Tag: Life After Graduation

‘A degree in French is hugely valued by employers’

It’s been a little while since we’ve had a chance to post some updates from former French at Scotland students but it’s great to get that started again with news from Paul who graduated with us nearly a decade ago. Last time we checked in with him, Paul had just started working as a Financial Crime Analyst in London and was enjoying the opportunities for travel and languages that career was opening up for him:

‘I studied French with Spanish at Stirling University between 2007 and 2011 which now feels like a lifetime ago. It’s a time I look back on with extreme fondness having had the opportunity to study abroad, indulge in my passion for foreign languages and cultures, make lifelong friends and even met my partner who I am still with to this day.

2020 Feb Paul London

After graduating I jumped around a few jobs in customer service and sales in Glasgow before finding myself on the rather unusual career path of counter financial crime within the banking industry, initially at a consultancy in London. Financial Crime work essentially involves making sure that banks are doing everything they can to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, bribery & corruption and tax evasion, as well as making sure banks adhere to sanctions legislation set by governments. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel a lot in my short career including a six-month stint in Paris on a large project which gave me the opportunity to dust off my French language skills and work with people from across the globe.

After a brief stint working for the Scottish Government helping to deliver the new Scottish National Investment Bank, I’m now working for a global investment bank in their Edinburgh office working with various teams across Europe. My role is to make sure that the processes in place for identifying and reporting suspicious activity are robust and that colleagues across the bank are sufficiently trained to detect this type of activity. This involves daily communication with colleagues across various countries and time zones and frequently gives me the chance to use my language skills.

A degree in French has not only given me the perfect excuse for annual weekends away in France (just back from Toulouse which is well worth the visit) but I have found it to be hugely valued by employers who are increasingly working in an international setting and are placing more importance on communication skills. This has most certainly not been the career path I had originally envisioned for myself, but it has been hugely rewarding and has given me several opportunities to travel and use my degree in ways I wouldn’t have thought of.’

2020 Feb Paul Toulouse

Many, many thanks to Paul for finding the time to send through this blog post – it’s great to hear from you and to see that your career (and travels) are still going so well, and we look forward to more updates over the years ahead.

And on a related note, if you want to read more about the need for Languages graduates post-Brexit, there are interesting articles here and here and here (and many other places besides!).

Old dog, new tricks!

With the start of the new semester (and all good wishes to those enrolled on our wide range of French modules and programmes, and to our students off on Semester Abroad or working as Language Assistants…), it’s time to post a new profile of one of our French at Stirling graduates, Kerstin Rosée, who has sent us this great article:

2020 Jan Rosee EuroDisneyBonjour, mes amis! French has always been a part of my life, with a last name like mine, this is hardly a surprise. I knew how to spell out my last name to people before I could write it myself and I could confidently say accent aigu before ever attending a French class in my long history of attending French classes.

Language teaching in Germany (where I originally come from) used to be taken more seriously than in the UK. At least until the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland which put a new and enthusiastic emphasis on learning not one, but two foreign languages with many pupils now starting at primary school age. Going back to the 80s and 90s in Germany, English was introduced in 5th grade and in 7th grade you would pick another foreign language, usually a choice of either French or Latin. Why Latin? Well, in Germany to do any kind of degree in medicine, dentistry or veterinarian studies, you need at least your small Latinum (that’ll be 4 years of study) – makes sense if you consider that most of your textbooks will be full of Latin words. Since the thought of having to put down somebody’s pet guinea pig put me off veterinarian studies quite early, I decided to go for a more practical approach in studying French. Foreign holidays were beckoning and at that time I had already visited France with my family several times.

When the time came to pick a career and to think about what kind of training would be necessary, I found myself stumped by the idea that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grow up. I still don’t, and I’m getting the feeling that I’ll probably be retired before I figure out what I’ll do with my life.  But… I was good at English and French and ended up at an academy training to become a trilingual executive secretary, adding Spanish to my portfolio en route.

Sadly, the job I took after leaving the academy was with an American organization and while my English improved my French and Spanish were neglected. I missed the golden opportunity to spend my holidays in French and Spanish-speaking countries and along the lines of ‘use it or lose it’, well, I lost it.

