Tag: French and Spanish

‘After all the hard work, my options are unlimited’

In just a couple of weeks, this year’s French finalists will become this year’s French graduates so, first and foremost, congratulations to all concerned! There are a few more posts to come over the next little while that will give you a sense of the many different directions our soon-to-be graduates are planning on taking over the months ahead, starting with this post by Lucy who is about to graduate in French and Spanish:

‘As I write this, Stirling has just confirmed degree classifications for its graduating students and, while the wait was nerve-wracking, it gave me an opportunity to reflect upon and appreciate where I started this whole journey compared to now, five years later with degree in hand and moving on to the next challenge.

Before starting a B.A. (Hons) in French and Spanish, languages were something I was always good at in school (and more importantly something I really enjoyed) so naturally I drifted down the course of modern languages at uni. I say “drifted” because I never really knew where it would lead me or what to expect, both of the course and of myself.

2018 Lucy ODonnell San Vicente de la Barquera IISoon enough, after two years at Stirling, I was applying for a position as an English Language Assistant via the British Council which took me to a primary school in the north of Spain for ten months. Being absolutely honest here, it was the most difficult thing I have ever done (not least because the average age of my town was 86!). However, it was without a doubt the most rewarding and beneficial experience that I could ever have hoped for and I truly wouldn’t have changed a thing. It toughened me up (kids are apparently brutally honest about pointing out your acne), my self-confidence sky-rocketed, I could converse easily in Spanish and, most importantly, I learned the right way to make a perfect sangria!

In all seriousness, I was mentally and emotionally challenged throughout the whole experience but I know for certain that I would not be at the proficiency and confidence level I am now had I had a different experience. A quick word of advice for future Stirling students undertaking an assistantship in Spain: don’t even try to contend with Spanish bureaucracy – becoming its victim is part and parcel of the experience! Keep calm and have a vino.

2018 Lucy ODonnell Tours IIMy next challenge was Erasmus which I would eventually do in Tours, France. I spent five months at the Université François-Rabelais where I mostly studied translation classes and French language classes. I lived in noisy student halls and exclusively ate pasta and toasties and, speaking as someone who has always lived at home during term-time, I appreciated the opportunity to experience authentic student life!

Tours and its university was a great place for students and I highly recommend it. The teachers were extremely supportive and helpful for Erasmus students and their classes were genuinely very useful and engaging. There was also ample opportunity to meet and socialise with French students, several of whom I still keep in contact with today. They were all so friendly and really interested in us as people and in the Scottish culture (I encourage anyone to explain to a French person why a Highland cow looks the way it does, it really challenges your language skills!).

2018 Lucy ODonnell Tours IAside from discussing our weird and wonderful creatures, I really enjoyed living in France and I truly gained invaluable experience in learning how to improvise and think on your feet linguistically. Studying French/Spanish as a fourth year student at Stirling is challenging and really encourages you to push yourself and your skills (as I’m sure is the case with any uni) so my advice is to get a head start and do as much of this as possible while you’re studying on Erasmus and say yes to every opportunity while you’re surrounded by the language. You’ll really feel the benefit on your return to uni, which leads me to my final nugget of wisdom for all language students that I only really started to understand in fourth year: having confidence and believing in yourself is half the battle to becoming fluent. The rest will come with hard work and perseverance.

As for my next step, I’ll be moving on to the University of Strathclyde to study an MSc in Business Translation and Interpreting. I was impressed by how flexible and broad their course structure is in terms of the areas of translation you can study and I’m looking forward to putting all my skills into practice in something I really enjoy doing. I’d eventually like to be an interpreter for the justice system, whether in Scotland or further afield, but it’s a good feeling to know that after all the hard work, my options are unlimited.

I don’t think it has really sunk in yet that my time here has come to an end. I have been given opportunities like no other by Stirling and I really feel that I personally have completely changed for the better. I’ve learned an incredible amount thanks to the excellent teaching staff in the French and Spanish departments so, finally, I’ll take this as my opportunity to thank them for all their support over the years. Merci/gracias!’

Many, many thanks to Lucy for the great blog post and we wish you all the very best for the MSc and life beyond!

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From Summer Schools to Shoe Selling: Languages are Everywhere

Another new week gets underway and another great batch of articles by some of our students (and soon-to-be graduates!), starting off with this post by Mairi who has just finished off Year 2 of her degree:

‘It is very bizarre to think that I am now half-way through my undergraduate degree at Stirling. Since my last blog post, back in 2016, I have changed my degree to French and Spanish and have been using my newly acquired language skills in various jobs.

Last summer I worked at an English Language School based here at the University of Stirling. I worked with young people aged 11-17 as an Activity Leader. In this job I often spoke Spanish as many of the students were from Santander and Valencia. I hadn’t realised just how good it felt when I was able to successfully communicate in a language that was not my own. This is when my confidence in speaking French and Spanish really began to improve. I wasn’t scared to make mistakes and even just using a few foreign words here and there helped me to better understand Spanish pronunciation.

