Tag: Cristina Johnston

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.

News from a former PhD student

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double Funding Success!

As ever, with the rush of the final weeks of semester, the blog has gone a little quiet but the sun has just come out over Stirling’s campus and that seems like a good time and a good reason to quickly try to catch up on things blog-related. By way of a starting point, it’s great to be able to share some good news about funding successes for colleagues in French at Stirling.

2019 ASMCF Logo IIBuilding on the success of a similar event we organised back in June 2017, we’re currently in the midst of organising an event for secondary school pupils that’ll take place on campus in a couple of months. More will follow on that soon but we were delighted to hear, just a few days ago, that Cristina Johnston has been awarded funding through the ASMCF School’s Liaison and Outreach Fund to support some of the activities we have planned for that event. Watch this space for more details and thanks to the ASMCF for their support.

And our other piece of fantastic funding news is that Fiona Barclay has been awarded a grant through the Stirling Fund to create a micro-website as part of the University website that will enable staff and students who are interested in learning and practising another language to get in touch with each other. In essence, users will create a profile stating which language they are looking to learn, and which native language they are offering. They can then use private messaging to contact other users whose profiles match what they are looking for. It’s aimed at helping Stirling students to build confidence and language ability, and also at helping visiting students to integrate and get to know UK students. The website is due to launch in September so, again, keep checking the blog for updates and congratulations to all concerned!

Erasmus in Stirling: ‘A great experience I’ll never forget!’

The start of a new week in Stirling and, as we’ve already mentioned, we’re looking forward to welcoming Joëlle Popineau on her Erasmus staff mobility from Tours tomorrow, but we thought we’d start this week with the thoughts of Ulvi who is also in Stirling as part of the Erasmus programme but as a student:

2019 Altin Photo I Mar19‘Hi everyone, my name is Ulvi, and I’m a student in Master 1 at EM Strasbourg BS and currently on my Erasmus exchange year at Stirling!

At the beginning of my exchange I was a little bit scared because this is the first time I have ventured so far, alone! Nevertheless, it is a great experience that I will never forget. Indeed, the welcome at the University of Stirling is very warm. We are immediately supported by the administration which allowed me to know what I was doing.

2019 Altin Photo III Mar19

The university and the campus suit me perfectly. We’re right in the middle of nature and I take full advantage of the University’s sports complexes which offer me a feeling of well-being every day. Moreover, it is a very international place where I have been able to meet many new cultures and share mine with my new friends.

2019 Altin Photo VI Mar19Finally, since September, I have had the chance to lead informal conversation sessions with students taking French as part of their degree. During these sessions I work with groups of students who come from all over the world to enjoy a moment of discussion on any topic, all in French! These are very enjoyable sessions that we share with new friends, very well managed by Dr Johnston and her team. Personally, I have integrated myself well within this programme and it have helped strengthen my own speaking, confidence and openness in groups with many different nationalities. If you’re a potential (French-speaking) Erasmus student reading this, I would strongly advise you to get in touch with the French team about these great sessions if you get the change: they have already given me some great memories!!’

Many, many thanks Ulvi for the lovely blog post, as well as for all his much-appreciated hard work on our informal conversation sessions, and we hope you enjoy the remaining few months of your time in Stirling.

Staff news: conferences and new colleagues

Many of our recent blog posts have centred on the fantastic achievements and activities of our students (past and present) but it occurs to us that it’s a while since we’ve posted an update on what French at Stirling staff are up to so here goes…

Firstly, as regular blog followers will know, we’ve made some new appointments in French at Stirling over the past few months. That has meant saying goodbye to valued colleagues (Bill Marshall at the end of August last year, David Murphy at the end of December) but it has also meant welcoming and getting to know new colleagues. Beatrice Ivey has settled well into her Research Assistantship, working with Fiona Barclay on the AHRC-funded project ‘Narratives and Representations of the French Settlers of Algeria’ (if you haven’t seen it yet, their exhibition is still on in Pathfoot); Emeline Morin is already a semester into her 2-year post with us and doing a brilliant job; Aedín ní Loingsigh joined us halfway through the Autumn semester on a permanent lectureship across French and Translation and is also doing brilliantly; and Hannah Grayson has now also joined us – as of 1 January – on a permanent lectureship and is, of course, settling in really well. Lots of changes – all for the good!

Secondly, many of us will be popping up at a range of conferences and invited talks over the months ahead, starting with Hannah Grayson who will be co-convening a seminar stream on responding to violence in postcolonial African literature at the American Comparative Literature Association at Georgetown University in March. Hannah will then be presenting on Véronique Tadjo (an author whose work she teaches on as part of our Cultures of Travel modules this semester) at the 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium in Oklahoma City. And, when she’s back in the UK, on 3 April, Hannah will be speaking at an evening of remembrance in St Andrews, to commemorate 25 years since the genocide in Rwanda.

Cristina Johnston will be giving a paper on the 20th anniversary of the PaCS legislation at the annual Society for French Studies conference at Royal Holloway in early July, and then a paper on the representation (or lack thereof) of lesbian characters in contemporary French cinema at the MLA International Symposium in Lisbon at the end of July.

