French and Spanish at Stirling spent a great morning today at Falkirk Stadium representing the University at the ‘Languages for Business’ Symposium, organised by Laura McEwan of Falkirk Council. The event was aimed at S2 and S3 pupils from a range of local schools, to give them a sense of the benefits that come through studying languages. Cristina Johnston (current French Programme Director) and Ann Davies (Chair in Spanish and Latin American Studies) were there, along with Stefano and Meg, both of whom are in their final semester of degrees involving Languages at Stirling, answering a wide range of questions from dozens of pupils interested in the career paths languages can open up.
The day started with a fantastic presentation by four pupils from Graeme High, followed by a talk by Paul Sheerin, Chief Executive of Scottish Engineering who spoke about the rich and varied career he has enjoyed, all starting – in his view – with the excellent decision to carry on studying a language at secondary school. What was particularly good about both presentations was that they emphasised the ways in which studying a language does so much more than just help you to become fluent in that individual language. It’s about opportunities, challenges, new horizons, new cultures, communication, travel, and so much more…
The pupils were then split into groups and they rotated around a series of workshops and talks, and a ‘market stall’ area which was where Languages at Stirling was located. Over the next 90 minutes or so, we answered questions from the pupils from Falkirk, Graeme, St Mungo’s, Bo’Ness, Grangemouth, Braes, Denny, Larbert, Alva Academy and the Mariner Support Unit ranging from subject combinations it is possible to take with a language (the answer being ‘pretty much any other subject can be combined with a language’) to what careers our students have ended up going into via more detailed questions about the benefits of studying a language for a career in architecture or the legal profession.
From our perspective, this was a great chance to talk to pupils who are just making their first big decisions about studying languages and we hope the pupils enjoyed getting the chance to ask their questions and, in particular, to talk to Meg and Stefano who were able to give them a sense of what current University Languages students do. Thanks again to the organisers and we look forward to participating in other events like this in future.
As ever, the blog is a little quieter over the Summer months but I’m determined to post a few articles, as and when they make their way to me so today it’s a chance to catch up with Chris who graduated a few years back now and whose career has taken him in rather unexpected directions since then:
‘It is hard to believe that it is seven years since I graduated from the French Department with the degree in International Management and Intercultural Studies. This programme was what drew me to Stirling – it was unusual in that it offered the chance to go to Strasbourg and get a Masters from a top French Business School.
Following my time in Strasbourg, the opportunity came up to do a funded PhD which, although I had never been sure about what direction I would take following my Masters, felt like the right path for me. I came back to Stirling, because I really wanted to work with a lecturer who had taught me during my undergraduate time. My PhD looked at energy policies and green entrepreneurship in Britain, France and Germany, so I still used my French skills and conducted research in France as well as in the two other countries. During my PhD studies, I also did a stint teaching French at Stirling which I really enjoyed but I found very challenging, especially teaching things like direct and indirect objects to students fresh from school. It was fascinating to see it from the other side.
For the past two years, my life has taken a different direction. I have moved to Germany and started working in a research institution called Forschungszentrum Jülich, near Cologne, and I currently do research on the economic aspects of Germany’s energy policy. Although I already spoke German quite well, I have loved improving my German and becoming familiar with a new country. The skills I learned during my programme in the French department, involving a lot of time abroad, helped enormously with adapting to the new country and new language.
I still get to use my French quite regularly. The city in which I now live, Aachen, is on the Belgian border and close to Paris (two hours by train), so I am in the French-speaking world quite often. I also organise the French “Stammtisch” at work – it is a table of French speakers who meet once a week to have lunch, so that helps me to “keep my hand in” with the French.
When I reflect back on my time at Stirling, I have fond memories of the French Department. It was through the support of the department that I had the opportunity to do the Carnegie and Stevenson mini research scholarships which were very useful to my growth. I found studying contemporary Francophone culture broadened my awareness of different identities in the French speaking world. What I am doing now is quite different to what I did before and that is exciting – I would say that a key thing is to be adaptable and able to learn new skills and I felt that my degree at Stirling was a very good background for this.’
