From French at Stirling to Translation at the European Court of Justice

The Summer is always a good time to catch up with former students and find out where life has taken them since graduating. After Lelde Benke’s account of life working for the Latvian Tourist Office, Mark O’Hagan has written the following piece about his experiences since he completed his BA Hons in French back in 2008.

2016 OHagan Photo

“I grew up in Luxembourg and France and so doing a BA in French in Scotland may seem like an odd choice. However, after having visited Stirling University as part of an Open University summer course, I was really struck by how nice the campus was and the variety of courses and activities on offer. In 2004, I returned to Stirling and undertook a BA in French. The modules available appealed to me and I have always had an interest in languages. After graduation I decided that I would stay in Stirling for my postgraduate studies and began an MSc in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) with the intention of returning to Luxembourg and teaching English. I returned to Luxembourg in 2010 where I taught English at Berlitz for two years. I enjoyed my time teaching and was able to travel to a variety of businesses and financial institutions giving me the opportunity to meet new people and gain much needed experience.

After a conversation with one of my students I found out that with my BA in French and a law degree, there would be opportunities at the European Court of Justice as a native English speaker. I therefore began a GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) online with BPP Law School part time and graduated in 2012. I applied for a Linguistic Verifier position through the Court’s website and have been working there since November 2012.

As a Linguistic Verifier I work within the English Language Translation Unit at the Court and check translations and revisions of EU Judgments, Opinions and Orders, before the hearings take place, with regard to correct language usage, grammar, use of citations and legal terminology. This is done in contrast to the French version as it is important that the English version is consistent with the French. French is the main functional language used throughout the EU Institutions and as such my degree in French has proved invaluable.

Permanent positions are posted on the EPSO (European Personnel Selection Office) website where potential candidates sit an exam and are then placed on a reserve list. English and French are two hugely important languages within the EU and it is hoped by myself, colleagues and other UK nationals hoping to work for the EU, that Brexit will not change this.”

Many thanks to Mark for this blog post and all the best for the future!

 

“Fast-paced and challenging”: Working in the Travel Industry

Lelde Benke graduated with a BA Hons in French and Journalism in 2011. After a while living and working in Scotland, Lelde is now in Latvia, working for the Latvian tourist board and she’s sent us an account of her life since graduation:

2016 Benke Photo

“In my final year of high school I was sure of one thing – I wanted to study in the UK. However, I was torn between studying Tourism Management, Media Studies and French. Stirling Uni made the decision easier because it allowed me to combine the latter two.

Soon after starting my studies, I switched Media Studies for Journalism which highlights another great thing about the uni – its flexible approach. And now I find myself working in the travel industry so I’m a winner all round!

The presentation, language and translation skills that I developed during my time at uni and my year abroad as a language assistant in Belgium get put to use on a daily basis. My studies, year abroad and exchange semester in Quebec have also made me very open to working with international business partners as I have an understanding of and sensitivity towards cultural differences. These characteristics and skills are greatly appreciated in the travel industry.

Like many recent graduates, after completing my degree I felt a bit lost for a while and wasn’t sure of the next steps to take. I spent a while working as a waitress and applying for jobs in marketing. Six months after graduating, I landed a position with a digital marketing agency in Edinburgh and gained experience in SEO and copywriting for the web but after a while I became homesick so, when a suitable position appeared at the national airline back home in Latvia, I applied and got it which was my first move into the travel industry.

After a year working on the digital side of things for the airline, I realised how much I missed active communication with people. I yearned for a job in which my phone would ring more often, where I’d have more face-to-face meetings and the chance to give presentations.

I’ve now been with the national tourist board for just over two years and love it. My key tasks include organising press trips for international journalists and bloggers, and representing Latvia at B2B travel events. There is a lot of travelling involved. The travel industry is fast-paced and challenging, and I really feel it’s the right fit for a language graduate.”

If you want to learn more about life and travel in Latvia, you can read Lelde’s brilliant blog here. Thanks to Lelde for this article and best wishes for the future!

