Among all these updates on students past and present, time for a couple of staff-related blog posts, the first of which comes from our Language Coordinator and Study Abroad Advisor, Jean-Michel DesJacques:
‘I am very grateful to the International Office to have funded my trip to Tours in order to pay a long overdue visit to one of our partners in the Loire Valley. I was lucky enough to be able to meet with Solène Loiseau from their Bureau International, and then with the Co-Director of the LEA programme, Joëlle Popineau. I would like to thank them both for having taken the time to speak to me as Study Abroad Advisor here at the University of Stirling.
It is self-evident but somewhat understated that meeting people de visu and spending some time with them is what helps create a strong and lasting bond between institutions. We don’t have many opportunities for spontaneous exchanges and it was very refreshing to be able to go beyond the usual email niceties and urgent queries.
Inevitably, in spite of all the positive things we had to say about our exchange of students (and hopefully staff soon), the conversation had to revolve around Brexit. I was surprised to hear that there seems to be a lot more anxiety on the French side that there was on ours. I was also very sorry to hear that some programmes had their compulsory semester abroad component in the UK cancelled due to the financial uncertainties that Brexit has created: Erasmus grants are vital to students and the risk, a financial one, was deemed too big to take a leap of faith into the unknown. Interestingly enough, new English-speaking destinations were being sought, rather successfully it seems: the Netherlands in particular and Scandinavia to a lesser extent.
As for Tours itself, well, I am not sure where to start: if you are a bit of a gourmet, you are more likely to find happiness wandering on the old Place Plumereau rather than the Pathfoot building. Without necessarily going for a Gargantuan feast (yes, François Rabelais is from nearby Chinon), you could find yourself in a nice bistro for a delightful plat du jour.
There is certainly plenty to do and see and it would be best to let you discover it for yourselves.’
Thanks to Jean-Michel for making the visit and finding time to send us the blog post (and for the great pics!). And we look forward to continuing our exchange with Tours over the years ahead.
Having finally pulled together the information passed on by this year’s French at Stirling finalists, I thought I’d also try to catch up with last year’s graduates whose plans looked something like this! One year on, here’s what’s been happening, hopefully with some additions to come over the weeks ahead (if you happen to be reading this as a 2017 French at Stirling graduate, please do drop me an email)…
Emily, who graduated with Single Honours in French, is still aiming for a career in firefighting and a return to Australia. She’s currently working as a waitress/bartender but has passed her full bike license and has a car test booked for next week. After that, she still needs to get an HGV license and a first aid certificate before November, at which point she will ‘be moving back to Australia to pursue the whole firefighting thing.’ Although French isn’t an obvious component of Emily’s career plans, she does feel that her degree gave her ‘a lot of skills and experiences that will serve me well no matter what, and I’m especially glad I got another language out of it. I am sure it will make me a stronger candidate when I apply as a firefighter, and indeed most other jobs.’
Mareike, who was off to start an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour at Bournemouth, having completed her Psychology and a European Language degree with us, has just finished her exams and has the dissertation left to write over the Summer. After that, she has been looking at ‘a couple of doctoral programmes in Berlin, trying to get back into more brain-related research. Something that combines nutrition and the brain would definitely be my first choice. Otherwise, I am also considering making use of my newly acquired nutrition knowledge in a company developing online nutrition courses.’
This time last year, Luise was about to graduate in French and Spanish, and had been accepted as an English Language Assistant in Colombia. She went off to Colombia last summer, so that did actually work out and was a great experience: ‘I taught English at a public secondary school and everything was very different from what I know of European education. ‘My’ kids were noisy, musical and very curious – and so were my Colombian fellow teachers. There generally was a lot of singing and dancing going on. My description of pretty much every aspect over there would be: different. Everything is different. Heat and humidity, great coffee, life-threatening traffic, slums and extreme poverty, music and dancing, men whistling or calling on the street whenever they like a woman’s looks, delicious greasy food, getting lost in the jungle, colourful houses and traditional music, and, from my German point of view, a general lack of efficiency paired with a general abundance of ‘Lebensfreude’. It was great!’ Luise is now back in Scotland, working at Deanston Distillery and saving up for her driver’s licence and Masters.
