Category: Stirling Graduates

‘After all the hard work, my options are unlimited’

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.

2018 Lucy ODonnell San Vicente de la Barquera IISoon 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.

2018 Lucy ODonnell Tours IIMy 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!).

2018 Lucy ODonnell Tours IAside 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!

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‘Talking to and learning from as many people as possible’

And finally, in today’s flurry of blog posts, Amy, another member of this year’s graduating cohort has sent this article looking back over what her degree has allowed her to do but also where it might take her in the years ahead:

‘I studied BA Hons Politics and French and going to University was the best decision of my life. University has provided a wealth of opportunities that would not have been afforded to me had I not gone. During my undergrad, I travelled to Tanzania to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world – Mt Kilimanjaro. I then spent a year teaching in Blois, Loire Valley; a semester in Paris studying at Sciences Po and two summers managing staff and kids in a French campsite in the Ardèche, Rhône Valley. The experience and the cultural awareness that these opportunities provided were invaluable and they sparked within me an immense curiosity about people, the world and myself.

University is a melting pot of people from all over the world and a fantastic opportunity like no other to learn from people who have had different experiences from you. If you are like me and want to travel and see the world, then University is a great place to start. Gaining cultural awareness is far more than bag-packing in every country that your summer job can afford, it’s about talking to and learning from as many people as possible, wherever you are.

2018 Amy McIntyre Bill's last class May18My advice to future Stirling students: talk to your tutors and your lecturers. They’re people and there’s not the same hierarchy that may have existed between you and your teachers at school. University is a collective learning environment and both you and your lecturers have something to learn from one another.

Go to the cinema screenings that the French department want you to attend. Go to their mixers and free wine events. Go and talk to the local school kids about your study abroad experience. Sign up to be a Module Representative and, of course, offer to write a piece for Cristina’s blog. These actions of engagement are understandably daunting as a first year, but push yourself to do it.

University is more than studying; It’s more than reading books. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advise attempting your degree without doing the aforementioned, but I can’t emphasize the importance of other factors at University enough. My advice to future students of Stirling: Get involved. Take advantage of every opportunity that interests you. Join a club or 5, hold weekly stalls in the Atrium and meet like-minded people and people who challenge your views alike.

2018 Amy McIntyre Logie Protest May18During my time at Stirling University I was Co-Convenor of the Socialist Society, Secretary for Stirling Students for Scottish Independence and I co-led Stirling Students in Support of the UCU Pension Strike protest movement which led to a 14-day Occupation of Logie Lecture Theatre.

My time in France

I took a gap year to participate in the British Council English Language Assistantship (ELA) Scheme in the Loire Valley, France. On reflection, I can honestly say I learned just as much from my kids as they learned from me. The simplicity, honesty and innocence of young people’s minds is interesting, inspiring and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, prepare yourself for insults that are not intended as insults: “Amy, your nose is cool, it reminds me of a witch”. Thanks Pierre, you’ll have to excuse me as I’ve made plans to cry in the toilet…

2018 Amy McIntyre Pic May18

Tip to future language assistants: Get to know your ELA friends but don’t spend too much time with them. They are a great comfort to you when you are abroad but are inevitably a hindrance to your French language progression if you spend too much time alone with English-speakers.

In my third year, I studied at Sciences Po, Paris. I found that Politics in France is very different to the UK in terms of grassroots movements, protests and youth engagement with politics. Manifestations are as common as croissants in Paris and I was amazed at the crowds of youngsters who were politically active.

2018 Amy McIntyre Eiffel Tower May18

What motivates people to act the way they do? How do political institutions and societal factors impact their behaviour? And ultimately, how can we unite people, despite their perceived differences to come together and form a better society? These are questions that are ever-evolving and I suspect they will occupy my mind for the rest of my life, whatever avenue I choose to go down.

For the moment, I am fascinated by examining policies in different countries and finding out what works and what doesn’t. To change society for the better, I believe we need better policies at the heart of it. I hope to do a Msc in Public Policy and Management this year at the University of Glasgow. Ultimately, I want to make a positive contribution to the world, no matter how big or small that will be.’

