? 

Océane: In my course, most of the students were British. And then I had another circle of friends who were from other European countries. 

When did you graduate?

Océane: I got my Bachelors degree in July 2014 after studying for 3 years. After that I wanted to stay in England and I saw a very good Masters programme in International Journalism at City University London. They required a 2:1 to get in - which I got. I started the one-year full time master's degree in September 2014.

What did you do after your Master's degree? 

Océane: I didn't really think about what was the next step because I was so overwhelmed with work at then end of my Masters with all of my final projects. At the end I just wanted to relax a bit and take a break, so I came back to Paris. One of my friend's fathers was writing a book called Politique et Ethique : regards croisés with 17 co-authors - a mixture of teachers and politicians. I helped him with the book while I started job hunting.

What job did you find?

Océane: In November 2015 I found a one-month internship in the video department at the Agence France Presse. It was really interesting and quite intense because of the terrorist attacks. We had lots of press conferences, information was buzzing all the time but I was really happy because it was lively and the people at AFP were very friendly. After that, I decided to do a Masters in Journalism in France which meant I needed to do a prépa after studying in England for 4 years. So I started my prépa classes at the same time.

What did you do after your internship at AFP?

Océane: I found a two-month internship at a press agency called La Fabrique à News which started in January. They decided that they wanted me to stay with them for another 4 months, so I stayed on. It has been very interesting because it is a small start-up and my boss is a freelance journalist. I work on 4 subjects per day. I do a summary of what is happening to celebrities in a 1-minute video, 2 videos about news stories and then a round-up of the news of the day. It has been a really good exercise because at first I would write a copy and my boss would immediately press the delete button, which was a bit frustrating at first. But then my boss took me under her wing and has now taught me so much. 

What are your plans for the future ?

Océane: Since the end of March, I've been taking written exams in order to do a Masters degree in Journalism in France. I have made it to the second round for several of the schools on my list, which means I will now have oral exams.

What schools have you selected?

Océane:  I have applied to several, however I am excited because so far I have been selected to interview with CELSA Paris-Sorbonne as well as the University of Strasbourg for their Franco-German dual Masters degree programme with the University of Fribourg. 

How has SIS influenced your academic path?

Océane: I think it has had a really positive influence on me because of the fact that I was mingling with international people at school so I was used to having friends who have lived all over the world. They don't have the same mindset as French people who have never travelled. We are less frightened to travel, less frightened to meet people who are completely different from us. SIS really does help you be more tolerant and open to people. At my French schools, people were more closed-minded and therefore not as interested in what was happening in the world.

Are you still in touch with classmates from SIS?

Océane: Yes, I am still close to all my friends from SIS. I have built friendships that I will never forget and that is quite incredible because I don't stay in contact as closely with my Royal Holloway friends, but I chat with friends from SIS everyday.

Was it hard for you to start the programme in 3 ème?

Océane: When I arrived in 3eme, my written level was not as good as the others who had been there since the 6eme since I had never had lessons in written German. So I had to do a lot of work in German to catch up. Ingrid Lehre who was my teacher at the time, put a lot of effort into making me stick to the programme and I was able to catch up. When I met German people in England they couldn’t believe how fluently I spoke German. It is such a plus to be able to speak three languages. We come out of high school with more than the others and that is an enriching experience. If I had stayed at Dupanloup, I wouldn't have been able to do half of what I've done so far. 

How did you find the British system?

Océane: It was a lot of theory at first and then it got more practical in the 2nd and 3rd year because we could choose our classes. You get used to the system. The first year is fairly “light” then it gets harder in the 2nd year, and by the third year you have figured out the system and how you should work. Also, there are lots of tutors and they always help you. In the end, I look at the British system in a very positive way. 

Do you have any advice for our Terminale students?

Océane: I really hope that they aren’t stressing out. I remember how much pressure we were under when we had to deal with our Bac and at the same time, the post bac choices. They are going to start something fun soon and at the same time they are going to learn so much. I thought that university was going to be horrible but Royal Holloway made it fun to learn. And that is something special.

SIS gives us a good basis for later. If you want to go to England obviously it is useful to do the OIB in English, but then again, I was a German student that went to England. Good luck with the exams!

Par : Cornell-Pouret le 01/06/2016


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