2019 Tours Conference EE PosterElizabeth Ezra will be giving an invited talk at the University of Tours at the start of April at a conference called ‘On the Ruins and Margins of European Identity in Cinema.’ Her talk is titled ‘Out of Bounds: The Spatial Politics of Civility in The Square (Östlund, 2017) and Happy End (Haneke, 2017).’ Elizabeth also has an article on ethics and social relations coming out in May in the journal Children’s Literature called ‘Becoming Familiar: Witches and Companion Animals in Harry Potter and His Dark Materials.’

Elizabeth also travelled to France in December to examine the PhD thesis of Literature and Language’s PhD student Fanny Lacôte, who has taught on various modules in French at Stirling. The viva was a public event, which attracted a significant audience composed of friends, family, and members of the public and Fanny passed with flying colours so many congratulations to her!

And, finally for the moment, following on from Aedín ní Loingsigh’s successful Erasmus+ teaching exchange at Limoges late last year, we’re currently finalising arrangements to welcome our colleague Joëlle Popineau from our partners at the University of Tours who will spend a week on an Erasmus+ staff mobility with us in early March. We’re very much looking forward to welcoming Joëlle to Stirling in a few weeks.

More to follow shortly, I’ve no doubt!

‘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.

Sunshine and Successes

It has been a fantastically sunny day in Stirling today, ideal weather for this year’s finalists who have just become this year’s French at Stirling graduates. Everybody looked great in their finery and, despite the heat in the Gannochy, it was a morning of smiles all round. Congratulations once again to all our graduates!

And it’s not only our finalists who are to be lauded today – as I got ready to don my gown for the ceremony this morning, I was very pleased to find a blog post from Jack, one of our students who is halfway through his degree, waiting in my inbox. As we mentioned recently on the blog, Jack was recently awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship which he’ll use – as he explains here – to learn more about competition structures for tennis in France:

‘For language students, third year is a biggie. It’s the one we all look forward to – the one where we finally get to spend our semester abroad! We have all talked about it amongst ourselves endlessly, saying things like “I think I’ll go to Quebec’ or ‘Tours sounds nice!’, but this coming September myself and the rest of the French students at Stirling going into their third year of studies will have to make a final decision on which francophone university we would like to study at in January 2019. What seemed like a decision so far away is suddenly right around the corner!

2018 Jack Oswald Tennis Photo 1For me, it has been a decision that I have had to put much thought into. Being a tennis scholar at Stirling, I wanted to find a French-speaking city that I would find exciting and where I would have ample opportunities to improve my ability in the language, but also have the tennis facilities and travel links that would allow me to continue with my rigorous training and competition schedule. Luckily for me, France is one of (if not the) best tennis nations in the world! Having spent some time in Montpellier during my teenage years, I knew that South of France is where I wanted to be due to its fantastic climate, the amiable hospitality of its inhabitants and, of course, the many tennis clubs and academies that are dotted around the region!

February last year, I was informed by the French department of the opportunity to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship. This scholarship was developed in order to provide some funding for students who wished to undertake specific research projects during their time abroad, alongside their Erasmus studies or an English Language Assistantship. Due to my passion for tennis, I leapt at the chance! After deliberating on which aspect of tennis in France that I wanted to explore, I decided that the most interesting would be to research the structures for competition in France, and how they compare to that of the United Kingdom. In more simple terms, I wanted to try to figure out how why the level of tennis in France is so high, and how we might be able to better organise tournaments in Britain from beginners all the way up to the professional level in order produce the next generation of future stars.

2018 Jack Oswald Tennis Photo 2I decided that with the help of the grant I would travel to a few professional events around the country, including L’Open Sud de France in Montpellier that commences in February, and especially the French Open at the end of May. I would also visit a few of the popular tennis academies and clubs located in the south of France and interview some of their coaches about how they develop their players into champions. So, with the guidance of Cristina, I drafted my personal statement, which included my detailed proposal for my research alongside a bit about myself. I then sent this off, along with my application for the Scholarship and just hoped that I might be selected for an interview.

And as luck would have it, I was! Two months later, there I was on the train to Glasgow for my interview at the university. When I got there, I was greeted by a handful of other nervous language students. We all wished each other the best of luck as each of our turns came, not really knowing what to expect. Finally, my name was called. I found myself in a room with the heads of the French departments for five Scottish universities including Glasgow and St. Andrews. I had never really been good at interviews, but I took a deep breath and decided that I would simply try my best to answer their questions as honestly and thoughtfully as I could. Twenty minutes later I was out the door on my way back home, relieved that the toughest part was over, regardless of the outcome. Now the waiting game commenced!

Luckily, I did not need to wait too long. Just a couple of weeks later I received an email saying that I had been granted the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for my semester abroad next January! I honestly can’t wait for my semester abroad in France and to embark upon some research into my passion during my time there. I would like to thank Cristina for helping me organise my application and proof reading it several times over (!). I honestly couldn’t have done it without her, as well as Jean-Michel for providing references for the application. I strongly encourage all Language students going into their second year at Stirling to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for their semester abroad. It is more than worth the effort and will enrich your experience abroad whilst also allowing you to follow and develop your passion.’

Many thanks to Jack for a great blog post and congratulations on your success in being awarded a Stevenson Scholarship. We look forward to hearing more about the project while you’re in France in the Spring.