Tag: Communication

Old dog, new tricks!

With the start of the new semester (and all good wishes to those enrolled on our wide range of French modules and programmes, and to our students off on Semester Abroad or working as Language Assistants…), it’s time to post a new profile of one of our French at Stirling graduates, Kerstin Rosée, who has sent us this great article:

2020 Jan Rosee EuroDisneyBonjour, mes amis! French has always been a part of my life, with a last name like mine, this is hardly a surprise. I knew how to spell out my last name to people before I could write it myself and I could confidently say accent aigu before ever attending a French class in my long history of attending French classes.

Language teaching in Germany (where I originally come from) used to be taken more seriously than in the UK. At least until the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland which put a new and enthusiastic emphasis on learning not one, but two foreign languages with many pupils now starting at primary school age. Going back to the 80s and 90s in Germany, English was introduced in 5th grade and in 7th grade you would pick another foreign language, usually a choice of either French or Latin. Why Latin? Well, in Germany to do any kind of degree in medicine, dentistry or veterinarian studies, you need at least your small Latinum (that’ll be 4 years of study) – makes sense if you consider that most of your textbooks will be full of Latin words. Since the thought of having to put down somebody’s pet guinea pig put me off veterinarian studies quite early, I decided to go for a more practical approach in studying French. Foreign holidays were beckoning and at that time I had already visited France with my family several times.

When the time came to pick a career and to think about what kind of training would be necessary, I found myself stumped by the idea that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grow up. I still don’t, and I’m getting the feeling that I’ll probably be retired before I figure out what I’ll do with my life.  But… I was good at English and French and ended up at an academy training to become a trilingual executive secretary, adding Spanish to my portfolio en route.

Sadly, the job I took after leaving the academy was with an American organization and while my English improved my French and Spanish were neglected. I missed the golden opportunity to spend my holidays in French and Spanish-speaking countries and along the lines of ‘use it or lose it’, well, I lost it.

In my late 20s I relocated to Scotland and, being armed with a good grasp of the language and a willingness to delve into the local lingo (thank you, guy at the chippy, you were my trial of fire), I continued in my field of work but suddenly minus the trilingual aspect. Why? Mostly because many people speak English anyway and there were very few jobs for people with language skills in the Central Belt unless you wanted to settle in call centres. I tried, I escaped.

Having dabbled in part-time study for a while, I finally started a full-time course at the University of Stirling: Primary Education with Modern Languages. The course was brand new to the university at the time and we were the willing guinea pigs together with a cohort studying Primary Education and Environmental Science. I had just turned 38 when I started my degree at Stirling and my daughter had just joined P1. Great, I thought, we’ll learn together. To cut a long story short: I did not end up being a teacher. It turned out that I really didn’t like the classroom. Unlike my new just-from-school study buddies, I loved the semesters and hated the placements; I loved the languages but never really warmed to the pedagogy. For myself, the mix of classes, lectures and tutorial groups in French were a winning combination. Grammar: the necessary evil. Passé simple you say? Yeah sure, it rings a bell. Spoken language with Bernadette, the Spoken Language Tutor at the time: simply hilarious. Lectures and culture tutorials opened a whole new world to me. A word of warning though – reading, writing and talking about 2nd wave French feminism may come with strange side effects if you are an adult returner, for instance: flares of anger and bursting out into tears.

I graduated in 2012 and, thanks to my last-minute degree change, I was the only student to graduate with a BA in French on that day amidst a sea of Education students. I cannot thank the BEd Primary Education cohort enough for my round of applause when I entered the stage while everybody else in the room probably wondered whether I had showed up on the wrong day.

Everybody’s question was: what next, then? I’ll be honest, if you are in your forties and tied to the Central Belt as a location, career prospects in Languages are somewhat limited. If you have done the Call Centre gig and have no intentions of ever returning to it and if you need to plan your workday around the school hours, it makes it just that little bit harder.

Will I be using French for work at some point in the future? Well, this brings us back to ‘use it or lose it.’  The sad thing is, if you don’t use your languages regularly, you will forget a lot of vocab and grammar. The silver lining is that it will be easier for you to pick it up again, every time you do pick it up again, as long as you have a decent foundation. My current exposure to French language and culture is singing along loudly to Les Misérables and Plastique Bertrand while scouring Netflix for French crime shows I can binge on. The beauty of Netflix is that it provides you with crutches; I love to listen to the original French actors but using English subtitles to make sure I don’t lose the plot (literally) but you could swap this around if your reading skills need to be honed.

