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.
“It wasn’t until my third year of my undergraduate studies at Stirling when I realised the importance of having internship experience.
It’s true that it’s always more appealing to depart on ‘grands voyages’ all over the world during the long summer university break as opposed to confining yourself to an office environment. Honestly, that’s what I thought, and on top of that, I was terrified of the concept of applying my ‘education’ to the real business world. What if I didn’t meet the employer’s expectations? What if I then suddenly realised that all of those years spent studying were irrelevant? And worse still, what if they rejected me? Well Claire, obviously you’ll never know until you try! Besides, everybody who makes it to university has a certain level of intelligence. Sometimes you can be savvier than employees who have been in the organisation for decades, minus the experience – yet another reason why you should grab any opportunity to complete an internship.
I must admit that during my undergraduate degree I did not try hard (enough) to find internships, instead, I mostly worked part time at different points throughout the semester, travelled during the summer and did odd voluntary/ seasonal work. The truth is that I was too easily offended by the generic rejections from companies when I was applying for internship posts, which now seems stupid because it’s normal – obviously there will be healthy competition when applying for this kind of thing. A telephone interview I had in my final year of undergrad really made me realise exactly that. Why be put off? I should be even more motivated to succeed. My attitude was exactly that. I didn’t get the internship, I believe it was down to my lack of experience, but it was the furthest I had ever reached in the various interview stages. That was enough to motivate me.
When I moved to France last September, I learned that in order to graduate with my Master Grande Ecole, it was obligatory to complete an internship. The fact it was obligatory gave me the fear, but it pushed me to seriously start looking. Given I had no real ‘professional’ experience, it was particularly difficult to find one, besides, many posts were exclusively for 1st-3rd year students, which I wasn’t. Not only that, but I was looking for post abroad, where the talent pool is significantly bigger than at home, and of course, required a fluency in the language. With the pressure mounting, I started to panic. I already knew I was extremely lucky to be in the position I was in, completing a double degree with a fully funded master’s component, but I was still kicking myself for not having grabbed opportunities at the beginning of my studies.
As I mentioned, I was privileged to attend the prestigious French management school, EM Strasbourg, and even more so to be able to take advantage of their partnerships with local and global organisations. Following a trip to France’s biggest wine producer and exporter, Les Grands Chais de France, my class was asked to work in groups to create presentations which focused on various business areas. My group was given the topic ‘strategy to penetrate the Chinese market’. As an individual, I always like to be prepared, and to source background information whenever possible, so naturally I put a lot of work into the task. Little did I know, when we were presenting, the HR team were there to observe. A few weeks later I received a call inviting me for an interview, which I got. Obviously I was thrilled to find an internship position, but to find one in my chosen industry was just amazing. I guess my motivation shone through that day, I really had had a kick up the backside.
To all my fellow students, you should take this piece of advice and just try harder. It is not a question of whether you have contacts in high positions, it’s down to you. Put yourself out there and grab opportunities. If you work hard, it will be recognised and you’ll be rewarded for it. In this way, you will never tire of opportunities and options. After being offered my current position, it seemed that all of the offers came at once. That just proves that your attitude matters.”
Thanks to Claire for this article. Best of luck for the rest of your time with Les Grands Chais de France and we look forward to seeing you back in Stirling in November for graduation!
The exam period has just started at Stirling but French at Stirling modules for final semester students are all coursework-only so our finalists are slowly realising that they’ve had their last undergraduate classes with us (though we hope to welcome some back in future years for postgrad programmes…). As that realisation gently takes shape, one of this year’s finalists, Megan Davis, who is due to graduate with a BA Hons in French and Spanish in a couple of months, has put her thoughts together for us:
“The time has come when I finally have to answer the dreaded question “So, what do you want to do after you’ve finished your degree?” Being in my fourth year, facing the sometimes (always) overwhelming graduate and job market, I now have no other option than to actually come up with something resembling a vague plan.
Thankfully, everyone teaching at Stirling has already been through this process and remember just how terrifying it can be taking your first steps into the “real world”. Because of this, everyone is on hand to give advice on what to do next and highlight any upcoming opportunities that may be of interest. These range from emails containing schools looking for “Lecteurs d’anglais” to help applying to the British Council. So I’d just like to say a quick thank you to all of our lovely tutors for all of the help along the way, it is really much appreciated!
Thanks to the advertising of future opportunities at Stirling, I have had the chance to apply to be an English Language Assistant with the British Council for the following academic year in September 2016. I am incredibly excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to hear back from the organisation to find out which school I will be placed with. Whilst being a E.L.A I will be paid an approximate of €700 a month, be given the opportunity to gain first hand experience in a classroom and promote an understanding of British culture abroad, whilst also immersing myself in the Spanish culture and language. While working with the British Council I have also applied for the Stevenson Grant to receive funding to research a topic proposed by myself. I’ll be investigating whether there is a desire for independence in the Canary Islands, and whether the reasons behind this are linked to formal education or not.
In terms of plans over the summer, I intend to stay in Stirling and was recently accepted as a volunteer with The Big Training Project in partnership with First Aid Africa. I will be a volunteer recruitment officer in the UK, representing and promoting the charities, with The Big Training Project providing personalised First Aid Training here in the UK and donating all profits to First Aid Africa. The latter charity aims to provide First Aid training in various locations across Africa, where it is needed and welcomed. It was a much welcome surprise that my interviewer is also a student at Stirling, creating an immediate bond and putting me at ease moving forward in this position with the charities.
Meanwhile, I am also applying to several internships, the majority of which are made available through the Stirling Internship Programme. The positions I have applied for thus far span across a wide range, including positions such as a PR, marketing and events intern requiring Spanish to an Archivist intern with Stirling University Retired Staff Association, all made possible through the wide range of transferable skills I’ve acquired through studying languages at Stirling.
In short, I’d like to thank everyone here at Stirling, once again, for making my four years here thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you for helping me grow both as a student and a person and for helping make the transition from student to graduate seem somewhat manageable and a whole lot less daunting!”
Thanks to Megan for this blog post and best of luck, first and foremost, for the Stevenson interview and then for life beyond Stirling!