Month: April 2016

Summer in Burkina Faso

Many of our students use the Summer break as an opportunity to do something French or languages-related and we’re hoping to post a few more pieces on this topic as the Summer gets closer. We’re kicking the series off with this blog post from Lauren Birney who will be in the final year of her BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a specialism in Modern Languages next year. Before then, though, Lauren is off to West Africa…

“This summer I’m spending 5 weeks in Burkina Faso, a country that many people, including my travel nurse, have never heard of. Burkina Faso is a French speaking country in West Africa that I absolutely love. In 2012 I visited the capital, Ouagadougou (how fun is that to say?!), with a group on a summer missions trip. We ran kids clubs in the areas surrounding the capital, and got involved with other programmes that helped street children and orphans.

2016 Lauren Birney Burkinabe Classroom April

Up until this trip I HATED studying French. In my secondary school it had been compulsory to take French as far as GCSE and then after that I had done surprisingly well in the exams so begrudgingly kept it on for AS/A Level. Then I visited Burkina Faso and it all fell into place. Don’t get me wrong, my French was not great at this point, I could just about hold a simple conversation or regurgitate a memorised children’s story. But being in a French-speaking country made me realise how great it was to be able to communicate in another language, and made me motivated to learn French.

2016 Lauren Birney Prescolaire April

When I returned from the trip I realised that I wasn’t quite ready to give up French yet and so I started researching universities that I could study French alongside primary teaching. And that’s how I ended up in Stirling!

So four years on (three at Stirling and one spent abroad with the British Council) I’m returning to Burkina Faso to do something a little different. I’m hoping to put my teaching skills to the test and volunteer at LIFE academy, an international school in Ouagadougou. In true African style I’m not quite sure what my role will be yet, but I’m sure when I arrive all will be made clear! I hope to teach and help out where I can within the school.

2016 Lauren Birney April

For the rest for my time I hope to get stuck into as much as I can, the possibilities are endless really – work with street children, in orphanages, practical work, teaching adult English classes, volunteering in hospitals and so much more. For now I will leave you with some pictures that little give you a taster of my Burkinabé life and update you more when I am there, settled in and know what I am doing!”

Thanks to Lauren for this article. We hope all goes well with the trip and look forward to updates later in the Summer!

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AHRC Studentship Success

Congratulations to Fraser McQueen who graduated in French and History from Stirling two years ago and who, we have just learned, will be coming back to Stirling to undertake an AHRC funded PhD under the supervision of Fiona Barclay.

Fraser is currently working as a University lecteur in France. Here’s what he has to say about his project and his return to Stirling: “My project will involve a comparative analysis of literary, filmic, polemical and media texts representing immigration, integration, and Islam published in France since 2005. I’ll explore artistic texts’ capability to contribute to the debates over these subjects which have taken on an ever-increasing importance in French society over this period, and potentially to counteract discourses of exclusion diffused through the media.

I’m looking forward to coming back to Stirling for this project, as I thoroughly enjoyed my four years there as an undergraduate: it was at Stirling, and particularly in my fourth year, that I became interested in the legacies of French imperialism, which are vital to understanding the racial and religious tensions in modern-day France. The French programme at Stirling’s strategic focus on colonial and postcolonial studies makes it the perfect place to carry out this research: almost every member of staff has some interest in one of these themes, and I know from previous experience that they’re friendly and approachable. It’ll be a wrench to leave the sunny south of France to come back to Scotland, but I’m looking forward to getting started!”

It’s snowing as I write this particular blog piece, so apologies on the weather front but congratulations, Fraser, and we look forward to welcoming you back in the Autumn!

Summer after Stirling

2016 Davis Life after Graduation logo April

The exam period has just started at Stirling but French at Stirling modules for final semester students are all coursework-only so our finalists are slowly realising that they’ve had their last undergraduate classes with us (though we hope to welcome some back in future years for postgrad programmes…). As that realisation gently takes shape, one of this year’s finalists, Megan Davis, who is due to graduate with a BA Hons in French and Spanish in a couple of months, has put her thoughts together for us:

“The time has come when I finally have to answer the dreaded question “So, what do you want to do after you’ve finished your degree?” Being in my fourth year, facing the sometimes (always) overwhelming graduate and job market, I now have no other option than to actually come up with something resembling a vague plan.