To make matters worse, a certain referendum 4 years ago which is intent on ending our opportunities for free travel to work in any of 28 European countries without a lot of red tape may be a further deterrent for pupils to even consider modern languages as a subject for their university studies. Businesses may decide that the UK is no longer an attractive location for them and those precious few jobs that open up opportunities to graduates in modern languages may leave the country. I am still cautiously optimistic that Brexit will turn out to be undeliverable and we will all just forget about this embarrassing episode in recent UK history – I guess we’ll see.

2020 Jan Rosee BretagneIn the end, all is not as gloomy as it seems, and you must look for opportunity where it presents itself. My plans are to convince the family to holiday in Canada and spend some time in Québec: find out how different from metropolitan France it really is, sample some of the lifestyle and speak French, a lot of it, possibly very basic. After that, I might try to duplicate my experience of moving to Scotland and visit Bretagne – I was there on a holiday when I was 5 years old, armed with only once sentence: Je ne parle pas français!

Surely, it has to be better than that by now!’

Yes, we’re sure that it is! Many, many thanks to Kerstin for this great post and for the fantastic pictures of childhood holidays in France. And we wish you all the very best for travels to Quebec and to Brittany, and to many other Francophone locations beyond!

Study Abroad: ‘My future isn’t limited to one country and one way of life’

The last of today’s blog posts also comes from Lily (author of the excellent Study Abroad advice posted earlier!) and is a great way to see how that very practical advice actually plays out over the course of a semester:

2019 Dec Lily UCO Campus

‘I spent the 2019 Spring semester at l’Université Catholique de l’Ouest in Angers, France. Studying at a French university was a fantastic experience which allowed me to learn about a new facet of francophone culture – French student life.

2019 Dec Lily Notre DameMy ERASMUS semester was a tremendously liberating experience as I was allowed to study any subject I wanted to as long as it was taught in French – everything from Japanese to art to photography to theatre. Most importantly, Stirling University prioritized my language development in grading my semester abroad, so I didn’t feel too pressured to do brilliantly in subjects I had never studied before. I was able to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from them. Taking art classes was a particular joy for me, as my French classmates were quick to welcome me and offer help where needed. They were endlessly accepting of my inexperience too – I hadn’t touched a paintbrush in years when I walked into my first class!

As well as integrating with French students, the international student body was a vibrant and wonderful group, and we all bonded over our confusion as we adapted to the French lifestyle. It was hard to feel homesick with so many other students in the same situation.

2019 Dec Lily Art Class

 

One of the advantages of l’UCO was its position in the Loire valley. The Loire valley is a beautiful region filled with chateaux and vineyards and plenty of towns within travelling distance to explore. The occasional weekend in Paris was an added bonus!

Studying in France was a totally unique experience which taught me so much, not just in terms of language and culture. After navigating life in another country, I feel totally prepared for any future challenges I might face back home. Living in France has opened up so many opportunities for me, and I no longer feel as though my future is limited to one country and one way of life. One thing is certain – France hasn’t seen the last of me!’

Once again, many thanks to Lily for the great article and pictures, and to our partners in Angers for offering such a warm welcome.

2019 Dec Lily Chateau d'Angers

Study Abroad: ‘It’ll be an adventure so don’t waste a second!’

In a few weeks, many of our Year 3 students will be setting off on their integral semester of Study Abroad. We wish them all well for the semester and hope they have a fantastic time, and are very grateful to Lily, who was at the same stage a year ago, and who has just sent us this extremely well-timed post. Lily spent her semester in France as an Erasmus exchange student but much of the advice she gives will be helpful for students heading for some of our other Erasmus partner countries or beyond the Erasmus network to Quebec, Morocco, Switzerland or (for those also studying Spanish) to Latin America:

2019 Dec Lily Ice Cream‘This time last year, I was preparing to move to France for my ERASMUS semester abroad, and I was panicking. Endless paperwork, the terrors of flat-hunting and of moving to another city… think first year of uni all over again, mais en français.

I’ve now moved to France on two separate occasions – first as a teaching assistant just outside Paris, and secondly on an ERASMUS exchange to Angers. Both were amazing experiences, though terrifying at the outset as I figured out how to navigate a new country and settle into a whole other way of living.

So, for this year’s French students preparing to go on their university exchanges: it may feel totally overwhelming right now, but believe it or not, you can do this. If there’s one thing I learned from my time in France, it pays to be prepared. With that in mind, I’ve put some information together that I wish someone had given me before moving to France.

Paperwork

Take everything. In triplicate. Every piece of paper you’ve ever touched. You may have heard of the stereotype that the French like bureaucracy. This is a lie. They LOVE it.

For enrolment, accommodation, banks, housing benefit: here’s some of the stuff you might need. Originals and copies!

