Tag: Belgium

News from a former PhD student

2019 Verbeke Blog Pic 4 May19Many of the articles on this blog over the past months and years have given an overview of what our undergraduate students go on to do after graduation and we’re hoping to continue that particular stream of posts in the weeks ahead. For just now, though, a slightly different perspective, in the shape of this article from Martin who completed his PhD with us, under the supervision of Bill Marshall and Cristina Johnston, a few years ago now, working on language and French and Francophone rap:

‘Since the end of my PhD in June 2016, I have focused primarily on teaching and publishing my PhD research. Although my main area of study was French at university, I started working full-time as a Dutch and English teacher in a Belgian secondary school in September 2016 because of the shortage of such teachers. My Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpreting combined with my time spent in Flanders (for my Master’s degree) and Scotland made me a very sought-after candidate for such vacancies.

Of course, I would have preferred to teach French right away, ideally in a high school or a university (both types of higher education in Belgium), but there are many French teachers on the job market. Even with a PhD, it is hard to stand out when applying for a vacancy. This was made even more complicated by the introduction of a new law regulating the degrees needed to teach in secondary schools. Since September 2016, it has become mandatory to possess a teaching degree from a university (called agrégation). Without this degree, it is hard to find a teaching position, you get paid less, anyone with a teaching degree, even fresh out of university, will be prioritised over you regardless of your years of service, and it is impossible (actually illegal) to get a permanent contract.

2019 Verbeke Blog Pic 3 May19As I had been made aware of this upcoming legislative change, I enrolled in a French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain in September 2016, right after my PhD. This course normally takes one year to complete, but I took it over two years while working full-time. It is only worth 30 credits on paper but takes a lot of time and effort and represents many more credits in practice. In fact, if you take it within a Master’s degree, you are allowed to take a 6-credit ‘empty course’ as compensation because they do realise that it would be too hard otherwise. Unfortunately, they do not offer such a privilege to people who only follow the teaching part of the degree. Things were made even more difficult by my father’s passing away in October 2016. Despite all of this, I somehow managed to finish the degree with the highest distinction (18/20 average) while having a second daughter and publishing 5 articles based on chapters from my thesis. My hair was thinning before and now I am completely bald… Go figure!

This new degree has created opportunities for me. It allowed me to start working part-time as a French teacher in a secondary school last September while continuing to teach English to ‘immersion’ classes (with students who have certain courses in English despite being in a French-speaking school). Next school year, I am very likely to work as a French teacher full-time. My goal is to do this for a few years and to eventually find a more fulfilling position in a Belgian high school or maybe university if I get the right opportunity. A big reform is about to take place with regards to teaching degrees, which means that high schools and universities will be looking for new teachers. The director of the French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain told me that he will get in touch with me then, as I impressed him during my studies. I’ve had interviews with other high school directors who told me that my profile would be very interesting then. I do enjoy teaching in secondary schools, but students can be unruly and the school programs uninspiring at times. Furthermore, it does not make long-term sense, in my opinion, as my PhD is not valued at all (nor even taken into consideration).

In any case, we will see what the future has in store for me! I will make sure to let the University of Stirling know. In the meantime, you can read some of my publications on non-standard vocabulary in Francophone rap if you want to: in French here, and in English here, here, here and here!’

Many, many thanks to Martin for having found the time among so many other commitments to write this blog post for us and we look forward to hearing how things work out in the next academic year, and send you our best wishes!

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From Stirling to Brussels…

As you’ll have gathered, one of the characteristics of students who graduate with degrees involving languages is that their professional lives often take them to new countries and continents, with travel forming a key part of careers and social lives alike. A great example of this comes with this post from Katja, who graduated from Stirling a few years ago on our International Management with European Languages and Society degree:

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic I Mar19‘When I wrote my last post for the French at Stirling blog, I had just graduated with my BA (Hons) in International Management, French and Spanish and was about to start a postgraduate course at Durham University. That was almost three years ago, back in 2016. And even though a lot has changed since my university days, my passion for languages, getting to know new cultures and countries has remained the same.

