Month: June 2018

Sunshine and Successes

It has been a fantastically sunny day in Stirling today, ideal weather for this year’s finalists who have just become this year’s French at Stirling graduates. Everybody looked great in their finery and, despite the heat in the Gannochy, it was a morning of smiles all round. Congratulations once again to all our graduates!

And it’s not only our finalists who are to be lauded today – as I got ready to don my gown for the ceremony this morning, I was very pleased to find a blog post from Jack, one of our students who is halfway through his degree, waiting in my inbox. As we mentioned recently on the blog, Jack was recently awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship which he’ll use – as he explains here – to learn more about competition structures for tennis in France:

‘For language students, third year is a biggie. It’s the one we all look forward to – the one where we finally get to spend our semester abroad! We have all talked about it amongst ourselves endlessly, saying things like “I think I’ll go to Quebec’ or ‘Tours sounds nice!’, but this coming September myself and the rest of the French students at Stirling going into their third year of studies will have to make a final decision on which francophone university we would like to study at in January 2019. What seemed like a decision so far away is suddenly right around the corner!

2018 Jack Oswald Tennis Photo 1For me, it has been a decision that I have had to put much thought into. Being a tennis scholar at Stirling, I wanted to find a French-speaking city that I would find exciting and where I would have ample opportunities to improve my ability in the language, but also have the tennis facilities and travel links that would allow me to continue with my rigorous training and competition schedule. Luckily for me, France is one of (if not the) best tennis nations in the world! Having spent some time in Montpellier during my teenage years, I knew that South of France is where I wanted to be due to its fantastic climate, the amiable hospitality of its inhabitants and, of course, the many tennis clubs and academies that are dotted around the region!

February last year, I was informed by the French department of the opportunity to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship. This scholarship was developed in order to provide some funding for students who wished to undertake specific research projects during their time abroad, alongside their Erasmus studies or an English Language Assistantship. Due to my passion for tennis, I leapt at the chance! After deliberating on which aspect of tennis in France that I wanted to explore, I decided that the most interesting would be to research the structures for competition in France, and how they compare to that of the United Kingdom. In more simple terms, I wanted to try to figure out how why the level of tennis in France is so high, and how we might be able to better organise tournaments in Britain from beginners all the way up to the professional level in order produce the next generation of future stars.

2018 Jack Oswald Tennis Photo 2I decided that with the help of the grant I would travel to a few professional events around the country, including L’Open Sud de France in Montpellier that commences in February, and especially the French Open at the end of May. I would also visit a few of the popular tennis academies and clubs located in the south of France and interview some of their coaches about how they develop their players into champions. So, with the guidance of Cristina, I drafted my personal statement, which included my detailed proposal for my research alongside a bit about myself. I then sent this off, along with my application for the Scholarship and just hoped that I might be selected for an interview.

And as luck would have it, I was! Two months later, there I was on the train to Glasgow for my interview at the university. When I got there, I was greeted by a handful of other nervous language students. We all wished each other the best of luck as each of our turns came, not really knowing what to expect. Finally, my name was called. I found myself in a room with the heads of the French departments for five Scottish universities including Glasgow and St. Andrews. I had never really been good at interviews, but I took a deep breath and decided that I would simply try my best to answer their questions as honestly and thoughtfully as I could. Twenty minutes later I was out the door on my way back home, relieved that the toughest part was over, regardless of the outcome. Now the waiting game commenced!

Luckily, I did not need to wait too long. Just a couple of weeks later I received an email saying that I had been granted the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for my semester abroad next January! I honestly can’t wait for my semester abroad in France and to embark upon some research into my passion during my time there. I would like to thank Cristina for helping me organise my application and proof reading it several times over (!). I honestly couldn’t have done it without her, as well as Jean-Michel for providing references for the application. I strongly encourage all Language students going into their second year at Stirling to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for their semester abroad. It is more than worth the effort and will enrich your experience abroad whilst also allowing you to follow and develop your passion.’

Many thanks to Jack for a great blog post and congratulations on your success in being awarded a Stevenson Scholarship. We look forward to hearing more about the project while you’re in France in the Spring.

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Further tales from former students

Having managed to post articles about this year’s finalists and their plans, and to catch up with some of last year’s graduates, I thought I’d try an experiment and see whether I could get updates from students who graduated further back. Thinking that I’d maybe get one or two responses, it’s been fantastic to switch on email over the past little while and to see more and more emails from graduates from 3, 4, 5… years ago landing in my inbox. I’ve pulled together information from all the messages I’ve had so far here in this blog post and some of this will also link up with longer posts, as and when I get them online. As ever, it’s great to see the variety of paths taken by our graduates – not to mention the collective distances covered!! – and it really has been great to get a chance to catch up like this.