Passport photos, Passport photo page, Proof of home address (bills or bank statements from the last three months or so with your name on them), Birth certificate, Stirling University enrolment letter, Host university enrolment letter/paperwork confirming exchange, Proof of activity for the last five years or so (if not covered by your university enrolment letter), European health card…

Any student cards, youth cards or Young Scot cards are also good to have on you for getting into museums and attractions for free. Many attractions are free for EU residents under 25, so have proof of age with you wherever you go (post-Brexit, you may also need proof of residency in France such as your French student card). Failing that, many museums and galleries are free on the first Sunday of the month – but arrive early, as these tend to be their busiest days!

2019 Dec Lily Les machines de l’île Nantes

Money

Money: believe it or not, you’re probably going to need some.

My friends and I chose a lot of different ways to handle our finances abroad. Here’s a few options to consider. Also: take some hard cash with you when you first head out – enough to survive on for a week or so while you get yourself set up or in case of complication or catastrophe.

Opening a French bank account.

Pros: If you want to try and claim French housing benefit, you need to have one of these. Some services – like renting a bike in certain cities – require one. The simplest way to avoid messing around too much with currency conversion and international payment charges.

Cons: I won’t lie, it’s difficult to set up an account. Most banks ask for proof of a French address (bill/bank statement with your name on it, letter from landlord, etc.) as well as proof of identity amongst other things. Some banks may be hesitant to set up an account for so short a period of time.

My opinion: Probably the most faff, but worth it for the security and flexibility it gave me while abroad. My university in France made an agreement with a local branch to help their foreign students set up short term accounts, so check with your exchange coordinator or ask other exchange students which branch they have gone with.

Using your British Bank

Pros: Easy. You already have it!

Cons: You’re subject to changing exchange rates and foreign transaction fees depending on your bank, meaning this is one of the more costly options. Additionally, it’s hard to say how Brexit will affect access to your British account –  there’s been a few newspaper articles about UK citizens losing access to their accounts while abroad in the case of a no-deal.

My advice: This seemed the more popular choice amongst my British friends but come prepared to look into other options just in case. Check your British bank’s rules and charges and notify them before leaving the UK so they know your details haven’t been stolen by a French tourist, lest you be blocked from your own account for buying your pre-class croissant.

Travel Credit Card

Pros: A card that will let you withdraw money in any currency in any country without charging foreign transaction fees. Simple and flexible.

Cons: Again, interest fees. Some cards use their own exchange rates.

My advice: This is good for frequent travellers as it will work for you almost anywhere in the world. However, be careful what kind of card you get, and make sure to keep track of your spending lest you end up with the mother of all debts at the end of your holiday semester.

2019 Dec Lily Rennes StreetTravel

Lucky you! France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Top tips for getting around:

Trains

The SNCF carte jeune is a 50 euro youth railcard valid for one year for 18-25 year olds, which gets you a decent discount on most train journeys. It may feel expensive for just a few months, but train fares in France are rarely cheap and if you plan on doing lots of exploring, you’re sure to get your money back. You can also get offers on last-minute tickets that haven’t sold. Ouigo is also worth checking, as it offers budget rail travel often far cheaper than its competitors.

Attention! Check strike dates before you book your ticket. There’s usually a lot of them. It’s France – what were you expecting?

Planes

Companies like Ryanair offer fare discounts and free luggage for students with an ESN (Erasmus student network) card. Check esncard.org for more info.

Cars and Coaches

Probably the cheapest options out there. Coaches operate just about everywhere for the road-tripper on a tight budget. Alternatively, Blablacar is very popular in France as a kind of long-distance rideshare scheme. [Note from the blog: Do remember to take the same precautions with such sites and schemes as you would do anywhere else!]

Accommodation

This is the one that seems to stress everyone out the most. Step one: don’t panic!

Where to look?

Your university may have an accommodation services office – this is a great place to go to for help, and they’re usually prepped to help the wave of incoming exchange students.

University accommodation: some universities will offer one-semester digs in their student accommodation. This is a great way to meet students both local and on exchange.

Famille d’Accueil: Some universities have programs that will lodge you with a French family during your stay. A wonderful way to make friends with locals, practice French and perhaps try some homemade French meals!

Airbnb: Surprisingly, several of my friends found studio flats on Airbnb. Search for properties with discounted monthly rates.

Roomlala.com: This is the site I used when I moved to France as a teaching assistant. Good for finding spare rooms in flats or houses shared with other people. Range of different options/types of accommodation available. Other students have recommended appartager.com

My main recommendation is to live with French speakers if you can. It may seem daunting at first, but it really is the best way to immerse yourself in the language and culture. You’ll really see the difference down the line!

