Alumni of the Month May 2008

Helen Haselock (Tate) (1987 French/Law)

aom_Helen Haselock mini 1. How did you get to where you are now?

Certainly not by any great plan or design! If you had asked me 20 years ago where I would be now, I wouldn’t have even come close. After leaving Keele I studied Chartered Accountancy for two years before deciding that it wasn’t for me, at which point I moved to Germany to live and work in Düsseldorf. So began twelve years during which I worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, improved my German, joined various military clubs to pursue sports such as horse riding and waterskiing, and met and married my husband. It was his job that brought us down to Luxembourg. Since moving here in 1999, I gave up my day job and studied for my MBA with the Open University. Just before graduating Daniel arrived and I am now juggling looking after my boys, house and garden with running a successful website that I part-own with a friend and colleague (it is for language schools "a must for anyone wanting to study a language abroad!"). There never seem to be enough hours in the day!

2. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Definitely having Daniel and being part of a unit with my husband. Wouldn’t change either for the world. I think life without the support and love of my husband would be very barren indeed and Daniel brings us so much joy and pleasure – I am lucky to have the time to enjoy him.

3. And your biggest mistake?

Ohhhhh, horrid question because whilst I think I might have done some things differently I also realise that if I hadn’t taken the route I did I almost certainly wouldn’t be where I am now. I think life is too short to dwell on things you wish you hadn’t done; they happened, learn from them and move on. Having said that, it does frustrate me that I can be quite indecisive and I wish that I had perhaps had more of a “game plan” in my final year and really thought about what I wanted to do with my life rather than seeming to just let it happen. I remember feeling that I didn’t want life at university to ever end – a finalist who I met when I was a fresher, and who became a great friend, told me very early on that I should enjoy every minute of my time at Keele because all too soon it would be over. I tried to do that, but it still flew.

4. What are your ambitions now?

To see my son grow up healthy and happy; to continue enjoying our life here and to keep developing my interests.

5. What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?

Which field? I think I have changed fields – and now I maybe combine 2 or 3! None are what I envisaged all those years ago when I was on the brink of adult life. I would say to anyone that you spend so much of your time working that it is important to enjoy what you do. Also to keep in mind the bigger picture – sometimes it’s the insignificant things that are the key to happiness and self fulfilment. We live here in a small corner of France that borders Luxembourg and Germany and life is fairly rural and quiet, especially in comparison to, say Luxembourg City which is a thriving business centre. But I enjoy the fact that everyone says “Bonjour” and everyone knows everyone else. Life may roll along at a slower pace but people have respect for one another and also for the place in which they live. 

6. What made you choose Keele University?

I didn’t really choose Keele – it chose me. I went through clearing and the offer from Keele was the first I knew of it! I lived abroad before starting Keele and didn’t really know the UK very well at all. I am so pleased that I did go to Keele as I really enjoyed being in Halls of Residence and loved the vibrant campus life, being able to walk everywhere and knowing almost everyone! I was also grateful for the opportunity to study such a wide range of subjects (including the Foundation Year – what a shame that disappeared) and I actually changed my degree subjects, having had the opportunity to get a taster for others!

7. How has Keele influenced your life?

Keele was a wonderful experience that allowed me to ease myself into the adult world. It also gave me some wonderful friends that I still keep in touch with and nurtured an inner curiosity for different subjects that I think give me a more rounded approach to life.

8. What is your favourite memory of Keele?

Can’t choose just one!
- The wonderful Social Sec in my first year, who seemed to have a knack for booking bands just as they hit the top of the charts – there were some great balls with headline acts! (And I had the energy of an 18-year old to enjoy them!).
- Walking between Lindsay and the Clock Tower (normally on my way to the French Dept) – and discovering the amphitheatre was an experience! (I think there were some rather dubious midsummer gatherings there!)
- “Borrowing” trays from the refectory to sledge down the hill in front of Keele Hall after one particularly heavy snowfall – and, yes, someone did go in the lake!
- Being star-struck when the TV series “A Very Peculiar Practice” with Peter Davidson was filmed at Keele over one summer – I was an extra and still have the tape!
- Being covered in bubbly, flour, etc when I came out of my last final – I got off lucky in comparison to others….some poor soul had friends who cultivated a black bin liner for weeks in advance of the great occasion; I can’t list here what went into it!

9. And your worst?

Leaving after graduation – I knew that a magical time had come to an end. I have been back since and it isn’t the same; you sometimes catch a feeling of how it was but time marches on and people change – and don’t the students look young?

10. Anything else you would like to add?

I think the time that I had at Keele was indeed a special time – we had no worries about student loans, for example, and the world was a kinder, perhaps more naïve place. Those were the days that students could paint a yellow line around the Students’ Union building and declare it a nuclear free zone.
It is funny, though – I still sometimes have a dream, perhaps when I am under pressure in my daily life, that I am about to sit my finals – and I haven’t read the books! Of course I was better prepared than that when I actually did sit my finals, but it is funny how that sense of panic and impending doom can descend. Those final exams were so critical to your whole time at Keele; the reason for everything else that had gone before and even now they haunt me!