Tag: English Language Assistantships

From Stirling to Colombia: ‘Travelling is a form of education’

French (and Spanish) at Stirling students in their second year and in their final year were recently given the opportunity to attend a meeting with a representative of the British Council to find out about their English Language Assistantship scheme. We have a great success rate with ELA applications at Stirling and, every year, 20-30 of our students end up being offered contracts to teach English across a range of schools and universities in the wider Francophone and Hispanophone worlds. One of last year’s French at Stirling graduates, David Vescio, applied for an ELA during his final year and has just sent us this account of the start of his year teaching in Colombia, as well as plenty of pictures to brighten up a rather grey mid-semester break…

“Panicking about what you are going to do after university? Don’t worry; I have graduated and I am still not sure… and lo and behold, I am alive and well!

teaching students
Teaching students

During my last year at university, I was trying to keep my options open so I applied for a PGDE in French and Spanish in Scotland as well as a teaching assistantship in Latin America through the British Council. I was lucky enough to be offered both and after careful consideration I decided to go with the latter and go to Colombia. Why opt for the less secure option when I could have studied for my postgrad in education, become a qualified teacher in a couple of years and found a stable job in Scotland? It’s simple: I just wasn’t ready.

 

Most of my fellow graduates still aren’t sure about what they want to do long-term and the secret to having a relatively stress-free last year as an undergrad is to keep your options open and have a back-up plan. Still stressing? Don’t worry, you have your dissertation to look forward to!

I would definitely encourage students to go away for a year after university with the British Council, especially if you are interested in travelling, teaching and languages. If you go off to teach for a year it doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up teaching for the rest of your life but it is an opportunity to gain experience doing a ¨real life¨ job in a relatively relaxed atmosphere while still having some freedom to travel as you will be working part-time.

bogota induction viewpoint
Bogota Induction

I was appointed to the Catholic University of Pereira, a relatively small town located in the coffee region of Colombia. Before leaving for Pereira, I attended an induction session in Bogota with all the other language assistants in Colombia which was a lot of fun as we were provided with free food and accommodation for 3 days. This was a really nice opportunity to meet everyone taking part in the programme as well as the language assistants from other countries such as France, Germany, India, etc. Language assistants are posted all over Colombia so it is a great opportunity to go travelling with them and visit this wonderful country and beyond!

 

When I got to Pereira, my tutor helped me find accommodation and the university staff have been really helpful! Although I definitely stick out like a sore thumb, Colombians are always welcoming and curious to know where I come from as well as what I am doing here. Lots of people have invited me to their homes for dinner and despite the bad reputation Colombia has had in recent years, I would definitely recommend it as a memorable place to visit.

botero plaza in medellin
Medellin

 

 

I have only been here for about 2 months and I don’t think I have ever travelled so much! Since I only work 18 hours a week, this leaves me plenty of time to explore the region and I have been to some pretty incredible places as you can see in the pictures. I have been to Bogota, Medellin, Salento, Guatape, Manizales, Cali and Bucaramanga so just imagine all the places I will have been to after spending a whole year here! People ask me if I miss my family and friends and of course I do, but there are so many new places to go, things to do and people to meet! So the good things definitely outweigh the bad. I am still, however, struggling with Irn Bru withdrawal symptoms…

cali grafiti
Cali

 

 

I think being a language assistant has really helped me become more adaptable. For example, I never expected to be asked to be teaching technical terms in industrial design classes, but I have managed to do so and I have even learnt a wee bit about industrial design in the process! I have had the opportunity to take part in an International Relations class every week where I talk to students about the differences between the U.K. and Great Britain and the different nations within the former as well as explaining to them the concepts of Scottish Independence and Brexit, but also the topics of multiculturalism and freedom of religion as well as less cheerful subjects such as terrorism and the Grenfell tower fire.

I have started up a conversation club for students and another for teachers where we discuss current local and global affairs and have also been recording a weekly radio show where I talk about my experience here in Pereira and compare it to life in Scotland. Believe it or not, quite a few people don’t know where or what Scotland is! But let’s be honest, how many people reading this right now actually know where Colombia is? One of my students even asked me last week what ¨I dinnae ken¨ meant because apparently they were watching a Scottish YouTuber… the joys of teaching!

radio show awkward selfie

With all of that, plus the hot weather (and despite the accompanying Scottish ¨tan¨) as well as the incredible variety of exotic fruits, I am really glad I decided to take a break from studying as, let’s face it, travelling is a form of education in itself.

So, to all fourth year students who may be reading this blog piece, remember to enjoy your last year at university and to keep your options open.”

Many, many thanks to David for finding the time to send us this post and we’d echo his advice – of course – about keeping open all the options a languages degree offers!!

