From one Fiona (our colleague, Fiona Barclay) to another… Fiona Mears, who graduated a few years back, and who has kept us posted on her travels and teaching career at regular intervals (here and here and here!). Fiona is now back in the UK and about to embark on a new stage in that teaching career:
‘Back in April 2017, my contract at the Université de Franche-Comté where I’d been teaching English for the previous two years came to an end. Since graduating in 2012, I’d been living year by year, predominantly seeking out work which would allow me, first, to stay in France and, second, continue building on my teaching experience. Having lived in France for four years in total, though, I felt it was time to head back to Scotland and, to the great joy of my parents, give the whole ‘settling down’ thing I’d been determinedly avoiding a go!
I’d decided to swap teaching English in France for teaching French in Scotland and had been accepted onto the PGDE Modern Languages course at the University of Glasgow. And what a year it’s been! When people say the PGDE is full-on, they’re not exaggerating. Attending classes at university turned out to be the most relaxing part of the whole course. It came as no surprise that placements were tough: you have to hit the ground running, learn fast and develop a thick skin pretty swiftly. Fortunately, I was very lucky with the mentors and other colleagues I worked with, all of whom were welcoming, supportive and, most importantly, human. We all had our good and bad days, not just me. What I hadn’t expected was that holidays would largely be devoted to writing assignments, which was a shock to the system after the holidays I got in France! At the end of the day though, the hard work and effort everyone put in just made qualifying in June all the more rewarding.
I haven’t ruled out moving back to France or indeed trying out life in another country, but for now I’m enjoying being back in Scotland and can’t wait to start my probation year in August.’
Many thanks to Fiona for this update, congratulations on the PGDE and good luck with the probation year! We look forward to more tales!
Having managed to post articles about this year’s finalists and their plans, and to catch up with some of last year’s graduates, I thought I’d try an experiment and see whether I could get updates from students who graduated further back. Thinking that I’d maybe get one or two responses, it’s been fantastic to switch on email over the past little while and to see more and more emails from graduates from 3, 4, 5… years ago landing in my inbox. I’ve pulled together information from all the messages I’ve had so far here in this blog post and some of this will also link up with longer posts, as and when I get them online. As ever, it’s great to see the variety of paths taken by our graduates – not to mention the collective distances covered!! – and it really has been great to get a chance to catch up like this.
Where to start? It’s hard to decide so, in no particular order…
Yasmin, who graduated with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish in 2014 has, since then, successfully completed two British Council English Language Assistantships in different regions of France and is now living and working in Australia, as well as fitting in a good deal of travel around South-East Asia. There’s more on Yasmin’s experiences and travels here! Katja, who graduated in 2016 on our International Management with European Languages and Society programme, is now working on an EU-internship in Brussels. Iida, who also graduated in 2016 but with a BA(Hons) in French and Human Resource Management, completed a Masters at Maastricht University last year and is now living and working in Helsinki: ‘I first got a job at Fortum, Finland’s biggest energy company and then in April moved companies to Unisport, as I got a permanent position as an administrative coordinator. Though my tasks and responsibilities are diverse, sadly I don’t really use French in my current position. I have, however, benefited from my second major at Stirling, namely HR, as well as some of the minors I took like marketing and business management. Additionally, I have to say, cultural studies obviously give you an edge on understanding and working within a global/multicultural company so in that sense having studied French has been useful for me in work life as well!’
Going a little further back, Dawn graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish and, since then, has spent time teaching English in Spain, working in a local authority education department and, most recently, working for a third sector employer which helps people with disabilities find and retain paid employment. More about Dawn’s experiences since graduating here! Susan, who graduated back in 2011 like Dawn, also in French and Spanish, is now teaching English in Guatemala (more here!) and Jana, who graduated a little more recently (in 2014) with a BA(Hons) in French, has recently completed an MSc in Language Teaching at Edinburgh University and feels that the combination of Single Honours French at Stirling and the Edinburgh MSc have helped her to ‘very fulfilling jobs interpreting and providing study support to adult students with dyslexia.’