Thankfully, everyone teaching at Stirling has already been through this process and remember just how terrifying it can be taking your first steps into the “real world”. Because of this, everyone is on hand to give advice on what to do next and highlight any upcoming opportunities that may be of interest. These range from emails containing schools looking for “Lecteurs d’anglais” to help applying to the British Council. So I’d just like to say a quick thank you to all of our lovely tutors for all of the help along the way, it is really much appreciated!

Thanks to the advertising of future opportunities at Stirling, I have had the chance to apply to be an English Language Assistant with the British Council for the following academic year in September 2016. I am incredibly excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to hear back from the organisation to find out which school I will be placed with. Whilst being a E.L.A I will be paid an approximate of €700 a month, be given the opportunity to gain first hand experience in a classroom and promote an understanding of British culture abroad, whilst also immersing myself in the Spanish culture and language. While working with the British Council I have also applied for the Stevenson Grant to receive funding to research a topic proposed by myself. I’ll be investigating whether there is a desire for independence in the Canary Islands, and whether the reasons behind this are linked to formal education or not.

In terms of plans over the summer, I intend to stay in Stirling and was recently accepted as a volunteer with The Big Training Project in partnership with First Aid Africa. I will be a volunteer recruitment officer in the UK, representing and promoting the charities, with The Big Training Project providing personalised First Aid Training here in the UK and donating all profits to First Aid Africa. The latter charity aims to provide First Aid training in various locations across Africa, where it is needed and welcomed. It was a much welcome surprise that my interviewer is also a student at Stirling, creating an immediate bond and putting me at ease moving forward in this position with the charities.

Meanwhile, I am also applying to several internships, the majority of which are made available through the Stirling Internship Programme. The positions I have applied for thus far span across a wide range, including positions such as a PR, marketing and events intern requiring Spanish to an Archivist intern with Stirling University Retired Staff Association, all made possible through the wide range of transferable skills I’ve acquired through studying languages at Stirling.

In short, I’d like to thank everyone here at Stirling, once again, for making my four years here thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you for helping me grow both as a student and a person and for helping make the transition from student to graduate seem somewhat manageable and a whole lot less daunting!”

Thanks to Megan for this blog post and best of luck, first and foremost, for the Stevenson interview and then for life beyond Stirling!

Bill Marshall Awarded Inaugural SFS Prize Research Fellowship

2016 Bill SFS Tautavel Street Sign
Street Sign in Tautavel

 

Congratulations to French at Stirling’s Bill Marshall who has been awarded the inaugural Society for French Studies Prize Research Fellowship. This award will enable Bill to develop his work on ‘The Uses of Prehistory in Modern and Contemporary France.’ Through its engagement with other fields, the project will demonstrate the pivotal role that French culture – including the unique place of prehistory in that culture and its geography – plays in launching, re-launching and elaborating far-reaching and fundamental debates concerning ‘what is ‘human’?’

This award follows on from Bill’s success in winning the SFS‘s inaugural Visiting International Fellowship last year which enabled him to bring leading American academic Professor Tom Conley to the UK for a series of talks on topics relating to cartography and translation.

2016 Bill Caverne du Pont d'Arc II
Caverne du Pont d’Arc

Languages as huge, intricate puzzles

Another account of life since graduating from Stirling. This time from Mira Waligora who, like Saara, also graduated in French in 2014 and who, since graduation, has gone on to develop a career as an interpreter but who was very pleased to get a chance to reflect on ‘the Stirling bubble’:

“This summer it will be two full years since my graduation, I can hardly believe it, and even less so the fact that it’s been nearly 6 years since I’ve started University, now that’s crazy!