Many, many thanks to Amy for this fantastic post and for the great tips for future students. We wish you all the very best for the MSc and the future beyond! And, of course, we would encourage as many as possible of our current (and former) students who might be reading this to take Amy’s advice and get in touch about future blog posts…

‘Savour the moment’

And from halfway through a degree via Mairi’s post to a month from graduation, thanks to this article by Chelsea who has just completed her BA Hons in Psychology with a European Language (French, in Chelsea’s case!):

‘I think, like a lot of people, graduating and planning for the future is a daunting experience. For me this will be the first time since nursery that I won’t be a student: the root cause of my restlessness these last few days. I feel it is important to savour the moment and let it sink in before attempting to plough ahead with grand plans. That said, I soon realised that once you have (almost) obtained your undergraduate you feel the need to return for a Master’s or PhD, not just as another stepping stone for your desired career, but because, for most students, this ‘freedom’ and non-student status is unfamiliar.

2018 Chelsea Soulsbury Demo Pic
Demonstration in Nice

Having studied Psychology and French, I have no idea where I am going to be in 6 months/a year, or whether I intend to pursue Psychology or French. I have just returned from a month in Nice, and I really enjoy the idea of travelling and revelling in my graduated glory. However, another part of me wants to find a job, even if just part-time, related to my degree and start saving towards future education. As it stands, I have thrown my name into the ring for a few care apprenticeships, in the hope of working with vulnerable adults and children, which will not only grant me experience, but also qualifications to enhance my prospects of returning to University. Perhaps I will find an even balance and manage to save and do some travelling soon.’  

 

Many thanks to Chelsea for this article – we wish you all the very best for the future and for the apprenticeship applications, and hope that travel does feature in the plans, too, somewhere along the way!

Untold stories, untold history

It’s really great to be getting a chance to alternate between articles by students who are reaching the end of their undergrad studies with us in French at Stirling and those who’re at various different stages of the process so, following Alexia’s post, this time we have an article by Jeanne who will be graduating next month:

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 2 May18‘Studying International Management and Intercultural Studies at the University of Stirling has led me to choose the right path for my future studies and work orientation. Indeed, I initially thought I would opt for a career in international business, although I wanted to keep all my options open (a career in translation perhaps) as I wasn’t sure just yet.

Throughout this degree, I have had the chance to study topics such as colonial history, collaboration and feminism in France. As a French citizen with slave ancestors (from Martinique) and a woman, being able to study these subjects (which are still taboo in my home country) and being granted greater access to a part of my identity has been an amazing experience.

In a sense, I had found the answers to many of my pending questions. So, I chose to change my degree to International Management with European Languages and Societies (without the final year in the management school in Strasbourg) as I still had many questions which remained unanswered and my curiosity was as high as it could be regarding taboos in French as well as Spanish history.

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 8 May18As I also study Spanish, during my third year, I had the chance to go to Spain, at the University of Granada for my Compulsory Semester Abroad with the Erasmus programme. I also successfully applied for a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for my Semester Abroad. These are Scottish research grants for students from Scottish Universities going to study in EU countries or for foreign EU students coming to Scotland to promote Scottish culture and enhance mutual EU belongingness through research and mine enabled me to examine whether Spaniards encountered the same difficulty as the French to teach some of their ‘dark history’: the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, something I had studied in depth in Scotland and France.

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 3 May18Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to visit various “lieux de mémoire” such as Garcia Lorca’s home in Granada or Franco’s tomb near Madrid. I also visited museums (Museum of War in Toledo, Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid–where you can see Guernica) and bought many books. The project pushed me to talk to many people: librarians, high school teachers, random people in the street, lecturers, guides, friends… allowing me to collect many varied and enriching opinions on the subject, while enhancing my language skills, grasping the culture and understanding my host country a lot better.

During our semester abroad, we also had to conduct a Research Project, for Stirling this time, and I chose to do it on “Modernisation in Spain: through the study of religion”. Actually, from abroad, I had the impression that Spaniards were practicing, rigorous Catholics, and I wanted to understand why, if that is true, they voted in favour of same sex marriage in 2005 (having in mind that a fiercely secular country like France only voted in favour in 2013). I loved doing field research for this project, confirming once more my decision to do research in the future. As with the Stevenson scholarship, it was another great opportunity to meet locals, make friends and learn from others such as during the impressive street processions of “Semana Santa” where families and friends gather each year.2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 6 May18

In this past year, I applied to an MLitt by Research in Transnational Cultures at the University of Aberdeen, focused on post-colonialism and I can’t wait to start. I would like to continue with a PhD and hopefully become a university researcher, to study the impact of the “untold history” on our identity.’