Rebecca, who graduated in Single Honours French, was also successful in her application to work as an English Language Assistant and is reaching the end of her year in Quebec. She has had a great year teaching English and says ‘it has been great to see such a massive improvement in my students’ English. I took a role in our school’s immersion activities which included 3 weeks of hosting students from across BC and from Maddawaska, Maine – even better, I was given the opportunity to travel to these places too. I’ve had so many fun experiences out here. I spent Christmas with other monitors in a lakeside chalet (complete with our personal frozen lake for skating), watched many hockey games, got lost in fjords, been whale watching, been in the audience of Silence On Joue (Québec TV Game Show), done some apple picking on Isle d’Orleans, and tried so many different activities with my school. My French has improved so much and I really love my job. I am even going back for a second year with my school. I am home for the summer then back in September for another 6 months of the Québecois Winter. I am planning to come back to Scotland next year to do my Masters in Translaton and TESOL at Stirling, however all may change in a year’s time!’
And Michaela, who graduated in French and Law, has been working as a Legal Analyst at Ashurst LLP in Glasgow for the past 6 months or so: ‘The job is obviously in the legal sector but my degree in French has enabled me to get involved in some interesting workstreams in the office. This has involved translating legislation of African francophone countries (which did not have English translations readily available online) as part of a pro bono research project and picking up ad hoc translation tasks for French-related projects from our Luxembourg office. I’ve found my French skills have enabled me to contribute to the team at work and I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to keep using them.’
Many thanks, of course, to our graduates for getting back in touch and giving us these updates. We’re delighted to hear that things are going well and continue to wish you all the best! And to look forward to further updates!
Next week (hopefully under sunny skies) our finalists will become our graduates so we thought now was a good time to give you an idea of what soon-to-be Languages graduates’ plans look like. With thanks to everyone who took the time to get back to me on this and to those whose plans have already featured in longer blog posts and, of course, with congratulations to you all, here goes (with photos courtesy of the students!):
A number of this year’s finalists have plans that include – at least for the short-term – teaching in one shape or another. Fergus, who’ll be graduating in English and French, has applied to spend a year working in France as an English Language Assistant and Brett, who’ll be graduating in French and Spanish, is off to Japan where he has been accepted to teach English on the JET programme. Alexia, whose degree is Single Honours French, will be starting teacher training in the Autumn on Glasgow’s PGDE Secondary French course, a career path she had always intended to pursue and Calum, studied French and Politics at Stirling, is also considering the teaching route but with an eye on the possibility of translation work, too. In the first instance, after temporary employment this Summer, he’ll be shadowing teachers in his local school to see whether teaching really is the career for him.
He’s not the only one to be considering those particular options together – Nicole, who studied French and Spanish with us, is also embarking on a postgraduate programme, combining the translation and teaching routes: ‘After spending the majority of fourth year thinking about what I’d like to do after graduating from Stirling, it looks like I won’t be saying goodbye just yet. I’ll be returning to Stirling in September to study a Masters in Translation studies with TESOL. After doing the translation theory module during Semester 7, I realised that translation was something I was genuinely interested in and having the opportunity to do it along with TESOL at Stirling seems like the perfect opportunity. The option to choose TESOL appeals to me because I realised just how in-demand the English language is during my time in France and Spain. I’m hoping that this course will give me the chance to work either at home in Scotland or spend more time abroad in the future. Whatever happens, I’m happy to be returning to Stirling to study something which will hopefully give me plenty of options in years to come.’
Translation also beckons for a number of other finalists: Emilie, a Single Honours French student, will be starting the Translation Masters programme at Glasgow University in the Autumn and Anna, who’ll also be graduating in Single Honours French, is also applying for Masters programmes in Translation and Interpreting. In the meantime, her plans include temporary work as a receptionist and also practising her translating skills. Things are still quite open but, as Anna says, ‘no idea where I will end up but if I don’t do a Masters, I hope to work in France for a bit and then apply for jobs in London where I can use French.’ Lucy, who graduates in French and Spanish and who wrote more about her studies and her plans here, will be starting her MSc in Business Translation and Interpreting at Strathclyde in a few months. And Emma, who will graduate with Single Honours French, is currently working hard to save up for her Masters in Translation, ‘destination TBC but currently narrowed down to Bath and Surrey. I am also enjoying the break from education while I can with trips to Budapest, Spain and France planned for later in the year. With my Masters, I hope to go into translation for an important global organisation and, in the short term, I would like to become a reviser and then a translation project manager. Although I am very focused on a career in translation, I want to have a bit of fun first and plan to travel Asia and perhaps also Canada on completion of my studies. Longer term, I would like to get back into education and become a primary school teacher (if they’re still teaching languages at primary school by the time I’ve had children of my own) but plans change over time so I guess we’ll have to wait and see!’