Many thanks (merci, vielen Dank!) to Chris for the update – it’s great to think there’s a Stirling-influenced Stammtisch meeting every week in Jülich! We look forward to finding out where the next few years will take you…
Every now and then, over the past few years since the blog started, I’ve been really pleased to be able to post updates (here, for example, and here) from Susan who graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish. Since then, I think I can safely say that I’ve really never been able to guess where the next update would come from so it’s been fun waiting to see this time and we’re certainly not disappointed by the result…:
‘I was in Spain last time I blogged and I am now in Guatemala after three months in Japan, so yes a blog update is needed.
In Japan, I was teaching at a University in Noda which is an hour north of Tokyo, mainly focusing on communication and presentation skills. With three of my students, we worked on a presentation of a business idea for the Hult Prize and they won an all expenses paid trip to the US for the next round.
Now, though, I’m actually teaching English at the school where I did my six months residency requirement for my degree, with a UK-based charity called Education for the Children. The plan was to only volunteer for two months and return to Japan. However, they were struggling to find a teacher for the upper grades, so I am here in a paid role until October. This is by far the most challenging job ever. The children are all from the slum areas and often their chaotic home lives can lead to discipline and behaviour issues in the classroom. So, planning to get back to the tranquillity of Japan in January, via Mombasa for the Children’s Home 20th anniversary party in November.’
Many thanks, indeed, to Susan for this latest update and we’re delighted to see the travelling (and the language teaching) continues, and that the Children’s Home is going strong! And, of course, we’re looking forward to more updates in the future.
The countdown to graduation (on Thursday for most of our students…) has started so it’s something of a scramble to get life-after-graduation posts up on the blog in time but a fun scramble! This time, it’s one of this year’s finalists, Alex who is about to graduate in International Politics and Modern Languages and who has sent a post reflecting, as he puts it, on the ‘past-future questions’ that arise as you reach the end of your studies:
‘What will you do next? That’s the million-dollar question that you get from friends, family and university professors. But for me the question to ask a student who has just finished his four years of study is a different one. My question for me would be: how were these four years for you?
Most of them would start by saying that the first year is the most exciting one because you meet lots of people from all around the world. A new world of opportunity and knowledge opens up for you and you learn things you would have never thought you would. Most of them will remember about “international dinners” where they would have twelve or more different nationalities who got together and each cooked a typical dish from their country. Some will remember signing up for all these sports clubs and societies and unfortunately not having time to attend activities for all of them. They will remember how hard it was to choose one over another.
Then they will remember how university life became something normal and how Freshers’ week was a time when the campus was off limits. Too crowded, too many Freshers. They will remember the dozen CVs they handed in and their first job as a waiter, cleaner or other roles.
After the first two years they will tell you that from the third year onwards studies will take over your social life. No more clubbing, limited sport, junk food and long nights in the library. Those who go on Erasmus will tell you that going abroad was their best ever experience. Some will say the contrary.
About the fourth year they will tell you that it’s a mix of hard work, excitement and nostalgia. All happening at the same time. You will reflect back to your first year and you will realise how much you have achieved and how mature you have become in so little time.
When you ask them what will they do next many will not know the answer straight away. For me the answer is that during my four years of university I managed to learn many things that will help me with my future plans. It’s not necessarily about the new language that I learned nor how international organisations work, but how to treat people, talk to people and, most importantly, to respect people. That will help me in my mission to bring Neapolitan pizza to as many people as I can and to change the view of those who consider pizza unhealthy and greasy.
I am studying to become a professional pizza chef as I want to be able to have the knowledge to teach as many people as I can to make their own pizza at home. I want to learn more about the ingredients, nutrition and the food industry in general. I believe this will be a very interesting and important matter in the future as more and more people realise the importance of good alimentation. Food waste is also very interesting and something that needs more focus on.
After the Stirling opening, I’ve attracted lots of interest from investors and I am now opening a second location in Edinburgh. After this new opening I would like to open other two locations (still investor interest) but not more than that. I want to keep Napizza at four and not more locations. I don’t want to become a “monster business” like the big chains. I believe you should work for a standard of life where you can fully enjoy it. If you work too much you will get older and older and all you time will fade away. We live now, and we need to enjoy our life now, not in ten or fifteen years when who knows if we will still be able to enjoy it or not.