Then there’s Jonny who graduated in 2012 with BA(Hons) in French and Global Cinema and who has been working as a secondary school French teacher but is about to leave the profession to take up a post with the charity Sense Scotland next month. And Jennifer who graduated with a BA(Hons) in 2016 in French and Spanish and who first spent a year living and working in Vigo, Galicia through the British Council programme in order to determine whether she wanted to pursue teaching as a career: ‘It was a fun and challenging year and even though I decided that teaching is not for me, it was an excellent learning curve and allowed me to figure out the next step on my career path. In September, I will be graduating with a Masters in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow. I am currently working on my dissertation, so I haven’t had a huge amount of time to fully consider my options, but I am hoping to have a clearer idea by September. In the meantime, I have applied for a traineeship as an Editor/Translator at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. If unsuccessful, I would consider reapplying next year because it sounds like an excellent opportunity. I have also been accepted into the British Council programme again, but this time in the region of Valencia. My plan would be to start off my career as a freelance translator on the side, instead of doing extra private lessons. However, I am still unsure of this option. Alternatively, I would stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh and dedicate my time to translation networking and building up my personal profile as a translator – I’ve been told that the sooner, the better! This will present significant challenges, but this is my desired long-term outcome.’
And Helen who – so far – is among the ‘oldest’ graduates, ie from the cohort that graduated the furthest back, in 2010, when she successfully completed her BA(Hons) in French and who says she always looks back fondly on her time at Uni: ‘I loved the strong sense of being part of something bigger in our subject. I still genuinely believe that I had the most rounded degree experience. There aren’t many options where you can study English, politics, literature, film, history, sociology… (I could go on) AND have a fab semester abroad thrown in. I studied in Aix and gained so much from using a higher level of French and meeting people from all walks of life. I managed to make the most of my summers and worked in France every year for a few months, as a watersports instructor. After graduation I was lucky to work in three primary schools on Réunion Island, through the British Council. Wow, what an incredibly different culture shock that was!
Anyway, I now use all of these stories at school to entice the kids who ‘don’t need languages’. I am currently Director of Faculty for Languages in a high school in Preston. I love being able to use my French and Spanish daily while working with young people. I also provide whole school training and I play a key role in the county’s language teachers network. I love the variety of work and no two days are ever the same. Somewhere in between I now have three children and we spend six weeks in France every year (my husband is also a teacher).’
As ever, many thanks to everyone who has got back in touch and sent updates. We really do like to get a chance to know where people end up after they graduate! And if you happen to be reading this as a French at Stirling graduate (from whichever year) and fancy sending an email, please do get in touch.
As part of the process of catching up with recent-ish graduates, it was lovely to get this update from Dawn who graduated back in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish which gives a great sense of the range of avenues down which our graduates travel once they finish their studies with us:
‘The summer after graduation I spent in Barcelona doing a six-week intensive CELTA course to qualify me to teach English as a foreign language all over the world. This is an internationally recognised qualification and can be taken at various locations in Scotland if you want to study closer to home. After my CELTA course finished I stayed in Barcelona for about a year and a half teaching English in private language schools to adults and doing after school tutoring.
I returned to Scotland and I got a graduate internship working with the local authority’s educational department. The role given to each of the interns matched with our background, interests and future career goals. My role was to develop the teaching of modern languages within primary schools. I was delighted! I taught some Spanish in schools, worked with pupils whose first language wasn’t English and acted as a mentor for foreign language assistants coming from abroad. I particularly enjoyed being a mentor due to having been a language assistant in France during my studies.
I moved to Glasgow a couple of years ago and I currently work for a third sector organisation which ultimately helps people with disabilities and health conditions to find and retain paid employment. I am a Networks Development Officer with responsibility for the west of Scotland. Although I am not directly using my language skills in this job, I am constantly using the skills I gained from my degree. The writing of a dissertation taught me how to accurately conduct research from various sources, collate information and present it in a way that someone with no knowledge of the subject would understand. This skill has been replicated in my job on multiple occasions.
Additionally, studying languages makes you a very clear communicator; you consider your word choice and phrasing before speaking. This is a transferable skill that has proved very important when speaking with clients who have communication difficulties or a learning disability.
Although I don’t use French and Spanish in my job I keep them alive by speaking with friends I made in Spain when I did Erasmus or friends in France when I was a language assistant. I read international magazines online and I still have a passion for foreign cinema. I look back on my time at Stirling University with very fond memories. I am grateful for the opportunities the degree gave me; working in France for a year and studying in Spain and making life-long friends from all over the world is something I’d never have done if I hadn’t studied languages at Stirling. Thank you!’
Many, many thanks to Dawn for taking the time to send this update and we look forward to more updates over the years ahead.
