Category: French Beyond Stirling

Strasbourg and more

Another week until the start of semester and these final few days before the new academic year are full of news to report. Usually, the bits of this blog that are written by me (Cristina Johnston) are written in Scotland but this post sees me making my way to Strasbourg where I’m headed for meetings with our colleagues at the Ecole de Management. We’ve had an exchange partnership with them for many years now and currently have a great Integrated Masters programme that we run with them in International Management and Intercultural Studies. As is the way with these things, most of the time that just means corresponding via email and it’s our students who benefit from being able to enjoy the delights of our respective institutions and cities. Every now and then, though, colleagues come from Strasbourg to Stirling or from Stirling to Strasbourg and that’s what I’m up to just now. A good day of meetings and discussions about possible future partnerships and teaching and research collaborations lies ahead, and I’m looking forward to getting a chance to see the EMS.

The added bonus – from my perspective, at least – is that I spent my own year abroad when I was an undergraduate as an English Language Assistant living and teaching in Strasbourg so it’s a city I used to know well. As those students who were away as ELAs last year make their way back to campus in Stirling, and some of those who are just starting on new adventures as assistants in places as far-flung as Colombia (watch this space for more…) send emails to say hello, it’s great to get a chance to reminisce on my own experiences as a Language Assistant. I taught at the Lycée Marie Curie in Strasbourg where – at the time, at least – they taught both the French Bac and the European Bac, meaning that one class of pupils in terminale had extra language tuition, History and Geography taught in English and an impressive openness to the possibilities that language learning opened up for them.

For me, it was a great first experience of teaching – I wasn’t much older than the pupils, they were (without exception) really keen to learn, and the school was incredibly supportive (of me and of their pupils). As well as the actual teaching, I was lucky enough to be asked to accompany that terminale class on a 10-day trip to Northern Ireland and was just generally made to feel part of the school community. I kept in touch with some of the pupils for a few years after I came back and, ever since then, have also kept in touch with one of the former English teachers from the school so this EMS trip will also give me a chance to catch up with her, having not actually seen her face-to-face in 20 years! All in all, a good trip lies ahead!

Enough about me, though… What other news? Well, Fiona Barclay and I had a great meeting last week with the ever-enthusiastic Grahame Reid of Stirling’s MacRobert cinema to talk about (fingers crossed) bringing some of this year’s French Film Festival films to Stirling again this year. All being well, November should be French cinema month at Stirling but more will follow on that once we get confirmation. French at Stirling has also been busy preparing workpacks for all the modules we’ll be running in the new semester and generally getting ourselves ready for all our new and returning students. And, at the end of this week, just before the focus shifts back more towards teaching, many of us will also be attending a Research Away Day led by Bill Marshall to discuss research plans and ideas with colleagues from Languages, Translation, Religion, English and Creative Writing. Oh yes, and our former PhD student Martin Verbeke has another article forthcoming: “Represent Your Origins: An Analysis of the Diatopic Determinants of Non-Standard Language Use in French Rap” has been accepted for publication by the International Journal of Francophone Studies!

A flurry of pre-semester activity! And pictures of Strasbourg will doubtless appear on the blog over the next week or so…

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Welcome to our Erasmus Students!

Not all the French and Francophone exchange students who come to Stirling from our network of partners take modules run by the French at Stirling team but we’re always really pleased to welcome them to Stirling and will be inviting them along to a range of events over the course of the semester.

This year, at last count, we have 24 exchange students coming from 11 different French Universities, business schools and grandes écoles with whom we have long-standing partnerships: the Universités de Limoges, Aix-Marseille, Clermont Auvergne, Lorraine and Perpignan, the IUT de Sceaux (Paris Sud), Sciences Po, the Ecoles de Management of Strasbourg and Normandie, ESSEC in the outskirts of Paris and the Université Catholique de l’Ouest. We’re looking forward to getting to know these students over the course of their time at Stirling and, this year, we’re particularly pleased to be giving some of them a chance to led informal conversation sessions with our Stirling-based students.

