Tag: Communication

“Languages Open Doors”: From Stirling to a Traineeship in Brussels

A little flurry of blog posts will appear over the next couple of days as various plans and projects involving staff and students in French at Stirling take shape and I’m very pleased to be able to start the ball rolling with another blog post by one of our graduates from last year. Henry Caffarena finished his BA Hons in French and Spanish this time last year and has very kindly taken the time to send us this update on where life and languages have taken him since then:

2017 Henry Caffarena photo“I have nothing but good things to say about my time studying French at Stirling. I would say that the course is both diverse and challenging as it offers an ample approach to the language itself and its cultural spread across the globe. Furthermore, I also found the course very welcoming to students with different levels. Overall, it helped me improve my French and has definitely contributed to my success in landing a traineeship at the European Commission in Brussels, Europe’s political capital where speaking French is essential.

So far, these past 2 months at Commission have been a time of learning and networking. I am working in a multicultural and multilingual environment and everyday is different and challenging. Unfortunately, I can’t go into much detail about what I do because of confidentiality clauses and boring blabla, but all in all, I am happy. Speaking languages is a massive +1 when you are applying for jobs. Recruiters know they can train people to do the job in a few weeks/months, but teaching you a language that is vital to their business? That’s a different story.

At present, I am halfway through my Traineeship and have recently been interviewing with Gartner, the information technology research and advisory company. I know what you must be thinking – take a chill pill. To be honest, it was my intention to take a little break from work after my traineeship but they were looking for graduates who spoke French and I couldn’t resist. Hopefully I will get a call with good news soon. I guess what I’m trying to say is that languages open doors and there are doors all over the world! French is a very important language spoken in many different places and there are plenty of organisations in the private and public sector in need of your skills.”

Best of luck to Henry for the Gartner interview – keep us posted! – and thanks again for taking the time to send this post.

 

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One Year On!

Last week, as I was in the process of (gently…) reminding this year’s French finalists to think about sending various bits and pieces for this blog, I was really pleased to get an email from Julian Osei-Bonsu who graduated in French and Law last year and who was emailing with an update on how things are going one year on which he has (very kindly!) turned into this blog piece:

“About a week ago, it suddenly came to me that it’s exactly a year since I completed all of my university tests and assignments. With the relief I felt, there was of course the sadness of having to part with places and people I’d grown to cherish over the course of my four years at university. And then there was of course the uncertainty that I felt about the future, I wasn’t entirely sure what would come next.

Shortly after graduation, and after having sent off several job applications, I happened upon an announcement while staying with my family in Germany. It was a casting call for flight attendants for a German airline. I went to the casting on impulse, underwent the interview and the exam with the airline psychologist and after a few uncertain hours received news that I had been given a training place.

My flight attendant training began in October and turned out to be the eight most intense weeks I’d ever experienced. We learned everything we needed to know for our jobs in the skies, starting with the particularities of each aircraft type, emergency procedures like evacuating a plane on land and water, first aid, how to handle unruly passengers and, of course, how to make the trip as comfortable as possible for our guests with the incorporation of excellent service. This was a highly stressful time but also an incredibly fun one mostly because I was in a class of eighteen hopeful flight attendants. We all endured the fears of not being able to memorise the exact words of the evacuation commands upon ditching on water. or forgetting which wines to recommend for each the various courses on a business class menu. And we celebrated together upon successful completion of each stage of training.

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Oslo Cockpit View

I became an official flight attendant in January this year and I do think it’s the perfect job for me right now. I get to see an incredible number of places within a short period of time and I’ve have met so many interesting people! I have also been lucky enough to meet with friends from Stirling who are scattered across the world and whom I wouldn’t have had the chance to see so soon after graduation. I have also had the opportunity of using the French I learned at Stirling, having flown to France a few times and having French-speaking passengers on most flights.