In my late 20s I relocated to Scotland and, being armed with a good grasp of the language and a willingness to delve into the local lingo (thank you, guy at the chippy, you were my trial of fire), I continued in my field of work but suddenly minus the trilingual aspect. Why? Mostly because many people speak English anyway and there were very few jobs for people with language skills in the Central Belt unless you wanted to settle in call centres. I tried, I escaped.

Having dabbled in part-time study for a while, I finally started a full-time course at the University of Stirling: Primary Education with Modern Languages. The course was brand new to the university at the time and we were the willing guinea pigs together with a cohort studying Primary Education and Environmental Science. I had just turned 38 when I started my degree at Stirling and my daughter had just joined P1. Great, I thought, we’ll learn together. To cut a long story short: I did not end up being a teacher. It turned out that I really didn’t like the classroom. Unlike my new just-from-school study buddies, I loved the semesters and hated the placements; I loved the languages but never really warmed to the pedagogy. For myself, the mix of classes, lectures and tutorial groups in French were a winning combination. Grammar: the necessary evil. Passé simple you say? Yeah sure, it rings a bell. Spoken language with Bernadette, the Spoken Language Tutor at the time: simply hilarious. Lectures and culture tutorials opened a whole new world to me. A word of warning though – reading, writing and talking about 2nd wave French feminism may come with strange side effects if you are an adult returner, for instance: flares of anger and bursting out into tears.

I graduated in 2012 and, thanks to my last-minute degree change, I was the only student to graduate with a BA in French on that day amidst a sea of Education students. I cannot thank the BEd Primary Education cohort enough for my round of applause when I entered the stage while everybody else in the room probably wondered whether I had showed up on the wrong day.

Everybody’s question was: what next, then? I’ll be honest, if you are in your forties and tied to the Central Belt as a location, career prospects in Languages are somewhat limited. If you have done the Call Centre gig and have no intentions of ever returning to it and if you need to plan your workday around the school hours, it makes it just that little bit harder.

Will I be using French for work at some point in the future? Well, this brings us back to ‘use it or lose it.’  The sad thing is, if you don’t use your languages regularly, you will forget a lot of vocab and grammar. The silver lining is that it will be easier for you to pick it up again, every time you do pick it up again, as long as you have a decent foundation. My current exposure to French language and culture is singing along loudly to Les Misérables and Plastique Bertrand while scouring Netflix for French crime shows I can binge on. The beauty of Netflix is that it provides you with crutches; I love to listen to the original French actors but using English subtitles to make sure I don’t lose the plot (literally) but you could swap this around if your reading skills need to be honed.

To make matters worse, a certain referendum 4 years ago which is intent on ending our opportunities for free travel to work in any of 28 European countries without a lot of red tape may be a further deterrent for pupils to even consider modern languages as a subject for their university studies. Businesses may decide that the UK is no longer an attractive location for them and those precious few jobs that open up opportunities to graduates in modern languages may leave the country. I am still cautiously optimistic that Brexit will turn out to be undeliverable and we will all just forget about this embarrassing episode in recent UK history – I guess we’ll see.

2020 Jan Rosee BretagneIn the end, all is not as gloomy as it seems, and you must look for opportunity where it presents itself. My plans are to convince the family to holiday in Canada and spend some time in Québec: find out how different from metropolitan France it really is, sample some of the lifestyle and speak French, a lot of it, possibly very basic. After that, I might try to duplicate my experience of moving to Scotland and visit Bretagne – I was there on a holiday when I was 5 years old, armed with only once sentence: Je ne parle pas français!

Surely, it has to be better than that by now!’

Yes, we’re sure that it is! Many, many thanks to Kerstin for this great post and for the fantastic pictures of childhood holidays in France. And we wish you all the very best for travels to Quebec and to Brittany, and to many other Francophone locations beyond!

