Month: February 2017

Mid-Semester Catch-Up

Halfway through the mid-semester break seems a good point to catch up on various bits of news from Stirling staff and students. More to follow on some of these in the weeks ahead but, in the meantime…

This year is Stirling University’s 50th birthday and, as part of the year-long celebrations, the University is holding an Open Doors Day on Saturday 18 March. Lots of different activities are planned for the day – and all are welcome! – including a series of talks by academics from the School of Arts and Humanities with a French at Stirling contribution in the shape of a talk by Elizabeth Ezra on ‘Androids and Globalization, or How Cinema Makes Us Human.’ The talks will be chaired by French at Stirling’s Cristina Johnston.

In this anniversary year, we’re also welcoming to Stirling our first cohort of students on our new BA Hons Translation and Interpreting degree, in partnership with HNU in China. As a means of strengthening the ties between existing Stirling students and their HNU counterparts, a buddying scheme has been running since September 2016 with around a dozen Stirling students helping HNU students to get to know the University, the campus and the town, and generally helping them get used to life in Scotland. We thought it would be a great idea for one of the buddies to get a chance to travel to China to meet with next year’s HNU cohort this Spring so, after a very competitive selection process and with Faculty support, we’re pleased to announce that Elliot Knight (currently in the 2nd year of his degree in French) will be travelling to China to represent the University and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in a few weeks. More tales to follow on that front!

Closer to home, we’ve also been able to send another group of Student Language Ambassadors into a local secondary school – McLaren High in Callander – to talk to pupils there about life as a Languages student and the opportunities that opens up in terms of Study Abroad, employability, travel, and so on. Stefano Intropido, David Vescio and Ross Brown took on this role as Language Ambassadors, in a visit jointly organized by Jean-Michel DesJacques, Cristina Johnston and McLaren High teacher Alastair Brown. Alastair was very impressed by our students’ performance, commenting that ‘they spoke very well in all classes, and at the assembly, where they got a spontaneous round of applause from the pupils. They gave very motivating accounts of their language-learning journey and responded very well to the pupils’ questions.’ We hope to continue sending our students out into schools as ambassadors over the weeks and months ahead.

As well as looking forward to receiving our copy of our former PhD student Stefanie van de Peer’s edited collection Animation in the Middle East, we’re also excited to learn that another former French at Stirling PhD student, Lizelle Bisschoff has a new AHRC-funded project on ‘Africa’s Lost Classics in Context’ with David Murphy as co-investigator. The project aims to bring a number of screenings of ‘lost African film classics’ to UK audiences, complemented by public and educational events and activities to contextualise the films for audiences, in collaboration with the five UK African film festivals, including Africa in Motion which was founded by Lizelle while she was doing her PhD. The project started in January 2017 and will run for a year.

Alongside all the usual work, assessments and other commitments our students have for the second half of the semester, we also have a number of teaching and research-related events coming up, involving both staff and students. Our Year 4 French students, for example, will get the opportunity to try out Interpreting Taster Sessions in late-February, early-March, taking full advantage of Stirling’s new interpreting suite. A number of our students will also be attending the Language Show Live at the SECC in Glasgow in a few weeks and 3 of our current Year 2 students will be attending a Summer School run by our partners at the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg in June. Mid-March, we’ll be welcoming Lucie Herbreteau of UCO Angers to Stirling on an Erasmus teaching exchange and she’ll be taking classes involving not only our final year French students but also our postgraduate Translation programme and Years 1 and 2 of our undergraduate French programme. And, finally, at the end of March, Cristina Johnston has been invited to introduce a screening of Claude Chabrol’s Une Affaire de femmes at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema with Hugh McDonnell of Edinburgh University, as part of Mihaela Mihai’s project on Greyzones.

Busy, busy times and more news to follow, I’ve no doubt, over the coming weeks!