 

It’s interesting and exciting to see how much can happen in a year. Last year around this time, I had no idea what I’d be doing now, and I can say the same for a lot of friends who I graduated with.”

Many thanks to Julian for sending us this blog post and we look forward to following your travels and career over the years to come.

“To Infinity and Beyond…”: 2017 Finalists’ Future Plans

For our students who will be graduating with degrees involving French in June this year, the exams and assessment for French are now over, the essays have all been submitted, and we wanted to get a chance to share the plans of those who’ll be in our 2017 graduating class. They don’t all know what they’re going to do once they graduate and their plans may well change over the months ahead but, just as a snapshot of the range of directions our languages graduates end up going in, here goes, in no particular order:

Emily, who’ll be graduating with Single Honours French, is “planning to go into firefighting and just waiting for the next recruitment drive, doing whatever else pays the rent in the meantime. I don’t know where I’ll end up doing this in the long run, but I’m very happy to be able to have Montreal and the south of France as strong contenders.” Mareike, who’ll be graduating in Psychology with a European Language, is off to Bournemouth where she’ll be embarking on an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour (and hopefully finding ways to keep going with French). Sarah, who will be graduating with Single Honours French, has already relocated to Italy where she is working as an assistant park manager for a company on a French campsite. She worked as an employee for the company for the last two summers in France and since finishing university has moved up the ranks thanks to earning her degree, and having more experience. She says this is “a great way to work abroad and meet new people whilst also giving you the chance to live and experience French culture outside of university.”

Lysiane, whose degree is in French and Spanish, is planning on doing a postgraduate degree at Stirling in Strategic Communications and Public Relations. Her plan is to be able to apply for jobs in the future with skills in languages and in another field such as marketing or public relations because “most of the jobs I have been looking at are looking for people with language skills along with something else. I think this postgraduate degree will give me more experience and knowledge so that one day I might be able to become a PR in the hotel business or the airlines.” As for Kitti, who studied French and Global Cinema with us, a TEFL course beckons and she plans “to move to Grenoble for a year or two to teach English and in the meantime work on my French until it’s perfect. At the moment I’m doing an interpreting job and I love it, but I feel like with Hungarian there are not enough opportunities, so it would be good to add French to the list. Plus, I would love to try teaching so I think this would be a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.”

For Hannah, who’ll be graduating in French, teaching also lies ahead but in a different context: “After graduation, my plan is to complete a PGDE Primary course at UWS. My very rough business plan for this summer is to start up a French club for babies/toddlers and their parents/guardians where they will be able to learn some nursery rhymes and basic numbers, colours, and animals in preparation for starting French in primary school.” Alex, who’ll also be graduating in French, “will be working an internship in project management/operations for Ironman (the triathlon company, not Robert Downey Jr. sadly!) until October and then I will begin work as a Management Trainee at Enterprise Rent a Car on their graduate scheme. At some point in the next 5 years, having gained some business experience, I will seek to do a Masters or MBA (likely at Stirling) in order to improve my chances with larger employers.”

Julie, who started studying Japanese (informally) alongside her French and English Studies degree, is keen to get the opportunity to develop those language skills further so has applied to “Waseda University and the International Christian University in Japan for a postgraduate degree (Comparative Cultures at ICU and Culture and Communication at Waseda). In case I’m not accepted, I have also applied for a job at two different teaching companies that provide English teaching in Japan (Aeon and Gaba). I also plan to apply at Interac, which is a company that hires Assistant teachers to help with English teaching at Japanese High Schools and Junior High Schools. I am quite determined to get to Japan in one way or another, so I’m hoping…” We’ll keep our fingers firmly crossed! And Luise, a student of French and Spanish, has similarly potentially intercontinental travel on the horizon, having been accepted for an English teaching assistantship in Colombia. For administrative reasons, that might or might not work out, and, in the meantime, Luise has a summer job in Deanston Distillery (as a tour guide): “If Colombia does not work out, I might just stay in Scotland until October and work, then return to Germany and work there (helping families with new-born babies. My au pair experience will come in handy here.) In spring I will look for another opportunity to teach English in South America or Asia, something will eventually work out. I am hoping to get a certificate for teaching German later on – but first I need some experience. Should I feel that I am not a good teacher, I will go into translation (English and Spanish into German).”