New publications by Bill Marshall

2016 Marshall Cities Interrupted

A nice little trio of new publications to report from French at Stirling’s Bill Marshall. Bill’s chapter on ‘Buildering, Urban Interventions, and Public Sculpture’ has been published in Shirley Jordan and Christoph Lindner‘s great new edited collection Cities Interrupted: Visual Culture and Urban Space (Bloomsbury). Meanwhile, his chapter on ‘Francophone Gothic Melodramas’ is out in Susan Castillo Street and Charles L. Crow’s Handbook of the Southern Gothic, published by Palgrave. And finally, ‘Spaces and Times of Quebec in Two Films by Xavier Dolan’ can be read in vol. 55, no. 2 of Nottingham French Studies.

2016 Marshall Southern Gothic Aug

News to follow soon on Bill’s upcoming keynote address at the World Cinema and Television in French conference in Cincinnati.

From phonetics to creative writing: life as a lectrice

Since she graduated from her first degree in English Studies and French back in 2012, we’ve been pleased to get updates from French at Stirling graduate, Fiona Mears, on where her degree has taken her. As Fiona prepares to set off for a second year as a lectrice in France, we’ve asked her to tell us what life has been like in her first year in the job:

‘After working at a language school in Edinburgh over summer 2015, I embarked on my next adventure in France, this time as a lectrice at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon. Having taught teenagers in various educational settings, I felt ready for the new challenge of working with older students – at both undergrad and postgrad level – and teaching areas of language that I had never tackled before.

2016 Mears Lectrice photo I

I have enjoyed the opportunity to work across a range of modules, from oral expression and phonetics to creative writing and translation. Although daunting at first, creative writing ended up being one of the most enjoyable classes to teach. The primary guidelines were such: get them to write. The freedom to think outside the box allowed me to plan lessons which encouraged students to have fun with language and to really use their imagination. My students didn’t disappoint when it came to the latter, making for some interesting reading come marking time!

Never having studied it myself, phonetics proved more troublesome. The first weeks of my phonetics learning/teaching experience were spent being spoon-fed information and desperately hoping that students wouldn’t ask too many questions in class. But I soon got the hang of it and in the process learnt a valuable skill for any language teacher.

2016 Mears Lectrice photo II

As in all jobs, though, there were some tricky situations and system-related difficulties to navigate. Most of my gripes stem from the policy of not preselecting students, the direct outcome of which being that the attitude and behaviour of certain students is, to say the least, not what you would expect at higher education. Organisational anomalies can also prove frustrating, as can the infamous French bureaucracy. That said, the positive aspects of the job far outweigh the negatives, so much so that I jumped at the offer to return to the post for a second year beginning next month.

Never one to allow myself too much free time, I also worked for a local language school throughout the year teaching business English to professionals. I quickly discovered that going out to companies and working with adults in a non-educational context brings its own challenges and rewards, and provides a welcome change to the standard classroom environment. The one downside to being kept so busy is that I was unable to travel as much as I would have liked during the year, but there will be plenty time for that when I finish up next April. For now, I’m making the most of my last weeks in Scotland before heading back to France to pick up where I left off.’

We look forward to more updates (and some postcards…) from Fiona in the future and wish her all the best for her second year at UFC!

From French at Stirling to EU Energy Policies and Entrepreneurship

Christopher Ball completed his Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies in 2011 and, following his year in Strasbourg, returned to Stirling where he has recently finished his PhD in our School of Management. He is now embarking on a post-doc and a career in academia and has written us the following post about his time studying French at Stirling.

2016 Ball Photo II

“Since finishing my degree, I have taken a path that I would have not imagined during my undergraduate days. However, one thing that is certain is that my knowledge of French and France has remained very useful to me both professionally and personally.

Following the Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies with the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg, I have been doing a PhD looking at energy policies and entrepreneurship in Britain, France and Germany. My language skills and cultural awareness were key in enabling me to do this challenging project which included field work in the three countries on the back of which I am trying to build a good academic career. Being able to work and do research in other EU countries is really valuable and opens up greater employment opportunities.

Following the completion of my PhD, I have been working in Germany in a large public research centre near to Cologne as a post-doc. There, I look at the future of the German energy system and compare Germany with other countries. I would say that my experience in language learning at Stirling and spending time abroad during my degree has really set me up for working internationally. French at Stirling’s innovative approach with the Integrated Masters programme with Strasbourg has been especially positive for me.

