As promised in the previous piece about Silje Volden, here’s the second Scandinavian account of life post-graduation, this time from Terry Karpathakis:
“Whether you fully master a profession as a banker, engineer, architect, teacher, factory worker and so forth, you are still limited in terms of its usage. As a professional, your job can only be applied in a context-specific environment in which the same language is spoken. However, if a company or an employee wish to expand their business and transmit their knowledge, they need to learn other languages. Learning a language holds the key to global awareness. Speaking many languages enables you to learn more about other cultures and to relate to individuals on a deeper level. Being multi-lingual is a sure way to further your career in any profession. Having the ability to speak many languages can help us transmit knowledge universally, increase cultural awareness, and reduce the amount misunderstanding and conflict that constantly surround us.
As a multi-linguist, studying at the University of Stirling was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I graduated with a BA Hons in both French and Spanish. This in turn prepared me extremely well to complete my MA in Spanish in Ottawa, Canada. The language courses at Stirling offered modules in translation, culture, history, interpreting, literature, and much more. As a double major language student, the year-abroad programme was an integral part of the course curriculum, offering opportunities to both work and study in targeted countries. During my second year of studies, I went to Lille in northern France to work as an English Language Assistant, which was quite an achievement for a non-native speaker of English. The following year, during my Semester Abroad, I studied legal translation in Málaga, Spain. This immersive hands-on experience abroad gave me confidence and knowledge to successfully complete my studies.
Aside from these wonderful travelling opportunities the University of Stirling has to offer, the language course components are directly relevant to the current language learning environment. Courses such as interpreting, translation, and literature truly equip you with the tools you need to succeed professionally. In my case, the interpreting and translation courses helped me land jobs at the local court in Logroño in Spain as their official translator, as well as several teaching jobs in Ottawa where French is often a prerequisite for working. I also worked as an official IELTS examiner in Canada and I have been called on for various interpreting services in Sweden where I am currently working as a language teacher.
Now, ten years after my graduation, I speak six languages fluently, I have had plenty of job offers, I have benefited from visiting and living in many countries. Most importantly, I have many great friends from all over the globe. I am a citizen of the world.”
Terry happens to have graduated at the end of my first semester teaching at Stirling, so it’s particularly nice to have been able to keep in touch over the course of the past decade and we wish him all the best for the future!
More catching-up with recent graduates and tales of their lives since they finished studying with us. Today’s tales both happen to come from Scandinavian graduates… first, Silje Volden, from Norway, and Terry Karpathakis, from Sweden.
Silje graduated from Stirling in 2013 with a BA Hons in English Studies and French: “I originally chose Stirling because of its opportunity to do French for beginners. It was also on the list of universities that the Norwegian organisation which helped me apply co-operated with. In addition, the pictures of the surroundings and campus looked amazing!
During my time there I enjoyed both the English and French part of my studies. Stirling is also great for past-time activities and I tried to enjoy that to the full as well of course. I went on exchange to Geneva, Switzerland for my 2nd semester 3rd year. That certainly helped my language skills a lot and this compulsory time abroad was also a reason that I chose this course.
One of my favourite modules during my stay in Stirling was a module on Post-War France with Jason Hartford. This made me love history once again and was just so incredibly interesting on a cultural, as well as a social level.
After graduating and taking a year to travel, I did a one-year teaching course here in Norway to become a qualified teacher (like you can in Scotland). I am now a secondary school teacher (kids aged 12-15). I teach English and French, where English is a compulsory subject and French is not. This means that, often, the French groups are more motivated and can progress quicker. However, a difference between classes and groups is always interesting.
I certainly appreciate that I did French, as it certainly made me stand out and landed me a job. French-English was a great combination both for being relevant during my studies and after.”
We continue to offer that route into French via the Beginners’ stream for students who don’t have a Higher (or equivalent), overseen by our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques. Students in those classes focus on intensive language learning for the first two semesters, before beginning to study literary texts and films in Semester 3 (still alongside intensive language learning), and then merging with the non-Beginners in Semester 4. From that point onwards, there’s no further differentiation between Beginners and non-Beginners and, every year, we’re delighted to see a cluster of former Beginners among our successful graduates.
Thanks to Silje for this article and best wishes for the future!
