Tag: Careers

2020 French Finalists and their plans

Following on from Mira’s reflections on life as a Public Service Interpreter, the second of today’s blog posts give us our traditional annual opportunity to get a sense of the hopes and plans of this year’s French at Stirling finalists. To say it has been a difficult few months for them would be a tremendous understatement but, first, like the French at Stirling teaching team, they made the rapid adjustment from classes on campus to online learning. And now, despite the extremely challenging backdrop, many of them have taken the time to reply to a request for reflections on their plans for life after graduation.

We’ve been putting a similar post together for a few years now (see 2019’s here, 2018’s here…) and we were all a little anxious about asking the same questions in the current circumstances but, having spent the past few days reading through the replies, looking at the photos of their travels, reading the good wishes that also came in their messages, I can honestly say this has been an unexpectedly uplifting experience. So, with no further ado, and in no particular order, here goes:

2020 May Finalists Mairi Eiffel TowerMairi, who will be graduating with a BA Hons in French and Spanish, is planning to embark on postgraduate study next year, either with an MSc in Gender Studies at the University of Strathclyde or at the University of Stirling: ‘When I started 4th year I thought I would have been going into a graduate job after I finished my degree but due to the impact of Covid-19, it has been really difficult to find work. I have always wanted to do a postgrad in Gender Studies but I had thought it would be a few years down the line after some time in the working world. But things rarely happen in the order we expect them to. Here’s to the future and whatever it brings.’

Eilidh, who has just completed a BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society, attended a 2-day assessment centre in London back in February, following which: ‘I was successful in my application for the commercial, sales and management graduate programme for Bakkavor. The company is an international food manufacturer, supplying meals, desserts and snacks to all major retailers in the UK and overseas. The programme lasts for 2 years, where I will be promoted to a manager after the programme is completed. Despite the job not being directly related to French, I fully intend keeping up with the language, and encouraging the company to work with a French bakery company so I can get back to France!’

2020 May Finalists Kirstie I

As for Martina, who has completed a BA Hons in French and Spanish, ‘as a final year student during the Coronavirus pandemic, I find myself ending my undergraduate studies in some of the most unexpected circumstances in Stirling University’s history. I started my Joint Honours in French and Spanish in 2015 and spent a gap year between the second and third year of my degree working as an English Language Assistant with the British Council in a small ski town called Briançon, in the French Alps. After this incredible experience I was also fortunate enough to spend a semester living in Seville, Spain. Both these experiences greatly helped me develop my proficiency in these languages as well as my confidence overall.

2020 May Finalists Martina Skiing BriançonAs I have been learning Spanish for almost 11 years, I have always felt very passionate about this language and, as such, I decided to apply for a place on the Masters by Research in Hispanic Studies course at the University of Edinburgh. After producing two pieces of research work at undergraduate level, I am now hoping to develop my skills and hope to be accepted on this course to work on the topic of Latin American and Caribbean feminisms. I have also applied to their prestigious Literatures, Languages and Cultures Masters Scholarship, awarded to 4 outstanding students undertaking a Masters Programme within this division. I also applied for a second scholarship, the Muriel Smith Scholarship. I am now waiting for an update on these applications, but I am very hopeful for what the future holds for me! While I may not have ended my undergraduate studies the same way previous students have, I still had an enjoyable, albeit stressful, year and I am very proud of everything I have accomplished.’

2020 May Finalists Caitlin Strasbourg

Stephanie, another soon-to-be BA Hons French and Spanish graduate, is also clear that Covid-19 is having an impact on her plans but in a different way: ‘As is the case for a lot of people, my plans are in a sort of limbo at the moment. I have accepted a position, though, with the JET Programme as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan. The scheduled departure date is in September, but obviously I’m not sure if it’ll actually go ahead as planned, and what will happen if it can’t go ahead as planned… Despite the uncertainty, I am excited about the prospect of living and working abroad for a while. The JET Programme allows me to have that break from studying that I want whilst also affording me the opportunity to discover a new country and learn a new language.  As far as longer term goals go, I am looking into getting into teaching. Right now, I’m leaning towards primary teaching but I’m not yet ruling out secondary. The ALT position will give me some valuable experience in a classroom which is something that I’m lacking at the moment.’