The summer school isn’t the only place I’ve been able to practice my language skills outwith Uni. In the last few months, I’ve started a job in a shoe store. I didn’t think I would be speaking much French or Spanish but about a month ago I had a French family come in and the grand-mother didn’t speak much English. I overheard her speaking in French and before I could overthink it, I answered her English question in French. She seemed delighted and I think relieved to not have to tip-toe her way around English (as we all do when speaking a language that is not our own). The same day I had a Venezuelan lady come in with her son and again I was able to speak to her in Spanish. Her son was just learning English and she said he was too shy to practice, I told him, in what was probably grammatically poor Spanish, that I understood how he felt because I too was learning another language. I think that whenever you have the opportunity to practice your languages, you should because when you get something right, it really helps to boost your confidence. And, in my experience, people warm to you more when they see you are trying to communicate with them in their mother tongue.

In February I visited my old high school to discuss the importance of languages and my experiences studying them at Stirling. I spoke to students in their 4th and 5th years and answered questions they had about languages, student life and just generally gave them tips with applying to university. I met with my French teachers who had taught me since I was 12 and it was interesting to hear what they had to say about their experiences at Uni, it all felt quite grown up. All in all, it was good to share my experiences of learning French and Spanish with people who were just beginning to consider a career in it.

2018 Mairi Edwards Pic 1I think all French students would agree with me in saying that the teaching in the department is fantastic. Staff are more than happy to help and really to go the extra mile for their students. I have especially enjoyed parlé classes with Mathilde and Brigitte this year as well as matière seminars with Cristina. That’s not to say that it’s been an easy year what with the industrial action affecting teaching and just naturally the course being more difficult. It really has been an enjoyable year but I’m looking forward to some time-off!

2018 Mairi Edwards Pic 2One of the aspects that has really made my time at Uni wonderful is my friends in the French module. Because the module is quite small, everyone knows everyone which for me, makes classes a lot less daunting. I’ve been lucky to have met such lovely and like-minded people and I’m really looking forward to another year with them. Although it will likely be a difficult year for us, it’ll be exciting to spend a semester abroad in France (or Spain). That’s all from me for now, thanks for reading. À bientôt.’

Many thanks to Mairi for the great update – enjoy the Summer break and we look forward to seeing you again in the Autumn, and to finding out where Semester 6 will take you!

Untold stories, untold history

It’s really great to be getting a chance to alternate between articles by students who are reaching the end of their undergrad studies with us in French at Stirling and those who’re at various different stages of the process so, following Alexia’s post, this time we have an article by Jeanne who will be graduating next month:

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 2 May18‘Studying International Management and Intercultural Studies at the University of Stirling has led me to choose the right path for my future studies and work orientation. Indeed, I initially thought I would opt for a career in international business, although I wanted to keep all my options open (a career in translation perhaps) as I wasn’t sure just yet.

Throughout this degree, I have had the chance to study topics such as colonial history, collaboration and feminism in France. As a French citizen with slave ancestors (from Martinique) and a woman, being able to study these subjects (which are still taboo in my home country) and being granted greater access to a part of my identity has been an amazing experience.

In a sense, I had found the answers to many of my pending questions. So, I chose to change my degree to International Management with European Languages and Societies (without the final year in the management school in Strasbourg) as I still had many questions which remained unanswered and my curiosity was as high as it could be regarding taboos in French as well as Spanish history.

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 8 May18As I also study Spanish, during my third year, I had the chance to go to Spain, at the University of Granada for my Compulsory Semester Abroad with the Erasmus programme. I also successfully applied for a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for my Semester Abroad. These are Scottish research grants for students from Scottish Universities going to study in EU countries or for foreign EU students coming to Scotland to promote Scottish culture and enhance mutual EU belongingness through research and mine enabled me to examine whether Spaniards encountered the same difficulty as the French to teach some of their ‘dark history’: the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, something I had studied in depth in Scotland and France.

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 3 May18Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to visit various “lieux de mémoire” such as Garcia Lorca’s home in Granada or Franco’s tomb near Madrid. I also visited museums (Museum of War in Toledo, Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid–where you can see Guernica) and bought many books. The project pushed me to talk to many people: librarians, high school teachers, random people in the street, lecturers, guides, friends… allowing me to collect many varied and enriching opinions on the subject, while enhancing my language skills, grasping the culture and understanding my host country a lot better.

During our semester abroad, we also had to conduct a Research Project, for Stirling this time, and I chose to do it on “Modernisation in Spain: through the study of religion”. Actually, from abroad, I had the impression that Spaniards were practicing, rigorous Catholics, and I wanted to understand why, if that is true, they voted in favour of same sex marriage in 2005 (having in mind that a fiercely secular country like France only voted in favour in 2013). I loved doing field research for this project, confirming once more my decision to do research in the future. As with the Stevenson scholarship, it was another great opportunity to meet locals, make friends and learn from others such as during the impressive street processions of “Semana Santa” where families and friends gather each year.2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 6 May18

In this past year, I applied to an MLitt by Research in Transnational Cultures at the University of Aberdeen, focused on post-colonialism and I can’t wait to start. I would like to continue with a PhD and hopefully become a university researcher, to study the impact of the “untold history” on our identity.’

