After a brief lull in blog activities while everyone caught their breath after a busy end of academic year, it’s great to be able to pick things up again and particularly good to start a new round of blog posts with two articles by students who have just graduated in this year’s cohort. This first article is by Charlotte Cavanagh who graduated last month with a BA Hons in French and Journalism:
“Having just recently graduated, I have had the opportunity to reflect about my time spent at the University of Stirling, the memories I have made; the majority of which are positive, and how studying at the university has prepared me for the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed my course of study from start to finish: There were modules that interested me, friendly peers and a French department who were always within reach. A combination of these things has made my time at Stirling enjoyable and I can happily say that my French language skills have vastly improved over the past 4 years.
As I continue to think about my time at the university, I realise that some of my most happy moments came from my time abroad doing both the British Council assistantship and Erasmus. As a French language student, the opportunity to go abroad not once but twice felt like a dream come true! I had the most amazing experiences abroad and I owe it all to Stirling and their brilliant languages department for providing me with such great opportunities.
I also feel the need to emphasise how supportive the French department were during my time at the university, especially in fourth year when I was panicking about what to do once I had graduated! The support from my personal tutor was indispensable. She told me that the skills you acquire from a languages degree can open a great number of doors and opportunities and she was right. Despite the panic of not knowing what I wanted to do after university, I have managed to land a job as a project coordinator in London, for a company that provides translation and many other language services to companies all around the world. I am excited to start this new chapter in my life and cannot wait to see where this opportunity will take me, but I will always look back fondly at my time at the University of Stirling and be grateful for the time I spent there.
If I was to give advice to anyone studying languages it would be the following: 1) If there is an opportunity to practice your language skills, whether that be abroad or in the classroom, take it. It is a daunting prospect, but the effort you put in really pays off. 2) There is no need to worry about the future. Languages students have a great many skills to show off about in the job market and speaking from experience, everything does fall into place.”
Many thanks to Charlotte for taking the time to write this post and all the very best for the new job! We look forward to updates over the months and years ahead.
As well as running a wide range of degree programmes combining French with one other subject, we also run three programmes in International Management, all of which have a core language component (French and/or Spanish) alongside Management and one other subject area, depending on the specific pathway. These degrees enable students to develop high-level skills across three disciplines and all include integral periods of Study Abroad. Our latest student profile comes from Matteo, who has just completed the first year of one of these degree programmes:
“Hello, my name is Matteo De Simone and I am studying International Management with European Languages and Society at the University of Stirling. I come from Taranto, a Southern Italian city located in Puglia; the heel of the boot of Italy. There I attended liceo classico, the Italian equivalent of High School. I studied a wide range of different subjects, but we mainly focused on Latin, Ancient Greek and Italian literature. Once I earned my diploma, I realised that I wanted to broaden my mind by learning new languages, travelling, meeting people from different cultural backgrounds and experiencing the world first-hand. This was, and is, my fuel; and steers me towards the field of Economics as well as towards learning other languages. This is why I decided to attend a school for interpreters and translators; speaking other languages means seeing life from different perspectives, a skill that helps aid better understanding of culture-specific decisions and issues, both economic and social. Moreover, I had the opportunity to improve my use of English and also begin to study French, a language I completely fell in love with; the sound of its words, the concise and straightforward grammar, and its reputation as the language of diplomacy are just some of the reasons I wanted to expand on my studies.
After working as an English/Italian interpreter for Boeing, I was looking for a new challenge, and heard about the University of Stirling. I found a course which was tailored to my needs and my wants; one which combines management theories and languages and would allow me a better understanding of different cultural and economic systems. I decided to take the plunge and apply, and here I am!
My French tutor is very passionate about teaching and tries to instil such passion in every student. This creates an ideal learning environment; in every French seminar, each student has the opportunity to practice their grammar by speaking, reading and carrying out exercises to improve their use of language, as well as broadening their knowledge of French culture.