After spending a year in Durham and finishing a MA in Politics and International Relations I was offered the Blue Book Traineeship – a paid internship with the European Commission – and started to work at the European Environmental Agency in Copenhagen in October 2017. The internship lasted until February 2018 and over the course of these five months I gained great insight into the workings of the European Union, the work of the EEA and some of the topics they deal with, especially, circular economy, bid data and integrated environmental assessments.

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic III Mar19

From Copenhagen I moved to Brussels in March 2018, where I worked as a trainee in the representation of one of the regional governments of Austria, helping in the drafting of weekly newsletters on various political and social topics at the regional as well as EU level and attending conferences and events. The dynamics of this traineeship and the multinational and multilingual aspect of this work made me apply for a full-time position within my regional government and luckily enough I was successful. Since September 2018 I have been working for my regional government as part of the Department for European and International Affairs based in Brussels, which functions as the connecting office between the institutions of the European Union and the regional government back in Austria. This way I have found a job that combines both my interest in politics as well as languages. Having lived and worked in Brussels for almost a year now, I understand the importance of knowing several languages even more and am grateful I actually use the knowledge I have gained during my student years in my working as well as social life.

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic V Mar19Since French is one of the main languages spoken in Belgium and one of the three European Union working languages, I believe that my training in Stirling prepared me for the environment and position I am working in at the moment. I am currently using French, my native German as well as English on a daily basis, which is exactly the working environment I was hoping for and envisioned when I decided to study a combined business and language degree at Stirling University.’

Many thanks, indeed, to Katja for sending us this fantastic post and we’re delighted to hear that things are going so well for you in Brussels – we look forward to more updates over the coming months and years and wish you all the very best.

Language Assistantships and Semesters Abroad

At the moment, we have 8 French at Stirling students off on British Council English Language Assistantships, mainly dotted across metropolitan France but with one student in Quebec for the year and another in Belgium. Paige is one of those in France for the year and she is also participating in the ‘Language Linking Global Thinking’ programme, organised through SCILT, so we’re very happy to be able to post a link here to her latest blog post for LLGT all about festive traditions in France. Quite literally ‘food for thought’ for our Year 2 and final year students currently applying for ELAs for next year…

And while we’re on the topic of time abroad, best wishes to the 18 students embarking on their Semester Abroad at the moment at our partner institutions at the UCO in Angers, at the EGE in Rabat, at Aix-Marseille, at the Université de Lorraine in Nancy, and at the Universities of Tours, Limoges, Geneva and Clermont. We’re looking forward to being able to post some articles and pictures from them as they settle into their new Universities and towns for the semester… and hopefully some articles by students from our partner institutions spending their semester with us in Stirling, too.

Further tales from former students

Having managed to post articles about this year’s finalists and their plans, and to catch up with some of last year’s graduates, I thought I’d try an experiment and see whether I could get updates from students who graduated further back. Thinking that I’d maybe get one or two responses, it’s been fantastic to switch on email over the past little while and to see more and more emails from graduates from 3, 4, 5… years ago landing in my inbox. I’ve pulled together information from all the messages I’ve had so far here in this blog post and some of this will also link up with longer posts, as and when I get them online. As ever, it’s great to see the variety of paths taken by our graduates – not to mention the collective distances covered!! – and it really has been great to get a chance to catch up like this.

Where to start? It’s hard to decide so, in no particular order…

Yasmin, who graduated with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish in 2014 has, since then, successfully completed two British Council English Language Assistantships in different regions of France and is now living and working in Australia, as well as fitting in a good deal of travel around South-East Asia. There’s more on Yasmin’s experiences and travels here! Katja, who graduated in 2016 on our International Management with European Languages and Society programme, is now working on an EU-internship in Brussels. Iida, who also graduated in 2016 but with a BA(Hons) in French and Human Resource Management, completed a Masters at Maastricht University last year and is now living and working in Helsinki: ‘I first got a job at Fortum, Finland’s biggest energy company and then in April moved companies to Unisport, as I got a permanent position as an administrative coordinator. Though my tasks and responsibilities are diverse, sadly I don’t really use French in my current position. I have, however, benefited from my second major at Stirling, namely HR, as well as some of the minors I took like marketing and business management. Additionally, I have to say, cultural studies obviously give you an edge on understanding and working within a global/multicultural company so in that sense having studied French has been useful for me in work life as well!’

