“How I somehow got accepted to do a Master at Waseda University in Japan…”

As promised, following on from Charlotte’s post about life and work since graduating last month, another of our 2017 graduates, Julie Perruchon who just completed her BA Hons in French and English, has sent us an article about her plans for the next couple of years which will see her embarking on postgraduate studies in Japan:

“Like any other student, my final semester at the University of Stirling consisted mostly of essay writing, university applications and general agonizing about the future. I had decided that I was determined to go to Japan; either to do a Master, or as an English teacher at an ‘Eikawa’ (English Language Schools). I had done a lot of research, looking into the universities that offered Master courses in English, as my Japanese abilities only extend to surviving day–to-day life. To my mum’s chagrin, I stubbornly only applied to Universities and jobs in Japan. She might have been right in saying that it would have been sensible to apply to university in either Denmark or Scotland as well, but I happily ignored all common sense and threw myself into my preparations.

I can’t count the times I went to my tutors to ask them to write references for me (which I can’t thank them for enough), how many books I read about Japanese society and culture for my research plan, and how many excruciating hours I spent filling out an endless stack of forms. After being rejected three times (by the JET-Programme, ICU and the GABA Corporation), I got accepted to Waseda University’s Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies, where I will be studying under the study plan of Culture and Communication. To my (and my mother’s) huge relief! My directed research supervisor hails from a British University (and is in possession of a decidedly British name), so a little piece of the Isles will be waiting for me in the Far East. On the basis of my research plan, it has already been decided that I will write my Master thesis on the topic of ‘The Intellectual and Literary History of Japan’, focusing on how different societal traditional systems have affected the lives of Japanese youths living in urban areas. Quite a mouthful, and I cannot wait to get started.

Japan being seven hours ahead of Denmark, I could go online and check whether I had been accepted to Waseda quite early in the morning. I was almost certain that my application had been rejected, so it came as a huge surprise when I saw the tiny numbers on my laptop screen that represented my application number. And, as one does, I couldn’t sleep for excitement for the rest of the night and started planning my future venture in great detail (or as great detail as a sleep deprived brain can muster).

And then reality hit. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been to Japan, or lived there, but finding an apartment without a Japanese bank account or phone number is proving to be rather difficult (read: almost impossible). Thankfully, I have the invaluable help of Waseda’s International Office, and I’m sure (fingers crossed) that I’ll be able to find my own tiny 12 square feet apartment squashed away in some corner of Tokyo. In the situations where befuddling paperwork and the promise of earthquakes have me questioning my own sanity, I look back fondly on how easy it was to move between Scotland and Denmark. No visa, no Certificate of Eligibility, no huge language barriers, no earthquakes (yes, I am terrified), and only one hour’s time difference to my native country. Pure heaven.

2017 Julie Perruchon Japan Pic July17My hope is that two years in Japan will help me master the Japanese language, and bring me new challenges both in my personal and University life. Now that it’s sure that I am going over there, it seems quite surreal and I haven’t yet completely wrapped my head around the fact that in less than a month and a half, I will be walking beneath the neon lights of the Shinjuku district in Tokyo. It’s the complete opposite from small and idyllic Stirling, with the most beautiful campus in the world, and nature just around the corner. Japan, and Tokyo, is going to be the next big adventure, and I can’t wait to see where what this decision is going to bring me. It’s terrifying and exciting, and I am overjoyed that I got the chance to go there.

So really, all there is left to say is a huge thank-you to the University of Stirling and everyone there! Mille mercis.”

Many thanks to Julie for taking the time to write this blog post and we’re looking forward to tales of life (and language learning) in Japan over the next few years! Best wishes for the course!

“I’m excited to start this new chapter in my life”: Life as a Languages Graduate

After a brief lull in blog activities while everyone caught their breath after a busy end of academic year, it’s great to be able to pick things up again and particularly good to start a new round of blog posts with two articles by students who have just graduated in this year’s cohort. This first article is by Charlotte Cavanagh who graduated last month with a BA Hons in French and Journalism:

“Having just recently graduated, I have had the opportunity to reflect about my time spent at the University of Stirling, the memories I have made; the majority of which are positive, and how studying at the university has prepared me for the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed my course of study from start to finish: There were modules that interested me, friendly peers and a French department who were always within reach. A combination of these things has made my time at Stirling enjoyable and I can happily say that my French language skills have vastly improved over the past 4 years.

2017 Charlotte Cavanagh Strasbourg pic JulyAs I continue to think about my time at the university, I realise that some of my most happy moments came from my time abroad doing both the British Council assistantship and Erasmus. As a French language student, the opportunity to go abroad not once but twice felt like a dream come true! I had the most amazing experiences abroad and I owe it all to Stirling and their brilliant languages department for providing me with such great opportunities.

