“My time abroad has completely changed my life!”

Rachael Ringland graduated with a BA Hons in French and Spanish just over a year ago and we’re delighted to get a chance to post this update on what she’s been up to since graduating and how many doors a degree in languages has opened for her.

“It has been just over a year since I graduated. June 2015 was a slightly terrifying month because everything I had known for the past five years was coming to an end. At this point I should stress how much I genuinely loved university; it was an experience I could have never predicted.

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The University of Stirling itself is fantastic, from its breath-taking scenery to the fantastic amenities on campus, it truly is an amazing place to spend your days at uni. I had the privilege of studying French and Spanish, and I honestly couldn’t fault anything within the department. The tutors are wonderful people, there’s a great range of modules in 3rd and 4th year which allow you to concentrate on your strongest or favourite subject, and a lot of help and support readily available should you need it. For me, exams were sometimes a pain because both French and Spanish departments set their exams around the same time, but unlike many of my friends I was able to get everything over and done with extremely quickly (silver linings!).

It has to be said, though, that the best part about studying languages is the opportunity to live abroad. When I was at school, I considered myself to be a home bird; I had never left Northern Ireland for longer than a couple of weeks before I came to Stirling, and to be honest the thought of living in Scotland was terrifying at first, never mind in France or Spain where I didn’t even speak the language (fluently!). But I went. I chose to work in France as an English Language Assistant then study in Spain the next year.

I could get carried away so easily here, so I will try not to babble! My time abroad has completely changed my life: I have made so many friends from all over the world and met so many amazing people who have had a massive impact on my life. I’m actually just back from a visit to Wales, where I was visiting two girls I met only four years ago whilst we were in France. I now consider them two of my closest friends and I can’t even imagine my life without them. The experience of teaching English was so surreal. I was in a Lycée and my students ranged from 15-22 and every one of them was at a different level. I say surreal because at the time I was only 20 and many of my students were older than me! They found it hysterical, obviously. Studying in a different language was a pretty intense experience too, but it really paid off. In fact in my last semester I was much more confident and obtaining better marks in exams than before!

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Since leaving university I have started working. At the beginning I was considering going into teaching, but having taken so long to decide I actually missed my application deadlines (awkward) so I decided to get a job in the meantime to keep myself busy and to earn my own money after having lived on student loans for so long. I applied for everything going for a month or two until I finally got a job at Holland and Barrett. Interestingly enough, my time abroad and my degree was a massive deciding factor during my first interview. I applied for a supervisor role, and obviously my future boss had to decide whether or not I was responsible enough to be in charge of other people! She also had to gauge how capable I was to do the mountain of training I had to undertake before being fully qualified. I assured her I was well used to studying and working hard, and thankfully she took my word for it! She was very impressed that I had spent time abroad and was amazed that I had teaching experience at the age of 20. I honestly believe that was one of the main reasons she hired me, so even though my interview wasn’t for anything language-based, my skills have proven to be completely transferable!

I am still working at Holland and Barrett over a year on and I genuinely love it. In May I attended the company conference (it was a Carnival conference!) and whilst there I attended a talk on the company’s expansion- we now have branches all over the world from China to UAE, and more importantly in Spain and Gibraltar. I am in the process of working my way through the training and climbing the company ladder so that one day I can go and run their new branch in Gibraltar (or France if they ever open one…). At the minute I am also looking in to TEFL and TESOL courses with a view to becoming a fully qualified English teacher. I decided that teaching French and Spanish is not, in fact, the route I would like to pursue, so I am building upon my experience as an ELA. It would give me much more flexibility teaching English, and it’s something I could use in any country should I decide to pack up and explore the world for another few years. At the moment I am leaning towards doing a course online, simply because it will allow me to continue to work full time and save up for any upcoming adventures I may plan! But I noticed Stirling is offering an MSc TESOL course too so my decision has been swayed again! Watch this space…”

We will, indeed, watch this space and hope to maybe get a chance to welcome Rachael back to Stirling to do that TESOL MSc! In the meantime, though, thank you for this blog post and all the best for the current job.

 

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