Like Stephanie, Laura, who has just finished her BA Hons in English Studies and French, also has travel plans for the coming year: ‘My plans for September are going to Finland for a Master’s degree. I have received three offers from three Finnish universities of Masters’ programmes in educational sciences based on teaching languages as a foreign language. I have not chosen yet which one I will specifically choose but I am sure I will spend my next two years in Finland.’

2020 May Finalists Evelyn La Piscine RoubaixIn some cases, the impact of the current situation is such that original plans are having to be rethought as is the case for Evelyn who is graduating with Single Honours French: ‘I don’t actually have any post-graduation plans as yet. Coronavirus has thrown a bit of a spanner in my job hunting as well as my hopes of getting some work experience this summer. I am hoping to go into publishing or copyediting but unfortunately, work experience opportunities are currently fairly thin on the ground at the moment. As such, I am using this time to brush up on skills that will come in handy when looking for a job in this sector. I have also set up a blog to review the books that I am reading during lockdown, so I’m throwing myself into that at the moment as well as keeping the job search active!’

2020 May Finalists Evelyn Vieille Bourse Lille

Another of our Single Honours French finalists, Rhiannon, finds herself in a similar position: ‘My final year didn’t quite go as I had planned, and I feel like I’ve not really had the chance to say goodbye to my time at Stirling University. However, I have had some of the most amazing times there and met some of my best friends. I plan to go to university much closer to home in Glasgow to do a post-grad but I’m still a bit unsure what I want to do. I’m a bit undecided between doing translation (which is what I’ve always originally wanted to do) or doing something completely different. I’m currently interested in doing Gender Studies at Strathclyde but again I am still quite undecided. I’m also extremely interested in doing something related to history or museum-related as I love learning all about the past.  The future is so undecided and scary right now so I am using these months of lockdown to have a really hard think about where it is I would like to go.’

2020 May Finalists Caitlin ReimsAs for Caitlin: ‘After four years studying BA Hons in French and Spanish, I made the decision this year to apply for PGDE primary teaching in order to pursue a career as a primary teacher. I have just recently accepted my place at the University of Aberdeen on this course. This career is what I have always wanted to do, and so I am delighted and excited to have been offered a place. I am also looking forward to moving to and discovering both a new city and a new university. The experience I obtained working as an English Language Assistant in France between my 2nd and 3rd year at University helped me to realise that this was what I wanted to do.’

The teaching route takes many forms and, like Caitlin and Stephanie, other finalists are also planning a year (and possibly more) than involves language teaching in different forms and different places. For Lily, who completed her BA Hons in English Studies and French with us: ‘My plan for the coming year – if all returns to some semblance of normal – is to work in Spain as an English Language Assistant with the British Council so that I can get my Spanish up to a similar level of fluency as my French. Still figuring out what comes after that!’

2020 May Finalists Caitlin View from Sedan Castle

Jack, who is graduating with a BA Hons in French with Spanish and Education, is also taking a teaching-related route in the first instance: ‘Everything changed very quickly as the countdown to graduation approached. Lockdown for me, like everyone else, changed all my plans and added to the uncertainty of what I would do once I finished my degree. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, it has been really nice spending time with my family, going on a daily bike run and having time to read for pleasure regularly. In the spirit of the times we live in, I begin work next week teaching Chinese children English online. I have already started my ESL training and it’s already evident that my degree is coming in handy.

I’m still looking for something more permanent starting later in the year, and I’ve applied for many different jobs so fingers crossed. It’s proving particularly challenging this year as the jobs market has suffered greatly. Living in Dumfries and Galloway where there are few job opportunities at the best of times I’m looking further afield, so who knows where I’ll end up.’

2020 May Finalists Kirstie II BilbaoAnd Kirstie, a BA Hons French and Spanish finalist, is planning to move to Belgium and ‘Brussels specifically. I’m going to teach English, either as a language assistant with the British Council or with another language school, and I’ll also to continue to work on my travel blog. Brussels is a great hub in Europe and I plan to do a lot of travelling around the continent in the coming years!’