Where to start? It’s hard to decide so, in no particular order…

Yasmin, who graduated with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish in 2014 has, since then, successfully completed two British Council English Language Assistantships in different regions of France and is now living and working in Australia, as well as fitting in a good deal of travel around South-East Asia. There’s more on Yasmin’s experiences and travels here! Katja, who graduated in 2016 on our International Management with European Languages and Society programme, is now working on an EU-internship in Brussels. Iida, who also graduated in 2016 but with a BA(Hons) in French and Human Resource Management, completed a Masters at Maastricht University last year and is now living and working in Helsinki: ‘I first got a job at Fortum, Finland’s biggest energy company and then in April moved companies to Unisport, as I got a permanent position as an administrative coordinator. Though my tasks and responsibilities are diverse, sadly I don’t really use French in my current position. I have, however, benefited from my second major at Stirling, namely HR, as well as some of the minors I took like marketing and business management. Additionally, I have to say, cultural studies obviously give you an edge on understanding and working within a global/multicultural company so in that sense having studied French has been useful for me in work life as well!’

Going a little further back, Dawn graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish and, since then, has spent time teaching English in Spain, working in a local authority education department and, most recently, working for a third sector employer which helps people with disabilities find and retain paid employment. More about Dawn’s experiences since graduating here! Susan, who graduated back in 2011 like Dawn, also in French and Spanish, is now teaching English in Guatemala (more here!) and Jana, who graduated a little more recently (in 2014) with a BA(Hons) in French, has recently completed an MSc in Language Teaching at Edinburgh University and feels that the combination of Single Honours French at Stirling and the Edinburgh MSc have helped her to ‘very fulfilling jobs interpreting and providing study support to adult students with dyslexia.’

Then there’s Jonny who graduated in 2012 with BA(Hons) in French and Global Cinema and who has been working as a secondary school French teacher but is about to leave the profession to take up a post with the charity Sense Scotland next month. And Jennifer who graduated with a BA(Hons) in 2016 in French and Spanish and who first spent a year living and working in Vigo, Galicia through the British Council programme in order to determine whether she wanted to pursue teaching as a career: ‘It was a fun and challenging year and even though I decided that teaching is not for me, it was an excellent learning curve and allowed me to figure out the next step on my career path. In September, I will be graduating with a Masters in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow. I am currently working on my dissertation, so I haven’t had a huge amount of time to fully consider my options, but I am hoping to have a clearer idea by September. In the meantime, I have applied for a traineeship as an Editor/Translator at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. If unsuccessful, I would consider reapplying next year because it sounds like an excellent opportunity. I have also been accepted into the British Council programme again, but this time in the region of Valencia. My plan would be to start off my career as a freelance translator on the side, instead of doing extra private lessons. However, I am still unsure of this option. Alternatively, I would stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh and dedicate my time to translation networking and building up my personal profile as a translator – I’ve been told that the sooner, the better! This will present significant challenges, but this is my desired long-term outcome.’

And Helen who – so far – is among the ‘oldest’ graduates, ie from the cohort that graduated the furthest back, in 2010, when she successfully completed her BA(Hons) in French and who says she always looks back fondly on her time at Uni: ‘I loved the strong sense of being part of something bigger in our subject. I still genuinely believe that I had the most rounded degree experience. There aren’t many options where you can study English, politics, literature, film, history, sociology… (I could go on) AND have a fab semester abroad thrown in. I studied in Aix and gained so much from using a higher level of French and meeting people from all walks of life. I managed to make the most of my summers and worked in France every year for a few months, as a watersports instructor. After graduation I was lucky to work in three primary schools on Réunion Island, through the British Council. Wow, what an incredibly different culture shock that was!

Anyway, I now use all of these stories at school to entice the kids who ‘don’t need languages’. I am currently Director of Faculty for Languages in a high school in Preston. I love being able to use my French and Spanish daily while working with young people. I also provide whole school training and I play a key role in the county’s language teachers network. I love the variety of work and no two days are ever the same. Somewhere in between I now have three children and we spend six weeks in France every year (my husband is also a teacher).’

As ever, many thanks to everyone who has got back in touch and sent updates. We really do like to get a chance to know where people end up after they graduate! And if you happen to be reading this as a French at Stirling graduate (from whichever year) and fancy sending an email, please do get in touch.

