Tag: English Language Assistantships

‘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.

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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!

 

New Chapters and New Adventures

 

Following on from Jonny Terrell’s tales of life starting out as a secondary teacher in East Dunbartonshire, another account of life in teaching but this time from Megan Davis who graduated in 2016 with a BA Hons in French and Spanish. Megan applied for a British Council English Language Assistantship in her final year and has been working as a Language Assistant in Tenerife since last Autumn:

 

“While I couldn’t quite believe that my time in Stirling had come to an end, I was itching to start a new chapter and embark on a new adventure. Luckily, the opportunity to apply to be a language assistant with the British Council cropped up while I was in my final year. I was still not entirely sure of what direction I wanted to gear my career towards, so I decided to take it.

 

From my point of view, a year with the British Council was ideal. It meant I could have a go at teaching without committing myself to pursue it as a career. Similarly, it enabled me to take a small break from full time education, and yet still allow me to gain valuable skills, as well as spend a year living in Tenerife. Having now established myself and spent a few months at my school, IES Canarias, I can honestly say I am thrilled with my decision to come here.

 

Admittedly there was a period of adjustment when my new colleagues informed me they would rather I spoke only English in the school, strictly no Spanish was to be spoken to any of the students. I was initially taken aback to begin with, as I had anticipated my knowledge Spanish being a major asset in my time abroad, as opposed to a potential drawback. Nevertheless, I have adjusted to this new role and see the benefits of it on a daily basis. In general, the students all make an effort to speak to me in English, and really try to understand when I am speaking to them. Moreover, their capacity for understanding has vastly improved now that they are used to listening to me on a regular basis.

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On a personal level I am finding this year incredibly gratifying, not only because of the relationships forged between myself and my new students and colleagues, but also because of the amount of free time. It has meant I have been able to pursue activities and hobbies that I had not yet done, such as joining a choir, which has given me to chance to visit various villages on the island when performing shows.

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Ultimately, I have made the decision not to continue with the British Council next year in favour of returning to Scotland next year to continue my higher education. Despite leaving the Canary Islands, I am delighted that I made the decision to come here and I cannot wait to see what the next few months have in store!”

 

Many thanks to Megan for taking the time to send us this blog post – we hope the rest of the ELA year goes well and look forward to catching up when you’re back in Scotland as a postgrad next year!

 

Primary Education and Modern Languages: “The staff are genuinely inspiring!”

Following on from yesterday’s account of life since graduation from Emma Goodall-Copestake, it’s time for a profile of one of our current students. Jennifer Graham is in her 2nd semester of our BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages, studying both French and Spanish with us:

“Living in a small Scottish village on the North West coast of Scotland in the early 90s I definitely lacked exposure to other cultures. I think my first inkling that another language besides English existed was from Sebastian on Playdays, who, for anyone who hasn’t come across this ingenious example of engaging children’s television, was a stereotypical Frenchman made of cardboard or wood or something, who was wheeled about the set and ‘spoke’ the odd French word. Actually, he did intrigue me although I’m still not really sure why.

French in Primary School was great – songs, games and a teacher who loved everything French. I fully credit this teacher for the way that my studies have panned out so far. It was her love of France that tilted my education away from Gaelic, which was much more central to language education in the other local Primary Schools, and towards modern languages. In 1998 I started high school along with the five other pupils in my class, all of us with a confidence in French that was definitely not about to elevate our social standing among our peers. We all very quickly dropped our French accents while reading aloud in class.

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ELA Year in Verdun

 

Fast-forward eleven years to 2010. I’ve done three years of French and Spanish at Strathclyde University and I’ve just completed my year abroad working as an English Language Assistant in Verdun in France.

I’m pregnant.

Incomplete degree, no job, living in the South Side of Glasgow with friends and a cat. Not an ideal situation. I felt like I had been put on a swivel chair that had spun around and set me on a completely different path to the one I had been so sure I was set to follow. Now I have a six-year-old daughter who (you’ll permit me a small brag) delights in showing off her skills in French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and Polish. When she started school, I started getting itchy. I wanted to finish what I had started, and do it better than I had the first time.

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I love working with children and young people and so I applied for the Primary Education with Modern Languages course at Stirling University (this choice mainly came down to logistics. I live near Falkirk and Stirling is by far the easiest university to access and gives me the best chance of being able to make school drop off and pick up). Had I not been accepted I’m not sure what I would be doing just now, most likely still working full time in the Italian restaurant I’ve worked in for the past two years. Now I’m working part-time, mum full time and studying in the cracks that fall in-between. I’m not sure how long I can keep it up and soon something will have to give. It will inevitably be the job as I’m extremely determined now. I’m very different to the student I was – doing the minimum amount of work and living the maximum amount of student life.

