Category: Stirling Undergraduates

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…

Advertisements

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…

New Semester, New Oral Classes

Our new Languages for Employability module is not the only teaching innovation for this coming academic year. Last year, we launched fortnightly paired oral sessions for Year 3 and 4 students, led by our great Language team of Jean-Michel DesJacques, Brigitte Depret and Mathilde Mazau. Building on their success, we’re expanding this provision for the new year ahead.

This year, all our final year students will benefit from a weekly paired session, while our Year 3 students will continue to benefit from fortnightly sessions. The idea behind the sessions is partly to offer more scope for students to prepare for the format of oral assessments they encounter in the final two years but it’s also a means of giving our students a greater say in the topics they discuss since they are responsible for finding articles to talk about at each session.

For Year 1, 2 and 4 students, we’re also introducing weekly 30-minute conversation sessions to provide further opportunities to build fluency and confidence. These sessions will be led by incoming French exchange students from across our partner institutions, helping them to get to know their Stirling peers at the same time as they get a chance to develop their professional experience.

When we asked last year’s finalists for advice they’d pass on to future students, many of them picked up on the importance of oral and aural classes, emphasising the importance of speaking up and not being afraid to make mistakes. This advice is echoed by our Language Assistants in the workpacks they prepare for oral classes: ‘The Spoken Language class is your best opportunity to improve your speaking skills. Of course, you will be confused at times, make mistakes many times (as we all do when we learn, whether it be a language or any other skill), but most importantly, your tutors will be there to support and guide you. We aim for this learning process to be a successful adventure, which means you have to be involved without holding back. Don’t be afraid, don’t be shy, and your language abilities will go from strength to strength. You will all learn from your own mistakes but also from each other’s in a relaxed atmosphere.’

With this in mind, we’re looking forward to feedback on the new oral formats from our current students!

New Semester Just Around the Corner…

In just under a fortnight, our new semester kicks off and we’re looking forward to welcoming back our continuing students and to welcoming to Stirling our new first year intake (currently enjoying our online Bridging Materials to help them prepare…) and all those visiting from our wide range of exchange partners from Strasbourg to Perpignan.

Following on from the success of our schools’ events in June and the fantastic presentations given by finalists and graduates, we’re continuing to develop our focus on the employability of Languages graduates. To help embed this even more firmly within our degree programmes, we’re launching a new Languages and Employability module that our students (of French and/or Spanish) will take throughout Year 3.

The module offers sessions on presentation skills (in English and French), decoding job adverts, producing a tailored CV and cover letter in French, and careers/employer workshops, as well as generic skills in personality profiling, and use of social media. It’ll be taught by colleagues from French and Spanish with input from Stirling’s Careers Development Centre with classes and workshops in Stirling in the Autumn semester and online content delivered during the Spring Semester Abroad.

We’re hoping that this new module will give our students a chance to build on the skills they’ve already gained – not least via the English Language Assistantships that many of them undertake between Year 2 and Year 3 – and that it’ll encourage them further to think about career opportunities for Languages graduates, whether in the UK or beyond.

More news of the semester ahead to follow…

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.

“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.