A little flurry of blog posts will appear over the next couple of days as various plans and projects involving staff and students in French at Stirling take shape and I’m very pleased to be able to start the ball rolling with another blog post by one of our graduates from last year. Henry Caffarena finished his BA Hons in French and Spanish this time last year and has very kindly taken the time to send us this update on where life and languages have taken him since then:
“I have nothing but good things to say about my time studying French at Stirling. I would say that the course is both diverse and challenging as it offers an ample approach to the language itself and its cultural spread across the globe. Furthermore, I also found the course very welcoming to students with different levels. Overall, it helped me improve my French and has definitely contributed to my success in landing a traineeship at the European Commission in Brussels, Europe’s political capital where speaking French is essential.
So far, these past 2 months at Commission have been a time of learning and networking. I am working in a multicultural and multilingual environment and everyday is different and challenging. Unfortunately, I can’t go into much detail about what I do because of confidentiality clauses and boring blabla, but all in all, I am happy. Speaking languages is a massive +1 when you are applying for jobs. Recruiters know they can train people to do the job in a few weeks/months, but teaching you a language that is vital to their business? That’s a different story.
At present, I am halfway through my Traineeship and have recently been interviewing with Gartner, the information technology research and advisory company. I know what you must be thinking – take a chill pill. To be honest, it was my intention to take a little break from work after my traineeship but they were looking for graduates who spoke French and I couldn’t resist. Hopefully I will get a call with good news soon. I guess what I’m trying to say is that languages open doors and there are doors all over the world! French is a very important language spoken in many different places and there are plenty of organisations in the private and public sector in need of your skills.”
Best of luck to Henry for the Gartner interview – keep us posted! – and thanks again for taking the time to send this post.
For our students who will be graduating with degrees involving French in June this year, the exams and assessment for French are now over, the essays have all been submitted, and we wanted to get a chance to share the plans of those who’ll be in our 2017 graduating class. They don’t all know what they’re going to do once they graduate and their plans may well change over the months ahead but, just as a snapshot of the range of directions our languages graduates end up going in, here goes, in no particular order:
Emily, who’ll be graduating with Single Honours French, is “planning to go into firefighting and just waiting for the next recruitment drive, doing whatever else pays the rent in the meantime. I don’t know where I’ll end up doing this in the long run, but I’m very happy to be able to have Montreal and the south of France as strong contenders.” Mareike, who’ll be graduating in Psychology with a European Language, is off to Bournemouth where she’ll be embarking on an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour (and hopefully finding ways to keep going with French). Sarah, who will be graduating with Single Honours French, has already relocated to Italy where she is working as an assistant park manager for a company on a French campsite. She worked as an employee for the company for the last two summers in France and since finishing university has moved up the ranks thanks to earning her degree, and having more experience. She says this is “a great way to work abroad and meet new people whilst also giving you the chance to live and experience French culture outside of university.”
Lysiane, whose degree is in French and Spanish, is planning on doing a postgraduate degree at Stirling in Strategic Communications and Public Relations. Her plan is to be able to apply for jobs in the future with skills in languages and in another field such as marketing or public relations because “most of the jobs I have been looking at are looking for people with language skills along with something else. I think this postgraduate degree will give me more experience and knowledge so that one day I might be able to become a PR in the hotel business or the airlines.” As for Kitti, who studied French and Global Cinema with us, a TEFL course beckons and she plans “to move to Grenoble for a year or two to teach English and in the meantime work on my French until it’s perfect. At the moment I’m doing an interpreting job and I love it, but I feel like with Hungarian there are not enough opportunities, so it would be good to add French to the list. Plus, I would love to try teaching so I think this would be a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.”
For Hannah, who’ll be graduating in French, teaching also lies ahead but in a different context: “After graduation, my plan is to complete a PGDE Primary course at UWS. My very rough business plan for this summer is to start up a French club for babies/toddlers and their parents/guardians where they will be able to learn some nursery rhymes and basic numbers, colours, and animals in preparation for starting French in primary school.” Alex, who’ll also be graduating in French, “will be working an internship in project management/operations for Ironman (the triathlon company, not Robert Downey Jr. sadly!) until October and then I will begin work as a Management Trainee at Enterprise Rent a Car on their graduate scheme. At some point in the next 5 years, having gained some business experience, I will seek to do a Masters or MBA (likely at Stirling) in order to improve my chances with larger employers.”