New Chapters and New Adventures

 

Following on from Jonny Terrell’s tales of life starting out as a secondary teacher in East Dunbartonshire, another account of life in teaching but this time from Megan Davis who graduated in 2016 with a BA Hons in French and Spanish. Megan applied for a British Council English Language Assistantship in her final year and has been working as a Language Assistant in Tenerife since last Autumn:

 

“While I couldn’t quite believe that my time in Stirling had come to an end, I was itching to start a new chapter and embark on a new adventure. Luckily, the opportunity to apply to be a language assistant with the British Council cropped up while I was in my final year. I was still not entirely sure of what direction I wanted to gear my career towards, so I decided to take it.

 

From my point of view, a year with the British Council was ideal. It meant I could have a go at teaching without committing myself to pursue it as a career. Similarly, it enabled me to take a small break from full time education, and yet still allow me to gain valuable skills, as well as spend a year living in Tenerife. Having now established myself and spent a few months at my school, IES Canarias, I can honestly say I am thrilled with my decision to come here.

 

Admittedly there was a period of adjustment when my new colleagues informed me they would rather I spoke only English in the school, strictly no Spanish was to be spoken to any of the students. I was initially taken aback to begin with, as I had anticipated my knowledge Spanish being a major asset in my time abroad, as opposed to a potential drawback. Nevertheless, I have adjusted to this new role and see the benefits of it on a daily basis. In general, the students all make an effort to speak to me in English, and really try to understand when I am speaking to them. Moreover, their capacity for understanding has vastly improved now that they are used to listening to me on a regular basis.

2017-megan-davis-fieldtrip-to-santa-cruz-feb17

 

 

On a personal level I am finding this year incredibly gratifying, not only because of the relationships forged between myself and my new students and colleagues, but also because of the amount of free time. It has meant I have been able to pursue activities and hobbies that I had not yet done, such as joining a choir, which has given me to chance to visit various villages on the island when performing shows.

2017-megan-davis-choir-photo-feb17-docx

Ultimately, I have made the decision not to continue with the British Council next year in favour of returning to Scotland next year to continue my higher education. Despite leaving the Canary Islands, I am delighted that I made the decision to come here and I cannot wait to see what the next few months have in store!”

 

Many thanks to Megan for taking the time to send us this blog post – we hope the rest of the ELA year goes well and look forward to catching up when you’re back in Scotland as a postgrad next year!

 

‘My language degree has turned me into a much more confident and ambitious person’

We’re on a bit of a roll with blog posts from recent graduates this week thanks to Emma’s tips on Alpine ski seasons yesterday and, today, tales of life beyond French at Stirling that both involve teaching but in rather different forms and contexts. Tales of Megan Davis’s life as a Language Assistant in the Canary Islands will follow shortly but, first, Jonny Terrell’s first steps in the world of secondary education. Jonny graduated in 2012 with a BA Hons in French and Global Cinema and Culture and is now about halfway through his first year as a French secondary school teacher:

2017-jonny-terrall-pic-metro“Since graduating from Stirling University in French and Global Cinema and Cultures, I have gone on to further use my language skills by training to become a French teacher at a Scottish secondary school. This started in 2015, when after three years working for a fundraising company in Glasgow, I learned about the PGDE programme (post-graduate diploma in education) from a friend. This turned out to be a very intensive and tough year training to become a teacher. However it was incredibly rewarding and I am now a good few months into my probationary year working as a full time French teacher in East Dunbartonshire.

My French degree has helped me get started in what I hope to be a long teaching career, and additionally it has been great fun to reactivate my language skills and get a chance to speak and teach French on a daily basis. To help improve my future job prospects I will be looking to add a second language (most likely German!) and I definitely feel that the grounding in language learning that Stirling University gave me will greatly help in this regard.

Outside of employment, my language degree has turned me into a much more confident and ambitious person than I was at the start of my degree. I especially feel that the six months of Erasmus in Tours had a huge impact on this – if only it could have been a full year! I would certainly not be in the exciting position in life that I’m in today had it not been for my four years studying French at Stirling University.”

Many thanks to Jonny for this blog post. We hope the probationary year continues to go well and wish you all the best for your new career – keep us posted!

 

Primary Education and Modern Languages: “The staff are genuinely inspiring!”

