First day of teaching for the Spring semester and French at Stirling is back!
So, welcome back, firstly, to the over- 250 students registered across our various French modules, from Year 1 Advanced and Beginners’ streams all the way through to final year Core Language and dissertations. And to those of you reading this as French at Stirling students embarking on your integral Semester Abroad or entering the second half of your year as an English Language Assistant, we hope you have a great time and look forward to tales of your studies, work and travels as the semester progresses.
On the staffing front, following Bill Marshall’s retirement at the end of last Summer, we were sorry to say goodbye to our colleague David Murphy who left to take up a new role at the University of Strathclyde at the start of January. We wish him all the very best in the new job. As regular blog readers will know, we’ve made a series of great new appointments to French at Stirling and we’re delighted that Hannah Grayson has now joined us as a Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies, working alongside Aedín ní Loingsigh and Emeline Morin who both started last semester, and the rest of the French at Stirling team.
As ever, there’ll be plenty of blog posts over the days and weeks ahead with details of what our students and staff have been up to over the past few months and plans for the months ahead so watch this space but, in the meantime, welcome back to the new semester and welcome back to French at Stirling!
It’s already the end of our first week of the new semester here at Stirling so time for a quick round-up of our news. It’s been a busy little run up to the start of teaching here: new colleagues, great First Year numbers and those starting in our Advanced stream have been benefiting from our Bridging Materials, French at Stirling has been rated No.3 in Scotland and in the top 20 in the UK by the 2019 Complete University Guide… A period of great change and excitement!
Where to start? ‘New colleagues’ seems a good place. Beatrice Ivey, Research Assistant on Fiona Barclay’s AHRC Leadership project, is now in Stirling and settling into Divisional life. She and Fiona are working on the organisation of the exhibition that forms part of the project, more on which soon. We’ve also welcomed Emeline Morin who has joined us as a Lecturer in French for the next two years. Emeline’s research interests lie in comparative literature and fairytales and she’s teaching with us across a wide range of courses.
Alongside Emeline, two other new lecturers will be joining us over the months ahead. Aedín ní Loingsigh will be starting in October, with Hannah Grayson taking up her post in January. Hannah’s recent work has been on the Rwandan Stories of Change project at St Andrews. Much as we were sad to see Bill Marshall retire, it’s great to get a chance to welcome a fantastic group of new colleagues and we’re looking forward to working with them. We’ve also got some new faces among the Teaching Assistants who work as part of our Language team (with Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau and Brigitte Depret): Fanny Lacôte and Fraser McQueen who have taught with us before are joined by Aurélie Noël who has previously taught at the University of Glasgow.
As ever, the start of the new semester also means welcoming back our students. Our finalists are back from their Semester Abroad (in France, Quebec, Morocco, Switzerland… or Hispanophone destinations for those doing French and Spanish) and our Year 3 students are about to start the process to select their destination for their Semester Abroad. With that in mind, Jean-Michel DesJacques, Jose Ferreira-Cayuela and Cristina Johnston are organising their annual get-together at the end of September that gives all those students a chance to meet over wine and nibbles to talk about Study Abroad and to exchange questions and tips. All the University’s incoming exchange students from French or Spanish-speaking partner institutions are also invited and it’s a great chance for the different groups of students to get to know each other.
Some of those incoming French-language exchange students are also currently being recruited to lead informal conversation sessions for students in a range of year groups, to offer a further opportunity for spoken language practice beyond the weekly tuition offered by our Language team.
And, of course, we have a great cohort of Year 2 students, many of whom will be applying for English Language Assistantships over the course of this year (welcome back to those who were ELAs last year!). For the first half of our second year, we run an Intermediate class for those who started as complete beginners with us in Year 1 and it’s great to see that numbers on that module are even higher than last year.
Finalists back from Semester Abroad, Year 3 students planning time abroad, students settling into Year 2 and good numbers of Year 1 students which is fantastic to see. Those on the Advanced stream – taking French with a wide range of other subjects – have been working their way through the Bridging Materials that we put together for incoming students each year, to help smooth the transition from secondary school language study to University-level language learning. And those on our Beginners’ stream are about to plunge into the intensive programme of language learning that will introduce them to French and build their confidence and ability as the weeks progress.
A great group of undergraduates and an enthusiastic intake of students on the French stream of our Translation and Translation with TESOL programmes who will work under the guidance of French at Stirling staff on their translation portfolios and, ultimately, on their dissertation projects. It’s been particularly nice to see some familiar faces on those programmes with recent graduates returning to undertake postgrad work with us (as well as across other TPG programmes at Stirling, of course).