I am really excited about spending the next three years in Germany and building a research career in the Institute in which I am based. I am very keen to deepen my knowledge of energy and sustainability during my time here. Over the past few years, I have become really interested in emerging markets and would like to have greater involvement here in the future. The Francophone parts of Africa and Brazil are particularly interesting to me – recently, I spent some time travelling in Brazil.

I believe that throughout my life, French will continue to be an asset. I believe that, especially in the energy field, I will continue to use French extensively (France is a big player in energy). I also have great friends in Antibes whom I met whilst studying at Stirling and whom I see regularly, so I still get a lot of personal fulfilment from my French also.”

Thanks to Chris for this article and we wish him all the best for what is sure to be a long and successful academic career.

Study abroad in France and land yourself a job in the wine industry… not bad!

Claire Wright has spent the past year in Strasbourg, completing the final months of her Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies at our partner institution, the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg. Internships form an integral part of the programme and Claire has just sent us this account of her experiences of the process of securing an international internship. Some great advice here.

2016 Wright Covered Bridge

“It wasn’t until my third year of my undergraduate studies at Stirling when I realised the importance of having internship experience.

It’s true that it’s always more appealing to depart on ‘grands voyages’ all over the world during the long summer university break as opposed to confining yourself to an office environment. Honestly, that’s what I thought, and on top of that, I was terrified of the concept of applying my ‘education’ to the real business world. What if I didn’t meet the employer’s expectations? What if I then suddenly realised that all of those years spent studying were irrelevant? And worse still, what if they rejected me? Well Claire, obviously you’ll never know until you try! Besides, everybody who makes it to university has a certain level of intelligence. Sometimes you can be savvier than employees who have been in the organisation for decades, minus the experience – yet another reason why you should grab any opportunity to complete an internship.

I must admit that during my undergraduate degree I did not try hard (enough) to find internships, instead, I mostly worked part time at different points throughout the semester, travelled during the summer and did odd voluntary/ seasonal work. The truth is that I was too easily offended by the generic rejections from companies when I was applying for internship posts, which now seems stupid because it’s normal – obviously there will be healthy competition when applying for this kind of thing. A telephone interview I had in my final year of undergrad really made me realise exactly that. Why be put off? I should be even more motivated to succeed. My attitude was exactly that. I didn’t get the internship, I believe it was down to my lack of experience, but it was the furthest I had ever reached in the various interview stages. That was enough to motivate me.

2016 Wright Bateliers
Quai des Bateliers

 

When I moved to France last September, I learned that in order to graduate with my Master Grande Ecole, it was obligatory to complete an internship. The fact it was obligatory gave me the fear, but it pushed me to seriously start looking. Given I had no real ‘professional’ experience, it was particularly difficult to find one, besides, many posts were exclusively for 1st-3rd year students, which I wasn’t. Not only that, but I was looking for post abroad, where the talent pool is significantly bigger than at home, and of course, required a fluency in the language. With the pressure mounting, I started to panic. I already knew I was extremely lucky to be in the position I was in, completing a double degree with a fully funded master’s component, but I was still kicking myself for not having grabbed opportunities at the beginning of my studies.

As I mentioned, I was privileged to attend the prestigious French management school, EM Strasbourg, and even more so to be able to take advantage of their partnerships with local and global organisations. Following a trip to France’s biggest wine producer and exporter, Les Grands Chais de France, my class was asked to work in groups to create presentations which focused on various business areas. My group was given the topic ‘strategy to penetrate the Chinese market’. As an individual, I always like to be prepared, and to source background information whenever possible, so naturally I put a lot of work into the task. Little did I know, when we were presenting, the HR team were there to observe. A few weeks later I received a call inviting me for an interview, which I got. Obviously I was thrilled to find an internship position, but to find one in my chosen industry was just amazing. I guess my motivation shone through that day, I really had had a kick up the backside.

To all my fellow students, you should take this piece of advice and just try harder. It is not a question of whether you have contacts in high positions, it’s down to you. Put yourself out there and grab opportunities. If you work hard, it will be recognised and you’ll be rewarded for it. In this way, you will never tire of opportunities and options. After being offered my current position, it seemed that all of the offers came at once. That just proves that your attitude matters.”

Thanks to Claire for this article. Best of luck for the rest of your time with Les Grands Chais de France and we look forward to seeing you back in Stirling in November for graduation!

2016 Wright Montagne Sainte Victoire