Tag: French and Spanish

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!!

Advertisements

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…

Student Successes: Prizes and Graduating Students

On the day our finalists have received their degree results (félicitations à toutes et à tous!!), it seems particularly appropriate to post congratulations to all those French at Stirling students who have been awarded prizes for outstanding performances across our year groups.

In Semesters 1-3, we run both an Advanced stream (for all those with Higher or Advanced Higher French, or equivalent) and a Beginners’ stream (for those with no formal qualifications in French or whose previous studies are from years and years back) and we award prizes in both streams. This year, Prize for the Best Performance by a Year 1 Student in the A Stream goes to Jennifer Graham who is studying Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages and the Prize for the Best Performance in Year 1 by a B Stream student goes to English and French student, Laura Castane Bassa.

Best Performance by an A Stream student in Year 2 goes to International Politics and Languages student Stefano Intropido (who was also recently awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship) while Charlene Hoag, who is studying French and History, has won the Prize for the Best Performance by a former B Stream student in Year 2 (Advanced and Beginners’ streams merge in Semester 4).

Our annual Simone de Beauvoir Prize for French which is awarded every year to a graduating student on a French programme for the best performance across their Honours modules has been won by David Vescio who has been studying French and Spanish with us, and Hannah Northfield, who has just completed her BA Hons in French, has been awarded the Translation Prize for French, thanks to excellent grades in translation assessments across her final year.

Many, many congratulations to all our prize-winners from all of French at Stirling!

French at Stirling: ‘Interesting and comprehensive’

2017 Andrea Kolluder Student Profile PicThe last of the student profiles for this week comes from Andrea Kolluder who has also just reached the end of the first year of her degree programme here with us:

“Hello, my name is Andrea. I’ve just finished first year on my Integrated Master’s degree in International Management and Intercultural Studies. I’m studying French and Spanish as the language side of my degree. I will also be spending my 5th year studying for the Master Grande Ecole component of my degree at the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg, which I am already excited about even though it is still far away on the timeline.

My choice of Stirling University was perhaps a little unconventional. To put my life in a nutshell, I am from Hungary originally but I have spent most of my life living abroad. I finished secondary school in Ireland and took a much longer gap year period than most. I spent some time training to be a tour guide, worked in tourism in three different countries and four years later I ended up in Scotland for my university education.

My decision to coming to study here at the University of Stirling was mostly based on the degree options available. I found the courses available really suited all the things I wanted to gain a more in-depth knowledge of in order to continue to grow in my understanding of languages and cultures. After all, I am hoping to make a living out of being familiar with foreign languages and cultures.

The great location of Stirling also played a big part in my decision. I really liked the idea that Stirling is so close to major cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh without actually being in the middle of the busy large cities. To me this meant less distraction from my studies, with the option of having fun in a bigger city still close at hand if the mood were to strike for a change of scenery. I never actually made it to any of the open days for Stirling University before making my decision to come here, but once I arrived in Stirling I knew straight away that I had made the right choice. The gorgeous campus looked even better in real life than in the pictures I had seen online. It was of course even more lovely as last September was actually beautifully sunny and mild.

I have found studying French at Stirling very interesting and comprehensive. I have always been a bookworm, so I particularly enjoyed being introduced to so many different types and styles of French literature. The background history paired with the pieces of literature was a new way of improving language skills for me, but I feel like it really helped my French and I’m looking forward to the materials of the years ahead. My ultimate goal is to be able to read Alexandre Dumas’ books in French someday. Still have a long way to go, but I feel that the years of study ahead will help me get there.”

Many thanks to Andrea for this great blog post and we look forward to posting a review of Dumas in some future semester!

 

French at Stirling: ‘Relaxed and welcoming atmosphere in classes’

As promised, these few weeks will see a series of blog posts profiling some of our current students, so we’re delighted to get a chance to post the next of these with this article by Stuart Close, who has just completed his first year with us:

dav“Salut! I’m Stuart Close and I’m studying a BA Hons French and Spanish at Stirling University. I started learning French when I was still in primary school and was exposed to strange (but great) French movies from an early age! I considered it my main subject all the way up to Advanced Higher where I was the only Advanced Higher pupil in my school for a year! After trying French at another Uni and not enjoying the way it was being taught, I looked elsewhere and found Stirling Uni. It was far enough from my home town of Dunoon to still give me what I felt was ‘the Uni experience’ and offered more of a broader study of the languages and cultures they belong to rather than the narrower focus of how I’d seen French taught previously.

I have now finished my first year of Uni and I’m happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The way French is taught here is that it’s broken into three segments: langage écrit (writing and grammar), langage parlé (and listening) and matière which focuses on French history, literature and film. Both the langage classes are well taught and engaging, and the tutors keep learning complex grammar rules and speaking out loud in a foreign language fresh and fun by sprinkling in stories of their experiences learning English or French. With the culture side of things, topics such as the First World War, or the French Revolution, are introduced and then you get to see the French perspective and writings or films to study on them. One thing I really enjoyed from Matière was getting to study a graphic novel (bande dessinée), Tardi’s Putain de guerre. I don’t think you would get this experience in any other language study and, as these are a big part of French culture, it was a welcome change from poems or short stories.

Overall, I would highly recommend studying French at Stirling. The relaxed and welcoming atmosphere in the classes often makes it feel less like a class and more of a club.”

Thanks to Stuart for taking the time to write this. We’re really pleased Year 1 has gone so well and look forward to updates as your degree progresses!

 

“Languages Open Doors”: From Stirling to a Traineeship in Brussels

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:

2017 Henry Caffarena photo“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.

 

“To Infinity and Beyond…”: 2017 Finalists’ Future Plans

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!