‘My name is Kristina Auxtova and I come from Slovakia. I came to Stirling in 2007 as a first year student of a double degree entitled BA (Hons) International Management and Intercultural Studies which is combined with a Master’s degree from Ecole de Management Strasbourg. I graduated in 2013. Although with a slightly complicated name and structure and only very few people taking the same combination, this degree allowed me to study French, Spanish and Marketing at the same time. Being a language enthusiast but also wanting a field to use the languages in, this was a great fit. And now, a few years after my graduation, I cannot say otherwise! I’m very happy with all my choices and with all the opportunities I was given along the way. We have a saying at home which I’ll have a shot at translating here with hope it conveys the message: “The more languages you know, the more of a person you are”. And it’s a saying I truly believe. When thinking in another language, you really changes the way you think, partly due to the way the language works and partly grasping the culture. According to this saying, I could say I’m at least 5 distinct people now – 3 of which are thanks to Stirling University – the Scottish, the French and the Chilean/Spanish (the other two being Slovak and Czech).
After 2 great years in Stirling, I went abroad as a Comenius Assistant for a year. I was placed in Marseille, one of the largest cities in France. Teaching at a vocational high school was challenging but certainly a great and rewarding experience. One of my classes did a 4-week long internship in Dublin at the end of the year allowing them to experience Irish culture in person. I could watch the progress of my students on a daily basis as their excitement for the trip grew, but when this class returned from Dublin, their improvement was simply stunning. Outside of school, I integrated a group of fellow language assistants from all over the globe – Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Spain, Italy and USA to name a few. Friends are one of the most amazing parts of travelling and living abroad. Yet, the hardest thing about moving from one country to another is having to say goodbye to your friends. However, the world is small and there’s always a way to reunite. We created such strong bonds that many of us have already met since and we even had a little reunion in Mexico couple years ago!
When I returned from Marseille, it was only for a short time of one semester before I was already making plans for my next adventure – a semester in Chile. This was a compulsory study abroad part of the degree to improve our language skills. I could have chosen from about 7 Spanish universities, but being the adventurous type, I asked myself – when will I have the opportunity to live in South America for 6 months again? So I packed my bags and hopped on the plane. I wouldn’t have changed this time for anything in the world. Living in such a different and interesting culture was an incredible experience full of new people, new tastes and strange accents one must learn (and I mean that, Chilean Spanish is nothing like what you learn in class!). Really getting into it, at the university, I signed up for Español de América where we learned to recognise the dialects from different regions of all South and Central American countries. I also took a class of the Quechua language and culture which was very interesting. Despite being the only foreigner in the class, it was my favourite – the language is like no other that I’ve ever studied. And when I travelled north to Peru and Bolivia at the end of the semester, I could even read and understand some of the names of the villages and places that still bear old Quechua names.
And believe it or not, that was not the last time I went abroad thanks to Stirling. After completing my 4th year and therefore the whole Stirling component of the degree, I went back to France for 13 months, this time to Strasbourg. Compared to the southern laid back style of Marseille, the life in Alsace had a very significant influence from Germany, cutting down the amount of strikes, public transport being on time and, not to forget, a good beer. At the university, I chose a specialisation of International and European Business – this part of my degree was really focused on business – in the end, this was a business school. Even though we had to endure lectures in 4 hour blocks (yes that means listening to an accounting lecturer for 4 hours straight not understanding much of it – I’ve never done accounting and it was not a beginners’ class (!)), the classes were varied to suit everyone – marketing, HR, finance, supply chain – and everything was looked at from the international or intercultural perspective. Some of us even took a minor in wine marketing, a part of which was dedicated to the knowledge of grapes and wines, allowing us to get to know Alsace through its very traditional art of wine-making – I strongly recommend both the class and the wine. In April, when the classes were over, I started a 6-month internship at a local start-up company called. I could finally apply what I had learnt over the 5 years of studies to my work, and I was happy to find all the effort was worth it.
It was a challenging, yet exciting journey and I found myself with two degrees in my hands. The doors were open, so you might ask what did I go on to do next? Well, I have to admit, I took some time off to relax back at home where I haven’t spent much time over the past 6 years. I visited friends in Milan and in Mexico and travelled to both my graduations – the Stirling one as well as the Strasbourg one.
But my mind didn’t let me relax for long, and so I started planning my next big step – PhD studies. I really enjoyed my Master’s dissertation topic – how different cultures respond to shock appeals in charity advertising – and so I decided to build on it and started to write a research proposal and PhD applications. Took some time to get everything ready, find the right supervisors and secure funding, but it all came together and I am now in my 2nd year of the PhD programme at the University of Edinburgh. I might have said the journey up until here was challenging, but PhD life is much more so. Challenging and tiring it may be, it is also fascinating, thought-provoking, inspirational and full of learning and discovery. I am grateful to be here and thankful to the University of Stirling where I received excellent training and numerous international opportunities. And even despite all the rain, I am happy to be back in Scotland, reunited with those friends that remained here and with many new ones, making new memories.