My logistics-based choice of Stirling University has paid off: the campus is beautiful, the staff are fantastic, the facilities and layout of the university are great. I’ve found the enthusiasm of the staff genuinely inspiring. My greatest fear, as a slightly older student, was (is!) the amount of reliance on technology. Although it’s nice to sit at home and organise your student life, I found it quite isolating at the beginning. Choosing all my modules and seminar times online, receiving my timetable online, all of it automatic, was quite nerve-wracking as there seemed to be no assurance from a human being that I was actually doing everything properly. Honestly, in the days leading up to the first week of the first semester I was very, very nervous. Scared, really. I’ve never been frightened of technology before but I really was worried about not being able to prepare for my classes and looking like an idiot. I got through it though.

To round things up, I don’t think anyone can, or should, get through a degree without a fair amount of struggle. And it is a struggle. I’ve forgotten so much and I have a lot of new things to learn that I didn’t bother to learn the first time around. But I’m here and I’m doing it. My once stagnant brain is getting warmed up again and it’s hungry for irregular verbs. (Ha!)”

Many, many thanks to Jennifer for having taken the time to send us this post. We look forward to following your progress throughout the rest of your degree… and good luck with the irregular verbs!

 

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!

 

“Immerse yourself in the language”: Reflections of a French and Psychology Graduate

As our 3rd week of the new semester gets underway, it’s time to post another profile of one of our recent graduates, Meghann Richardson, who has some great advice here for current (and future!) languages students:

“I was at the University of Stirling from 2009-2014 where I studied Psychology and French. Out of all the Universities in Scotland, it was Stirling’s beautiful, wild campus and great on-site facilities that made me choose it.

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My time at Uni was great. One of the biggest highlights was definitely the fact that working abroad for 7 months was a course component for French. I so enjoyed being abroad teaching English and would recommend it to anyone who is able to take a year out during their degree to go and do it. I particularly liked that it was between my 2nd and 3rd years of Uni as when I returned to start my 3rd year, I felt like my batteries had totally been recharged. I was really motivated to start studying hard again, plus, my French language skills had improved a lot making the transition into 3rd year much easier.

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To anyone who is studying French and feeling a bit discouraged by the challenges of speaking and understanding the language, it will get easier! When I arrived in France for the start of my year abroad I felt like I could hardly string together a decent sentence, but after a while of just listening to people speak French and myself, trying to ask questions and contribute to conversations, the rhythm of the language, words and expressions just began to sink in without me even noticing. Sometimes words or phrases that I didn’t even know the meaning of would just be stuck in my head – proof that the language was starting to stick to me.

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To help immerse yourself in the language and have the sensation of unknown words buzzing around your head while studying in Stirling, I would recommend any of the following:

  1. Read a book that you enjoyed in English in French. For myself, it was any of the Harry Potter books. The more familiar you are with the sounds and appearances of words in French, the easier it will be for you to learn and acquire the language.
  2.  Listen to the radio. You can download French radio Apps to your smart phone or computer. Good stations are FM radio, NRJ, France Inter, or rfi. FM radio is fun to listen to because it is dedicated to playing French music only.
  3.  And, finally, practise your vocabulary. To help you do this in a more hands-on interactive kind of way, you could record yourself reciting vocabulary in French and English onto your computer or smart-phone, save the recordings as sound files, and upload them to any device you use to listen to music. Listen to them whenever you have a spare moment. This has always been one of the most helpful ways for me to learn and memorise vocabulary.

It is important to be patient with yourself and with the speed at which your life is progressing. It may take you a while to sort out what you want to be doing and where you want to be. Sometimes the only way to figure out what you do want is by trial and error, and more often than not, by figuring out what you don’t want. Keep trying different and new things and try not to become complacent. All the people you meet and experiences you have along the way will teach you more about yourself and eventually lead you to where you want to be and, ultimately, to the career you want to be doing. And if you find you want to change your direction again after that, go for it! That’s my philosophy anyway.

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Before I close, I would like to leave you with a few revelations I have had since graduating:

  1. This month it’s 2.5 years since I graduated. In these 2.5 years I have worked in a nightclub, a call centre, and as a healthcare assistant in a hospital, which is where I am now. At this point in time, I am trying to pursue the Psychology part of my degree and hope to be hired as an Assistant Psychologist within the next year. I would, however, like to highlight that it has taken me nearly 2 years after completing Uni to finally make a solid decision about the direction I would like to go in. For a long time I was just unsure about what I wanted to do and at the back of my mind kept thinking if I don’t figure out what I want to do soon I’ll just go to France and find a job on a campsite or something – And it remains at the back of my mind even now! So, I’m pretty sure I will end up back in France at some point, I just want to get some endeavours in Psychology out of the way first.
  2. Also, be selfish about your learning. Don’t be scared to ask your tutors for help, advice or feedback. Get as much information out of them as you can.
  3. French aside, in more general terms, while you are at Uni make sure you get to know some of your tutors well. This will stand you in good stead should you ever need any kind of advice, academic reference, or help finding work experience during or after your degree. The most challenging part of the degree journey can be the moment you complete it. At this point contacts will come in handy!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have found some of the above information useful and encouraging. I wish you all the very best of luck, fun, adventure, success and happiness throughout your degree.”

And thanks to Meghann for having taken the time to reflect on having studied with us and for such great advice for other students. And best of luck for the future – we hope France and French makes its way back into your plans at some point.