Who knows? We may even be able to convince a few of them to write blog posts about their time in Scotland…

Stevenson Scholarship in Granada: “An Amazing Opportunity”

As promised, following on from Alex’s post about his experiences at Stirling and plans for the future, here is the article Jeanne Nozahic has sent us about her time in Granada. As well as studying at the University there, Jeanne – who is about to enter Year 4 of her degree in International Management with European Languages and Society – has been working on research on ‘untold histories’ that she was able to conduct thanks to a Stevenson Scholarship.:

“The Stevenson Scholarship has been an amazing opportunity. Indeed, it has made me realize that intercultural research is what I want to do in the future. In order to get a better idea of how Francoism was dealt with in Spain, I was able to combine both archival work, buying books (i.e: Otras miradas sobre Golpe, Guerra y Dictadura. Historia para un pasado incómodo by Fernández Prieto and Artiaga Rego [2014], Qué hacemos para la Memoria Histórica? by Escudero et al. [2013]…) looking at the various books on the subject in different libraries in Granada (i.e: Biblioteca Pública Provincial Granada), the University library, Spanish media… and visits to numerous “lieux de mémoire” in Granada, Madrid and Toledo. The project has enabled me to have many discussions with friends, classmates, teachers, guides in museums, librarians…thus providing access to different perspectives and opinions.

2017 Jeanne Nozahic Stevenson Reflections El Escorial pic 1

In fact, the ‘Valle de los Caídos’ was the most recurring example given by the people I have spoken to regarding my research project on the ‘untold’ and historical memory. They were furious, ashamed that Franco could ‘rest in peace’ in the basilica of the ‘Valle’ while so many mass graves (‘fosas communes) have still not been exhumed, preventing families ‘the right to mourn’. I therefore decided to go and visit the Valle de los Caídos, (an hour away from Madrid), where we find the tomb of Franco, and which is not presented as a site of memory condemning the dictator’s actions but rather presenting him as a ‘hero’.

2017 Jeanne Nozahic Stevenson Reflections El Escorial pic 2

He lies in a beautiful basilica, in a tomb decorated daily with fresh flowers by the monks. What struck me during my time abroad, and which was particularly interesting was the ongoing presence of fascist symbols, imagery. This could be interpreted as the best example of a lack of political determination (‘voluntad política’). For instance, I learned that the economic crisis in 2008 was used to justify the inability to carry on with exhumations (Escudero et al., 2013). This infers the persistence of a Francoist influence at a political level: the past is still too ‘recent’.

Regarding the way the history of Spain is taught at school level, many students told me they did not study the Civil War nor the dictatorship, or only very briefly, the reason being that it was always taught at the very end, and that there wasn’t enough time to work on it. This is comparable with the Algerian War in France, being a ‘late event’. At the University of Granada, the same problem occurred with the course “Civilisation et Culture Française” which taught the entire French history, from prehistory to modern day in one “cuatrimestre” (four months), making it impossible for the teacher to finish the program, leaving aside the most recent events (Colonisation, WWII). The problem seems to be ‘chronological’. However, many Spanish people have told me it is ‘an excuse’ more than anything when I told them about this ‘chronological reason’. The teaching time could be distributed differently: should it be more dedicated to recent, contemporary events rather than spending more time on the Reyes Católicos in Spain, or the Gaullois in France? It is a long, complicated debate. Nonetheless, the Civil War, and the Dictatorship, need to be taught. At the University of Granada, I also took the course “Spanish Literature of the XXth century: theatre and prose”. We were taught key works set during the Civil War, the dictatorship…such as “Qué has hecho hoy para ganar la Guerra?” by Max Aub (1939). Limiting the teaching in courses focusing on defined time-periods could perhaps be beneficial when it comes to recent, still painful events: it could guarantee their teaching. Moreover, my teacher herself (Gracia Morales) said that literature as a means of communicating, teaching historical facts could help as it is not perceived as the teacher’s own opinion, but as the work of an author which is interpreted. I must say that this was my favourite class!”