Last but not least for the moment, Jack, who has also completed a BA Hons in French and Spanish, reflects that: ‘Near-future planning has become more difficult amidst the current uncertainty in the world, but I am now looking to focus on my backpack business, Cancha, as well as advancing my tennis career. This does not come without challenges. Lockdown has hindered my tennis training routine for quite some time now, and the fact that national borders continue to close and flights are sparse paints a bleak picture for the professional sport scene. However, I am confident that the world will return to normal and, when it does, I want to make sure I am as prepared as possible to take full advantage of this. The same goes for Cancha: buying backpacks for travel and sports is almost certainly not on people’s minds at the moment, but I am using this ‘down-time’ to make more subtle changes in the company, such as refining our message, and the ways in which our company can both endure this episode whilst also giving back to the community and the environment.

Although many graduate students at Stirling are unsure of their next steps, especially during this world crisis (which has stopped almost everyone in their tracks), there are ways in which each one of us can improve and make progress in our ambitions, albeit in an untraditional way.’

We’re always grateful to our finalists for sharing their plans and hopes with us as they reach the end of their degrees but this year, it would be fair to say that we are particularly appreciative of the thoughtful, helpful and positive responses. Many, many thanks to you all, not to mention congratulations on having reached the end of your degrees! And, of course, we wish you all the very, very best for the months and years ahead and hope that you will keep in touch with us in the future.

(And, as ever, if you’re a French at Stirling finalist reading this and wanting to add your contribution, please do just send me an email (cristina.johnston@stir.ac.uk) and I will very happily update the post!)

Languages and Mental Gymnastics

Two blog posts for this sunny (lockdown) Thursday, both tinged, in different ways, with thoughts of the current Covid context but both also fascinating insights into the lives, thoughts and plans of Languages students and graduates. We’re starting things off with an update from Mira, who graduated in 2014 with a BA Hons in French: 

‘It has been an entire lifetime since I graduated. I have now worked as a Public Service Interpreter for close to 5 years. Even though I absolutely love my job (and often say if I was paid more, I would never even consider a change of career!) I think about changing my career often, especially in light of the recent developments. 

The job itself is great. I get to experience incredible moments, not all happy, but all an intimate window into the personal lives of people and professions. I love getting dressed in scrubs when interpreting at an operation or standing by the witness box conveying a witness response to a jury. I love the mental gymnastics of interpreting and I love continually evolving my ability to master languages. It’s not always easy and there are serious issues linked with interpreting in first person, saying “I am depressed” or “I committed this crime”, but that’s a story for another time. 

What I would like to talk about today is the industry. Which isn’t great. You may sometimes hear that interpreters get paid well (and I’m sure that some interpreters working in a private sector, conference interpreters etc may, indeed, earn good money). This is however not the case for Public Service Interpreting. The market is saturated with agencies, each one trying to outbid another for the cheapest rates. What do you think about being offered £11.50 per hour, for travelling to Carlisle? Having to negotiate hard for any travel time being paid and probably no travel expenses? This is a very ridiculous, but real example. 

There are many issues that contribute to this situation. Unlike in some other countries the interpreting profession isn’t regulated in the UK. There are a couple of bodies that are or are attempting to do this but essentially anyone can say they are an interpreter and start practising. This leads to the profession and the skills required not being valued. Which is followed by frankly ridiculous hourly payment offers from agencies, which professional interpreters with years of experience, diplomas and certificates refuse to take. This then means that it’s the less experienced ones who often end up filling in the gaps and, sure, everyone has to start somewhere but remember what I said about lack of regulation of the profession and anyone being able to show up and say they are an interpreter? Such a thing would be seen as absurd and dangerous if we were to speak of doctors, teachers, electricians! And yet an interpreter is a crucial player in many highly important, life and death situations. 

The current situation has heavily impacted the interpreting industry. Face-to-face interpreting has all but stopped and there are very few assignments and a lot of interpreters. Telephone interpreting has taken a front stance and the fear is that some agencies will stick with this post-lockdown. I don’t know what the public interpreting profession will look like at the end of this year. I hope all current moves to regulate the profession will pay off and in 5 years’ time the situation will be different, in a positive way for interpreters and the people using their services. 

If you do want to go into the public sector, my advice would be to diversify as much as you can, and join a union.’ 

Many, many thanks to Mira for taking the time to send us this great and very honest blog post. We wish you all the best for the months ahead and look forward to more updates in happier times.