Following on from yesterday’s account of life since graduation from Emma Goodall-Copestake, it’s time for a profile of one of our current students. Jennifer Graham is in her 2nd semester of our BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages, studying both French and Spanish with us:

“Living in a small Scottish village on the North West coast of Scotland in the early 90s I definitely lacked exposure to other cultures. I think my first inkling that another language besides English existed was from Sebastian on Playdays, who, for anyone who hasn’t come across this ingenious example of engaging children’s television, was a stereotypical Frenchman made of cardboard or wood or something, who was wheeled about the set and ‘spoke’ the odd French word. Actually, he did intrigue me although I’m still not really sure why.

French in Primary School was great – songs, games and a teacher who loved everything French. I fully credit this teacher for the way that my studies have panned out so far. It was her love of France that tilted my education away from Gaelic, which was much more central to language education in the other local Primary Schools, and towards modern languages. In 1998 I started high school along with the five other pupils in my class, all of us with a confidence in French that was definitely not about to elevate our social standing among our peers. We all very quickly dropped our French accents while reading aloud in class.

2017-graham-ela-verdun
ELA Year in Verdun

 

Fast-forward eleven years to 2010. I’ve done three years of French and Spanish at Strathclyde University and I’ve just completed my year abroad working as an English Language Assistant in Verdun in France.

I’m pregnant.

Incomplete degree, no job, living in the South Side of Glasgow with friends and a cat. Not an ideal situation. I felt like I had been put on a swivel chair that had spun around and set me on a completely different path to the one I had been so sure I was set to follow. Now I have a six-year-old daughter who (you’ll permit me a small brag) delights in showing off her skills in French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and Polish. When she started school, I started getting itchy. I wanted to finish what I had started, and do it better than I had the first time.

2017-graham-family-pic

I love working with children and young people and so I applied for the Primary Education with Modern Languages course at Stirling University (this choice mainly came down to logistics. I live near Falkirk and Stirling is by far the easiest university to access and gives me the best chance of being able to make school drop off and pick up). Had I not been accepted I’m not sure what I would be doing just now, most likely still working full time in the Italian restaurant I’ve worked in for the past two years. Now I’m working part-time, mum full time and studying in the cracks that fall in-between. I’m not sure how long I can keep it up and soon something will have to give. It will inevitably be the job as I’m extremely determined now. I’m very different to the student I was – doing the minimum amount of work and living the maximum amount of student life.

My logistics-based choice of Stirling University has paid off: the campus is beautiful, the staff are fantastic, the facilities and layout of the university are great. I’ve found the enthusiasm of the staff genuinely inspiring. My greatest fear, as a slightly older student, was (is!) the amount of reliance on technology. Although it’s nice to sit at home and organise your student life, I found it quite isolating at the beginning. Choosing all my modules and seminar times online, receiving my timetable online, all of it automatic, was quite nerve-wracking as there seemed to be no assurance from a human being that I was actually doing everything properly. Honestly, in the days leading up to the first week of the first semester I was very, very nervous. Scared, really. I’ve never been frightened of technology before but I really was worried about not being able to prepare for my classes and looking like an idiot. I got through it though.

To round things up, I don’t think anyone can, or should, get through a degree without a fair amount of struggle. And it is a struggle. I’ve forgotten so much and I have a lot of new things to learn that I didn’t bother to learn the first time around. But I’m here and I’m doing it. My once stagnant brain is getting warmed up again and it’s hungry for irregular verbs. (Ha!)”

Many, many thanks to Jennifer for having taken the time to send us this post. We look forward to following your progress throughout the rest of your degree… and good luck with the irregular verbs!

 

French on the Slopes: Tips for Becoming a Saisonnaire

 

It’s the last week before our mid-semester break and time for another profile of a recent graduate. This time, Emma Goodall-Copestake, who graduated in 2016 with a BA Hons in French, has plenty of great tips for anyone interested in using their French to find a job working a ski season in the Alps… “Stirling University has offered some pretty great opportunities over the years, but for me, none were half as good as the chance to take a whole year out to go and work with the British Council in France. Why bring this up now? Well, it was during my time with the British Council that I became involved in the local ski club in the town where I worked, which took me out every week to different Alpine resorts. This gave me my first real taste of what life in the Alps might be like – skiing, parties and great experiences (or so I thought…).