Many thanks to Jeanne for this update on how things have gone with the Stevenson and the doors it has opened up in terms of this particular topic of research. We wish you all the best for the rest of the Summer and hope this post gives future Stevenson scholars ideas for ways they can conduct their own projects.

“Thanks to my French degree, I am lucky enough to have a world of possibilities in front of me”

Just before the blog takes a little break for a couple of weeks, two great articles for you. The first one here is by Alex Hill who just graduated with his BA Hons in French in June and has gone straight from graduation to internship, with career plans beyond that. The second article is by Jeanne Nozahic who has been away in Spain for her Semester Abroad and who has been reflecting on the experience generally but also in particular about what her success at obtaining a Stevenson Scholarship meant for her. Alex first…:

“A few days ago, I was lucky enough to receive an email from Cristina asking if I’d like to share a few thoughts on my time doing French at Stirling and my plans for the future, which I then realised I had accidently ignored for more than a week due to being so busy! This got me thinking to myself about how time has flown by since finishing my degree; as I write this it’s 28 days since my graduation (2.1, get in!) and 103 since the end of a coffee-fuelled, sleep-deprived few months spent balancing writing a dissertation on French politics whilst also trying to get my head round the art of translation.

2017 Alex Hill Dissertation Picture
Dissertation Hand-in

 

Since then it’s been all go, having started an internship with Oxford-based triathlon events company IRONMAN UK in the Operations team in early May; a job which saw me head over to France a few days in to get a taste of what to expect on the job. As I should have expected, I was designated the role of interpreter (read: food order-er), and, after ordering a few sandwiches and coffees for lunch, I was greeted with high fives and comments regarding how awesome it was that I was able to speak French. That’s one of the perks of being able to speak a foreign language – it’s a skill not many people have so it gives you the chance to show off and feel smug every once in a while!

Joking aside, studying a French degree really is one of the most useful and coolest things I have ever done. When I first decided to study French at university, it was a case of “it’ll be cool to say I’m fluent, plus I can probably get a job as a teacher or translator afterwards”. What I have discovered in the last four years is that it is worth so much more than that; you develop oral and written communication skills to an incredibly high standard, something highly regarded by employers and essential not only from a working perspective but also in life in general. As well as this, you strengthen your critical, analytical and research skills from studying French literature and get to put this to the test in engaging and interesting class discussions. These skills are crucial in almost every job market, which explains why French graduates not only get jobs as translators and teachers, but in business, journalism and diplomacy amongst other domains. Furthermore, French gives you an understanding of (political, social and economic) culture in a range of francophone countries. It’s not only francophone countries this will prove useful in; if you can learn French you can learn any language! This makes you employable not only in Great Britain, but across the world, which it doesn’t take a genius to work out significantly increases your chances of finding a job.

I really believe I made the right choice coming to Stirling to study French. The campus has to be one of the most beautiful in the world, which makes looking out the library on a sunny day that little bit easier. The people are all friendly, and at the end of the day it’s good fun and everything you need is nearby. The French course itself is run by a dedicated team of lecturers, who put in a great deal of time to make every last module exciting and appealing, resulting in a varied course that not once did I find boring. As well as this, the lecturers are always more than willing to help and provide useful answers to queries and feedback. If you are thinking of, or about to start, studying French at Stirling, I would recommend the Quebec cinema module, run by Bill Marshall, or the Francophone Detective fiction module, run by Cristina (hopefully these will still be around!).

2017 Alex Hill Perpignan Skiing

Without doubt, however, the highlight of my time at Stirling was going on my semester abroad; it’s just such a different academic experience and results in your language skills coming on more than you thought possible. It improves your ability to adapt and improves your confidence, both as a French speaker and in general. You make lifelong friends and at the end of your time away, you feel a genuine sense of pride in yourself for coping with what at one point felt like a goliath-sized task.