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 4 May18

Many thanks to Jeanne for finding the time to send us this post and best of luck for the MLitt in the Granite City – we look forward to hearing how things are going over the months and years ahead. And we can promise posts by French at Stirling’s 2018 Stevenson Scholars over the weeks ahead…

‘Ready for the challenge ahead!’

As well as posting updates from students who are in the middle of their degrees with us, we thought it’d be interesting to get some ideas of what our final year students are planning for life after graduation as they look forward to the ceremony next month. To start things off in this series for this year, Alexia (who is just about to graduate with her BA Hons in French) has sent us the following post:

‘In December I was accepted onto the University of Glasgow’s PGDE Secondary French course, a career path I have always intended to take throughout my time at Stirling. I thoroughly enjoyed learning French in secondary and higher education, and would love nothing more to spark a passion for languages in pupils, in the very same way my teachers and tutors inspired me.

2018 Alexia Pennock Château d_Angers
Château d’Angers

Working as an English Language Assistant in Angers through the British Council between Year 2 and Year 3 of my degree further inspired me as I gained confidence in engaging with young people in a classroom environment and was shown how challenging – yet rewarding – a job teaching is. My time in Angers was also enriching as I was given the opportunity to meet people from across the globe, many of whom I still maintain contact with, as well as reconnecting with family in Brittany and Nantes.

2018 Alexia Pennock Plage de Préfailles in Pornic
Plage de Préfailles, Brittany

While I chose to focus on French at Stirling, I plan to develop my knowledge of Modern Languages by learning Spanish and therefore gain an additional teaching qualification. I am under no illusion that teaching will not be without its difficulties, but feel that I am ready for the challenge ahead and cannot wait to impart the knowledge I received from Stirling’s French Department on Scotland’s future.’

Thanks to Alexia, firstly, for the positive thoughts on your time studying with us at Stirling and for taking the time to send us this post. All the best for the teacher training – and the career beyond – and do keep in touch!

We’re back!!

The blog has been rather quiet over the past few months but, as the teaching and assessment side of the semester winds down, it’s time to get things started again. There’ll be new student profiles, articles on what our students are up to on Study Abroad and news about research activities and plans but, by way of a starting point, a healthy list of congratulations!

We currently have three undergraduate students (Stefano, Nicolas and Annika) completing their Semester Abroad in France and working on fascinating and diverse research projects thanks to Stevenson Exchange Scholarships. Updates on the projects will follow from them but extra congratulations go to Stefano who – we have just learned – has been jointly awarded one of the University of Stirling’s Williamson Travel Scholarship which is likely to be put to very good use to fund fieldwork in Northern Italy and Southern France, examining  integration practices for refugees and asylum seekers between the two countries.

At the recent Conversation awards ceremony, our PhD student, Fraser McQueen, was the recipient of the Most Prolific Author award thanks to articles on the politics of contemporary France that have been read almost 13000 times.

And particular congratulations to our Language team of Brigitte Depret, Jean-Michel DesJacques and Mathilde Mazau who received an array of nominations at the student-led RATE awards (for everything from Excellence in Teaching in Arts and Humanities to the Santander Outstanding Achievement Award) with French Programme Director Cristina Johnston being awarded the Best Tutor prize.

And on a less strictly academic note, congratulations, too, to David Murphy for successfully completing the Stirling Half-Marathon and to our 2014 honorary graduate Mark Cousins whose new film The Eyes of Orson Welles premieres this very night at the Cannes Film Festival.