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Strasbourg and more

Another week until the start of semester and these final few days before the new academic year are full of news to report. Usually, the bits of this blog that are written by me (Cristina Johnston) are written in Scotland but this post sees me making my way to Strasbourg where I’m headed for meetings with our colleagues at the Ecole de Management. We’ve had an exchange partnership with them for many years now and currently have a great Integrated Masters programme that we run with them in International Management and Intercultural Studies. As is the way with these things, most of the time that just means corresponding via email and it’s our students who benefit from being able to enjoy the delights of our respective institutions and cities. Every now and then, though, colleagues come from Strasbourg to Stirling or from Stirling to Strasbourg and that’s what I’m up to just now. A good day of meetings and discussions about possible future partnerships and teaching and research collaborations lies ahead, and I’m looking forward to getting a chance to see the EMS.

The added bonus – from my perspective, at least – is that I spent my own year abroad when I was an undergraduate as an English Language Assistant living and teaching in Strasbourg so it’s a city I used to know well. As those students who were away as ELAs last year make their way back to campus in Stirling, and some of those who are just starting on new adventures as assistants in places as far-flung as Colombia (watch this space for more…) send emails to say hello, it’s great to get a chance to reminisce on my own experiences as a Language Assistant. I taught at the Lycée Marie Curie in Strasbourg where – at the time, at least – they taught both the French Bac and the European Bac, meaning that one class of pupils in terminale had extra language tuition, History and Geography taught in English and an impressive openness to the possibilities that language learning opened up for them.

For me, it was a great first experience of teaching – I wasn’t much older than the pupils, they were (without exception) really keen to learn, and the school was incredibly supportive (of me and of their pupils). As well as the actual teaching, I was lucky enough to be asked to accompany that terminale class on a 10-day trip to Northern Ireland and was just generally made to feel part of the school community. I kept in touch with some of the pupils for a few years after I came back and, ever since then, have also kept in touch with one of the former English teachers from the school so this EMS trip will also give me a chance to catch up with her, having not actually seen her face-to-face in 20 years! All in all, a good trip lies ahead!

Enough about me, though… What other news? Well, Fiona Barclay and I had a great meeting last week with the ever-enthusiastic Grahame Reid of Stirling’s MacRobert cinema to talk about (fingers crossed) bringing some of this year’s French Film Festival films to Stirling again this year. All being well, November should be French cinema month at Stirling but more will follow on that once we get confirmation. French at Stirling has also been busy preparing workpacks for all the modules we’ll be running in the new semester and generally getting ourselves ready for all our new and returning students. And, at the end of this week, just before the focus shifts back more towards teaching, many of us will also be attending a Research Away Day led by Bill Marshall to discuss research plans and ideas with colleagues from Languages, Translation, Religion, English and Creative Writing. Oh yes, and our former PhD student Martin Verbeke has another article forthcoming: “Represent Your Origins: An Analysis of the Diatopic Determinants of Non-Standard Language Use in French Rap” has been accepted for publication by the International Journal of Francophone Studies!

A flurry of pre-semester activity! And pictures of Strasbourg will doubtless appear on the blog over the next week or so…

New Semester Just Around the Corner…

In just under a fortnight, our new semester kicks off and we’re looking forward to welcoming back our continuing students and to welcoming to Stirling our new first year intake (currently enjoying our online Bridging Materials to help them prepare…) and all those visiting from our wide range of exchange partners from Strasbourg to Perpignan.

Following on from the success of our schools’ events in June and the fantastic presentations given by finalists and graduates, we’re continuing to develop our focus on the employability of Languages graduates. To help embed this even more firmly within our degree programmes, we’re launching a new Languages and Employability module that our students (of French and/or Spanish) will take throughout Year 3.

The module offers sessions on presentation skills (in English and French), decoding job adverts, producing a tailored CV and cover letter in French, and careers/employer workshops, as well as generic skills in personality profiling, and use of social media. It’ll be taught by colleagues from French and Spanish with input from Stirling’s Careers Development Centre with classes and workshops in Stirling in the Autumn semester and online content delivered during the Spring Semester Abroad.

We’re hoping that this new module will give our students a chance to build on the skills they’ve already gained – not least via the English Language Assistantships that many of them undertake between Year 2 and Year 3 – and that it’ll encourage them further to think about career opportunities for Languages graduates, whether in the UK or beyond.

More news of the semester ahead to follow…

“I’m excited to start this new chapter in my life”: Life as a Languages Graduate

After a brief lull in blog activities while everyone caught their breath after a busy end of academic year, it’s great to be able to pick things up again and particularly good to start a new round of blog posts with two articles by students who have just graduated in this year’s cohort. This first article is by Charlotte Cavanagh who graduated last month with a BA Hons in French and Journalism:

“Having just recently graduated, I have had the opportunity to reflect about my time spent at the University of Stirling, the memories I have made; the majority of which are positive, and how studying at the university has prepared me for the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed my course of study from start to finish: There were modules that interested me, friendly peers and a French department who were always within reach. A combination of these things has made my time at Stirling enjoyable and I can happily say that my French language skills have vastly improved over the past 4 years.