Languages and Career Stories

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories AllAs Laura and Michael noted in their post yesterday, it can be really helpful for secondary school pupils to get a sense of the opportunities that studying Languages at University can open up by actually getting a chance to meet Languages students and ask them questions. The same can be said of those Languages students themselves and the benefits that can come from listening to Languages graduates, at different stages post-graduation, talking about the different paths their lives have followed and the ways in which languages have shaped those paths. With that in mind, Hannah Grayson, who coordinates our Languages for Employability module this academic year, organised just such an event for our undergraduates last month:

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories Sam‘On Thursday 7 November, we organised ‘Career Stories’, an event aimed at our Year 3 students taking the Languages for Employability module as part of their degree programme and any other students interested in hearing more about where languages can take you. We had three former Stirling students come to speak about their semesters/years abroad and the trajectories they have taken since leaving Stirling. The speakers were Sam Philips (Languages teacher at Bo’Ness Academy), Luise Pawlig (freelance translator) and Fraser McQueen (current PhD student at Stirling) and they shared experiences of working in tourism, au-pairing, customer service, translation, teaching and parliament.

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories Luise

It was a fantastic opportunity for our students to hear about their experiences and to get advice on how to meet some of the challenges that intercultural experiences can bring. These events are made by the anecdotes and enthusiasm of those who share, and we couldn’t have asked for more from our speakers. All three of them encouraged students to go abroad whenever the opportunity arises!

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories Fraser

We also heard from Lena Bauchop, our Careers and Employability consultant who has delivered teaching on the module and is herself a languages graduate. Lena explained her own career path and shared helpful insights into what can influence job decisions. There were plenty of questions for our visiting speakers and lots of conversation and networking afterwards over refreshments. Thanks to all involved!’

And many thanks to Hannah for making the time to send through this blog post and for organising the event.

Language Ambassadors: Encouraging Pupils to Learn Languages

Over the course of this Autumn/Winter semester at Stirling, we’ve continued to develop our work with secondary schools, sometimes focusing primarily on French, sometimes working in collaboration with our colleagues in Spanish, always underlining the advantages that come through studying languages. We’re hoping to post a few more updates about these activities over the coming weeks and, to start with, we’re pleased to be able to post the following article, co-written by Laura, who is in the final year of a BA Hons in English Studies and French, and Michael, who is in Year 2 of his BA Hons programme in Professional Education (Primary) with a specialism in Modern Languages. Laura and Michael’s day saw them representing French at Stirling as Language Ambassadors at Williamwood High School in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire.

For Michael: ‘When I was asked to be a part of the group of students going to Williamwood High School I was keen to accept the invitation. I thought that it would be a worthwhile opportunity to speak to high school pupils just beginning to think about their futures, about the possibility of going to university, and hopefully to encourage them to study a modern language. On the day of our visit, we represented the University of Stirling at a careers fair organised by the school’s modern languages department and got to speak to three groups of fourth year pupils who attended the fair. We started off each group with a presentation about the modern language courses offered at Stirling and the different pathways they could follow. Specifically, we covered the standard four-year degree structure; the possibility of a year or semester abroad; popular joint degrees with a modern language; and how a joint degree with Primary or Secondary Education differs from other courses. We were able to go into some depth about the differences caused by Education as a few of us, including myself, are doing a joint degree with Education.

At the end of the presentation, we had time to take some questions from the pupils. Most questions were centred on the countries and places you could go on a semester or year abroad, and what it was like to live in a foreign country. Other questions focused on the student experience and campus life. Our group from Stirling was comprised of second, third and fourth year students so we were able to give the pupils a number of perspectives.

All the pupils listened well and told us they found our presentation interesting. I myself enjoyed hearing about the experiences of the older students in our group. I was also glad that I could make studying languages at university something for the pupils to consider when thinking about their plans for after school.’

As for Laura: ‘As well as thinking about the content of what we presented it is also relevant to emphasise the reason why we did it. In my opinion, when we are young, we tend to think that our future is still very far away, and that we have got time to think about our future jobs; but when it comes to learning languages, it is never too early to start, and schools should always encourage students to study languages and show them the  different pathways they can follow after their high school. This is basically what we did at Williamwood High School.

From another perspective, I am a Catalan student in Stirling doing English and French and I found the idea of going to a school to talk about the language degrees opportunities, the importance of speaking more than one or two languages and the life in university all very important. Not only were the themes in our presentation important, but also the fact that we are students and we explained to them this information from our point of view and from our own experiences helped the pupils to think that they can also accomplish their career goals if we are also doing it.