As in previous years, we’ll be posting profiles of our students regularly, partly to catch up with those who’ve written for us before and to get a sense of how their studies are progressing, and partly to introduce you to some of our new Year 1 intake, so keep an eye on these pages!
As for French at Stirling colleagues, lots of news to report there, too. Fiona Barclay, Beatrice Ivey and Cristina Johnston are in discussions with the MacRobert’s film programmer, Grahame Reid, to finalise a programme of French Film Festival screenings that will take place at the MacRobert later in the semester. Details to follow but expect some great new French-language films! (It’s not directly French-related but do also check out Grahame’s Central Scotland Documentary Festival at the MacRobert from 4-8 October – a fantastic programme of documentaries lies ahead!) And on another film-related note, David Murphy will be involved with the Africa in Motion festival in November – more on which soon…
Aedín ní Loingsigh will be participating in a workpshop on Interdisciplinarity at the Université de Limoges in December and Elizabeth Ezra gave a paper in June at the Contemporary Childhood Conference at the University of Strathclyde examining the witch-familiar relationships in Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. Elizabeth has also just signed a contract for a book, co-edited with Catherine Wheatley of KCL entitled Shoe Reels: The History and Philosophy of Footwear in Film, which will be published by EUP in 2020. And with her non-academic hat on, Elizabeth will be talking about her children’s book Ruby McCracken at the Wigtown Book Festival later this month.
This weekend, while staff and students from French and Spanish are talking to prospective students at Stirling University’s Open Day (15 September – come and see us!), Jean-Michel DesJacques is off to Dundee where he’ll be taking part in the 25th Anniversary Conference UCML Scotland: Looking inward and outward. Jean-Michel will be meeting actors from all education sectors from Primary to higher education. The 1+2 language initiative will be high on the agenda but not exclusively since challenges and issues in languages are multiple and complex.
There is much, much more that we could include here but that seems a good taste of what’s going on to start things off this semester. More to follow over the weeks ahead! In the meantime, many thanks to the students whose photos from last semester abroad have made their way into this post and bon weekend!
What better way to start the new week than with another student profile? Paige Hepburn has just finished the first year of her BA Hons in French and English and has sent us this post with her thoughts on the past year and the semesters ahead:
“My name is Paige Hepburn and I have just finished my first year at Stirling University. I had my heart set on Stirling since high school because of the option to do a combined degree. I want to become a high school English teacher so the idea of doing Education alongside my English degree really appealed to me.
In first and second year at Stirling University you have the opportunity to choose three subjects, which is the perfect chance to explore your options and pursue your interests. I chose French as my optional module because I thoroughly enjoyed studying it at school and because of my personal ambitions to be fluent in French, but I had never thought about doing a French degree.
I chose the Beginners’ module because I had been out of education for a few years before attending University and was worried I’d forgotten everything. I’m so glad I did! The Beginners’ modules are designed to bring a complete beginner up to the appropriate level. For me, the course was a fast-paced refresher and consolidation of everything I had learned so far. My seminar tutor, Brigitte Depret, was fantastic. She was so enthusiastic and really brought the French to life, and the fact that she was a Native French speaker was a bonus!
By the end of my first year I realised I had enjoyed French so much that couldn’t imagine not studying it in the future so I changed my degree to a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in French and English Studies. French has opened my eyes to the option of teaching English as a foreign language, in France of course! At the end of next year, I will have the opportunity to spend a year in France, working as an English Language Assistant through the British Council which, as a future teacher, would provide invaluable classroom experience as well as the perfect setting to immerse myself in the French language. Studying French at Stirling also gives you the opportunity to study abroad in France or a French-speaking country as part of your course. I can’t wait to embrace these opportunities. I’m so excited for next year!”
Many thanks to Paige for sending this post and we’re looking forward to seeing where the next few years will take you, both in terms of time abroad and on the modules that lie ahead!
More catching-up with recent graduates and tales of their lives since they finished studying with us. Today’s tales both happen to come from Scandinavian graduates… first, Silje Volden, from Norway, and Terry Karpathakis, from Sweden.
Silje graduated from Stirling in 2013 with a BA Hons in English Studies and French: “I originally chose Stirling because of its opportunity to do French for beginners. It was also on the list of universities that the Norwegian organisation which helped me apply co-operated with. In addition, the pictures of the surroundings and campus looked amazing!
During my time there I enjoyed both the English and French part of my studies. Stirling is also great for past-time activities and I tried to enjoy that to the full as well of course. I went on exchange to Geneva, Switzerland for my 2nd semester 3rd year. That certainly helped my language skills a lot and this compulsory time abroad was also a reason that I chose this course.