2017 Alex Hill USAP rugby

As for me, once I finish my internship, I will be moving back up to Stirling to start a job on the Enterprise Rent a Car Graduate Scheme as a Management Trainee. After finishing that I plan to return to Stirling to do a Master’s, followed by hopefully finding work in the investment industry. Having said that, there are a number of jobs in a variety of industries I find interesting and would like to do, and I wouldn’t mind running my own business one day. Thanks to my French degree, I am lucky enough to have a world of possibilities in front of me and I’m very excited about what the future holds. In the words of my favourite film La Haine, “Le monde est à nous” (the world is ours). Just in case you were worried that I’m not getting much chance to celebrate graduating by entering the big bad world of work straight away, I get two weeks between my internship and full-time job, during which I plan to escape somewhere sunny!

Finally, one final big thank you to everyone at the French department at Stirling and all the other staff who work so tirelessly to provide every one of us with a fantastic student experience.”

Many, many thanks to Alex for this great post, all the best for the rest of the summer (internship and holidays!) and good luck with the next steps! And yes, the Detective Fiction option is back in the Autumn…

French at Stirling research: rap, parkour and visual cultures

The Summer is always a good time for a bit of a catch-up on news about research by French at Stirling colleagues and postgrads (past and present) so, if you’re looking for some pool-side reading, we would highly recommend:

‘Rapping through time: an analysis of non-standard language use in French rap’ by Martin Verbeke, who completed his PhD with us last year, and Bill Marshall’s latest article, ‘Imagining the First French Empire: Bande dessinée and the Atlantic.’ Current PhD student Fraser McQueen also has a new article in The Conversation about French President Emmanuel Macron. Bill has also been continuing his research on parkour with an invited lecture on parkour and visual arts at the Parkour Research and Development Forum at Gerlev (Denmark) earlier this month.

2017 Bill Parkour Research Forum Gerlev Jul17

More research updates to follow over the weeks ahead…

“How I somehow got accepted to do a Master at Waseda University in Japan…”

As promised, following on from Charlotte’s post about life and work since graduating last month, another of our 2017 graduates, Julie Perruchon who just completed her BA Hons in French and English, has sent us an article about her plans for the next couple of years which will see her embarking on postgraduate studies in Japan:

“Like any other student, my final semester at the University of Stirling consisted mostly of essay writing, university applications and general agonizing about the future. I had decided that I was determined to go to Japan; either to do a Master, or as an English teacher at an ‘Eikawa’ (English Language Schools). I had done a lot of research, looking into the universities that offered Master courses in English, as my Japanese abilities only extend to surviving day–to-day life. To my mum’s chagrin, I stubbornly only applied to Universities and jobs in Japan. She might have been right in saying that it would have been sensible to apply to university in either Denmark or Scotland as well, but I happily ignored all common sense and threw myself into my preparations.

I can’t count the times I went to my tutors to ask them to write references for me (which I can’t thank them for enough), how many books I read about Japanese society and culture for my research plan, and how many excruciating hours I spent filling out an endless stack of forms. After being rejected three times (by the JET-Programme, ICU and the GABA Corporation), I got accepted to Waseda University’s Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies, where I will be studying under the study plan of Culture and Communication. To my (and my mother’s) huge relief! My directed research supervisor hails from a British University (and is in possession of a decidedly British name), so a little piece of the Isles will be waiting for me in the Far East. On the basis of my research plan, it has already been decided that I will write my Master thesis on the topic of ‘The Intellectual and Literary History of Japan’, focusing on how different societal traditional systems have affected the lives of Japanese youths living in urban areas. Quite a mouthful, and I cannot wait to get started.