Going a little further back, Dawn graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish and, since then, has spent time teaching English in Spain, working in a local authority education department and, most recently, working for a third sector employer which helps people with disabilities find and retain paid employment. More about Dawn’s experiences since graduating here! Susan, who graduated back in 2011 like Dawn, also in French and Spanish, is now teaching English in Guatemala (more here!) and Jana, who graduated a little more recently (in 2014) with a BA(Hons) in French, has recently completed an MSc in Language Teaching at Edinburgh University and feels that the combination of Single Honours French at Stirling and the Edinburgh MSc have helped her to ‘very fulfilling jobs interpreting and providing study support to adult students with dyslexia.’

Then there’s Jonny who graduated in 2012 with BA(Hons) in French and Global Cinema and who has been working as a secondary school French teacher but is about to leave the profession to take up a post with the charity Sense Scotland next month. And Jennifer who graduated with a BA(Hons) in 2016 in French and Spanish and who first spent a year living and working in Vigo, Galicia through the British Council programme in order to determine whether she wanted to pursue teaching as a career: ‘It was a fun and challenging year and even though I decided that teaching is not for me, it was an excellent learning curve and allowed me to figure out the next step on my career path. In September, I will be graduating with a Masters in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow. I am currently working on my dissertation, so I haven’t had a huge amount of time to fully consider my options, but I am hoping to have a clearer idea by September. In the meantime, I have applied for a traineeship as an Editor/Translator at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. If unsuccessful, I would consider reapplying next year because it sounds like an excellent opportunity. I have also been accepted into the British Council programme again, but this time in the region of Valencia. My plan would be to start off my career as a freelance translator on the side, instead of doing extra private lessons. However, I am still unsure of this option. Alternatively, I would stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh and dedicate my time to translation networking and building up my personal profile as a translator – I’ve been told that the sooner, the better! This will present significant challenges, but this is my desired long-term outcome.’

And Helen who – so far – is among the ‘oldest’ graduates, ie from the cohort that graduated the furthest back, in 2010, when she successfully completed her BA(Hons) in French and who says she always looks back fondly on her time at Uni: ‘I loved the strong sense of being part of something bigger in our subject. I still genuinely believe that I had the most rounded degree experience. There aren’t many options where you can study English, politics, literature, film, history, sociology… (I could go on) AND have a fab semester abroad thrown in. I studied in Aix and gained so much from using a higher level of French and meeting people from all walks of life. I managed to make the most of my summers and worked in France every year for a few months, as a watersports instructor. After graduation I was lucky to work in three primary schools on Réunion Island, through the British Council. Wow, what an incredibly different culture shock that was!

Anyway, I now use all of these stories at school to entice the kids who ‘don’t need languages’. I am currently Director of Faculty for Languages in a high school in Preston. I love being able to use my French and Spanish daily while working with young people. I also provide whole school training and I play a key role in the county’s language teachers network. I love the variety of work and no two days are ever the same. Somewhere in between I now have three children and we spend six weeks in France every year (my husband is also a teacher).’

As ever, many thanks to everyone who has got back in touch and sent updates. We really do like to get a chance to know where people end up after they graduate! And if you happen to be reading this as a French at Stirling graduate (from whichever year) and fancy sending an email, please do get in touch.

 

Camus at the Institut remixed by a Belgian DJ…

Camus

2013 was the centenary of the birth of Albert Camus, something we marked at Stirling by adding L’Etranger to the works on our second year modules. With this in mind we’re intrigued by the description of an event taking place at the Institut Français in Edinburgh on 20 and 21 March:

“An interdisciplinary visual and oral experience based on L’Etranger read by Albert Camus himself (from a 1954 recording) and mixed live with contemporary electronic music by Belgian DJ Pierre de Mûelenaere. Original images mixed live by the video artists Orchid Bites are simultaneously superimposed over the recitation.”

There’s a brief trailer on the Institut website and details of how to get hold of tickets (£5 for Institut members, £8 for non-members) can also be found there.

Other forthcoming events at the Institut include free screenings of the brilliant documentary La Maison de la radio on 4 and 5 March (a must for all fans of French radio!) and a talk in French on the Third Republic given by Patrick Landri.