I also feel the need to emphasise how supportive the French department were during my time at the university, especially in fourth year when I was panicking about what to do once I had graduated! The support from my personal tutor was indispensable. She told me that the skills you acquire from a languages degree can open a great number of doors and opportunities and she was right. Despite the panic of not knowing what I wanted to do after university, I have managed to land a job as a project coordinator in London, for a company that provides translation and many other language services to companies all around the world. I am excited to start this new chapter in my life and cannot wait to see where this opportunity will take me, but I will always look back fondly at my time at the University of Stirling and be grateful for the time I spent there.

If I was to give advice to anyone studying languages it would be the following: 1) If there is an opportunity to practice your language skills, whether that be abroad or in the classroom, take it. It is a daunting prospect, but the effort you put in really pays off. 2) There is no need to worry about the future. Languages students have a great many skills to show off about in the job market and speaking from experience, everything does fall into place.”

Many thanks to Charlotte for taking the time to write this post and all the very best for the new job! We look forward to updates over the months and years ahead.

Studying Languages: ‘Seizing every opportunity offered by the world’

As well as running a wide range of degree programmes combining French with one other subject, we also run three programmes in International Management, all of which have a core language component (French and/or Spanish) alongside Management and one other subject area, depending on the specific pathway. These degrees enable students to develop high-level skills across three disciplines and all include integral periods of Study Abroad. Our latest student profile comes from Matteo, who has just completed the first year of one of these degree programmes:

2017 Matteo de Simone picture July“Hello, my name is Matteo De Simone and I am studying International Management with European Languages and Society at the University of Stirling. I come from Taranto, a Southern Italian city located in Puglia; the heel of the boot of Italy. There I attended liceo classico, the Italian equivalent of High School. I studied a wide range of different subjects, but we mainly focused on Latin, Ancient Greek and Italian literature. Once I earned my diploma, I realised that I wanted to broaden my mind by learning new languages, travelling, meeting people from different cultural backgrounds and experiencing the world first-hand. This was, and is, my fuel; and steers me towards the field of Economics as well as towards learning other languages. This is why I decided to attend a school for interpreters and translators; speaking other languages means seeing life from different perspectives, a skill that helps aid better understanding of culture-specific decisions and issues, both economic and social. Moreover, I had the opportunity to improve my use of English and also begin to study French, a language I completely fell in love with; the sound of its words, the concise and straightforward grammar, and its reputation as the language of diplomacy are just some of the reasons I wanted to expand on my studies.

After working as an English/Italian interpreter for Boeing, I was looking for a new challenge, and heard about the University of Stirling. I found a course which was tailored to my needs and my wants; one which combines management theories and languages and would allow me a better understanding of different cultural and economic systems. I decided to take the plunge and apply, and here I am!

My French tutor is very passionate about teaching and tries to instil such passion in every student. This creates an ideal learning environment; in every French seminar, each student has the opportunity to practice their grammar by speaking, reading and carrying out exercises to improve their use of language, as well as broadening their knowledge of French culture.

This is what I look forward to – improving my knowledge of French grammar, as well as broadening my mind and understanding our world through different cultures, mind sets and opinions; reaping the full benefits from different experiences by seizing every opportunity offered by the world.”

Many thanks to Matteo for taking the time to write this article and we wish him all the best for the years ahead.

‘One of the best things about academic research is how eclectic and varied it can be’

With the teaching term over, staff turn to their research and have more time to attend conferences. Dr Fiona Barclay was speaking at a conference in Leeds last week. Here’s what she has to say about it:

“One of the best things about academic research is how eclectic and varied it can be, and how it offers the chance to investigate the significance of familiar cultural phenomena. For example, many people in the UK and further afield will be familiar with Downton Abbey, and its fictional portrayal of the ups and downs of an upper-class family around the turn of the twentieth century. It’s an example of a family saga, which is a genre often used by writers to examine the changes taking place in the nation, using the fortunes of an often middle- or upper-class family as a way to stand in for the experiences of society more generally. So, in Downton Abbey we see the effects of the First World War on the different classes, and see how the class structure evolves over time; it’s a microcosm of the changing nation. The conference which I attended in Leeds last week focused on portrayals of the family saga in literature, TV and radio, but not just in English: it brought together academics working on texts in French, German, Spanish and even Czech and Japanese. So we heard papers on the great literary family sagas of nineteenth and twentieth-century France, some of them running to 27 volumes, but also on the East German equivalent of Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’ , which told the story of a typical socialist family in the GDR, and TV series on the Mafia such as ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Gomorrah’.

My own paper looked at the French settlers who lived in Algeria until it became independent in 1962 and they were forced to resettle in France. It looked at novels which recount the tale of four generations, from the earliest settlers in the 1840s onwards, and showed how the writers used the tremendously difficult experiences of the early pioneers, many of whom were soon killed by violent conflict and disease, to justify the privileged existence of their settler descendants, who were very poor but not as poor as the Arabs they lived amongst. But the novels are not solely about justifying the settlers’ treatment of the Arabs: they also suggest that Algeria itself is a family of characters in conflict. By presenting the warring Europeans and Arabs as the ‘brother enemies’ Cain and Abel, and considering whether the act of colonization might be a re-enactment of the original sin of the ‘first man’ (which is the title of the Algerian philosopher Albert Camus’ last novel), these writers use the form of the family saga and draw on Biblical ideas about family inheritance and the ‘sins of the fathers’ to ask difficult questions about colonialism which it would be unthinkable to ask in other contexts. Given the furore which greeted President Emmanuel Macron’s recent suggestion that colonialism was ‘a crime against humanity’, this is one contentious issue which will continue to provoke strong reactions for a long while to come.”