This is what I look forward to – improving my knowledge of French grammar, as well as broadening my mind and understanding our world through different cultures, mind sets and opinions; reaping the full benefits from different experiences by seizing every opportunity offered by the world.”
Many thanks to Matteo for taking the time to write this article and we wish him all the best for the years ahead.
Over the past two days, French at Stirling has been playing host to around 200 school pupils and their teachers from across the Central Belt (and beyond). It’s been a packed couple of days with pupils who are just starting their French Highers and Advanced Highers getting a chance to find out what studying a language at University is like.
The days started with a mini-lecture on contemporary French society before the pupils were split into smaller seminar groups for a written language class in the morning. After lunch, it was back into smaller groups for a culture class focusing on extracts from a series of auto-portraits written by school pupils from Clichy-sous-Bois. The final session of the day brought all the pupils back together again for a series of presentations from a group of this year’s finalists, all talking about the benefits of Study Abroad and time abroad more generally, and then an employability-focused talk from our Employability and Skills Officer and a group of graduates from the past few years, talking about where French has taken them.
And while the pupils were busy with seminars and learning about study abroad and the employability benefits of studying a language, their teachers were whisked off for two CPD sessions led by Stirling academics. The first, led by Elizabeth Ezra, focused on approaches to teaching film and the afternoon session, led by Fiona Barclay, centred on assessment and feedback of culture-based essays in the language classroom.
We’d like to say thank you to everyone who came along – to the teachers for taking the time to do this and to all the pupils for participating so well over the course of the days. Thanks also go to Stirling staff who have been involved, as well as to PhD student Fanny Lacôte for giving up her time to help us, and to all the finalists and graduates who gave up their afternoons to come and tell the pupils about their experiences.
Feedback from our visitors and from French at Stirling staff has been extremely positive with pupils commenting about how much they enjoyed seeing what studying French at University is like and that they particularly appreciated hearing from our finalists and graduates, and we look forward to organising future schools events in the future. In the meantime, if you’re reading this and want a chance to find out more about studying with us, we have a recruitment Open Day this Saturday (17 June) and would be delighted to get a chance to tell you more there!
Félicitations to Annika, Nicolas and Stefano – three French at Stirling students who have just finished their 2nd year and who have each been awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship to help them undertake a project of research during their Semester Abroad next Spring. This is a great achievement for all three and we’ll post updates on their progress while they’re away on Study Abroad but we wanted to share their success.
The Stevenson Exchange Scholarships are awarded competitively each year with applicants from across all the Scottish Universities who have to submit an application including a research project outline and then attend an interview at Glasgow University. The range of topics Annika, Nicolas and Stefano will be exploring thanks to their scholarships gives a really good sense of the variety of research interests across undergraduate Languages students.
Nicolas’s project aims to build on time he has already spent working in the fashion industry near Milan in order to further pursue his interest in fashion and the development of the fashion industry in France. As well as attending events around Paris Fashion Week, he intends to visit the Musée de la Mode in Albi and the Musée de Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs in Lyon.
This year’s trio will be following previous Stirling Stevenson successes, including Jeanne who is currently in Granada for her Semester Abroad, having been awarded a Scholarship through Spanish at Stirling. Having already undertaken a good deal of research into the question of the teaching of ‘untold’ histories through discussions with teachers at school and University-level about their experiences teaching on aspects of Franco’s Spain, Jeanne is now planning to focus to expand her research to include visits to historical monuments. “I will visit the Centro Federico García Lorca, where there is a library, to see if the War and the dictatorship are depicted and if so, how. I will also visit the rest of the Provincial Prison of Granada, almost fully destroyed, and the Campana prison for political opponents during Francoism, and the Cartel de las Palmas (where torture used to be carried out). She’s also planning a trip to Madrid, to see Guernica, and to Toledo, to visit the Museum of War.
Félicitations once again, to both the new Stevenson Scholars and those currently completing their projects from this past year!