 

Stirling, Spain, Guatemala, Japan: Language teaching around the world

Every now and then, over the past few years since the blog started, I’ve been really pleased to be able to post updates (here, for example, and here) from Susan who graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish. Since then, I think I can safely say that I’ve really never been able to guess where the next update would come from so it’s been fun waiting to see this time and we’re certainly not disappointed by the result…:

‘I was in Spain last time I blogged and I am now in Guatemala after three months in Japan, so yes a blog update is needed.

2018 Susan Peattie Pic StudentsIn Japan, I was teaching at a University in Noda which is an hour north of Tokyo, mainly focusing on communication and presentation skills. With three of my students, we worked on a presentation of a business idea for the Hult Prize and they won an all expenses paid trip to the US for the next round.

Now, though, I’m actually teaching English at the school where I did my six months residency requirement for my degree, with a UK-based charity called Education for the Children. The plan was to only volunteer for two months and return to Japan. However, they were struggling to find a teacher for the upper grades, so I am here in a paid role until October. This is by far the most challenging job ever. The children are all from the slum areas and often their chaotic home lives can lead to discipline and behaviour issues in the classroom. So, planning to get back to the tranquillity of Japan in January, via Mombasa for the Children’s Home 20th anniversary party in November.’

2018 Susan Peattie Pic Sports day

Many thanks, indeed, to Susan for this latest update and we’re delighted to see the travelling (and the language teaching) continues, and that the Children’s Home is going strong! And, of course, we’re looking forward to more updates in the future.

‘Making life-long friends from all over the world is something I’d never have done if I hadn’t studied languages’

As part of the process of catching up with recent-ish graduates, it was lovely to get this update from Dawn who graduated back in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish which gives a great sense of the range of avenues down which our graduates travel once they finish their studies with us:

‘The summer after graduation I spent in Barcelona doing a six-week intensive CELTA course to qualify me to teach English as a foreign language all over the world. This is an internationally recognised qualification and can be taken at various locations in Scotland if you want to study closer to home. After my CELTA course finished I stayed in Barcelona for about a year and a half teaching English in private language schools to adults and doing after school tutoring.

I returned to Scotland and I got a graduate internship working with the local authority’s educational department. The role given to each of the interns matched with our background, interests and future career goals. My role was to develop the teaching of modern languages within primary schools. I was delighted! I taught some Spanish in schools, worked with pupils whose first language wasn’t English and acted as a mentor for foreign language assistants coming from abroad. I particularly enjoyed being a mentor due to having been a language assistant in France during my studies.

I moved to Glasgow a couple of years ago and I currently work for a third sector organisation which ultimately helps people with disabilities and health conditions to find and retain paid employment. I am a Networks Development Officer with responsibility for the west of Scotland. Although I am not directly using my language skills in this job, I am constantly using the skills I gained from my degree. The writing of a dissertation taught me how to accurately conduct research from various sources, collate information and present it in a way that someone with no knowledge of the subject would understand. This skill has been replicated in my job on multiple occasions.

Additionally, studying languages makes you a very clear communicator; you consider your word choice and phrasing before speaking. This is a transferable skill that has proved very important when speaking with clients who have communication difficulties or a learning disability.

Although I don’t use French and Spanish in my job I keep them alive by speaking with friends I made in Spain when I did Erasmus or friends in France when I was a language assistant. I read international magazines online and I still have a passion for foreign cinema. I look back on my time at Stirling University with very fond memories. I am grateful for the opportunities the degree gave me; working in France for a year and studying in Spain and making life-long friends from all over the world is something I’d never have done if I hadn’t studied languages at Stirling. Thank you!’

Many, many thanks to Dawn for taking the time to send this update and we look forward to more updates over the years ahead.

‘I’ve no idea where I’ll be in 5 years’ time but I’m not worried either!’: French at Stirling and the travel bug

It’s hard to guess where responses will come in from when you send out an email to try and contact graduates from previous years of study. This time round, my inbox has been filled with messages from the UK, France, Finland, Guatemala and now Australia thanks to this post from Yasmin who graduated in 2014 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish:

2018 Yasmin Grant Pic 1 Sydney June18
Sydney

 

‘It’s hard to believe I graduated 4 years ago today. Most of my final year at university was spent stressing out about what I was going to do once I finished at Stirling. Don’t get me wrong, I was also focused on passing and actually making it to graduation without having a breakdown from the workload but the looming thought of “what next?” was really making me panic.