Many thanks to Fiona for sending us this blog post and we look forward to posting more about other research activities over the course of the summer.

Best Wishes to all our Graduands!

On behalf of French at Stirling, best wishes for the future to all of our graduands today and tomorrow, in person and in absentia! I can’t think of better wishes to offer than those of our honorary graduate, Mark Cousins, in 2014: ‘Let’s be generous, let’s be glamorous, let’s be a bit wild!!’

Have a fantastic day and well done to you all!

PS Having now watched all those of you who were here in person today walk across the stage to graduate, I’d just like to add a couple of words shamelessly stolen from the Chancellor James Naughtie‘s speech: ‘This is your century! Do what you can!’ Enjoy the rest of the rain-soaked day and keep in touch.

Language Learning According to Huw Edwards

Entirely coincidentally, a former colleague has just sent me a link to a great interview with the newsreader Huw Edwards about his experiences studying languages (at school and at University) and the benefits of exposure to other languages. The interview is conducted by secondary school pupils at Bryngwyn School and, coming on the same day as Laura’s reflections on language learning in Scotland, it seems a particularly appropriate link to share!

‘Greater and more diverse life experiences through travel and culture’: Education and Languages at Stirling

Following on from the recent few posts by students just reaching the end of their first year with us, it’s time for the thoughts of someone who is a little further on in her degree programme. Laura Burns has just completed her second year on our BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages and is about to undertake an English Language Assistantship from the Autumn:

“I have always been sure that I wanted to study teaching. However, the opportunities and experiences that I have gained, and will gain, from my involvement with the modern languages department at Stirling have been incredible.

As I have always been aware of changes and dynamics within Scottish Education, I became interested in the 1+2 scheme. This has the aim to better encourage modern language learning in Scotland, due to be fully implemented across primary schools in 2020. Having enjoyed studying French while at school and always having interest in culture and travel, I was keen to look further into languages as a specialist option. This was when I became more aware of Stirling University and the unique opportunities I could gain from studying there. My course came with the chance to study education with a specialism in French language and culture. Immediately, this was beneficial on a social level, enabling me to meet more fellow students and staff across different faculties.

From day one, I found the language department to be friendly, engaging and organised. This was a main worry of mine before beginning university, so it was fantastic to feel at ease so quickly. While the work was challenging for me, I felt supported by the staff and fellow students throughout.

Whenever going into schools, I am far more acutely aware of the attitudes towards modern language teaching. Immediately, I discovered that many of the primary teachers who I spoke with lacked confidence in their rushed learning of French, or Spanish. This lack of confidence, many admitted, led to a lack of engagement with teaching of language beyond, for example, colours or introductions. Contrastingly, from my experience so far, the children have a far more positive approach. While on my most recent placement, I tried to incorporate French into much of the daily classroom life. This even encouraged one child to do her own “research”, coming back to me with vocabulary she had discovered from searching with her family over the weekend. Language learning, at its heart, involves sharing and discovering. Undeniably, this is engaging and important kinds of learning for all children. Studying at Stirling has made me so aware of how I can ensure that a potential lack of teacher confidence does not inhibit this learning, and these experiences.

Speaking more personally, due to my involvement with the French department, my future life experiences will be shaped. I have been given the opportunity to become an English Language Assistant. My post begins in October, staying in Lille, France. This was never something I would have even considered if it wasn’t for the encouragement and support from the faculty. While I am scared and nervous (apprehensive) to be undertaking this unexpected year out, I know how valuable this experience will be. Firstly, on a practical level, to be fluent (or close to) in another language will always be a sought after skill. Secondly, I will be allowed an entire year’s teaching experience adapting to new systems and curriculum. Finally, it grants me the opportunity to have greater and more diverse life experiences with people through travel and culture, making me a better teacher in future because of it. In addition to this, the staff encouraged another opportunity through “Language Linking, Global Thinking” where I can maintain a link with a Scottish primary school to inspire language leaning, and the opportunities which arise with it. 

This was not the journey I had expected to take before starting Higher Education. It is because of Stirling University’s language department that I am more aware that ultimately, university is about more than just a degree, it enables opportunities and creates links. I now will have a desired specialism to be proud of, and advocate. I can use languages to better myself across many areas in my life, for my whole life. I will always be grateful for the department’s keen interest in helping me better myself through opportunities that university, and language learning can provide.”

Many, many thanks to Laura for this great blog post and we hope the ELA year goes really well!