Japan being seven hours ahead of Denmark, I could go online and check whether I had been accepted to Waseda quite early in the morning. I was almost certain that my application had been rejected, so it came as a huge surprise when I saw the tiny numbers on my laptop screen that represented my application number. And, as one does, I couldn’t sleep for excitement for the rest of the night and started planning my future venture in great detail (or as great detail as a sleep deprived brain can muster).

And then reality hit. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been to Japan, or lived there, but finding an apartment without a Japanese bank account or phone number is proving to be rather difficult (read: almost impossible). Thankfully, I have the invaluable help of Waseda’s International Office, and I’m sure (fingers crossed) that I’ll be able to find my own tiny 12 square feet apartment squashed away in some corner of Tokyo. In the situations where befuddling paperwork and the promise of earthquakes have me questioning my own sanity, I look back fondly on how easy it was to move between Scotland and Denmark. No visa, no Certificate of Eligibility, no huge language barriers, no earthquakes (yes, I am terrified), and only one hour’s time difference to my native country. Pure heaven.

2017 Julie Perruchon Japan Pic July17My hope is that two years in Japan will help me master the Japanese language, and bring me new challenges both in my personal and University life. Now that it’s sure that I am going over there, it seems quite surreal and I haven’t yet completely wrapped my head around the fact that in less than a month and a half, I will be walking beneath the neon lights of the Shinjuku district in Tokyo. It’s the complete opposite from small and idyllic Stirling, with the most beautiful campus in the world, and nature just around the corner. Japan, and Tokyo, is going to be the next big adventure, and I can’t wait to see where what this decision is going to bring me. It’s terrifying and exciting, and I am overjoyed that I got the chance to go there.

So really, all there is left to say is a huge thank-you to the University of Stirling and everyone there! Mille mercis.”

Many thanks to Julie for taking the time to write this blog post and we’re looking forward to tales of life (and language learning) in Japan over the next few years! Best wishes for the course!

“I’m excited to start this new chapter in my life”: Life as a Languages Graduate

After a brief lull in blog activities while everyone caught their breath after a busy end of academic year, it’s great to be able to pick things up again and particularly good to start a new round of blog posts with two articles by students who have just graduated in this year’s cohort. This first article is by Charlotte Cavanagh who graduated last month with a BA Hons in French and Journalism:

“Having just recently graduated, I have had the opportunity to reflect about my time spent at the University of Stirling, the memories I have made; the majority of which are positive, and how studying at the university has prepared me for the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed my course of study from start to finish: There were modules that interested me, friendly peers and a French department who were always within reach. A combination of these things has made my time at Stirling enjoyable and I can happily say that my French language skills have vastly improved over the past 4 years.

2017 Charlotte Cavanagh Strasbourg pic JulyAs I continue to think about my time at the university, I realise that some of my most happy moments came from my time abroad doing both the British Council assistantship and Erasmus. As a French language student, the opportunity to go abroad not once but twice felt like a dream come true! I had the most amazing experiences abroad and I owe it all to Stirling and their brilliant languages department for providing me with such great opportunities.

I also feel the need to emphasise how supportive the French department were during my time at the university, especially in fourth year when I was panicking about what to do once I had graduated! The support from my personal tutor was indispensable. She told me that the skills you acquire from a languages degree can open a great number of doors and opportunities and she was right. Despite the panic of not knowing what I wanted to do after university, I have managed to land a job as a project coordinator in London, for a company that provides translation and many other language services to companies all around the world. I am excited to start this new chapter in my life and cannot wait to see where this opportunity will take me, but I will always look back fondly at my time at the University of Stirling and be grateful for the time I spent there.

If I was to give advice to anyone studying languages it would be the following: 1) If there is an opportunity to practice your language skills, whether that be abroad or in the classroom, take it. It is a daunting prospect, but the effort you put in really pays off. 2) There is no need to worry about the future. Languages students have a great many skills to show off about in the job market and speaking from experience, everything does fall into place.”

Many thanks to Charlotte for taking the time to write this post and all the very best for the new job! We look forward to updates over the months and years ahead.