Back in 2011-12, I took a year out from university and was an English Language Assistant in the North East of France. I was pushed so far out of my comfort zone but I had the best time despite living in a small village with barely any English speakers. As a result, I decided to apply to be an assistant again in my final year to buy some time as I 100% was not ready to go into anything corporate or to make the move to London for career opportunities after Stirling.

To my surprise they accepted my application so off I went to work near Lyon as a Language Assistant in three primary schools. It was entirely different from my first experience as an assistant but I made the mistake of making a comparison between both experiences when I should have gone in with more of an open mind. Lessons learnt! Although I enjoyed myself throughout the year, it was almost ruined by this constant panic of not knowing what to do and feeling extremely lost! The amount of times I Googled “quarter life crisis” to justify how I was feeling probably took up most of my time that year! Throughout the year I was applying for jobs all over the UK thinking that corporate was what I was supposed to do. I secured 2 or 3 Skype interviews but my heart was never in it and the interviewer could definitely see the lack of enthusiasm.

2018 Yasmin Grant Pic 5 Church June18
Lourdes

At this point I had nothing to lose but felt like I needed to buy more time, and the assistantship seemed so easy that I decided to apply for a 3rd time. Despite already being an assistant twice before, I was convinced my application would get rejected or I would be put on a waiting list. Lo and behold, my application was accepted for the 3rd time in a high school in Lourdes and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The colleagues that I worked with there were extremely welcoming and accommodating and went above and beyond to make me feel at home. I tried skiing for the first time, I accompanied my students to Ireland for a week, I met a great group of French people as well as English people and generally had the best time there. By sheer luck I got to live at the school which allowed me to save quite a lot of money and, without giving it much thought I booked a one-way flight to Vietnam. If I could have I would have happily lived in Lourdes or the surrounding area. The South West is 100% the most underrated area in France!

 

2018 Yasmin Grant Pic 3 Train June18
Sri Lanka

After spending the summer at home, I left for Vietnam where I travelled and met so many other travellers; I was almost never alone despite heading there solo. I then flew to Myanmar where I spent a further 3 weeks backpacking before I boarded my flight for Australia. At the moment, I’m on a working holiday visa which allows me to stay and work here for a year with the option of completing 88 days of regional/farm work to secure a 2nd year working visa. I’ve spent the last 16 months living in Australia and I cannot emphasise how great it’s been so far. I’ve spent some time in a few South East Asian countries in between but have based myself around various locations in Australia. I was worried I’d lose my level of French and Spanish but have met so many international travellers that I have been able to practice every so often.

 

I’m still not quite sure what I’m doing career wise but I’ve never been happier. I am however getting to the stage where I’d like to settle in one location and, if it’s possible, potentially reside here in Australia.

2018 Yasmin Grant Pic 2 Beach June18
Sri Lanka

Everything has worked out so far with some hiccups and road bumps along the way but I definitely have no regrets about going travelling. And I don’t think I would have caught the travel bug without the opportunities given by Stirling University. The assistantship that I did first time round changed my perspective of living in a different country and has probably changed my life (hope that doesn’t sound too cliché).

 

I’ve no idea where I’ll be in 5 years’ time but I’m not worried either!’

Many, many thanks to Yasmin for the great blog post and we wish you all the very best for life in Australia – keep us posted!

Final year: ‘A mix of hard work, excitement and nostalgia’

The countdown to graduation (on Thursday for most of our students…) has started so it’s something of a scramble to get life-after-graduation posts up on the blog in time but a fun scramble! This time, it’s one of this year’s finalists, Alex who is about to graduate in International Politics and Modern Languages and who has sent a post reflecting, as he puts it, on the ‘past-future questions’ that arise as you reach the end of your studies:

2018 Alex Sorlei Pizza Maker June18‘What will you do next? That’s the million-dollar question that you get from friends, family and university professors. But for me the question to ask a student who has just finished his four years of study is a different one. My question for me would be: how were these four years for you?

Most of them would start by saying that the first year is the most exciting one because you meet lots of people from all around the world. A new world of opportunity and knowledge opens up for you and you learn things you would have never thought you would. Most of them will remember about “international dinners” where they would have twelve or more different nationalities who got together and each cooked a typical dish from their country. Some will remember signing up for all these sports clubs and societies and unfortunately not having time to attend activities for all of them. They will remember how hard it was to choose one over another.

Then they will remember how university life became something normal and how Freshers’ week was a time when the campus was off limits. Too crowded, too many Freshers. They will remember the dozen CVs they handed in and their first job as a waiter, cleaner or other roles.