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 4 May18

Many thanks to Jeanne for finding the time to send us this post and best of luck for the MLitt in the Granite City – we look forward to hearing how things are going over the months and years ahead. And we can promise posts by French at Stirling’s 2018 Stevenson Scholars over the weeks ahead…

Camaraderie and the price of croissants!

Following on from Stuart’s update earlier, another follow-up post here from Eilidh Wynd who has just finished her 2nd year on the BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society:

‘2 years of Stirling University, where have you gone? It doesn’t feel so long ago that I last posted for the blog, saying how excited I was for my future time in the languages department and what I was looking forward to. Now, it’s 18 months on, older and wiser (apparently), I have reached the half way stage in my degree. It has been a tough but rewarding journey, so I thought I would update you on how the course has been and what adventures are yet to come.

Naturally, when studying any language, you have grammar classes. I would like to personally thank Jean-Michel for putting up with us in these classes. Whether it’s supporting us through imperfect subjunctive-based meltdowns or praising us when we finally grasp the difference between a direct and indirect object pronoun, he has been a rock for all of us on the course and his dedication to us reflects the whole teaching staff within the French department.

Alongside grammar, a personal highlight has been the weekly speaking sessions. With topics ranging from ‘are ghosts real’ to the influence of the media on young people, we have covered a range of issues. These classes are only made more enjoyable by the professors who never fail to entertain us with a story or two, and regularly give us handy tips for when we go abroad.

Finally, we have our culture classes where we discover more about past and present France. I have found these very insightful and I now have a much deeper understanding of the French way of life and their underlying morals. Through studying a variety of films and books, we have all managed to identify the differences between Scotland and France and understand France’s culture better.

2018 Eilidh Wynd Year 2 Pic II May18An important factor I want to highlight in this post is the camaraderie within the French module. Unlike modules such as business or sports studies, French is much smaller so there is a massive feeling of team work and community. Through this module, I have met some of my closest friends and had many a lunch or coffee break with class mates to discuss very important French issues…such as “do you think croissants are more expensive or cheaper in France than here?” I personally feel that’s an important issue anyway!

Due to studying both French and Spanish, I must complete time in both countries. Since I decided I would go to Spain for my semester abroad next year, I have successfully been accepted to do a 3-week internship at La Giraudière in Bordeaux at the end of August. I am very excited for this adventure where I will work and live amongst locals, experience living in a foreign country and, of course, sample some of the local delicacies.

2018 Eilidh Wynd Year 2 Pic I May18So, that’s a wrap from me. Despite, snow, strikes and stress, myself and everyone on the French course believe we are on the best module. Here’s to the next two years and hopefully we can progress through them as well as we have progressed through the previous years. I would like to end on a quote (I am famous for loving a good quote) which I believe represents the French module and the true co-operation and encouragement between students; “Les amis: une famille dont on a choisi les membres”- Alphonse Karr. Over and out x’

Many thanks to Eilidh for taking the time to send us this update and we’re looking forward to hearing how the internship goes later in the Summer – all the best for it!

 

Off to Quebec…

About a year ago, the blog ran a series of articles by students who were just reaching the end of their first year studying French at Stirling. One year on, we thought it’d be good to see how things were going so here’s the first of the follow-up articles by Stuart Close who has just finished the 2nd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish:

2018 Stuart Close Year 2 profile follow-up pic2.docx‘Salut encore! Now that another year of French at Stirling has come to an end, I’d like to share my experiences of the 2nd year of the course. Overall, the format of the module is the same as last year: Culture, written language and oral. The difference this year, in my opinion, is the complexity of written language and oral. I enjoyed discussing topics that could well come up in conversation with francophones, and complex grammatical structures that although difficult, have had a significant effect on my confidence in speaking French. The culture topics this year have been a good variety – from the experience of French Jewish people in World War 2, colonial atrocities and conflicts; to Quebec cinema and the representation of French Muslims.

2018 Stuart Close Year 2 profile follow-up pic 1.docxI like to monitor my progress in French in real life settings each year. This year I was able to practice in two instances. Firstly, during reading week I travelled through Switzerland to parts of France near the border such as Evian-les-Bains and St Louis. And secondly, during the semester I had French cousins of my girlfriend round at my flat for what was meant to be just a night. However, owing to the ‘beast from the east’, they ended up staying for the better part of a week, which was an excellent opportunity to practice my French during visits to the pub or even a game of ‘cards against humanity’ which needed to be interpreted.

I feel that the course materials and assessments this year have given me a great foundation for my British council placement in Quebec later this year, and I hope to come back to third year with a solid level of French (and hopefully not too strong an accent!). Au revoir!’

Many thanks to Stuart for taking the time to send us this update and we look forward to tales of life in Quebec over the year ahead – good luck with the ELA!

More follow-ups and other articles to follow soon…

 

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!!

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…