I am also building a three-wheel van with an oven on the back in order to attend events, shows or just parties. Moreover, I want Napizza to become socially responsible and I am always looking for charities to support and create events that will help the community that Napizza is in. I am also planning to create some urban gardens and grow vegetables either for Napizza or personal use. Finally, I hope I will be able to find the time and do some consulting for pizzerias as this is something that I like doing more and more every day.
My philosophy at the moment is to work 20% of my time and 80% to plan and enjoy life. I am all about making mistakes and learning from them but the mistake that I am afraid to make is to work for something that will never come. I live now, therefore I try to enjoy these moments NOW and not later.
For the future I hope to live by the 20/80% rule and enjoy more my moments of life.’
Many thanks to Alex for the great blog post and we wish you all the best for the future, both in terms of your business plans and the 20/80 rule!
Next week (hopefully under sunny skies) our finalists will become our graduates so we thought now was a good time to give you an idea of what soon-to-be Languages graduates’ plans look like. With thanks to everyone who took the time to get back to me on this and to those whose plans have already featured in longer blog posts and, of course, with congratulations to you all, here goes (with photos courtesy of the students!):
A number of this year’s finalists have plans that include – at least for the short-term – teaching in one shape or another. Fergus, who’ll be graduating in English and French, has applied to spend a year working in France as an English Language Assistant and Brett, who’ll be graduating in French and Spanish, is off to Japan where he has been accepted to teach English on the JET programme. Alexia, whose degree is Single Honours French, will be starting teacher training in the Autumn on Glasgow’s PGDE Secondary French course, a career path she had always intended to pursue and Calum, studied French and Politics at Stirling, is also considering the teaching route but with an eye on the possibility of translation work, too. In the first instance, after temporary employment this Summer, he’ll be shadowing teachers in his local school to see whether teaching really is the career for him.
He’s not the only one to be considering those particular options together – Nicole, who studied French and Spanish with us, is also embarking on a postgraduate programme, combining the translation and teaching routes: ‘After spending the majority of fourth year thinking about what I’d like to do after graduating from Stirling, it looks like I won’t be saying goodbye just yet. I’ll be returning to Stirling in September to study a Masters in Translation studies with TESOL. After doing the translation theory module during Semester 7, I realised that translation was something I was genuinely interested in and having the opportunity to do it along with TESOL at Stirling seems like the perfect opportunity. The option to choose TESOL appeals to me because I realised just how in-demand the English language is during my time in France and Spain. I’m hoping that this course will give me the chance to work either at home in Scotland or spend more time abroad in the future. Whatever happens, I’m happy to be returning to Stirling to study something which will hopefully give me plenty of options in years to come.’
Translation also beckons for a number of other finalists: Emilie, a Single Honours French student, will be starting the Translation Masters programme at Glasgow University in the Autumn and Anna, who’ll also be graduating in Single Honours French, is also applying for Masters programmes in Translation and Interpreting. In the meantime, her plans include temporary work as a receptionist and also practising her translating skills. Things are still quite open but, as Anna says, ‘no idea where I will end up but if I don’t do a Masters, I hope to work in France for a bit and then apply for jobs in London where I can use French.’ Lucy, who graduates in French and Spanish and who wrote more about her studies and her plans here, will be starting her MSc in Business Translation and Interpreting at Strathclyde in a few months. And Emma, who will graduate with Single Honours French, is currently working hard to save up for her Masters in Translation, ‘destination TBC but currently narrowed down to Bath and Surrey. I am also enjoying the break from education while I can with trips to Budapest, Spain and France planned for later in the year. With my Masters, I hope to go into translation for an important global organisation and, in the short term, I would like to become a reviser and then a translation project manager. Although I am very focused on a career in translation, I want to have a bit of fun first and plan to travel Asia and perhaps also Canada on completion of my studies. Longer term, I would like to get back into education and become a primary school teacher (if they’re still teaching languages at primary school by the time I’ve had children of my own) but plans change over time so I guess we’ll have to wait and see!’
