“The more languages you know, the more of a person you are”

By happy coincidence, on the same day as I’ve been able to post Claire Wright’s account of the year that she is currently spending in Strasbourg on our International Management and Intercultural Studies degree, I’ve also received an update from a graduate of the same programme…

‘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).

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My first week at Stirling, visiting the Castle – it felt like being at Hogwarts!

 

 

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.

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Tarabuco – A small market town near Sucre in Bolivia

 

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.

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And always with my bike! Strasbourg has most bike routes per capita in France.

 

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.

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Graduation – finally!!

 

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.

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Presenting a poster with my research project at Edinburgh University

 

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.

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