I haven’t forgotten Stirling or my language studies either. Before starting the PhD I spent some time teaching English as a foreign language, in France and in England to international groups, and once I moved back to Scotland, I even tutored French in Stirling – on some of the courses I had once taken. It was a lovely experience to be back on the beautiful campus and also on the other side of the classroom – this time, in front of the students rather than being one of them.
All these experiences have helped me become who I am now. I never thought I would be an academic but now I am on the path towards a career in teaching and research and I am determined and enthusiastic. And I look forward to all my next challenges and adventures, because without them, life would be boring.’
And, of course, we look forward to being able to post updates on Kristina’s progress over the years ahead.
As well as a broad range of Combined Honours programmes involving French over the standard 4-year course of a degree (5, if you undertake an English Language Assistantship), French at Stirling also happens to be home to an integrated Masters programme in International Management and Intercultural Studies with our partner institution, the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg. This is a 5-year programme and, for students starting in Stirling, involves a semester of Study Abroad in 3rd year and then a full year in Strasbourg to complete the Master Grande Ecole in Year 5.
Claire Wright is one of our students who is currently in Strasbourg for the year, taking full advantage of all the opportunities available through a partnership with one of Europe’s most prestigious business schools:
‘I cannot emphasise enough the return on investment you will receive from studying abroad. In the increasingly globalised world that we live in, young people, like myself, are constantly reminded about the pace of change and the dynamics of cross-cultural collaboration. We live in exciting times as this change brings enormous opportunities to grow and develop as young global talent. By immersing ourselves in other cultures, we become aware of other people, aware of alternative views and more aware of ourselves.
Stirling University’s unique integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies is perfectly fitting to today’s environment. Having the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico in third year, as well as further pursue a 5th year at EM Strasbourg France, to obtain a Master Grande Ecole degree, does not compare to staying local. At least for me, anyway, as I am always looking for a new challenge.
To cut to the chase, if you put the work in, you will reap the benefits of the course that Sitrling Uni offers. For me, this hard work has paid off. Particularly, having the opportunity to live and breathe the eclectic mix of French and German cultures in the heart of Europe has exposed me to the richness and multicultural diversity that the EU boasts.
From visits to the parliament to participate in mock debates to listening to the perspectives of guest speakers from the WTO, my horizons have been widened. I now think in ways that I never could have imagined and I always look beyond the immediate situation. You cannot learn this stuff, you just need to be exposed to it. Even if it is in the form of organised wine tasting sessions at France’s biggest wine exporter’s HQ.
To my surprise, my biggest challenge of all was not actually working in international teams at university, but was, in fact everyday interactions with French people. During my first few weeks, I found it a real struggle to get along with French people on a daily basis. But, I was determined to crack them. I even bought a book. It was ironic as in contrast to my experience in Mexico, where the culture is obviously different, French culture just seemed so much more difficult to master. Over time, however, I have learned to love the peculiarities, and, of course the rich culture of cheese and wine.
Overall, this experience has not only equipped me for a career in international business, but it has enriched me as a culturally sensitive individual. Gaining insight from industry experts has opened my eyes to the reality of the business world, preparing me to cultivate my future and become a global talent. This is complemented by my exposure to all things francophone, and my daily cooperation with the 12 different nationalities that are on my course. Not only that, but I have gained an ever growing international network and have made life long international friends. Speaking languages are just a bi-product of these soft skills that you will acquire through studying such a dynamic course and putting yourself out there.
We’re looking forward to hearing where life will take Claire after she graduates later this year.
Next month, Bill will be giving the annual Christianson lecture at Bristol University on ‘French Atlantic Cities in Translation’ and participating in a panel on Quebec cinema at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Atlanta. In April, he’ll be giving a talk on Saint-Pierre et Miquelon at New York University, as well as a seminar at Edinburgh University in their ‘Diasporic Trajectories’ series.
And as though all that weren’t enough, Bill’s latest publication – a chapter entitled ‘Buildering, Urban Interventions and Public Sculpture’ – is now out in Christoph Lindner and Shirley Jordan’s edited collection Cities Interrupted. Visual Culture and Urban Space.
In May of last year, I was contacted by a colleague at St Andrews who asked if I would be willing to chair a discussion with Jean-Pierre Jeunet at the Byre Theatre. This ‘Conversation with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’, as it was billed, was being held to launch a new series of cultural events at the theatre, and I was asked to chair the event because I had written a book about Jeunet’s films (with the searingly original title Jean-Pierre Jeunet, published in the University of Illinois Press Contemporary Film Directors series in 2008).