After the first two years they will tell you that from the third year onwards studies will take over your social life. No more clubbing, limited sport, junk food and long nights in the library. Those who go on Erasmus will tell you that going abroad was their best ever experience. Some will say the contrary.

About the fourth year they will tell you that it’s a mix of hard work, excitement and nostalgia. All happening at the same time. You will reflect back to your first year and you will realise how much you have achieved and how mature you have become in so little time.

When you ask them what will they do next many will not know the answer straight away. For me the answer is that during my four years of university I managed to learn many things that will help me with my future plans. It’s not necessarily about the new language that I learned nor how international organisations work, but how to treat people, talk to people and, most importantly, to respect people. That will help me in my mission to bring Neapolitan pizza to as many people as I can and to change the view of those who consider pizza unhealthy and greasy.

I am studying to become a professional pizza chef as I want to be able to have the knowledge to teach as many people as I can to make their own pizza at home. I want to learn more about the ingredients, nutrition and the food industry in general. I believe this will be a very interesting and important matter in the future as more and more people realise the importance of good alimentation. Food waste is also very interesting and something that needs more focus on.

2018 Alex Sorlei Pizza Maker II June18After the Stirling opening, I’ve attracted lots of interest from investors and I am now opening a second location in Edinburgh. After this new opening I would like to open other two locations (still investor interest) but not more than that. I want to keep Napizza at four and not more locations. I don’t want to become a “monster business” like the big chains. I believe you should work for a standard of life where you can fully enjoy it. If you work too much you will get older and older and all you time will fade away. We live now, and we need to enjoy our life now, not in ten or fifteen years when who knows if we will still be able to enjoy it or not.

I am also building a three-wheel van with an oven on the back in order to attend events, shows or just parties. Moreover, I want Napizza to become socially responsible and I am always looking for charities to support and create events that will help the community that Napizza is in. I am also planning to create some urban gardens and grow vegetables either for Napizza or personal use. Finally, I hope I will be able to find the time and do some consulting for pizzerias as this is something that I like doing more and more every day.

My philosophy at the moment is to work 20% of my time and 80% to plan and enjoy life. I am all about making mistakes and learning from them but the mistake that I am afraid to make is to work for something that will never come. I live now, therefore I try to enjoy these moments NOW and not later.

For the future I hope to live by the 20/80% rule and enjoy more my moments of life.’

Many thanks to Alex for the great blog post and we wish you all the best for the future, both in terms of your business plans and the 20/80 rule!

Congratulations all round!

As well as congratulations to our students who are about to graduate next week, it’s also the time of the year for other prizes to be announced so the perfect time to congratulate a range of French at Stirling prize-winners:

First and foremost, many congratulations to Jack who has just finished his second year in French and Spanish with us at Stirling where he is part of our Tennis Scholarship Programme. Jack has recently discovered that he has been awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship which he will hold next Spring while he is on Study Abroad. The scholarship will enable him to study the internal structures of tennis development in France to understand how tennis within the United Kingdom might grow and what role he could play in that process. French at Stirling has a great success rate for these awards as you can see here and here! Posts from this year’s Stevenson scholars should appear on the blog over the next few weeks and we look forward to updates from Jack when he starts his Semester Abroad.

Congratulations, too, to the winners of this year’s Division of Literature and Languages prizes for French. Our annual Simone de Beauvoir prize which goes to the student who has achieved the Best Performance across their French Honours modules has been awarded to Jeanne who graduates in International Management with European Languages and Society next week. Our two other final year prizes with a French element go to Calum who graduates next week in French and Politics and has won our Translation prize for the Best Performance across the final year translation assessments and to Anne, one of the students on our Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies, who has won our Languages, Cultures and Religions Research Prize for her dissertation. Strictly speaking, the dissertation is in Spanish but we’re happy to add to the congratulations here since Anne’s programme falls under the French remit!

And students at earlier stages of their degrees have also been receiving news of their prize successes… For the Best Performance by a student in our Year 1 Beginners’ stream, congratulations to Monika who is studying French and Spanish, while the Best Performance in Year 1 by a non-Beginner award goes to Yamina who is studying International Politics and Languages. The Year 2 prizes have gone to Jennifer Graham on our Primary Education and Modern Languages programme (for the Best Performance in our Advanced stream) and to Laura Castane Bassa who studies English and French (for the Best Performance in Year 2 by a former Beginner).

Extremely worthy winners all round and félicitations to you all!!