Languages and Career Stories

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories AllAs Laura and Michael noted in their post yesterday, it can be really helpful for secondary school pupils to get a sense of the opportunities that studying Languages at University can open up by actually getting a chance to meet Languages students and ask them questions. The same can be said of those Languages students themselves and the benefits that can come from listening to Languages graduates, at different stages post-graduation, talking about the different paths their lives have followed and the ways in which languages have shaped those paths. With that in mind, Hannah Grayson, who coordinates our Languages for Employability module this academic year, organised just such an event for our undergraduates last month:

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories Sam‘On Thursday 7 November, we organised ‘Career Stories’, an event aimed at our Year 3 students taking the Languages for Employability module as part of their degree programme and any other students interested in hearing more about where languages can take you. We had three former Stirling students come to speak about their semesters/years abroad and the trajectories they have taken since leaving Stirling. The speakers were Sam Philips (Languages teacher at Bo’Ness Academy), Luise Pawlig (freelance translator) and Fraser McQueen (current PhD student at Stirling) and they shared experiences of working in tourism, au-pairing, customer service, translation, teaching and parliament.

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories Luise

It was a fantastic opportunity for our students to hear about their experiences and to get advice on how to meet some of the challenges that intercultural experiences can bring. These events are made by the anecdotes and enthusiasm of those who share, and we couldn’t have asked for more from our speakers. All three of them encouraged students to go abroad whenever the opportunity arises!

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories Fraser

We also heard from Lena Bauchop, our Careers and Employability consultant who has delivered teaching on the module and is herself a languages graduate. Lena explained her own career path and shared helpful insights into what can influence job decisions. There were plenty of questions for our visiting speakers and lots of conversation and networking afterwards over refreshments. Thanks to all involved!’

And many thanks to Hannah for making the time to send through this blog post and for organising the event.

Language Ambassadors: Encouraging Pupils to Learn Languages

Over the course of this Autumn/Winter semester at Stirling, we’ve continued to develop our work with secondary schools, sometimes focusing primarily on French, sometimes working in collaboration with our colleagues in Spanish, always underlining the advantages that come through studying languages. We’re hoping to post a few more updates about these activities over the coming weeks and, to start with, we’re pleased to be able to post the following article, co-written by Laura, who is in the final year of a BA Hons in English Studies and French, and Michael, who is in Year 2 of his BA Hons programme in Professional Education (Primary) with a specialism in Modern Languages. Laura and Michael’s day saw them representing French at Stirling as Language Ambassadors at Williamwood High School in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire.

For Michael: ‘When I was asked to be a part of the group of students going to Williamwood High School I was keen to accept the invitation. I thought that it would be a worthwhile opportunity to speak to high school pupils just beginning to think about their futures, about the possibility of going to university, and hopefully to encourage them to study a modern language. On the day of our visit, we represented the University of Stirling at a careers fair organised by the school’s modern languages department and got to speak to three groups of fourth year pupils who attended the fair. We started off each group with a presentation about the modern language courses offered at Stirling and the different pathways they could follow. Specifically, we covered the standard four-year degree structure; the possibility of a year or semester abroad; popular joint degrees with a modern language; and how a joint degree with Primary or Secondary Education differs from other courses. We were able to go into some depth about the differences caused by Education as a few of us, including myself, are doing a joint degree with Education.

At the end of the presentation, we had time to take some questions from the pupils. Most questions were centred on the countries and places you could go on a semester or year abroad, and what it was like to live in a foreign country. Other questions focused on the student experience and campus life. Our group from Stirling was comprised of second, third and fourth year students so we were able to give the pupils a number of perspectives.

All the pupils listened well and told us they found our presentation interesting. I myself enjoyed hearing about the experiences of the older students in our group. I was also glad that I could make studying languages at university something for the pupils to consider when thinking about their plans for after school.’

As for Laura: ‘As well as thinking about the content of what we presented it is also relevant to emphasise the reason why we did it. In my opinion, when we are young, we tend to think that our future is still very far away, and that we have got time to think about our future jobs; but when it comes to learning languages, it is never too early to start, and schools should always encourage students to study languages and show them the  different pathways they can follow after their high school. This is basically what we did at Williamwood High School.

From another perspective, I am a Catalan student in Stirling doing English and French and I found the idea of going to a school to talk about the language degrees opportunities, the importance of speaking more than one or two languages and the life in university all very important. Not only were the themes in our presentation important, but also the fact that we are students and we explained to them this information from our point of view and from our own experiences helped the pupils to think that they can also accomplish their career goals if we are also doing it.