It’s hard to guess where responses will come in from when you send out an email to try and contact graduates from previous years of study. This time round, my inbox has been filled with messages from the UK, France, Finland, Guatemala and now Australia thanks to this post from Yasmin who graduated in 2014 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish:
‘It’s hard to believe I graduated 4 years ago today. Most of my final year at university was spent stressing out about what I was going to do once I finished at Stirling. Don’t get me wrong, I was also focused on passing and actually making it to graduation without having a breakdown from the workload but the looming thought of “what next?” was really making me panic.
Back in 2011-12, I took a year out from university and was an English Language Assistant in the North East of France. I was pushed so far out of my comfort zone but I had the best time despite living in a small village with barely any English speakers. As a result, I decided to apply to be an assistant again in my final year to buy some time as I 100% was not ready to go into anything corporate or to make the move to London for career opportunities after Stirling.
To my surprise they accepted my application so off I went to work near Lyon as a Language Assistant in three primary schools. It was entirely different from my first experience as an assistant but I made the mistake of making a comparison between both experiences when I should have gone in with more of an open mind. Lessons learnt! Although I enjoyed myself throughout the year, it was almost ruined by this constant panic of not knowing what to do and feeling extremely lost! The amount of times I Googled “quarter life crisis” to justify how I was feeling probably took up most of my time that year! Throughout the year I was applying for jobs all over the UK thinking that corporate was what I was supposed to do. I secured 2 or 3 Skype interviews but my heart was never in it and the interviewer could definitely see the lack of enthusiasm.
At this point I had nothing to lose but felt like I needed to buy more time, and the assistantship seemed so easy that I decided to apply for a 3rd time. Despite already being an assistant twice before, I was convinced my application would get rejected or I would be put on a waiting list. Lo and behold, my application was accepted for the 3rd time in a high school in Lourdes and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The colleagues that I worked with there were extremely welcoming and accommodating and went above and beyond to make me feel at home. I tried skiing for the first time, I accompanied my students to Ireland for a week, I met a great group of French people as well as English people and generally had the best time there. By sheer luck I got to live at the school which allowed me to save quite a lot of money and, without giving it much thought I booked a one-way flight to Vietnam. If I could have I would have happily lived in Lourdes or the surrounding area. The South West is 100% the most underrated area in France!
After spending the summer at home, I left for Vietnam where I travelled and met so many other travellers; I was almost never alone despite heading there solo. I then flew to Myanmar where I spent a further 3 weeks backpacking before I boarded my flight for Australia. At the moment, I’m on a working holiday visa which allows me to stay and work here for a year with the option of completing 88 days of regional/farm work to secure a 2nd year working visa. I’ve spent the last 16 months living in Australia and I cannot emphasise how great it’s been so far. I’ve spent some time in a few South East Asian countries in between but have based myself around various locations in Australia. I was worried I’d lose my level of French and Spanish but have met so many international travellers that I have been able to practice every so often.
I’m still not quite sure what I’m doing career wise but I’ve never been happier. I am however getting to the stage where I’d like to settle in one location and, if it’s possible, potentially reside here in Australia.
Everything has worked out so far with some hiccups and road bumps along the way but I definitely have no regrets about going travelling. And I don’t think I would have caught the travel bug without the opportunities given by Stirling University. The assistantship that I did first time round changed my perspective of living in a different country and has probably changed my life (hope that doesn’t sound too cliché).
I’ve no idea where I’ll be in 5 years’ time but I’m not worried either!’
Many, many thanks to Yasmin for the great blog post and we wish you all the very best for life in Australia – keep us posted!
Next week (hopefully under sunny skies) our finalists will become our graduates so we thought now was a good time to give you an idea of what soon-to-be Languages graduates’ plans look like. With thanks to everyone who took the time to get back to me on this and to those whose plans have already featured in longer blog posts and, of course, with congratulations to you all, here goes (with photos courtesy of the students!):
A number of this year’s finalists have plans that include – at least for the short-term – teaching in one shape or another. Fergus, who’ll be graduating in English and French, has applied to spend a year working in France as an English Language Assistant and Brett, who’ll be graduating in French and Spanish, is off to Japan where he has been accepted to teach English on the JET programme. Alexia, whose degree is Single Honours French, will be starting teacher training in the Autumn on Glasgow’s PGDE Secondary French course, a career path she had always intended to pursue and Calum, studied French and Politics at Stirling, is also considering the teaching route but with an eye on the possibility of translation work, too. In the first instance, after temporary employment this Summer, he’ll be shadowing teachers in his local school to see whether teaching really is the career for him.