Postgraduate study is also on the horizon for Jeanne, soon-to-be a graduate in International Management with European Languages and Society and planning an MLitt in Transnational Cultures at the University of Aberdeen (more about her plans here!); Amy, who has just completed her degree in French and Politics and is off to do an MSc in Public Policy and Management (more about Amy’s time at Stirling here) and Rebecca, who’ll be graduating from the same programme as Jeanne, and who is embarking on a Masters in European Business in Fribourg, Switzerland. In the meantime, Rebecca will be working at the Montreux Jazz Festival and summer camps with children and, in the long run, hopes to find a job in marketing in Switzerland: ‘Having a language as part of your degree is an obvious positive for employers and life skills in general, so it goes without saying I am grateful for everything the French department has done for me.’ And Anna, who will graduate in French and Spanish, has just accepted an offer ‘to study the MLitt in Publishing at the University of Stirling. Publishing is something I have wanted to do since a very young age and I am happy I decided to go back to Stirling and continue my studies there. In the future, I would love to work in The Rights Department selling rights onto foreign book markets and vice versa. That way, I would hopefully be able to use my undergraduate degree in French and Spanish.’
Chelsea, who studied Psychology and a European Language with us, and who sent a blog post a few weeks back, is applying for care apprenticeships, in the hope of working with vulnerable adults and children. Jean, whose degree is Single Honours French, has applied for a temporary job developing policy at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency where she used to work. This could lead on to something else but, if not, then next winter she plans to teach skiing in Scotland while working towards my next ski instructor qualification. Rachel, who will graduate in French and Journalism in a few days, is putting her French to good use working for a heritage company at Edinburgh Castle where visitors come from all over, including – of course – France and French-speaking Canada, in particular. And Alex, who studied International Politics and Languages with us, is continuing work in his restaurant Napizza. Business is booming, plans are afoot for an Edinburgh branch and, in the meantime, Alex has built a small oven, put it on a three-wheel van and is ‘planning to go around events and spread a pizza happiness’!!
I can’t really think of a better note on which to end this particular post! Thanks again to all our finalists for their hard work this year (and throughout their degrees) and for passing on all this information (more to be added as emails come in). We wish you all the very best for the future and look forward to updates on your progress in the weeks, months and years ahead. Keep in touch!
Back in June, a small group of our students were lucky enough to be able to attend the annual Summer School organised by our partners at the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg, an opportunity that gave them a chance to spend time in a beautiful city but also to benefit from fantastic classes and visits to European institutions and much else besides. Nick, Paloma and Stefano are now all back in Stirling and they’ve each sent their own take on the experiences in Strasbourg.
For Stefano, ‘one of the most thrilling aspects of our Summer School was the possibility to go on business trips to the European Institutions that are located in Strasbourg. Within our first ten days there, our group was invited to visit the Council of Europe, the continent’s oldest political organisation, founded in 1949. It was exciting to experience such an institutional and international atmosphere! Once we got there through the beautiful surroundings of Strasbourg’s diplomatic area, we managed to explore the building with its famous Hemicycle and we also got the chance to attend a conference on “The role of the Council of Europe in the European Political Architecture”. It is perhaps worth mentioning some key facts about this vital institution in Europe. The Council itself groups together 47 countries, including 21 countries from Central Eastern Europe and it currently has one more application from Monaco. Moreover, the Council has granted “observer status” to 5 external countries (US, Canada, the Holy See, Mexico and Japan). Broadly speaking, the Council is distinct from the European Union, but no member state has ever been part of the Union without joining the Council of Europe in the first place.’
Stefano also points out that the EU’s motto (United in diversity) fits very well with their entire programme of classes and visits: ‘ As a group of 30 students from, almost literally, all over the world, we had first-hand experience of how so many different countries can work within European Institutions. For instance, just one week after our visit to the Council of Europe we got the chance to explore the European Parliament, the only directed body of the EU. Most importantly, we were lucky enough to attend real sessions and debates of the Parliament over the following week; throughout these experiences we got a strong sense of how the Parliament elaborates community laws and how strongly its relations are intertwined with those of the European Commission and the Council of Ministers.’