Another of our Single Honours French students, Rebecca, is delighted to have just found out that she will be “heading to Canada for the British Council in August. It was a lengthy process and a nerve-racking wait but I now have a position in a secondary school as an English Language Assistant.” And Colm, who has been studying French and Spanish with us, is planning to spend the Summer and possibly the next year working to save some money to be able to undertake a Masters in Translation and Interpreting the following year. And if that doesn’t work out, he and Kitti have grand plans involving taking photos of students proudly holding dissertations on the banks of the beautiful campus lake

We’ll update this post as and when we hear back from other students among this year’s finalists and, most importantly, we wish them all the very best of luck for the future, wherever it might take them!

“French is a global language”: from whisky tasting in Belgium to language teaching in Portugal

And, following on from Beth Young’s article, tales from another of our graduates, John McCallum who completed his BA Hons in International Politics and Languages in 2012 and whose language skills have seen him crisscrossing Europe for work ever since.

“My first role after graduating from the University of Stirling in 2012 in French and International Politics was as a sales and marketing executive with a whisky distillery, Springbank, in my hometown of Campbeltown, Argyll. During that year I had the chance to travel in Europe and work several times in francophone Belgium, visiting French-speaking stockists and taking whisky tastings in French. It was a great experience to be able to talk about your town and a local industry to people in their own mother tongue.

Using French in a professional situation can be different than just practising socially, especially when there is industry-specific vocabulary to learn to help you do the job better, and more time pressure on you to deliver it. On completing my studies I felt at a really strong level, though, and that is testament to the range of material we studied and the opportunity for conversation on various topics while in a classroom setting at Stirling.

Another reason for having the confidence to speak in the language was having spent a semester abroad in Paris, an unforgettable experience. As well as having the opportunity to attend Sciences Po, the popular pathway for some of France’s past and present political elites, I joined a football club and spent my Sunday afternoons in various banlieue towns in the Val de Marne area, learning a different style of football and what can only be described as ‘français des vestiaires’ on a thrice-weekly basis. I would echo another 2012 graduate Jonny Terrell’s post in saying I wish it could’ve been for the whole year!

But at Stirling too I always felt that my degree drew on great expertise in both languages and politics departments. I consistently had the support I needed and met lots of great people when studying there, from not only Scotland but from an international background.

After time spent working in newspaper reporting in Argyll, the odd weekend stint as a purser on a passenger RIB from Campbeltown to Ireland, and working with another distillery on the isle of Islay for a year under a French parent company, I have had lots of opportunities to use my language skills, both in the workplace and when simply wanting to make conversation and practise everyday French.

For the past six months I have been working as an English-language teacher in Braga, in the north of Portugal. I am working on improving my Portuguese, and although it is a complex language itself with tough grammar and pronunciation, I would like to try becoming a lusophone too, even when back living in Scotland. However, French is a popular lingua franca here given the immense movement of people and familial links established between the countries during the past 60 years and has saved me a few times when the other person in the conversation hasn’t had a word of English!

It shows that learning a global language like French can have practical uses much more diverse than you originally imagined. I would thoroughly recommend Stirling as a place to learn the language.”

Many thanks – obrigado! – to John for sending this article and we look forward to finding out where your languages will take you next!