Julie, who started studying Japanese (informally) alongside her French and English Studies degree, is keen to get the opportunity to develop those language skills further so has applied to “Waseda University and the International Christian University in Japan for a postgraduate degree (Comparative Cultures at ICU and Culture and Communication at Waseda). In case I’m not accepted, I have also applied for a job at two different teaching companies that provide English teaching in Japan (Aeon and Gaba). I also plan to apply at Interac, which is a company that hires Assistant teachers to help with English teaching at Japanese High Schools and Junior High Schools. I am quite determined to get to Japan in one way or another, so I’m hoping…” We’ll keep our fingers firmly crossed! And Luise, a student of French and Spanish, has similarly potentially intercontinental travel on the horizon, having been accepted for an English teaching assistantship in Colombia. For administrative reasons, that might or might not work out, and, in the meantime, Luise has a summer job in Deanston Distillery (as a tour guide): “If Colombia does not work out, I might just stay in Scotland until October and work, then return to Germany and work there (helping families with new-born babies. My au pair experience will come in handy here.) In spring I will look for another opportunity to teach English in South America or Asia, something will eventually work out. I am hoping to get a certificate for teaching German later on – but first I need some experience. Should I feel that I am not a good teacher, I will go into translation (English and Spanish into German).”
Another of our Single Honours French students, Rebecca, is delighted to have just found out that she will be “heading to Canada for the British Council in August. It was a lengthy process and a nerve-racking wait but I now have a position in a secondary school as an English Language Assistant.” And Colm, who has been studying French and Spanish with us, is planning to spend the Summer and possibly the next year working to save some money to be able to undertake a Masters in Translation and Interpreting the following year. And if that doesn’t work out, he and Kitti have grand plans involving taking photos of students proudly holding dissertations on the banks of the beautiful campus lake…
We’ll update this post as and when we hear back from other students among this year’s finalists and, most importantly, we wish them all the very best of luck for the future, wherever it might take them!
“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.
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.
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!
We’re at the end of our first week of teaching of the new semester here and, as those entering their final semester as undergrads start to think much more about what lies ahead, this seems a good point to post another account of life after Stirling from one of our recent graduates. Stewart Hogarth graduated in French and Spanish in 2015 and has plans for a career in translation with key world institutions:
‘It has been just over eighteen months since I graduated from the University of Stirling with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in French and Spanish. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, yet sometimes, I wonder where the time has gone.
I have a lot of fond memories of my time at Stirling. I come from the Isle of Bute in the West of Scotland which has a population of just under 7,000 people. At the time, I was not accustomed to life in the city and living and working in such a multicultural environment, so in that respect, Stirling felt like a good fit for me. It was neither too large nor too small. It must have one of the most spectacular campuses in the world. It sounds silly, but having grown up surrounded by water on Bute, I took comfort in the fact that I could walk to my classes and look down upon the Airthrey loch or see the Ochil hills in the distance. It was a home away from home.
I would never be so presumptuous to think that I have mastered the art of speaking French and Spanish, but it is undeniable that I feel a lot more confident in my ability to express myself for having sat through (most of the) classes and been encouraged to develop my communication skills by an EXTREMELY patient staff. Even now I miss the awkward silences that filled the air at the start of Bernadette’sLangage Parlé hour when everyone was either too nervous to start the conversation or looking at each other with bated breath hoping that they wouldn’t be asked first. It’s the little things.
My undergraduate degree also afforded me the opportunity to spend a semester abroad at the Université de Genève in Switzerland where I studied French in the Faculté de traduction et d’interprétation. After overcoming the initial homesickness and litany of basic linguistic errors, I settled down and began to appreciate just how good I actually had it. Aside from studying in a top-class institution, I also managed to fit in a fair bit of sight-seeing and even got to see Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka limbering up for a Davis Cup tie. I would often go down and sit by Lac Leman with a “poulet curry” baguette in hand looking over at the Jet d’Eau. Ah, those were the days!
So, what have I been doing since? After graduating, I applied to do a Master’s degree in Translating at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. I enjoyed my undergraduate degree at Stirling, but felt I should attempt to specialise in a specific discipline and given the fact I somehow bagged an award for French translation in my Honours year, I thought that area might as well be Translating.