Addition: For moving in, some students have recommended companies like Send My Bag as a cheaper and easier alternative to lugging your suitcases from one country to another. They’ll send your luggage right to your door so you don’t have to struggle with heavy bags while you’re travelling.  

Housing Benefits

Rent prices can be higher in France as landlords know that many of their tenants receive help paying for accommodation. Luckily, you might qualify too!

If you can make a successful application to CAF (Caisses d’Allocations Familiales) then you can do anything. CAF is notorious for being an awkward, laborious mess of bureaucracy, even for native French speakers, but a successful application can pay a couple hundred euros a month towards your rent. No pain, no gain!

Top tips:

Start early, work fast. CAF is usually very slow to reply, so send in any paperwork they ask for as soon as you can. Additionally, who knows how the rules will change after Brexit – try to make as much progress as you can ahead of the deadline.

Make your account the month before you arrive: CAF won’t pay benefits for the first month your account is opened, so don’t wait until your arrival to begin setting up your account.

Practice makes perfect: CAF will let you “faire un simulation” i.e. make a pretend application to estimate if you are likely to qualify, and for how much. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get what the simulation estimates, but it might help you decide whether the process is likely to be worth your time.

Check with your uni: my accommodation services office offered to help exchange students with their applications.

Remember, to receive CAF you will need a French bank account. Which means… more paperwork. Quelle surprise!

Phones

Most UK networks will now let you use your phone as usual, up to a point. The fair usage policy means that if you use your phone more in another country than you do in the UK, they’ll add roaming charges. If you’ve been on your contract for a long time, this will be fine as long as you don’t use more data in France than you’ve already used in the UK the whole time you’ve been on your contract. If you’re on a newer contract, you’re more likely to pass the amount you’ve already used at home, at which point you will start getting roaming charges. Insert usual warning about Brexit changing all the rules here.

If you’re going to be charged for using your UK number, Free Mobile is popular as a pay-by-month sim card for short-term French residents.

Pros: No contract, decent value for money

Cons: Notorious for difficulties in ending subscriptions.

Make sure your phone is “unlocked” if you think you’re likely to get a French sim card. This will allow you to switch out your sim card, but can take some time, and may be easier to do before leaving the UK.

Other

2019 Dec Lily UCO Scottish Desk

Your university will likely organise a lot of events and exchanges for foreign students. Take food, flags, decorations, postcards etc from Stirling/Scotland/the UK for displays or for sharing. That is,if there’s any room left in your suitcase!

2019 Dec Lily English FoodIf you find yourself dying for a taste of home, check out the foreign food section of your local supermarket, if only to laugh at what the French supermarkets think qualifies as “English” food…

Most important (if cliché) advice of all: have fun, try new things, and roll with the punches. It will be an adventure, so don’t waste one second!’

Many, many thanks to Lily for having taken the time to send through all this advice which will be incredibly helpful for future students. And for those reading this and getting ready to head off, profitez bien de ce semestre et on se reverra en septembre!

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!

 

Student Translation Prize Success

Many congratulations to one of our current final year students, Evelyn, who has been announced as the recipient of the runner-up prize for French in Warwick University’s 2019 Undergraduate Translation Competition. The competition involved translating three very different pieces of text from French to English – song lyrics, an extract from Molière and a piece of YA fiction – and the French entries were judged by Professor Emerita Susan Bassnett.

This is a fantastic achievement and everyone in French at Stirling offers their warmest congratulations to Evelyn on her brilliant translation work!

Translation and TESOL: ‘A whole world of new ideas and concepts’

As regular blog readers will know, alongside our wide range of undergraduate programmes, colleagues in French at Stirling also contribute to Literature and Languages’ postgraduate programmes in Translation Studies and it’s always great to see French graduates coming back to undertake postgrad work with us. Today’s update comes from Ewan, who has done just that and who is in the first semester of our MSc in Translation with TESOL:

2019 Walker Ewan Blog Update Pic I Nov19‘I graduated from Stirling in 2013 with a BA (Hons) in French and Religion. Following my graduation, I undertook a course in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), ultimately gaining a certificate for 120 hours of training.

Initially, I gained teaching experience in 1-1 sessions with adult learners in Edinburgh. These informal sessions were enough to help me build up a portfolio and establish my reputation. I worked with adults and students from a variety of nationalities, including French, Spanish and Polish.