2017 Charlotte Cavanagh Strasbourg pic JulyAs I continue to think about my time at the university, I realise that some of my most happy moments came from my time abroad doing both the British Council assistantship and Erasmus. As a French language student, the opportunity to go abroad not once but twice felt like a dream come true! I had the most amazing experiences abroad and I owe it all to Stirling and their brilliant languages department for providing me with such great opportunities.

I also feel the need to emphasise how supportive the French department were during my time at the university, especially in fourth year when I was panicking about what to do once I had graduated! The support from my personal tutor was indispensable. She told me that the skills you acquire from a languages degree can open a great number of doors and opportunities and she was right. Despite the panic of not knowing what I wanted to do after university, I have managed to land a job as a project coordinator in London, for a company that provides translation and many other language services to companies all around the world. I am excited to start this new chapter in my life and cannot wait to see where this opportunity will take me, but I will always look back fondly at my time at the University of Stirling and be grateful for the time I spent there.

If I was to give advice to anyone studying languages it would be the following: 1) If there is an opportunity to practice your language skills, whether that be abroad or in the classroom, take it. It is a daunting prospect, but the effort you put in really pays off. 2) There is no need to worry about the future. Languages students have a great many skills to show off about in the job market and speaking from experience, everything does fall into place.”

Many thanks to Charlotte for taking the time to write this post and all the very best for the new job! We look forward to updates over the months and years ahead.

‘Greater and more diverse life experiences through travel and culture’: Education and Languages at Stirling

Following on from the recent few posts by students just reaching the end of their first year with us, it’s time for the thoughts of someone who is a little further on in her degree programme. Laura Burns has just completed her second year on our BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages and is about to undertake an English Language Assistantship from the Autumn:

“I have always been sure that I wanted to study teaching. However, the opportunities and experiences that I have gained, and will gain, from my involvement with the modern languages department at Stirling have been incredible.

As I have always been aware of changes and dynamics within Scottish Education, I became interested in the 1+2 scheme. This has the aim to better encourage modern language learning in Scotland, due to be fully implemented across primary schools in 2020. Having enjoyed studying French while at school and always having interest in culture and travel, I was keen to look further into languages as a specialist option. This was when I became more aware of Stirling University and the unique opportunities I could gain from studying there. My course came with the chance to study education with a specialism in French language and culture. Immediately, this was beneficial on a social level, enabling me to meet more fellow students and staff across different faculties.

From day one, I found the language department to be friendly, engaging and organised. This was a main worry of mine before beginning university, so it was fantastic to feel at ease so quickly. While the work was challenging for me, I felt supported by the staff and fellow students throughout.

Whenever going into schools, I am far more acutely aware of the attitudes towards modern language teaching. Immediately, I discovered that many of the primary teachers who I spoke with lacked confidence in their rushed learning of French, or Spanish. This lack of confidence, many admitted, led to a lack of engagement with teaching of language beyond, for example, colours or introductions. Contrastingly, from my experience so far, the children have a far more positive approach. While on my most recent placement, I tried to incorporate French into much of the daily classroom life. This even encouraged one child to do her own “research”, coming back to me with vocabulary she had discovered from searching with her family over the weekend. Language learning, at its heart, involves sharing and discovering. Undeniably, this is engaging and important kinds of learning for all children. Studying at Stirling has made me so aware of how I can ensure that a potential lack of teacher confidence does not inhibit this learning, and these experiences.

Speaking more personally, due to my involvement with the French department, my future life experiences will be shaped. I have been given the opportunity to become an English Language Assistant. My post begins in October, staying in Lille, France. This was never something I would have even considered if it wasn’t for the encouragement and support from the faculty. While I am scared and nervous (apprehensive) to be undertaking this unexpected year out, I know how valuable this experience will be. Firstly, on a practical level, to be fluent (or close to) in another language will always be a sought after skill. Secondly, I will be allowed an entire year’s teaching experience adapting to new systems and curriculum. Finally, it grants me the opportunity to have greater and more diverse life experiences with people through travel and culture, making me a better teacher in future because of it. In addition to this, the staff encouraged another opportunity through “Language Linking, Global Thinking” where I can maintain a link with a Scottish primary school to inspire language leaning, and the opportunities which arise with it. 

This was not the journey I had expected to take before starting Higher Education. It is because of Stirling University’s language department that I am more aware that ultimately, university is about more than just a degree, it enables opportunities and creates links. I now will have a desired specialism to be proud of, and advocate. I can use languages to better myself across many areas in my life, for my whole life. I will always be grateful for the department’s keen interest in helping me better myself through opportunities that university, and language learning can provide.”