The course at Heriot-Watt was very much geared towards preparing students for life in the workplace with modules in a range of areas such as Interpreting (the less said about my performance in that subject, the better), Translation Technologies and Business Communication. The campus was strikingly similar to Stirling and also featured a loch running through it. The easy access to large expanses of water is not a pre-condition of whether or not I decide to attend a particular university by the way. Trust me!
It has been a strange feeling since leaving Heriot-Watt. It is the first time since I was a toddler where I have had no school or university looming on the horizon to keep me busy, although I am not complaining about having some much needed time off. I have two interesting options to pursue in the near future. I have applied for a Translation Traineeship at the Directorate-General for Translation at the EU in Brussels. While the Brexit vote may limit job opportunities in the future, the UK has not left yet and as long as you are from a member state, you can still apply for such initiatives. You also get a bursary for each month which is pretty handy. I have been fortunate enough to be pre-selected for the block starting in March and ending in July. I think it would be an interesting and unique experience to be able to work in such a large institution albeit for a brief period. I am also in the process of applying to sit the English translator’s exam for the United Nations. In order to be eligible to apply for jobs within the UN, you must have sat the Language Competitive Examination (LCE) and know at least two of the UN’s official languages which are Arabic, Chinese, Russian, French, Spanish and English. While it will undoubtedly be an arduous process, I feel much more confident in my abilities for having studied at Stirling and learned from some of the best in the business. It would also be nice to secure a return to Geneva in a professional capacity as there happens to be a UN office based there. Applications are open until February 8th and I would encourage anyone interested to have a look at the UN careers website, although not at the expense of your studies. I know for a fact you will have plenty to be getting on with.’
Many thanks to Stewart for this article and for the good advice for students interested in translation as a career, and best of luck with the traineeship. We look forward to hearing about your progress over the months and years ahead!
Teaching ended here last Friday and our students have just finished their oral exams and handed in last essays of the semester so – apart from now waiting for feedback and grades… and the occasional exam in other subjects – it’s time to settle into the festive break until the new semester in January. To mark the occasion, our Language Assistants Brigitte Depret (for French) and Maria Sanchez (for Spanish), organised a pre-Christmas get-together for Year 3 and 4 students yesterday and Brigitte has very kindly written the following post with plenty of positive thoughts on the semester that’s ending from those in attendance!
‘As the semester is drawing to a close, and the exams are over, a Christmas party co-hosted by our Spanish colleagues, was the perfect opportunity to ask our 3rd and 4th year students what the highlights of the semester have been for them.
Colm, a final year BA Hons French and Spanish student, has found the shift back to Stirling after his Semester Abroad in Spain challenging but says “we were lucky to have extra oral classes this year. These were really helpful to me. We are also lucky to have very friendly staff here, and interesting classes to keep us motivated.” Colm’s fellow final year French and Spanish student, Luise says she is “really happy with the language class where the students are encouraged to take part. Our small classes are ideal to work in and it makes learning French a very enjoyable experience.”
David, Lysiane, Conni and Jennifer, who are all also taking both French and Spanish in their final year, were equally positive about the past semester. David enjoyed both the weekly written and spoken language classes this semester: “With Mathilde, in our Spoken Language class, we speak about current affairs, French culture and French society, which keeps us up-to-date with everything we should know about France. It’s a class-based discussion, with lots of interaction in a relaxed atmosphere. I was lucky to have Cristina for written language. As a teacher, she is very approachable and always there to help. Anytime you need support, she’s there.” For Lysiane, “Talking about current affairs, politics have been especially helpful to understand the French society. My teachers were all lovely, especially Cristina who did help a lot in translation. It has helped me to expand my vocabulary and gain more confidence. It was also a great human experience. At Stirling, there’s a real feeling of community.” And Conni and Jennifer are clear that “Our confidence has improved a lot, thanks to great tutors.”