2017-goodall-copestake-pic-5

Even though these were realistically just day trips off to the slopes, I was hooked on the idea of coming back to the Alps and spending a whole winter season there and skiing as much as possible. And there it began! I was determined to do a season after uni, so once the dissertation was handed in (phew!) I started looking into jobs.

A lot of employers won’t start really looking at applications until June or July for the winter season. I was a bit different though. One application that I filled out in September (which is in some ways quite late when looking for winter season work) brought me to a small, family-run chalet company by the name of Chalets1066 which even has a wee Highland Westie as a key member of the team. Having already looked around at quite a few, this job really took my fancy, so I sent in my application and crossed my fingers!

2017-goodall-copestake-pic-4

I first heard back a couple of weeks later, and following a quick phone call and further phone interview, I was asked to interview in person… in Maidenhead. For someone who lives in the Highlands, to have an interview literally at the other end of the country was a bit of a leap of faith! What if I spent all this time and money on travel and interview prep to not get the job?? Still, I had high hopes that all would work out in the end.

The job I was applying for was an admin assistant, which involves everything from making reservations for the 23 chalets that we run, to helping with checking clients in and out, to helping deal with the business finances. Literally, this job does it all. For this role, French was an absolute MUST. During my interview, they asked about my French and were very pleased to hear I had a good degree from Stirling. Among other things, this pretty much secured the job for me and they offered it to me there and then! My boss has since confessed that having the level of French I do was definitely the reason I was chosen. Lucky me!

So that was it! I packed my bags and ski boots, then headed out to start my season!

2017-goodall-copestake-pic-1

Going out for a ski season is about 10x easier if you have a good level of French. Employers find you much more valuable, meaning you’ll find it much more likely to get a job as even though many visitors are English speaking, many are still French so it makes a big difference. Even just going into town, or popping into the ‘saisonnaires’ pub, you’ll find many seasonal workers speaking amongst each other in English. Being a saisonnaire that speaks French is something that most people find very surprising and unique, which really works in your favour! Even with the most basic French, you will be more likely to get a warm welcome from the bar staff, will be able to meet even more people who can become your best ski buddy, and get involved in many more opportunities than you would if you had no French at all.

A little word of warning though for those of you also tempted by the idea of a ski season. A ski season is HARD work. If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like early mornings, or who has trouble keeping to uni deadlines or having to drop what you’re doing and sort out an urgent crisis, then you might be able to get away with it every now and then. Not here though! The mentality of work hard, play harder definitely becomes your way of life out here. Despite the tough work conditions at times, most saisonnaires would tell you that it’s all worth it when you get to hit the slopes. Being able to finish your shift or go out on your lunch break and spend a few hours hitting up the powder, then you can’t imagine anything better! Plus there is always a huge crowd of other saisonnaires doing the exact same thing so you can always guarantee that you’ll have someone to ski with.

2017-goodall-copestake-pic-4Anyone thinking about doing a season, Les Gets is a great wee resort. A small French town, with piste connections on both hillsides either side, already offers you a good range of slopes. On top of that, you can ski through to neighbouring Morzine and can even make your way all the way to Avoriaz which being a bit higher, gets more snow too! All in all, you’d be doing pretty well to ski ALL these pistes over the whole season. It’s also a little Scottish haven in the Alps, which even includes the Scottish restaurant Alba where you can find yourself a full Scottish fry up (including Haggis!). It’s not often you can get a good Alpine haggis dealer, but when you can have a haggis supper for Burns night in the Alps, life feels pretty good!

So, if you asked me if I’d still be out here if I hadn’t had my British Council experience, or didn’t have my degree, then I honestly don’t know if I would be. I’m not saying you can’t do a season without these things, but it made all the difference for me. Making great contacts around the Alps through the British Council helped me find the ideal job in a place I love. Gaining the level of French I have has given me the confidence to really feel at home here and make the most of this experience. All in all, a ski season is the best way to make the most of your degree.”

Many thanks to Emma for having taken time out from a hectic work (and skiing) schedule to send us this post, enjoy the rest of the season and keep us posted on what comes next!