Many, many thanks to Laura for this great blog post and we hope the ELA year goes really well!

 

Fantastic Schools Event at Stirling

Over the past two days, French at Stirling has been playing host to around 200 school pupils and their teachers from across the Central Belt (and beyond). It’s been a packed couple of days with pupils who are just starting their French Highers and Advanced Highers getting a chance to find out what studying a language at University is like.

The days started with a mini-lecture on contemporary French society before the pupils were split into smaller seminar groups for a written language class in the morning. After lunch, it was back into smaller groups for a culture class focusing on extracts from a series of auto-portraits written by school pupils from Clichy-sous-Bois. The final session of the day brought all the pupils back together again for a series of presentations from a group of this year’s finalists, all talking about the benefits of Study Abroad and time abroad more generally, and then an employability-focused talk from our Employability and Skills Officer and a group of graduates from the past few years, talking about where French has taken them.

2017 Schools Event Bearsden Academy Pupils June17
Bearsden Academy pupils

 

And while the pupils were busy with seminars and learning about study abroad and the employability benefits of studying a language, their teachers were whisked off for two CPD sessions led by Stirling academics. The first, led by Elizabeth Ezra, focused on approaches to teaching film and the afternoon session, led by Fiona Barclay, centred on assessment and feedback of culture-based essays in the language classroom.

We’d like to say thank you to everyone who came along – to the teachers for taking the time to do this and to all the pupils for participating so well over the course of the days. Thanks also go to Stirling staff who have been involved, as well as to PhD student Fanny Lacôte for giving up her time to help us, and to all the finalists and graduates who gave up their afternoons to come and tell the pupils about their experiences.

Feedback from our visitors and from French at Stirling staff has been extremely positive with pupils commenting about how much they enjoyed seeing what studying French at University is like and that they particularly appreciated hearing from our finalists and graduates, and we look forward to organising future schools events in the future. In the meantime, if you’re reading this and want a chance to find out more about studying with us, we have a recruitment Open Day this Saturday (17 June) and would be delighted to get a chance to tell you more there!

English Language Assistantship and New Adventures

The pace of the past few weeks of the semester means that there’s a bit of a build-up of blog posts in my inbox so, firstly, apologies for that but I’m trying to get them all online today to catch-up. Among other things, we’ve got two new profiles of recent graduates, starting with this article by Beth Young who graduated with a BA Hons in French and Law last year and who has spent the year since her graduation working as an English Language Assistant.

2017 Beth Young pic March“My semester abroad in my third year at Stirling was the highlight of my degree. After returning home from this amazing opportunity, I was especially keen to travel again. At the beginning of last year, upon approaching the end of my four years at Stirling, I decided to apply to the British Council to be an English Language Assistant with the hope of being able to see more of France and improve my language. 

A few months after being accepted, it was finally confirmed that I had been allocated to work in a vocational high school the Académie of Versailles, which not only covers the town of Versailles itself, but also a huge area spanning up to the north of Paris. I had only spent two days in Paris in the past but had loved it, so I was excited at the opportunity to spend time there and really get to know it. 

As well as being delighted about the prospect of spending the year abroad, I was also excited to be able to teach English. I had volunteered in a local primary school at home, which was an amazing opportunity so I felt grateful that I was able to enhance my skills by being able to teach older pupils too. It has been great to experience a school system which is so different to the one that I know back home. Thanks to this role, I have learned to deal with a different set of challenges and to think on my feet when lessons do not quite go to plan. I have gained a lot of confidence from having to teach large groups of pupils and whilst I hope that I have successfully taught the students a bit about my culture, they have definitely taught me a lot about their language and culture too.

There have been many benefits to living so close to Paris. I have had friends come to visit me and I visited Disney for the first time, which was a really fun experience. Another main advantage of living close Paris is that one of my oldest friends and I have been able to visit one another easily. With her living in London, she is only a two hour and a half hour train ride away, which is closer than when at home in Scotland. I enjoy the fact that there is always something to do in this city, whether it be visiting famous landmarks, shopping on the Champs Elysées or discovering which bars have the best happy hours. It has been lovely to get to know the city well. 

As I start to reach the final weeks of my year abroad and I reflect on the time I have already spent here, I can truly say that this has been an excellent experience for improving my French and getting to know a new place. I am looking forward to the weather becoming warmer as spring begins and being able to appreciate the beautiful City of Light in the sunshine as I think ahead and decide where my next adventure will be.”

Many thanks to Beth for taking the time to send us this post and good luck, both for the remaining weeks of your ELA and for the adventures that doubtless lie ahead. We look forward to hearing tales of them!