From Paloma’s perspective, the cultural, geographical and linguistic aspects of the month in France were as important as the access to elements of the structures of the EU. ‘Strasbourg is a mixture of two cultures, French and German, perfectly balanced. Generally, the French were friendly and easy to talk to (as long as you were trying to speak in French…), however body language and gestures were required if our French wasn’t enough. Also, a large proportion of the older generations spoke German (or the alsacien dialect).
It is an adorable city, the perfect size, not too big, not too small. Sightseeing in Strasbourg was hence relatively easy: from the cathedral and la Petite France to the Parc de l’Orangerie (a mini zoo) a few blocks away from the school and the Place Kléber with the main shopping area. The first Sunday of the month gives you free access to some cultural spots, so we took advantage and visited a few museums, the cathedral tower and its astronomical clock.
As Strasbourg is located very centrally, we could easily travel around to Nancy, Colmar, Obernai, and even Zurich and Karlsruhe. However, its central location and its position as the seat of many EU institutions means that living expenses are quite high, so we took the tram line to Kehl in Germany to do our weekly groceries.
Local cuisine included tarte flambée (dough bread covered with cheese, crème fraiche, onion and bacon), baeckeoffe (casserole with vegetables, pork, beef and lamb cooked slowly in white wine), kouglof (bread-cake that is displayed in the window of every bakery in Strasbourg) and lots of white wine. Local farmers’ markets in the street parallel to our accommodation every Saturday had everything from yogurt, fruit and vegetables, bread, flowers, to second-hand clothes and pots and pans. The boulangerie was a few blocks away from the school; in the morning you could see the French queueing for the bread of the day.
On the 21st of June, we experienced La Fête de la Musique. Once a year, the city transforms into an “open concert” with music for all tastes. A different band plays in every corner downtown Strasbourg. For us (as Paloma is of Mexican origin), some of the highlights of the night were an Ecuadorian duo and a Brazilian party.’
And finally, from Nick’s point of view, it was the mix of classroom-based learning and extra-curricular activities that really stands out: ‘During my month in Strasbourg all students had a significant number of classes alongside the social activities most of us took part in outside of the curriculum. The classes were divided into several different subjects: European Integration, French Language and Business, which included Marketing, HRM and other topics.
Most classes were quite intense and well-structured. They were also very interesting and engaging (for the most part) with the only downside being the teaching rooms which did not have air conditioning or any real ventilation. It can get very hot in France during summer…
Some of the courses included some very cool field trips, such as a visit to the Europa Park, which was supposedly related to the business part of the course. It wasn’t really, as we spent most of the day on awesome rides (or queueing for them), but unsurprisingly nobody complained about that.
I feel it is maybe important to let future participants of summer school know that the amount of class in hours per week is significantly more than most of us will be used to from UK universities. This, however, is no issue at all, as self-study time is kept at a minimum and most classes are very informative and highly enjoyable, with lecturers from all over the world (Ireland, the US, Poland, France, etc.).
I can personally say that I genuinely learned a lot about the EU, European culture and French language during my stay in Strasbourg. I loved the outside activities and the group we were in was amazing and very international. The lecturers were entertaining, clever and left us all with an unexpectedly large amount of knowledge. I would recommend Strasbourg summer school to anyone at any educational level and from any background based on my experience this past summer.’
Many thanks, indeed, to Nick, Paloma and Stefano for sharing their experiences and their photos from the Summer School. Having also had the pleasure of visiting colleagues at EMS in September, it’s particularly nice to be able to confirm that it really is a great place to send time so thanks to the students and to colleagues at EMS for having made us all feel welcome!
“I graduated from Stirling just over a year and a half ago now, with a degree in International Management with French and Spanish. That day feels like just yesterday, it’s only now that I have been asked to write about what I have done since that I have taken some time to think back and suddenly Stirling actually feels like it was a long time ago.
So, what do you do after graduating? This is the question that starts to become that little bit more daunting as the years at university progress. Suddenly you must start to put together a plan, a plan of how to step out of the comforts and familiarity of student life and into an unknown ‘adult’ world.