Alongside the weekly oral classes, our French Language Assistants, Brigitte and Mathilde, also scheduled shorter individual and paired slots for further opportunities to speak French throughout the semester for our Year 3 and 4 students, something that seems to have been particularly appreciated by Brett: “I really enjoyed the course, because it opens lots of room to progress, especially because of the extra one-to-one language slots we were offered this year. I am glad I had the opportunity to improve in a well-structured environment and thanks to small classes.” And for Anna, a Year 3 French and Spanish student, the “highlight was the written class which I enjoyed very much. The articles we read in class were really interesting. They widened my knowledge in the realm of politics and French society.”
Determined not to be out-done, our Year 2 students also got into the festive spirit, deciding to wrap up the semester with a Xmas Jumper challenge during their Language Class. The idea came after they talked about fashion as one of the topics of the Language class in November. They wanted to do something funny and memorable, and then the idea of a Hawaiian shirt came up… Alas, weather not permitting, they had to give up on that idea and Xmas jumper, it was! Two students arrived dressed as Santa with some balloons and nice treats for everybody, while the majority, including our tutor had on their very fashionable jumpers…
For Jack, who is in the 2nd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish with Professional Secondary Education, the “Langage Parlé sessions have been relaxed, fun and informative. I greatly look forward to this class every week where we just sit down and spend an hour speaking French. Whether it’s stereotypes or Siberian Skiing, fashion or Facebook, the LP class has given me the opportunity to improve my ability to express my opinions and I feel more confident using French in conversation.”
Another group of dynamic students was also up for the Xmas jumper challenge. On that occasion, Rebecca (in the middle, below) went the extra mile to bring us chocolates, cupcakes and biscuits. Who said we can’t speak French, learn and have fun at the same time?!!
And finally, for Amy, who is in the 2nd year of her BA Hons in Primary Education with Modern Languages, “French this year has been great. I really enjoy the written grammar classes as it gives me the opportunity to practice the grammar that is so necessary for us during exams. Langage Parlé classes are also really good as you get the necessary practice speaking French in a very relaxed and unpressured setting. It’s been a really helpful and fun semester.”‘
Many thanks to Brigitte for putting together this blog post and to the students for their positive and kind words! Enjoy your break and joyeuses fêtes! We look forward to welcoming back our Year 4 students (and Year 2 and 1, of course!) in the New Year and to hearing tales of Semester Abroad adventures next Autumn from our Year 3 students.
It seems particularly appropriate to be posting these profiles of current students the day before our Winter graduations, news of which will follow!
“My name is Doganay and I’m from Hertfordshire which is in the South East of England. I am currently a French and Law (BA) undergraduate at the University of Stirling. I have always had an interest in studying French but I did not know what I could combine with French. This led me to research a wide range of universities courses and I came across Stirling which was offering a varied selection of subjects such as French and Journalism; French and Business; French and Law and the list goes on.
My first impression of Stirling University was just ‘WOW’ on the Open Day. I mean the university speaks for itself – it has plenty of fresh air and lots of friendly people which makes it just a positive place to study and live. The University of Stirling has a very flexible degree program which allows students to study three modules per semester which I think is excellent as it gives the students the opportunity to study different modules. With regards to the French department, my experience has been really positive and the department are very organised with what they do and how they teach. We are now almost at the end of Semester I and I feel that I have learned and improved so much within a short period of time. Like many other French students, I am part of “Parlons Français”, which is Stirling’s French student society of Stirling. This society meets once or twice a week offering events such as cheese and wine nights, pub quizzes, French films, and many other opportunities to enhance your French and meet French native speakers. Overall, my experience at Stirling university gets better and better every day.”
“Bonjour! My name is Jasmine Brady and I am currently in my second year studying International Management Studies with European Languages and Society. I didn’t really know where I wanted to study before I chose the university of Stirling but as soon as I came here for an Open Day I knew it was the right place for me. The campus is absolutely breath-taking, a sight you certainly aren’t able to see on Glasgow or Edinburgh campuses. When I visited I had already researched the courses available and knew I needed to speak to the various (French and Spanish) departments to gain more information. Everyone I spoke to was friendly, knowledgeable and managed to answer every question I had… which was lots!
My experience with the department thus far has been great. The tutors are always there when you have a question, need help or just want someone to talk to. I have particularly enjoyed the culture element of the French modules I have studied as I had never studied French culture in much depth before. I would absolutely recommend and encourage anyone thinking about studying French at the University of Stirling to do so as I’m sure when I look back in years to come on the friends I’ve made from my French classes, that the good times we’ve had will be among them as some of the greatest memories I have of my university experience.”