Postgraduate study is also on the horizon for Jeanne, soon-to-be a graduate in International Management with European Languages and Society and planning an MLitt in Transnational Cultures at the University of Aberdeen (more about her plans here!); Amy, who has just completed her degree in French and Politics and is off to do an MSc in Public Policy and Management (more about Amy’s time at Stirling here) and Rebecca, who’ll be graduating from the same programme as Jeanne, and who is embarking on a Masters in European Business in Fribourg, Switzerland. In the meantime, Rebecca will be working at the Montreux Jazz Festival and summer camps with children and, in the long run, hopes to find a job in marketing in Switzerland: ‘Having a language as part of your degree is an obvious positive for employers and life skills in general, so it goes without saying I am grateful for everything the French department has done for me.’ And Anna, who will graduate in French and Spanish, has just accepted an offer ‘to study the MLitt in Publishing at the University of Stirling. Publishing is something I have wanted to do since a very young age and I am happy I decided to go back to Stirling and continue my studies there. In the future, I would love to work in The Rights Department selling rights onto foreign book markets and vice versa. That way, I would hopefully be able to use my undergraduate degree in French and Spanish.’
Chelsea, who studied Psychology and a European Language with us, and who sent a blog post a few weeks back, is applying for care apprenticeships, in the hope of working with vulnerable adults and children. Jean, whose degree is Single Honours French, has applied for a temporary job developing policy at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency where she used to work. This could lead on to something else but, if not, then next winter she plans to teach skiing in Scotland while working towards my next ski instructor qualification. Rachel, who will graduate in French and Journalism in a few days, is putting her French to good use working for a heritage company at Edinburgh Castle where visitors come from all over, including – of course – France and French-speaking Canada, in particular. And Alex, who studied International Politics and Languages with us, is continuing work in his restaurant Napizza. Business is booming, plans are afoot for an Edinburgh branch and, in the meantime, Alex has built a small oven, put it on a three-wheel van and is ‘planning to go around events and spread a pizza happiness’!!
I can’t really think of a better note on which to end this particular post! Thanks again to all our finalists for their hard work this year (and throughout their degrees) and for passing on all this information (more to be added as emails come in). We wish you all the very best for the future and look forward to updates on your progress in the weeks, months and years ahead. Keep in touch!
As you’ll have gathered from this blog, a good number of our students opt to apply for English Language Assistantships every year, whether between their 2nd and 3rd years or as graduates. For the past few years, some of our ELA students have also participated in SCILT’s ‘Language Linking, Global Thinking’ scheme during their year as assistants and we thought it’d be good to get a sense of what this actually involves – from the perspective of the students involved – so here goes, with thanks to Laura who has just finished her time as an assistant and will be coming back to Stirling in the Autumn:
‘I am a Primary Education student at Stirling. I came to university straight from school. However, I had always wanted more life experience before beginning teaching. This was one of my main motivations for applying to work for the British Council. Teaching within the central belt of Scotland makes classrooms greatly diverse spaces with many nationalities, languages, experiences and backgrounds. Living abroad would not only enable me to better encourage modern language teaching, but also relate more to the experiences of many of my students in my future career.
Over the summer last year, the Languages department at Stirling University made me aware of an additional project I could take part in during my post abroad. This was called “Language linking, global thinking” and it involves a partnership between a British Council language assistant and a primary school. Throughout my year abroad, I would remain in contact with Doune Primary through an online blogging forum.
Before beginning my post as a language assistant, I had only been to France twice. The first time was when I was 10 for a weekend in Paris with my family, and secondly a week skiing with my high school. This meant I had very little knowledge of what “normal” life would be like in France. I come from Edinburgh – a highly touristic, young, affluent city. This meant arriving in the northern region of France was a very different experience. I arrived alone, with very poor comprehension of informal French speaking leaving me feeling confused and isolated. I was an English language assistant in a very small village called Labeuvrière which was just outside of another town where I lived named Béthune. The history of the region is a difficult one and now it is left with a high unemployment rate and listed as the poorest region in France.