Today I am living in Liverpool, working as a Project Manager with Amey as part of their Management Graduate Programme. Here is what happened between university and now. So, let’s rewind…
Studying two languages with business provided me with what I can only explain as a well-rounded degree. I loved the language components of my course; this part of my degree was what I really felt passionate about. Ever since I was in primary school, from the moment French was first introduced to me, the thought of learning a new language excited me, and it still does. So, choosing to study French and Spanish at university was an easy decision. The business part of my degree allowed me to put concepts we had discussed in French or Spanish classes into real business examples. Due to this, I was really able to get a valuable insight into each of my courses, no matter how different they were from each other.
Due to studying two languages, I had the opportunity to live in both France and Spain. I chose to do the British Council Language Assistant programme in France, and subsequently carried out my Erasmus in Spain. Both of these were fantastic experiences that, as cheesy as it may sound, really changed me as a person: I gained more confidence, improved my language skills and became more aware of other cultures, to name a few! After spending a total of 18 months abroad during my degree, I knew for sure that the country hopping life was soon becoming my aspiration for when university finished. I returned each time with a new bout of the want to travel and I soon started to picture myself more and more living in France or Spain or any other European country. So, I returned after my Erasmus to complete my final year with a feeling of satisfaction that I now had an idea of what I wanted after graduating.
During 4th year we were made aware that applying for the British Council Language Assistant Programme was an option. I didn’t have to think twice, my way back to France was here. A relatively easy application was all it would take to potentially have another go at being a Language Assistant. I found out further into the year that I had been accepted, and been offered my first choice of Strasbourg. I was so relieved, relieved to have a plan, and to be able to fully focus on final year rather than looking for jobs. I just had to wait until after the summer!
When I arrived in Strasbourg I was overwhelmed with its beauty. The half-timbered houses, the little beer taverns, the canals and its bridges were like nowhere I had ever lived before. As I lived in Paris last time round, I really was looking forward to seeing a whole other side of France. And that is exactly what I saw! I found it to be a really interesting place, with its German influence and the Alsatian culture and language; at times it didn’t feel relatable to France at all! I actually lived in one of the traditional houses in the centre of town which added to the experience of understanding the culture and the way of life in this town.
I worked between two high schools, in the north of Strasbourg in a town called Haguenau. The teaching side of things honestly did not go how I planned it would. I always saw teaching as a way to travel and to live in other countries, and maybe I didn’t actually consider the job for what it really was and wanted the lifestyle that came with teaching rather than actually the job itself. I realised only a few weeks into my new role that I no longer saw myself as being a teacher in the long term. But it being so early on, I hoped that feeling would pass.
Christmas in Strasbourg was amazing, I have never seen so much effort put into lights, markets, food stalls, everything revolved around it. The city lit up and the crowds filled the streets.
Later on in the year, around February/March time I started to question whether I wanted to continue living away from home or not. As this was the third time trying to set up a life in a foreign country, the thought of home was, for the first time, seeming to be more and more attractive. I was tired of not really having any close friends around me or family, and the feeling of not being settled was now, ironically, giving me itchy feet. Maybe it was due to the fact that I had moved around for the last few years, or because the other times had always been for short periods of time, and this time was more of a potential permanent move away from Scotland, or maybe because I was not enjoying being a teacher any more. I missed the feeling of being challenged. Going from an intense final year at university, to a job that was no longer satisfying me made me realise that I missed that feeling. Whatever it was, it was unsettling, and I decided in the end that I wanted to be closer to home and to look for a job in the UK.
Only a couple of months passed at home before I was offered my position that I am in now with Amey. It is a two year programme which is rotational throughout the UK. My first placement, which I am on now, is in Liverpool as a Project Manager. I am honestly so pleased with my new job and with my decision to come back home. I was looking for a challenge and I definitely have found that in this role!
Having that time in France after graduating gave me the time I needed to realise what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. I can now understand that even though you may feel like you know yourself and know what you want from life, you never know when those feelings will change as experiences will always change us and make us learn more about ourselves.
I have to say a final word to Stirling. My time at university was everything I could have ever wished it to be. From the friends I have met there, the beautiful campus and the inspiring teachers; it will always be a home for me.”
Many thanks to Clare for this blog post and all good wishes for the future. We look forward to more updates in due course!