When I was in high school, I was already doing English and French as foreign languages alongside Catalan and Spanish. Everyone kept telling us, study languages is always very important in life and for your future, but we were never told why it was important and what pathways we could take if we wanted to focus on languages. In order to motivate students to do and to accomplish something, I think it is important to show them examples and to have people explaining their own experiences as a way of motivating and encouraging students to follow similar pathways. Besides, schools should promote the idea that learning languages opens many doors in life and especially in terms of employability; in this way, they see that learning languages is not pointless and they can set their goals easily with examples.

Although I already had my future ideas very clear, unfortunately, my own school teachers did not prepare me for this, and this is why I accepted the invitation straight away so as to show students that what they are doing right now really matters for their future by illustrating my experiences as an example for them. It was important to present them the wide range of choices they have in terms of languages courses and degree combinations but also the opportunities the university gave us such as the mandatory semester abroad specially in the French case, it gives the chance to students to discover the real francophone culture that was represented in the textbooks and the news.

All in all, I think our message is clear: we want to encourage students of all ages to learn languages, to take advantage of all the opportunities that the French department (and Languages more broadly) in Stirling offers and to never stop learning languages.’

Many, many thanks to Laura and Michael for having taken the time to put together this blog and to them and all our Language Ambassadors for the great work they continue to do. And thanks to the pupils and staff at Williamwood for the warm welcome!

 

Translation and TESOL: ‘A whole world of new ideas and concepts’

As regular blog readers will know, alongside our wide range of undergraduate programmes, colleagues in French at Stirling also contribute to Literature and Languages’ postgraduate programmes in Translation Studies and it’s always great to see French graduates coming back to undertake postgrad work with us. Today’s update comes from Ewan, who has done just that and who is in the first semester of our MSc in Translation with TESOL:

2019 Walker Ewan Blog Update Pic I Nov19‘I graduated from Stirling in 2013 with a BA (Hons) in French and Religion. Following my graduation, I undertook a course in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), ultimately gaining a certificate for 120 hours of training.

Initially, I gained teaching experience in 1-1 sessions with adult learners in Edinburgh. These informal sessions were enough to help me build up a portfolio and establish my reputation. I worked with adults and students from a variety of nationalities, including French, Spanish and Polish.

2019 Walker Ewan Blog Update Pic II Nov19In 2016, I moved to Łomianki, near Warsaw in Poland to begin work as an extra-curricular English teacher in a secondary school. I was tasked with providing extra support to children who were struggling with English lessons, to help them ultimately catch up with their classmates. Whilst in Poland, I also worked as pastoral assistant to an English-Speaking church in Warsaw. The clergy in the church were Polish but were ministering to the international community in Warsaw, and therefore needed language support in their day-to-day ministry. It gave me the opportunity to learn about the incredible history of Poland, culminating in a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which continues to haunt me to this day.

In 2017, I moved to Tours, in France’s Loire Valley. This is where I had spent my Erasmus semester as an undergraduate so I was incredibly excited to return. In Tours, I spent 6 months teaching elementary school children (including a very competitive brother and sister). This was a challenge, as I’d never dealt with that age group before, but the experience of being back in Tours and exploring a city I loved so much cancelled out all my difficulties. I even took the plunge and tried escargots; something I hadn’t been brave enough to do during my Erasmus experience!

My ultimate aim has always been to undertake a Masters in TESOL, with a view to eventually owning my own language school. It’s a massive aim, but I’ve never been one to do things in half measures! And, so when the opportunity arose, I returned to Stirling in September of this year to undertake an MSc in Translation with TESOL. I chose this course because it combines both of my “specialist” subject areas. I get to study towards ultimately becoming a professional TEFL tutor, whilst also maintaining work in French (and dabbling in other languages). The course doesn’t limit my final career options; I can branch off and work in the field of translation after graduation (perhaps while I work to secure a teaching position).

It feels great being back in Stirling. I have fond memories of my time as an undergraduate, and really it feels like I’ve never left. There are only 4 of us studying translation this year so the classes are quite relaxed and we’ve all got to know each other really well, which I like. The course has been far more interesting than I could ever have imagined, too. Just like at undergraduate, my mind has been opened to a whole world of new ideas and concepts. And I love it!’

Many, many thanks to Ewan for finding the time to send us this great update and we wish you all the best for the MSc and ultimately setting up your own language school.