As our 3rd week of the new semester gets underway, it’s time to post another profile of one of our recent graduates, Meghann Richardson, who has some great advice here for current (and future!) languages students:
“I was at the University of Stirling from 2009-2014 where I studied Psychology and French. Out of all the Universities in Scotland, it was Stirling’s beautiful, wild campus and great on-site facilities that made me choose it.
My time at Uni was great. One of the biggest highlights was definitely the fact that working abroad for 7 months was a course component for French. I so enjoyed being abroad teaching English and would recommend it to anyone who is able to take a year out during their degree to go and do it. I particularly liked that it was between my 2nd and 3rd years of Uni as when I returned to start my 3rd year, I felt like my batteries had totally been recharged. I was really motivated to start studying hard again, plus, my French language skills had improved a lot making the transition into 3rd year much easier.
To anyone who is studying French and feeling a bit discouraged by the challenges of speaking and understanding the language, it will get easier! When I arrived in France for the start of my year abroad I felt like I could hardly string together a decent sentence, but after a while of just listening to people speak French and myself, trying to ask questions and contribute to conversations, the rhythm of the language, words and expressions just began to sink in without me even noticing. Sometimes words or phrases that I didn’t even know the meaning of would just be stuck in my head – proof that the language was starting to stick to me.
To help immerse yourself in the language and have the sensation of unknown words buzzing around your head while studying in Stirling, I would recommend any of the following:
Read a book that you enjoyed in English in French. For myself, it was any of the Harry Potter books. The more familiar you are with the sounds and appearances of words in French, the easier it will be for you to learn and acquire the language.
Listen to the radio. You can download French radio Apps to your smart phone or computer. Good stations are FM radio, NRJ, France Inter, or rfi. FM radio is fun to listen to because it is dedicated to playing French music only.
And, finally, practise your vocabulary. To help you do this in a more hands-on interactive kind of way, you could record yourself reciting vocabulary in French and English onto your computer or smart-phone, save the recordings as sound files, and upload them to any device you use to listen to music. Listen to them whenever you have a spare moment. This has always been one of the most helpful ways for me to learn and memorise vocabulary.
It is important to be patient with yourself and with the speed at which your life is progressing. It may take you a while to sort out what you want to be doing and where you want to be. Sometimes the only way to figure out what you do want is by trial and error, and more often than not, by figuring out what you don’t want. Keep trying different and new things and try not to become complacent. All the people you meet and experiences you have along the way will teach you more about yourself and eventually lead you to where you want to be and, ultimately, to the career you want to be doing. And if you find you want to change your direction again after that, go for it! That’s my philosophy anyway.
Before I close, I would like to leave you with a few revelations I have had since graduating:
This month it’s 2.5 years since I graduated. In these 2.5 years I have worked in a nightclub, a call centre, and as a healthcare assistant in a hospital, which is where I am now. At this point in time, I am trying to pursue the Psychology part of my degree and hope to be hired as an Assistant Psychologist within the next year. I would, however, like to highlight that it has taken me nearly 2 years after completing Uni to finally make a solid decision about the direction I would like to go in. For a long time I was just unsure about what I wanted to do and at the back of my mind kept thinking if I don’t figure out what I want to do soon I’ll just go to France and find a job on a campsite or something – And it remains at the back of my mind even now! So, I’m pretty sure I will end up back in France at some point, I just want to get some endeavours in Psychology out of the way first.
Also, be selfish about your learning. Don’t be scared to ask your tutors for help, advice or feedback. Get as much information out of them as you can.
French aside, in more general terms, while you are at Uni make sure you get to know some of your tutors well. This will stand you in good stead should you ever need any kind of advice, academic reference, or help finding work experience during or after your degree. The most challenging part of the degree journey can be the moment you complete it. At this point contacts will come in handy!
Thanks for reading and I hope you have found some of the above information useful and encouraging. I wish you all the very best of luck, fun, adventure, success and happiness throughout your degree.”
And thanks to Meghann for having taken the time to reflect on having studied with us and for such great advice for other students. And best of luck for the future – we hope France and French makes its way back into your plans at some point.
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.