One of my favourite modules during my stay in Stirling was a module on Post-War France with Jason Hartford. This made me love history once again and was just so incredibly interesting on a cultural, as well as a social level.
After graduating and taking a year to travel, I did a one-year teaching course here in Norway to become a qualified teacher (like you can in Scotland). I am now a secondary school teacher (kids aged 12-15). I teach English and French, where English is a compulsory subject and French is not. This means that, often, the French groups are more motivated and can progress quicker. However, a difference between classes and groups is always interesting.
I certainly appreciate that I did French, as it certainly made me stand out and landed me a job. French-English was a great combination both for being relevant during my studies and after.”
We continue to offer that route into French via the Beginners’ stream for students who don’t have a Higher (or equivalent), overseen by our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques. Students in those classes focus on intensive language learning for the first two semesters, before beginning to study literary texts and films in Semester 3 (still alongside intensive language learning), and then merging with the non-Beginners in Semester 4. From that point onwards, there’s no further differentiation between Beginners and non-Beginners and, every year, we’re delighted to see a cluster of former Beginners among our successful graduates.
Thanks to Silje for this article and best wishes for the future!
One of the new faces among our Teaching Assistants this year is a former MSc student at Stirling, Brigitte Depret. After studying and graduating in English and Literature and also completing a BEd in France, Brigitte moved to Scotland in 2009 and, in 2012-13, completed our MSc in Translation and TESOL. For her final dissertation project, for which she obtained a First, Brigitte worked on ‘Keeper’, a journal by Andrea Gillies.
She has been teaching English and French for 28 years and has continued to build her teaching skills and responsibilities since Autumn 2013 by working as a Teaching Assistant on our undergraduate modules in French, as well as continuing to work as a free-lance translator and interpreter.
Here’s what she has to say about life in French at Stirling: “A teacher is always in the process of learning, (I’m still learning from my students!) and if we want to help them make it to the top, we have to get them from where they come from and encourage them onto stepping stones together. What I know for sure is that not only can I talk with no bias about my experience as a student at Stirling but I can, now, as a member of the teaching team, have a very accurate picture of our French department from the inside. And, most importantly, the view from the inside remains faithful to the one I had from the outside – one that allows me to belong to a place of openness, culture and language discovery with dedicated people working with enthusiastic students.
You may think that, because I’m French, I’m biased and you expect me to try convince you how it would be great for you to embark on a degree in French at Stirling…
But, first things first: I have studied in various universities in the course of my life. Some were just like mere factories set in the heart of a city, in a dull and concrete environment where I dealt with a generation of academics, who, for the most part were as rough and dull as the concrete of the buildings, brandishing their wand of knowledge, charging against us, making us feel how small us, poor freshers, were. Somehow, despite their obvious academic skills, the magic of creating the sparkle amongst us, of quenching our thirst for the know-how and know more, was hampered for most of us. As a result, about 70% of the students dropped out of language classes, and their future was doomed. (By comparison, I still have 80% of the beginners who started last semester. So, do you think I’m still biased?)
Stirling is also recognised as one of the most beautiful campuses in Europe making it the ideal place in which to study. The University’s beautiful, unique, enticing settings are grassy, leafy, ‘golfy’, hilly, watery (not only thanks to the occasional rain… but, more importantly, thanks to the lovely loch with its swans and mallards… but I digress!).
What you will get with us
At Stirling, I’ve been on either side of the road. First, as a student and now as a teacher. What I’ve found at Stirling, and especially within the language department, is a community where teachers and students work in concert. What you will find at Stirling are lecturers/teachers/language assistants who do not necessarily want to promote France or Frenchness (we are way beyond these stereotypes). We, as a team, want to help you to get the skills, the interest to speak and understand how the French-speaking world works. We want to expand your mind, whether it be through the very initiation of French, its history, its society or its literature. Bear in mind that in our department, our post-colonial specialists will invite you to embrace French as a world language, because ‘French’ literature isn’t only the prerogative of the natives of metropolitan France, but far beyond (Senegal, Morocco, Quebec…), while our film studies dynamic and specialists will open your horizons with their passion for the French-language cinema.
We will give you all the necessary feedback to improve yourself, to help you progress along the road and maybe have the pleasure to welcome you as a post-graduate student! So follow the signs… and we will guide you.”
Thanks to Brigitte for sharing her experiences of French at Stirling. If you’re interested in coming to study with us, you’ll find plenty of information about our undergraduate courses here and our postgraduate course information can be found by following the links here.