When I was in high school, I was already doing English and French as foreign languages alongside Catalan and Spanish. Everyone kept telling us, study languages is always very important in life and for your future, but we were never told why it was important and what pathways we could take if we wanted to focus on languages. In order to motivate students to do and to accomplish something, I think it is important to show them examples and to have people explaining their own experiences as a way of motivating and encouraging students to follow similar pathways. Besides, schools should promote the idea that learning languages opens many doors in life and especially in terms of employability; in this way, they see that learning languages is not pointless and they can set their goals easily with examples.

Although I already had my future ideas very clear, unfortunately, my own school teachers did not prepare me for this, and this is why I accepted the invitation straight away so as to show students that what they are doing right now really matters for their future by illustrating my experiences as an example for them. It was important to present them the wide range of choices they have in terms of languages courses and degree combinations but also the opportunities the university gave us such as the mandatory semester abroad specially in the French case, it gives the chance to students to discover the real francophone culture that was represented in the textbooks and the news.

All in all, I think our message is clear: we want to encourage students of all ages to learn languages, to take advantage of all the opportunities that the French department (and Languages more broadly) in Stirling offers and to never stop learning languages.’

Many, many thanks to Laura and Michael for having taken the time to put together this blog and to them and all our Language Ambassadors for the great work they continue to do. And thanks to the pupils and staff at Williamwood for the warm welcome!

 

Schools Day Success

As regular blog readers will know, this week the time had finally come for our Languages event for S5 and S6 pupils from schools from all across Scotland. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we welcomed a total of around 300 pupils to the Pathfoot Building and colleagues from French & Francophone Studies and Spanish & Latin American Studies led them through a day of mini lectures, culture and language classes, CPD sessions for the teachers and a series of presentations by current and former students, as well as our Faculty Employability Officer, on the benefits of time abroad as part of a degree (whether within Europe with Erasmus+ or well beyond), English Language Assistantships and the many, many doors that languages open up in the wider world beyond University.

davAfter a brief welcome from the Faculty Dean Richard Oram, and the event organisers, Pete Baker and Cristina Johnston, the pupils were split between French and Spanish activities for a short opening lecture and then for the classroom activities. Those doing French enjoyed a lecture on ‘Race, Religion and the Republic’ by Aedín ní Loingsigh before heading off into smaller groups for culture classes examining extracts from Autour il y a les arbres et le ciel magnifique led by Cristina Johnston, Emeline Morin, Aedín ní Loingsigh, Elizabeth Ezra, Hannah Grayson and Beatrice Ivey. At the same time, those doing Spanish enjoyed Pete Baker’s lecture on Frida Kahlo and further discussion of Kahlo’s work in culture classes led by Pete and his colleagues Inés Ordiz and Ann Davies.

After lunch, it was back into the classrooms for some written language and listening work, led by Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau, Fraser McQueen and Cristina, Emeline and Aedín for French, and Jose Ferreira-Cayuela, along with Pete and Inés for Spanish. And while the pupils were hard at work in their culture and language classes, their teachers were being led through CPD activities focusing on feedback and assessment, as well as the challenges that arise in the transition from secondary to HE, by Emeline and Aedín. The CPD sessions also included an opportunity for the teachers to benefit from a guided tour of the AHRC-funded Experiences of Exile exhibition by Beatrice Ivey.

All the pupils and teachers were brought together for the final session which included presentations by a group of Languages graduates, as well as current students at different stages in their degrees, and our Employability Officer, Elaine Watson. They all spoke passionately about their experiences of Study Abroad, teaching English as a Language Assistant, travelling during time abroad, career paths they have embarked on or are considering as a result of having studied a language and, in the words of Meg, one of the speakers, the confidence that comes from knowing that ‘if you can navigate France through train, plane and University strikes, you can do anything!’

2019 ASMCF Logo IIAll in all, a great chance for us to get to talk to a fantastic group of pupils and teachers, and an opportunity for those pupils, in particular, to get a real taste of what University and Languages at University is like and where it can lead you. Many thanks to all those who came along, to all the colleagues who led sessions over the course of the two days, to the students and graduates who gave up their time (and sent photos!) to come and speak to our visitors, and to the Division of Literature and Languages and the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France for their support.

‘Languages for Business’ Symposium

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.