French on the Slopes: Tips for Becoming a Saisonnaire

 

It’s the last week before our mid-semester break and time for another profile of a recent graduate. This time, Emma Goodall-Copestake, who graduated in 2016 with a BA Hons in French, has plenty of great tips for anyone interested in using their French to find a job working a ski season in the Alps… “Stirling University has offered some pretty great opportunities over the years, but for me, none were half as good as the chance to take a whole year out to go and work with the British Council in France. Why bring this up now? Well, it was during my time with the British Council that I became involved in the local ski club in the town where I worked, which took me out every week to different Alpine resorts. This gave me my first real taste of what life in the Alps might be like – skiing, parties and great experiences (or so I thought…).

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Even though these were realistically just day trips off to the slopes, I was hooked on the idea of coming back to the Alps and spending a whole winter season there and skiing as much as possible. And there it began! I was determined to do a season after uni, so once the dissertation was handed in (phew!) I started looking into jobs.

A lot of employers won’t start really looking at applications until June or July for the winter season. I was a bit different though. One application that I filled out in September (which is in some ways quite late when looking for winter season work) brought me to a small, family-run chalet company by the name of Chalets1066 which even has a wee Highland Westie as a key member of the team. Having already looked around at quite a few, this job really took my fancy, so I sent in my application and crossed my fingers!

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I first heard back a couple of weeks later, and following a quick phone call and further phone interview, I was asked to interview in person… in Maidenhead. For someone who lives in the Highlands, to have an interview literally at the other end of the country was a bit of a leap of faith! What if I spent all this time and money on travel and interview prep to not get the job?? Still, I had high hopes that all would work out in the end.

The job I was applying for was an admin assistant, which involves everything from making reservations for the 23 chalets that we run, to helping with checking clients in and out, to helping deal with the business finances. Literally, this job does it all. For this role, French was an absolute MUST. During my interview, they asked about my French and were very pleased to hear I had a good degree from Stirling. Among other things, this pretty much secured the job for me and they offered it to me there and then! My boss has since confessed that having the level of French I do was definitely the reason I was chosen. Lucky me!

So that was it! I packed my bags and ski boots, then headed out to start my season!

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Going out for a ski season is about 10x easier if you have a good level of French. Employers find you much more valuable, meaning you’ll find it much more likely to get a job as even though many visitors are English speaking, many are still French so it makes a big difference. Even just going into town, or popping into the ‘saisonnaires’ pub, you’ll find many seasonal workers speaking amongst each other in English. Being a saisonnaire that speaks French is something that most people find very surprising and unique, which really works in your favour! Even with the most basic French, you will be more likely to get a warm welcome from the bar staff, will be able to meet even more people who can become your best ski buddy, and get involved in many more opportunities than you would if you had no French at all.

A little word of warning though for those of you also tempted by the idea of a ski season. A ski season is HARD work. If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like early mornings, or who has trouble keeping to uni deadlines or having to drop what you’re doing and sort out an urgent crisis, then you might be able to get away with it every now and then. Not here though! The mentality of work hard, play harder definitely becomes your way of life out here. Despite the tough work conditions at times, most saisonnaires would tell you that it’s all worth it when you get to hit the slopes. Being able to finish your shift or go out on your lunch break and spend a few hours hitting up the powder, then you can’t imagine anything better! Plus there is always a huge crowd of other saisonnaires doing the exact same thing so you can always guarantee that you’ll have someone to ski with.

2017-goodall-copestake-pic-4Anyone thinking about doing a season, Les Gets is a great wee resort. A small French town, with piste connections on both hillsides either side, already offers you a good range of slopes. On top of that, you can ski through to neighbouring Morzine and can even make your way all the way to Avoriaz which being a bit higher, gets more snow too! All in all, you’d be doing pretty well to ski ALL these pistes over the whole season. It’s also a little Scottish haven in the Alps, which even includes the Scottish restaurant Alba where you can find yourself a full Scottish fry up (including Haggis!). It’s not often you can get a good Alpine haggis dealer, but when you can have a haggis supper for Burns night in the Alps, life feels pretty good!