Many thanks to Doganay and to Jasmine for these blog posts and we hope you enjoy a well-deserved Christmas break!
Rachael Ringland graduated with a BA Hons in French and Spanish just over a year ago and we’re delighted to get a chance to post this update on what she’s been up to since graduating and how many doors a degree in languages has opened for her.
“It has been just over a year since I graduated. June 2015 was a slightly terrifying month because everything I had known for the past five years was coming to an end. At this point I should stress how much I genuinely loved university; it was an experience I could have never predicted.
The University of Stirling itself is fantastic, from its breath-taking scenery to the fantastic amenities on campus, it truly is an amazing place to spend your days at uni. I had the privilege of studying French and Spanish, and I honestly couldn’t fault anything within the department. The tutors are wonderful people, there’s a great range of modules in 3rd and 4th year which allow you to concentrate on your strongest or favourite subject, and a lot of help and support readily available should you need it. For me, exams were sometimes a pain because both French and Spanish departments set their exams around the same time, but unlike many of my friends I was able to get everything over and done with extremely quickly (silver linings!).
It has to be said, though, that the best part about studying languages is the opportunity to live abroad. When I was at school, I considered myself to be a home bird; I had never left Northern Ireland for longer than a couple of weeks before I came to Stirling, and to be honest the thought of living in Scotland was terrifying at first, never mind in France or Spain where I didn’t even speak the language (fluently!). But I went. I chose to work in France as an English Language Assistant then study in Spain the next year.
I could get carried away so easily here, so I will try not to babble! My time abroad has completely changed my life: I have made so many friends from all over the world and met so many amazing people who have had a massive impact on my life. I’m actually just back from a visit to Wales, where I was visiting two girls I met only four years ago whilst we were in France. I now consider them two of my closest friends and I can’t even imagine my life without them. The experience of teaching English was so surreal. I was in a Lycée and my students ranged from 15-22 and every one of them was at a different level. I say surreal because at the time I was only 20 and many of my students were older than me! They found it hysterical, obviously. Studying in a different language was a pretty intense experience too, but it really paid off. In fact in my last semester I was much more confident and obtaining better marks in exams than before!
Since leaving university I have started working. At the beginning I was considering going into teaching, but having taken so long to decide I actually missed my application deadlines (awkward) so I decided to get a job in the meantime to keep myself busy and to earn my own money after having lived on student loans for so long. I applied for everything going for a month or two until I finally got a job at Holland and Barrett. Interestingly enough, my time abroad and my degree was a massive deciding factor during my first interview. I applied for a supervisor role, and obviously my future boss had to decide whether or not I was responsible enough to be in charge of other people! She also had to gauge how capable I was to do the mountain of training I had to undertake before being fully qualified. I assured her I was well used to studying and working hard, and thankfully she took my word for it! She was very impressed that I had spent time abroad and was amazed that I had teaching experience at the age of 20. I honestly believe that was one of the main reasons she hired me, so even though my interview wasn’t for anything language-based, my skills have proven to be completely transferable!
I am still working at Holland and Barrett over a year on and I genuinely love it. In May I attended the company conference (it was a Carnival conference!) and whilst there I attended a talk on the company’s expansion- we now have branches all over the world from China to UAE, and more importantly in Spain and Gibraltar. I am in the process of working my way through the training and climbing the company ladder so that one day I can go and run their new branch in Gibraltar (or France if they ever open one…). At the minute I am also looking in to TEFL and TESOL courses with a view to becoming a fully qualified English teacher. I decided that teaching French and Spanish is not, in fact, the route I would like to pursue, so I am building upon my experience as an ELA. It would give me much more flexibility teaching English, and it’s something I could use in any country should I decide to pack up and explore the world for another few years. At the moment I am leaning towards doing a course online, simply because it will allow me to continue to work full time and save up for any upcoming adventures I may plan! But I noticed Stirling is offering an MSc TESOL course too so my decision has been swayed again! Watch this space…”
We will, indeed, watch this space and hope to maybe get a chance to welcome Rachael back to Stirling to do that TESOL MSc! In the meantime, though, thank you for this blog post and all the best for the current job.