Yep, definitely a good place to start things off again on the blog! Congratulations to all and look out for more posts over the days and weeks ahead…

From Stirling to Colombia: ‘Travelling is a form of education’

French (and Spanish) at Stirling students in their second year and in their final year were recently given the opportunity to attend a meeting with a representative of the British Council to find out about their English Language Assistantship scheme. We have a great success rate with ELA applications at Stirling and, every year, 20-30 of our students end up being offered contracts to teach English across a range of schools and universities in the wider Francophone and Hispanophone worlds. One of last year’s French at Stirling graduates, David Vescio, applied for an ELA during his final year and has just sent us this account of the start of his year teaching in Colombia, as well as plenty of pictures to brighten up a rather grey mid-semester break…

“Panicking about what you are going to do after university? Don’t worry; I have graduated and I am still not sure… and lo and behold, I am alive and well!

teaching students
Teaching students

During my last year at university, I was trying to keep my options open so I applied for a PGDE in French and Spanish in Scotland as well as a teaching assistantship in Latin America through the British Council. I was lucky enough to be offered both and after careful consideration I decided to go with the latter and go to Colombia. Why opt for the less secure option when I could have studied for my postgrad in education, become a qualified teacher in a couple of years and found a stable job in Scotland? It’s simple: I just wasn’t ready.

 

Most of my fellow graduates still aren’t sure about what they want to do long-term and the secret to having a relatively stress-free last year as an undergrad is to keep your options open and have a back-up plan. Still stressing? Don’t worry, you have your dissertation to look forward to!

I would definitely encourage students to go away for a year after university with the British Council, especially if you are interested in travelling, teaching and languages. If you go off to teach for a year it doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up teaching for the rest of your life but it is an opportunity to gain experience doing a ¨real life¨ job in a relatively relaxed atmosphere while still having some freedom to travel as you will be working part-time.

bogota induction viewpoint
Bogota Induction

I was appointed to the Catholic University of Pereira, a relatively small town located in the coffee region of Colombia. Before leaving for Pereira, I attended an induction session in Bogota with all the other language assistants in Colombia which was a lot of fun as we were provided with free food and accommodation for 3 days. This was a really nice opportunity to meet everyone taking part in the programme as well as the language assistants from other countries such as France, Germany, India, etc. Language assistants are posted all over Colombia so it is a great opportunity to go travelling with them and visit this wonderful country and beyond!

 

When I got to Pereira, my tutor helped me find accommodation and the university staff have been really helpful! Although I definitely stick out like a sore thumb, Colombians are always welcoming and curious to know where I come from as well as what I am doing here. Lots of people have invited me to their homes for dinner and despite the bad reputation Colombia has had in recent years, I would definitely recommend it as a memorable place to visit.

botero plaza in medellin
Medellin

 

 

I have only been here for about 2 months and I don’t think I have ever travelled so much! Since I only work 18 hours a week, this leaves me plenty of time to explore the region and I have been to some pretty incredible places as you can see in the pictures. I have been to Bogota, Medellin, Salento, Guatape, Manizales, Cali and Bucaramanga so just imagine all the places I will have been to after spending a whole year here! People ask me if I miss my family and friends and of course I do, but there are so many new places to go, things to do and people to meet! So the good things definitely outweigh the bad. I am still, however, struggling with Irn Bru withdrawal symptoms…

cali grafiti
Cali

 

 

I think being a language assistant has really helped me become more adaptable. For example, I never expected to be asked to be teaching technical terms in industrial design classes, but I have managed to do so and I have even learnt a wee bit about industrial design in the process! I have had the opportunity to take part in an International Relations class every week where I talk to students about the differences between the U.K. and Great Britain and the different nations within the former as well as explaining to them the concepts of Scottish Independence and Brexit, but also the topics of multiculturalism and freedom of religion as well as less cheerful subjects such as terrorism and the Grenfell tower fire.

I have started up a conversation club for students and another for teachers where we discuss current local and global affairs and have also been recording a weekly radio show where I talk about my experience here in Pereira and compare it to life in Scotland. Believe it or not, quite a few people don’t know where or what Scotland is! But let’s be honest, how many people reading this right now actually know where Colombia is? One of my students even asked me last week what ¨I dinnae ken¨ meant because apparently they were watching a Scottish YouTuber… the joys of teaching!

radio show awkward selfie

With all of that, plus the hot weather (and despite the accompanying Scottish ¨tan¨) as well as the incredible variety of exotic fruits, I am really glad I decided to take a break from studying as, let’s face it, travelling is a form of education in itself.

So, to all fourth year students who may be reading this blog piece, remember to enjoy your last year at university and to keep your options open.”

Many, many thanks to David for finding the time to send us this post and we’d echo his advice – of course – about keeping open all the options a languages degree offers!!