“Immerse yourself in the language”: Reflections of a French and Psychology Graduate

As our 3rd week of the new semester gets underway, it’s time to post another profile of one of our recent graduates, Meghann Richardson, who has some great advice here for current (and future!) languages students:

“I was at the University of Stirling from 2009-2014 where I studied Psychology and French. Out of all the Universities in Scotland, it was Stirling’s beautiful, wild campus and great on-site facilities that made me choose it.

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My time at Uni was great. One of the biggest highlights was definitely the fact that working abroad for 7 months was a course component for French. I so enjoyed being abroad teaching English and would recommend it to anyone who is able to take a year out during their degree to go and do it. I particularly liked that it was between my 2nd and 3rd years of Uni as when I returned to start my 3rd year, I felt like my batteries had totally been recharged. I was really motivated to start studying hard again, plus, my French language skills had improved a lot making the transition into 3rd year much easier.

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To anyone who is studying French and feeling a bit discouraged by the challenges of speaking and understanding the language, it will get easier! When I arrived in France for the start of my year abroad I felt like I could hardly string together a decent sentence, but after a while of just listening to people speak French and myself, trying to ask questions and contribute to conversations, the rhythm of the language, words and expressions just began to sink in without me even noticing. Sometimes words or phrases that I didn’t even know the meaning of would just be stuck in my head – proof that the language was starting to stick to me.

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To help immerse yourself in the language and have the sensation of unknown words buzzing around your head while studying in Stirling, I would recommend any of the following:

  1. Read a book that you enjoyed in English in French. For myself, it was any of the Harry Potter books. The more familiar you are with the sounds and appearances of words in French, the easier it will be for you to learn and acquire the language.
  2.  Listen to the radio. You can download French radio Apps to your smart phone or computer. Good stations are FM radio, NRJ, France Inter, or rfi. FM radio is fun to listen to because it is dedicated to playing French music only.
  3.  And, finally, practise your vocabulary. To help you do this in a more hands-on interactive kind of way, you could record yourself reciting vocabulary in French and English onto your computer or smart-phone, save the recordings as sound files, and upload them to any device you use to listen to music. Listen to them whenever you have a spare moment. This has always been one of the most helpful ways for me to learn and memorise vocabulary.

It is important to be patient with yourself and with the speed at which your life is progressing. It may take you a while to sort out what you want to be doing and where you want to be. Sometimes the only way to figure out what you do want is by trial and error, and more often than not, by figuring out what you don’t want. Keep trying different and new things and try not to become complacent. All the people you meet and experiences you have along the way will teach you more about yourself and eventually lead you to where you want to be and, ultimately, to the career you want to be doing. And if you find you want to change your direction again after that, go for it! That’s my philosophy anyway.

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Before I close, I would like to leave you with a few revelations I have had since graduating:

  1. This month it’s 2.5 years since I graduated. In these 2.5 years I have worked in a nightclub, a call centre, and as a healthcare assistant in a hospital, which is where I am now. At this point in time, I am trying to pursue the Psychology part of my degree and hope to be hired as an Assistant Psychologist within the next year. I would, however, like to highlight that it has taken me nearly 2 years after completing Uni to finally make a solid decision about the direction I would like to go in. For a long time I was just unsure about what I wanted to do and at the back of my mind kept thinking if I don’t figure out what I want to do soon I’ll just go to France and find a job on a campsite or something – And it remains at the back of my mind even now! So, I’m pretty sure I will end up back in France at some point, I just want to get some endeavours in Psychology out of the way first.
  2. Also, be selfish about your learning. Don’t be scared to ask your tutors for help, advice or feedback. Get as much information out of them as you can.
  3. French aside, in more general terms, while you are at Uni make sure you get to know some of your tutors well. This will stand you in good stead should you ever need any kind of advice, academic reference, or help finding work experience during or after your degree. The most challenging part of the degree journey can be the moment you complete it. At this point contacts will come in handy!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have found some of the above information useful and encouraging. I wish you all the very best of luck, fun, adventure, success and happiness throughout your degree.”

And thanks to Meghann for having taken the time to reflect on having studied with us and for such great advice for other students. And best of luck for the future – we hope France and French makes its way back into your plans at some point.

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