In Béthune, the level of English was extremely poor. I soon realised how much safety I had felt in university French classes knowing that everyone in the room would be able to help me with an English translation if it was needed. The first few months without this comfort blanket were a steep learning curve for me. Despite my initial fears, I now feel that living in Béthune gave me a more honest understanding of what it means to be in France today. Being far away from the more glamourous, touristic image of France was key in drastically improving my French and understanding for the challenges of 21st century French society.
I had never fully appreciated how much I relied on the subtleties of language to present myself and my personality. Specifically, how I use humour to make friends, and how I can unconsciously use tone to get across the subtleties of my meanings. I felt unfunny, unintelligent and personality-less in French. Even as my comprehension improved, I was still not feeling like me. This was a challenge I was unprepared for, but so important now in my appreciation of anyone I meet in Scotland who Is speaking English as an additional language. Now, I feel the key piece of advice I can give to anyone else venturing abroad to speak a second language is to prepare to feel unprepared. After January time I began to use different ways to get across meanings and make connections with people.
I was hugely lucky with my school. Being placed in a primary school was far more challenging on my French, but I had amazingly supportive teachers who were patient with my language development. As the English level in the school was very poor, this meant I wanted to make English fun and relevant to their lives. Throughout the year we created our own “Highland games”, drama pieces, baking and parties. The children loved learning about my home, family and country. English lessons were always about more than just the language, they were about making connections and thinking beyond the small perspective of the village. For the children in Labeuvrière, many had never been abroad, or left the region. (This was particularly eye opening to me as the Belgian border was less than 30 minutes away). The children’s exposure to a language assistant massively helped their awareness of what it means to live abroad, and what it means to make deeper, more worldly connections beyond the constraints of monolingualism. This extends their world view and what language learning can do for them from a cultural, lifelong perspective.
I truly think it that the Scottish education system is missing a great opportunity for children to develop their deeper cultural knowledge and understanding. This is why – when it is not possible to have language assistants from abroad – projects such as LLGT are so successful. A class being able to follow an assistant and their experiences is a means of getting across these important ideas. With Doune Primary School, I was able to write to them first hand showing my experiences visiting in person the WW1 trenches, the Vimy ridge. I was able to show them the photos I took on my tours around the Belgian Christmas markets. Perhaps, most interesting was when the children were able to see the comparisons between the hugely different French schools and resources. Once I had returned to Doune Primary, we debated and discussed together the similarities and differences between the education systems.
“Language and culture are the frameworks through which humans experience, communicate, and understand reality”.
A connection with a language assistant is a means of acknowledging the challenges which come from learning a second language and recognising cultural differences. However, crucially, it also acts as an opportunity to explore the many positives and life-changing impacts of travel, adventure and making greater human connections. It really is linking what we have in common, to a better, global way of thinking. Everyone can benefit from this.’
Many, many thanks to Laura for taking the time to send us this blog post and we look forward to welcoming you back to Stirling in the Autumn.
In just a couple of weeks, this year’s French finalists will become this year’s French graduates so, first and foremost, congratulations to all concerned! There are a few more posts to come over the next little while that will give you a sense of the many different directions our soon-to-be graduates are planning on taking over the months ahead, starting with this post by Lucy who is about to graduate in French and Spanish:
‘As I write this, Stirling has just confirmed degree classifications for its graduating students and, while the wait was nerve-wracking, it gave me an opportunity to reflect upon and appreciate where I started this whole journey compared to now, five years later with degree in hand and moving on to the next challenge.
Before starting a B.A. (Hons) in French and Spanish, languages were something I was always good at in school (and more importantly something I really enjoyed) so naturally I drifted down the course of modern languages at uni. I say “drifted” because I never really knew where it would lead me or what to expect, both of the course and of myself.
Soon enough, after two years at Stirling, I was applying for a position as an English Language Assistant via the British Council which took me to a primary school in the north of Spain for ten months. Being absolutely honest here, it was the most difficult thing I have ever done (not least because the average age of my town was 86!). However, it was without a doubt the most rewarding and beneficial experience that I could ever have hoped for and I truly wouldn’t have changed a thing. It toughened me up (kids are apparently brutally honest about pointing out your acne), my self-confidence sky-rocketed, I could converse easily in Spanish and, most importantly, I learned the right way to make a perfect sangria!