I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, not because I would have to moderate a discussion in front of hundreds of people; not because I hadn’t thought much about Jeunet’s films since I’d published the book; and not because I would also be interviewing Reif Larsen, the author of the novel on which Jeunet’s latest film was based, but whose work I had not read. None of these things bothered me unduly: I was used to standing up in front of large groups of people; I could swat up again on Jeunet’s work in preparation for the interview; and Larsen’s novel looked as though it would be fun to read. No, what bothered me was the fact that I had never met Jeunet before, and I knew that when artists and critics meet, things don’t always go well. It’s one thing, as a scholar, to work on someone who is long gone—say, Shakespeare, or Méliès—and who, therefore, cannot contradict your interpretations of their work. But it is quite another thing to come face to face with someone about whom you have devoted an entire study, and who might not like what you have said about them.
But then I read Larsen’s book, and I loved it. (The book is called The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, a title changed in the film to The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.) I enjoyed the novel for its own sake, but it was also immediately apparent why Jeunet had been drawn to it—it exhibits a quirky inventiveness, a boundless energy very similar to that found in Jeunet’s films. In fact, I learned while preparing for the interview that Larsen had been influenced by Jeunet’s work when he wrote his book, which makes for a kind of endless chicken-and-egg story if you think about it too long.
Meeting Reif Larsen an hour or two before the event on the 14th of October began to put me at ease. Both he and his wife, Russian literature scholar Katharine Holt, were extremely likable, and, since they also came from the US, we swapped stories about the Old Country, and about our experiences as expats in Scotland. But then Reif said casually, no doubt oblivious to the fact that he was confirming my worst fears: “Jean-Pierre can get a little funny at times. Don’t take it personally. He really hates academic interpretations of his work.” Great, I thought; just fantastic.
And indeed, when Jeunet himself appeared before our entrance on stage, our conversation was initially quite stilted. I asked him what he was working on at the moment, and he said, somewhat testily, “Sex.” I took his response to mean a film about this topic, rather than a personal exploration of the subject, though I was in no hurry to find out which of these two alternatives he intended. I imagined our interaction on stage as consisting of similarly halting exchanges, and began to think that maybe this event wasn’t such a good idea after all.
But here’s the thing: once we were seated on stage and began talking in earnest, Jeunet’s wariness melted away, and he was absolutely charming. We had a great conversation, which somehow seemed to flow quite naturally; Larsen and Jeunet already had a good rapport with each other, and the three-way dialogue format worked well. The time flew by. In other words, it was all good. Afterwards, we went to dinner at a lovely restaurant (which was also much better than I had expected), where I sat between Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Reif Larsen, and we talked about the works—the novel, the film, and even the scholarly book—that had brought us all together.
Two years ago, our graduate Susan Peattie sent us a report on her life and travels following graduation, a journey that had taken her from Stirling to the Czech Republic, via Africa, Central Asia and Latin America. Two years on, Susan is now living and teaching in southern Spain where she continues to put her language learning and language teaching skills to very good use.
“In August 2014 I moved to Spain and spent a month in Seville where I took a CELTA course in order to further my teaching career. I then took up the post of Very Young Learners Specialist with a school in Linares, Andalucía teaching English to children from 3 to 6 years old, as well as teenagers and adults.
Linares is a small town surrounded by olive groves and is only an hour away from Córdoba, Granada and Cazorla National Park which has some fabulous walks. Being a small town, Linares is very friendly and it is difficult to walk down the street without meeting someone you know and here students quickly become friends. It is a very traditional town which means bars still give a free tapas with every drink and the shops are closed on Sundays because the focus is very much on socialising with family and friends!
I am working at The Cultural English Centre and I am really enjoying being part of the team here because they have a refreshing approach to teaching and learning. Whilst Cambridge Exams are never far from our minds, we encourage the children to learn in a more natural way through many free activities. We have a Theatre Club and they perform in the local theatre in June, photo and video making competitions as well as Hallowe’en and Christmas parties. We also take the children to La Garza where we spend the weekend in log cabins and the children can participate in many outdoor activities which not only helps to improve their English, but their confidence in general! We also go for tapas with our adult students to give them the opportunity to speak English in a more natural environment.
I am planning to stay here for the foreseeable future as the school also encourages teachers to continue with their own professional development and they are supporting me whilst I study for the DELTA qualification with Cambridge University. Not only will this qualification open up more opportunities for me in the future, it will help me to grow as a teacher.”
We look forward to following Susan’s travels and the development of her varied teaching career over the months and years ahead.