2019 Walker Ewan Blog Update Pic II Nov19In 2016, I moved to Łomianki, near Warsaw in Poland to begin work as an extra-curricular English teacher in a secondary school. I was tasked with providing extra support to children who were struggling with English lessons, to help them ultimately catch up with their classmates. Whilst in Poland, I also worked as pastoral assistant to an English-Speaking church in Warsaw. The clergy in the church were Polish but were ministering to the international community in Warsaw, and therefore needed language support in their day-to-day ministry. It gave me the opportunity to learn about the incredible history of Poland, culminating in a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which continues to haunt me to this day.

In 2017, I moved to Tours, in France’s Loire Valley. This is where I had spent my Erasmus semester as an undergraduate so I was incredibly excited to return. In Tours, I spent 6 months teaching elementary school children (including a very competitive brother and sister). This was a challenge, as I’d never dealt with that age group before, but the experience of being back in Tours and exploring a city I loved so much cancelled out all my difficulties. I even took the plunge and tried escargots; something I hadn’t been brave enough to do during my Erasmus experience!

My ultimate aim has always been to undertake a Masters in TESOL, with a view to eventually owning my own language school. It’s a massive aim, but I’ve never been one to do things in half measures! And, so when the opportunity arose, I returned to Stirling in September of this year to undertake an MSc in Translation with TESOL. I chose this course because it combines both of my “specialist” subject areas. I get to study towards ultimately becoming a professional TEFL tutor, whilst also maintaining work in French (and dabbling in other languages). The course doesn’t limit my final career options; I can branch off and work in the field of translation after graduation (perhaps while I work to secure a teaching position).

It feels great being back in Stirling. I have fond memories of my time as an undergraduate, and really it feels like I’ve never left. There are only 4 of us studying translation this year so the classes are quite relaxed and we’ve all got to know each other really well, which I like. The course has been far more interesting than I could ever have imagined, too. Just like at undergraduate, my mind has been opened to a whole world of new ideas and concepts. And I love it!’

Many, many thanks to Ewan for finding the time to send us this great update and we wish you all the best for the MSc and ultimately setting up your own language school.

Language teaching and juggling acts

Among the various blog posts that have been lurking in my inbox waiting to make it onto the blog is the following update from Fiona who graduated in English and French from Stirling in 2012 and then came back to complete our MSc in Translation and TESOL in 2013-14. Since then, Fiona has undertaken teacher training and she has just started a permanent post in Renfrewshire where life remains as busy as ever:

2019 Nov Fiona Mears Pic IV‘Having gained provisional registration with the GTCS in June 2018, I embarked on the next stage of the ‘becoming a fully-fledged teacher’ process. I was placed in a school in Falkirk Council for my NQT year, and what a year it turned out to be! I was solely responsible for classes at all stages of secondary schooling, including a bi-level certificated class doing National 5 and Higher. I still vividly remember the agonising wait for exam results back when I was at school. I hadn’t, however, bargained on just how nerve-wracking results day is for the teacher! Thankfully the hard work put in by all paid off and my first ever certificated class did me and themselves proud.

The year was a steep learning curve. I had to hit the ground running and very quickly get to grips with all the administration and reporting that comes with teaching, never mind get used to putting schemes of work together and planning lessons. The expectations placed on me as an NQT were huge. I had to attend weekly CPD sessions run both by my school and by the council. I found myself involved in a range of activities outwith the classroom, from helping at a weekend-long team-building residential for senior pupils to attending the senior ceilidh and prom.

2019 Nov Fiona Mears Pic II also volunteered to help out with the school’s Duke of Edinburgh programme, which saw me frying sausages using trangias in Beecraigs Country Park, climbing Dumyat early one Saturday morning and spending several nights sleeping in a tent between expeditions to North Berwick, Aviemore and Arran. While it required a big-time commitment, including staying late after school for training and giving up weekends, my involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh programme without a doubt left me with some of my most treasured memories from my NQT year.

Sadly, budget cuts meant that my school was unable to keep me on and I had to move on to pastures new. In May, I secured a permanent position at a school in Renfrewshire Council, where I’ve been settling in well. On top of my teaching responsibilities, I’ve decided that this is the year to start the Certificate of Continuing Education in Spanish (basically a part-time undergraduate degree) to gain dual qualification in French and Spanish. The course is proving to be fast-paced and very full on, but mostly it’s a welcome return to studying and learning. How I’ll manage to keep up with the course during busier-than-usual spells at work remains to be seen, but for now I’m just about managing the juggling act between teaching, studying, socialising and a hefty commute.’

Many, many thanks to Fiona for finding the time to send us this update and the photos. All the best for the new job and we look forward to more blog posts in the future. And, who knows, maybe we’ll have a chance to meet some of your pupils at a future Stirling Languages Day…