In all seriousness, I was mentally and emotionally challenged throughout the whole experience but I know for certain that I would not be at the proficiency and confidence level I am now had I had a different experience. A quick word of advice for future Stirling students undertaking an assistantship in Spain: don’t even try to contend with Spanish bureaucracy – becoming its victim is part and parcel of the experience! Keep calm and have a vino.
My next challenge was Erasmus which I would eventually do in Tours, France. I spent five months at the Université François-Rabelais where I mostly studied translation classes and French language classes. I lived in noisy student halls and exclusively ate pasta and toasties and, speaking as someone who has always lived at home during term-time, I appreciated the opportunity to experience authentic student life!
Tours and its university was a great place for students and I highly recommend it. The teachers were extremely supportive and helpful for Erasmus students and their classes were genuinely very useful and engaging. There was also ample opportunity to meet and socialise with French students, several of whom I still keep in contact with today. They were all so friendly and really interested in us as people and in the Scottish culture (I encourage anyone to explain to a French person why a Highland cow looks the way it does, it really challenges your language skills!).
Aside from discussing our weird and wonderful creatures, I really enjoyed living in France and I truly gained invaluable experience in learning how to improvise and think on your feet linguistically. Studying French/Spanish as a fourth year student at Stirling is challenging and really encourages you to push yourself and your skills (as I’m sure is the case with any uni) so my advice is to get a head start and do as much of this as possible while you’re studying on Erasmus and say yes to every opportunity while you’re surrounded by the language. You’ll really feel the benefit on your return to uni, which leads me to my final nugget of wisdom for all language students that I only really started to understand in fourth year: having confidence and believing in yourself is half the battle to becoming fluent. The rest will come with hard work and perseverance.
As for my next step, I’ll be moving on to the University of Strathclyde to study an MSc in Business Translation and Interpreting. I was impressed by how flexible and broad their course structure is in terms of the areas of translation you can study and I’m looking forward to putting all my skills into practice in something I really enjoy doing. I’d eventually like to be an interpreter for the justice system, whether in Scotland or further afield, but it’s a good feeling to know that after all the hard work, my options are unlimited.
I don’t think it has really sunk in yet that my time here has come to an end. I have been given opportunities like no other by Stirling and I really feel that I personally have completely changed for the better. I’ve learned an incredible amount thanks to the excellent teaching staff in the French and Spanish departments so, finally, I’ll take this as my opportunity to thank them for all their support over the years. Merci/gracias!’
Many, many thanks to Lucy for the great blog post and we wish you all the very best for the MSc and life beyond!
As was mentioned way back in a February 2018 blogpost, these past few months David Murphy has been coordinating a poster tour, called ‘Putting People on Display’, which has visited 5 Scottish HEIs: Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh, Stirling, St Andrews and Aberdeen. ‘Putting People on Display’ is a pared-down version of a major exhibition, ‘Human Zoos: the Invention of the Savage’, organised by the French colonial history research group, ACHAC, which was held at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in 2011-12. Three additional posters focusing on the Scottish context were specially commissioned for this Scottish tour.
The exhibition is made up of 22 banner-style posters charting the history of ‘putting people on display’. It covers a range of historical periods, geographical locations and national contexts, raises many questions about putting people on display, and the forms of observation these practices involve. Drawing on the rich iconography surrounding the phenomenon, it also forces us to address the ethics of display and the extent to which access to often challenging imagery is essential to understanding this historical practice and its contemporary afterlives. The exhibition was developed in association with the Lilian Thuram Foundation, and is part of a wider commitment to understanding the historical roots of contemporary racism – and to contributing to anti-racist education.
Each of the events held in conjunction with the exhibition has been very well attended. We had an audience of 100 at our launch event at Glasgow School of Art, and we organised a series of lunchtime tours in Stirling and St Andrews. Particularly fascinating was an event in St Andrews featuring speakers from the ‘Friends of Saughton Park’ in Edinburgh which was the site of a major ‘human zoo’ during the Scottish National Exhibition of 1908. The park will reopen in May 2019 after a long period of refurbishment, and it is likely that our ‘Putting People on Display’ exhibition will be included in the events to accompany the grand re-opening. So watch this space for more news as plans develop.