He’s not the only one to be considering those particular options together – Nicole, who studied French and Spanish with us, is also embarking on a postgraduate programme, combining the translation and teaching routes: ‘After spending the majority of fourth year thinking about what I’d like to do after graduating from Stirling, it looks like I won’t be saying goodbye just yet. I’ll be returning to Stirling in September to study a Masters in Translation studies with TESOL. After doing the translation theory module during Semester 7, I realised that translation was something I was genuinely interested in and having the opportunity to do it along with TESOL at Stirling seems like the perfect opportunity. The option to choose TESOL appeals to me because I realised just how in-demand the English language is during my time in France and Spain. I’m hoping that this course will give me the chance to work either at home in Scotland or spend more time abroad in the future. Whatever happens, I’m happy to be returning to Stirling to study something which will hopefully give me plenty of options in years to come.’
Translation also beckons for a number of other finalists: Emilie, a Single Honours French student, will be starting the Translation Masters programme at Glasgow University in the Autumn and Anna, who’ll also be graduating in Single Honours French, is also applying for Masters programmes in Translation and Interpreting. In the meantime, her plans include temporary work as a receptionist and also practising her translating skills. Things are still quite open but, as Anna says, ‘no idea where I will end up but if I don’t do a Masters, I hope to work in France for a bit and then apply for jobs in London where I can use French.’ Lucy, who graduates in French and Spanish and who wrote more about her studies and her plans here, will be starting her MSc in Business Translation and Interpreting at Strathclyde in a few months. And Emma, who will graduate with Single Honours French, is currently working hard to save up for her Masters in Translation, ‘destination TBC but currently narrowed down to Bath and Surrey. I am also enjoying the break from education while I can with trips to Budapest, Spain and France planned for later in the year. With my Masters, I hope to go into translation for an important global organisation and, in the short term, I would like to become a reviser and then a translation project manager. Although I am very focused on a career in translation, I want to have a bit of fun first and plan to travel Asia and perhaps also Canada on completion of my studies. Longer term, I would like to get back into education and become a primary school teacher (if they’re still teaching languages at primary school by the time I’ve had children of my own) but plans change over time so I guess we’ll have to wait and see!’
Postgraduate study is also on the horizon for Jeanne, soon-to-be a graduate in International Management with European Languages and Society and planning an MLitt in Transnational Cultures at the University of Aberdeen (more about her plans here!); Amy, who has just completed her degree in French and Politics and is off to do an MSc in Public Policy and Management (more about Amy’s time at Stirling here) and Rebecca, who’ll be graduating from the same programme as Jeanne, and who is embarking on a Masters in European Business in Fribourg, Switzerland. In the meantime, Rebecca will be working at the Montreux Jazz Festival and summer camps with children and, in the long run, hopes to find a job in marketing in Switzerland: ‘Having a language as part of your degree is an obvious positive for employers and life skills in general, so it goes without saying I am grateful for everything the French department has done for me.’ And Anna, who will graduate in French and Spanish, has just accepted an offer ‘to study the MLitt in Publishing at the University of Stirling. Publishing is something I have wanted to do since a very young age and I am happy I decided to go back to Stirling and continue my studies there. In the future, I would love to work in The Rights Department selling rights onto foreign book markets and vice versa. That way, I would hopefully be able to use my undergraduate degree in French and Spanish.’
Chelsea, who studied Psychology and a European Language with us, and who sent a blog post a few weeks back, is applying for care apprenticeships, in the hope of working with vulnerable adults and children. Jean, whose degree is Single Honours French, has applied for a temporary job developing policy at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency where she used to work. This could lead on to something else but, if not, then next winter she plans to teach skiing in Scotland while working towards my next ski instructor qualification. Rachel, who will graduate in French and Journalism in a few days, is putting her French to good use working for a heritage company at Edinburgh Castle where visitors come from all over, including – of course – France and French-speaking Canada, in particular. And Alex, who studied International Politics and Languages with us, is continuing work in his restaurant Napizza. Business is booming, plans are afoot for an Edinburgh branch and, in the meantime, Alex has built a small oven, put it on a three-wheel van and is ‘planning to go around events and spread a pizza happiness’!!
I can’t really think of a better note on which to end this particular post! Thanks again to all our finalists for their hard work this year (and throughout their degrees) and for passing on all this information (more to be added as emails come in). We wish you all the very best for the future and look forward to updates on your progress in the weeks, months and years ahead. Keep in touch!