2016 Waligora campus picI came to Stirling, having chosen the university because of the attractive language courses it offered and the absolutely magical campus it occupied. Say what you want about big cities but no University in Scotland beats our campus. For me, Stirling was the perfect choice. Glasgow and Edinburgh are only a short train ride away, which is one of the best ways to relax and clear your head: listen to some music and watch the picturesque landscapes of Scotland pass you by.

I loved studying at Stirling. All of our French lecturers were wonderful, so very different but all so passionate about what they teach. Their excitement seeped through into the students. I am very fond of languages. Speaking four fluently, I am fascinated by how they work, like huge intricate puzzles. All with such different parts that fit together in such different ways. So, naturally I thoroughly enjoyed the grammar and translation classes. Having lived in France for a short while when younger I was somewhat familiar with French culture. The course however broadened my understanding of francophone cultures, through courses that explored the different parts of the world and history when French was spoken.

I found everyone in the French department to be very approachable and ready to help. Our lecturers, with their oceans of knowledge, were always ready to share it with us and advise us on the ideas we were exploring. I find this important because to a certain extent, having a department that is not helpful and lecturers you don’t feel comfortable with hinders studies.

Stirling offers some pretty attractive exchange programs and when it came time to choose where to go for my semester abroad, I decided it had to be Paris. We were free to study pretty much anything we wanted while abroad and I loved my courses at Sciences Po. I took “Philosophy of Friendship”, “Utopia” and “The cultural history of Europe” all en français bien sûr! I still have all my notes and books from these and I have no doubt I will be re-reading them. The teaching differed quite a lot from Stirling, I think because the dynamic between the students and the lecturers just wasn’t the same.

2016 Waligora Shakespeare and Co AprilI must speak quickly about Paris. I didn’t know what to expect. My exchange took place from January until June, only six short months. Yet within these I built a whole new life. I made some amazing friends, whom I still see regularly now. My experience was bohemian and artistic, full of cheap wine and fresh baguettes, photographer friends who’d take beautiful pictures and bookshops with captivating events. Having studied much about France and French culture, it felt surreal to walk around Place de la République, or visit the Grand Palais and just stare in adoration at the beautiful architecture, and think how many people passed through these places through the century. Spending half a year somewhere lets you discover the “hidden” gems of the city, when first visiting Paris you will go to the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Tuileries but it’s places like Parc des Buttes Chaumont, that truly stole my heart.

I really enjoyed the final year of university, maybe because of the independence in study and writing that we had. Writing the dissertation meant you chose an area of interest personal to you and just plunged into it. Sure it was stressful, you had to be driven, organised and generally on top of things, but doing the research, analysing the information and creating a report was very satisfying and rewarding.

My friends and I always talk about the “Stirlng Bubble”, nothing is far away and after a year you pretty much know everyone and everything. Which makes you feel at home, safe and cosy, and that’s something big cities can’t offer. On top of it all Stirling has some really interesting young talents, community initiatives and creative events. The Filth and Aztec music gigs remain some of the best ones I’ve been to.

My time at the University of Stirling has provided me with skills and experiences that have led me to where I am today. I live in Scotland and work as a Polish interpreter. I currently work with: local schools, social work offices, health centres, the police and even the courts. In fourth year we went to a multilingual debate at Heriot-Watt University. The debaters all spoke different languages and their conversation was possible due to the final year students of an interpreting course. It was my first time witnessing the mechanics of interpreting in action and I was fascinated. Throughout our language classes I had amassed the skills to work with language. We worked thoroughly on each text we translated for practice, exchanging ideas and methods. We would discuss the intricacies of the language and the many connections that words create between each other. What meaning these connections of words convey and how to transfer that meaning into a different language. Realising that sometimes it is absolutely crucial to know where the words come from and how they are used in contemporary society in order to fully grasp the subtle differences in meaning between individual words. Learning that often you can only become truly fluent in a language if you understand the culture of the people that speak it. That is exactly what the French Degree at the University of Stirling equipped me with.”

Many thanks to Mira for sending this blog post and all the best for the years ahead!