Language teaching and juggling acts

Among the various blog posts that have been lurking in my inbox waiting to make it onto the blog is the following update from Fiona who graduated in English and French from Stirling in 2012 and then came back to complete our MSc in Translation and TESOL in 2013-14. Since then, Fiona has undertaken teacher training and she has just started a permanent post in Renfrewshire where life remains as busy as ever:

2019 Nov Fiona Mears Pic IV‘Having gained provisional registration with the GTCS in June 2018, I embarked on the next stage of the ‘becoming a fully-fledged teacher’ process. I was placed in a school in Falkirk Council for my NQT year, and what a year it turned out to be! I was solely responsible for classes at all stages of secondary schooling, including a bi-level certificated class doing National 5 and Higher. I still vividly remember the agonising wait for exam results back when I was at school. I hadn’t, however, bargained on just how nerve-wracking results day is for the teacher! Thankfully the hard work put in by all paid off and my first ever certificated class did me and themselves proud.

The year was a steep learning curve. I had to hit the ground running and very quickly get to grips with all the administration and reporting that comes with teaching, never mind get used to putting schemes of work together and planning lessons. The expectations placed on me as an NQT were huge. I had to attend weekly CPD sessions run both by my school and by the council. I found myself involved in a range of activities outwith the classroom, from helping at a weekend-long team-building residential for senior pupils to attending the senior ceilidh and prom.

2019 Nov Fiona Mears Pic II also volunteered to help out with the school’s Duke of Edinburgh programme, which saw me frying sausages using trangias in Beecraigs Country Park, climbing Dumyat early one Saturday morning and spending several nights sleeping in a tent between expeditions to North Berwick, Aviemore and Arran. While it required a big-time commitment, including staying late after school for training and giving up weekends, my involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh programme without a doubt left me with some of my most treasured memories from my NQT year.

Sadly, budget cuts meant that my school was unable to keep me on and I had to move on to pastures new. In May, I secured a permanent position at a school in Renfrewshire Council, where I’ve been settling in well. On top of my teaching responsibilities, I’ve decided that this is the year to start the Certificate of Continuing Education in Spanish (basically a part-time undergraduate degree) to gain dual qualification in French and Spanish. The course is proving to be fast-paced and very full on, but mostly it’s a welcome return to studying and learning. How I’ll manage to keep up with the course during busier-than-usual spells at work remains to be seen, but for now I’m just about managing the juggling act between teaching, studying, socialising and a hefty commute.’

Many, many thanks to Fiona for finding the time to send us this update and the photos. All the best for the new job and we look forward to more blog posts in the future. And, who knows, maybe we’ll have a chance to meet some of your pupils at a future Stirling Languages Day…

‘Excited to see what the future holds’

As the Autumn colours start to appear on campus, it’s time for another couple of updates from former students, both of whom graduated in 2018. Rebecca completed a BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society with us but first up is Michaela, who graduated in French and Law:

‘I’m still working at Ashurst LLP in Glasgow. I’ve been there almost 2 years now and recently got promoted to Senior Legal Analyst. I think I mentioned before that I’m mostly involved in legal work but always try and get involved with French work where I can. We often get ad hoc French translation tasks coming in, and it’s great to be able to assist with them. I’ve also been able to review French documents that have come up in various projects – I’ve really enjoyed being able to contribute to the team in this way.’

2019 Brown CH Pic V Sept19As for Rebecca, she is currently in the third semester of an MSc in Management which ‘includes three ‘branches’ (General Management, European and Global Business and Marketing) and modules on everything from Consumer Research, Complaint Management and European Marketing to Intercultural Management, Management of Innovation and Advanced Entrepreneurship. I’m hoping to finish all lessons by December and then the next step will be to write my thesis. The plan for afterwards is yet to be determined. I would love to go and work in the French-speaking part of Canada for a year or so but as I say, the rest is to be determined!

Although I’m Swiss, after one year, I’m still shocked as to how different the British university system is to the Swiss system. From having to organise your own courses, to having no student union to contacting the Dean if you have any questions. It’s been an experience that I have loved, however I do miss Stirling and the university a lot. I’m excited to see what the future holds in terms of jobs or travel.’

2019 Brown CH Pic III Sept19

Many, many thanks to both Michaela and Rebecca for sending through these great updates and we wish you both all the best for the future!