So, if you asked me if I’d still be out here if I hadn’t had my British Council experience, or didn’t have my degree, then I honestly don’t know if I would be. I’m not saying you can’t do a season without these things, but it made all the difference for me. Making great contacts around the Alps through the British Council helped me find the ideal job in a place I love. Gaining the level of French I have has given me the confidence to really feel at home here and make the most of this experience. All in all, a ski season is the best way to make the most of your degree.”

Many thanks to Emma for having taken time out from a hectic work (and skiing) schedule to send us this post, enjoy the rest of the season and keep us posted on what comes next!

 

“Languages live through the people who speak them”

Kathrin Opielka graduated from our Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies – in partnership with the University of Passau – in 2015. Originally from Germany, she is now living and working in Scotland and has sent us the following post about her experiences in Stirling and beyond.

2016-opielka-photo“I have always enjoyed discovering the unknown, adapting to new, unfamiliar situations and questioning my perspective on what I have taken for granted.

I think many language and culture students will agree with me that the fascination of this subject lies in its ever-changing, dynamic nature. Languages live through the people who speak them, through literature, art, and conversations. And is there any better way to learn and experience a language than through being surrounded by it every day?

During my studies, I have focused on English, Spanish, Polish and French as foreign languages. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of months in both Spain and Poland during my B.A. and was eager to live in an English-speaking country for a while. When I heard about the International Management and Intercultural Studies programme between the universities of Passau and Stirling, I knew immediately that it would be perfect for me.

Not only did the University of Stirling offer excellent academic courses such as Spanish language, translation, politics, and management; it also meant that I would be able to discover this exciting country and vividly experience the Scottish culture! My expectations of the programme were not only met, but highly exceeded. The level of care and guidance by the university staff and professors were exceptional, and I loved every single class I took during these two semesters. Also outside university, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Scottish country and hospitality of its people.

I started to understand the Scottish saying “visitors of Scotland cry twice – once when they arrive, and once when they leave”. Albeit I heroically managed the first incident of crying (the weather really wasn’t exactly in my favour when I arrived), it soon became clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to face good-bye yet. I fell in love with and in Scotland, and after I graduated in May 2015, I decided to move to Edinburgh.

I started working in bars and cafés and was grateful for the translation classes I took in Stirling as I was freelancing as a linguist for Global Voices on my days off. I thoroughly enjoyed translation work but was concerned by the volatile nature of freelancing – I had hoped that the times of all-nighters would have been history after the point of me graduating.

After a couple of months, I found a great graduate position in a small, multilingual marketing agency in Edinburgh. Even though I only stayed there for three months due to the office being re-located to Barcelona (yes, I love Scotland THAT much), it was an amazing stepping stone into the industry and enabled me to gain some experience in various sides of digital marketing. I soon realised that I wanted to specialise in content marketing as it would allow me to combine my interests in creative writing, marketing, psychology and language.

I am now working as an Inbound Marketing Campaign Executive at Storm ID, a digital transformation consultancy in Edinburgh. My job is extremely diverse and creative; I am involved in both strategic campaign planning and operational, day-to-day activities such as blogging, social media marketing, and SEO. Most importantly, I am learning something new every day. Writing in English has helped improve my language skills significantly (although I still drink the occasional “litter of water”) and I am additionally enrolled at Google Squared through my company, an amazing part-time online course focusing on digital marketing and leadership.

As language graduates, there are many opportunities to apply our skills and knowledge in the professional world. I have discovered a niche in marketing which allows me to make use of my creativity and passion for writing but there are many other industries which require intercultural communication skills.

I definitely have found my place for now, although I haven’t given up on my plan to do a PhD in the field of Indigenous Cultures in South America – a topic I discovered in a seminar held by Dr Sabine Dedenbach Salazar-Sáenz in Stirling. I am sure that the experiences I gathered both at the University of Stirling and in my current job will help me pursue this dream sometime in the future and am excited about those yet to come.”

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Many thanks to Kathrin for sending us this blog post and we hope life in Scotland continues to treat you well!