Many thanks to Alexia, Claire and Pedro from our current final year cohort, and to Céline who is spending a semester on Erasmus exchange at Stirling, for having given up their time last week to meet with local school pupil Kimberley and to talk to her about studying Languages at University. Kimberley is currently in her final year at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk where she is working on her Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages Interdisciplinary Project comparing undergraduate degrees in Languages at Scottish Universities with those offered by Spanish Universities. The meeting gave Kimberley a chance to ask questions about our students’ experiences of Study Abroad, their thoughts on Languages and employability and their own sense of how their language level has progressed over the course of their studies, all of which will feed into the overall project. Thanks to all for their time and good luck to Kimberley with the project!
Tag: Open Day
One of the topics that frequently comes up in conversation at Open Days and Applicant Days, as well as with our current students, revolves around the question of the jobs that Languages students go on to do. As many of the posts on this blog show, there are more answers to that question than you might expect, ranging from language teachers to commercial coordinators for major wine exporters, from translators to financial crime analysts with much, much else in between. For many of our students, the benefits of languages in terms of their employability become clear while they are still studying and find themselves taking on part-time or vacation jobs where their languages make them a real asset to a particular company or workplace. And, in return, that workplace-based experience of using language skills brings its own benefits to students in terms of their fluency, confidence, communication skills and all-round employability.
To give a sense of what this can actually mean in practice, we’re very pleased to get a chance to post the following article by Andrea Kolluder who is currently in her 4th semester and who has a part-time job working for a local distillery:
‘Learning French has had its many challenges. I have often found it difficult to improve my spoken French, simply because I had a great fear of speaking French words out loud. The fear of pronouncing things wrong, and making terrible mistakes with grammar would pull me back from speaking any of the French I knew. I would have never thought that it would be the subject of whisky that would eventually break my wall of fear of the spoken language. Yet, in May last year, when I started working for a whisky distillery, I gained some much-needed confidence in my spoken French.
When asked at my interview about whether I thought myself capable of doing guided tours around the distillery in French I said yes without hesitation. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. The concept of speaking French to native speakers – tourists with many questions no less – was terrifying at first. But like with many things, once you do it the first time, the next time becomes easier, and so after the first French conversation, the next one suddenly seemed a lot less frightening.
Thankfully my interactions have all been positive, which really helped. French-speaking visitors seem to always be glad to find a French speaker willing to explain the mystery of whisky to them in their native language. In return for a French tour, they were always patient and understanding even when it took me a lot longer to explain certain things to them. They would help me find words I couldn’t find off the top of my head or wait until I finally realised the words I was missing. The best part was that in the end, despite pronunciation or grammar mistakes, I could get meaning across. People were actually understanding my French. And of course, the best motivator of all, was that little praise that my French was very good, just as they were saying goodbye.
A job in tourism is a great one for making you realise how much you can communicate even without words. When you do know a few words though, the quality of the conversation grows for both sides. After many challenging language situations from disinterested teenagers to very curious families, I have built an interesting set of miscellaneous vocabulary about whisky in the French language. And now, I look forward to using it even more often.’
Many, many thanks to Andrea for taking the time to write this blog post and for patiently waiting for me to actually get it online!
The 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!
“These things used to be so much easier to write. I used to have a blog until I was about 15 and then high school reputation smacked me in the face and I couldn’t afford to have a blog anymore. Shame really, I might have been one of those popular blog people who eat, and travel, and have nice Instagram profiles…
Well, now that I think about it, I do eat. I travel quite a lot. And I just opened an Instagram account – so, hey, I’m not that far off. But even better is that I am studying what I adore at this magnificent place called Stirling. I’m one of those students who are inexplicably happy with their choice of studies, and who try to be as engaged as possible in the student life. I have only finished a first year of my degree in International Politics and French, and I couldn’t be happier with it.
You hear students talking how they picked their universities: how they went for the open days and visited campuses, how their parents heard good things about a certain course, or they liked the fact that it is far away from their hometown. Well, none of that quite explains what happened to me…
Croatia, the wee country I’m from, only joined the European Union in 2013, when I was 17. Until then, the idea of studying somewhere else was foreign to me. I had my mind set on the University of Zadar, in my hometown. And then suddenly, Croatia signs some papers and voilà! Dozens of new things you can do!
We had people from the UK and other parts of the EU coming to give presentations at our school and explaining how we could enrol at the universities there. And all of a sudden, I wanted to go abroad. In my last year of high school, I worked with the agency that was helping students enrol in universities in England. I obtained my Cambridge certificate, wrote my personal statement, got my recommendations, translated my transcripts, prayed and more. On my prom night, I checked my e-mails, because that’s what you do when you are celebrating the end of your high school years and are having last few days with your class, and funnily enough I found out that said I had been accepted to all of the universities that I had applied to. I was good to go!
Or, not really. See, since we were the first generation of students from Croatia going to England with this programme, some mistakes were made. Long story short, they didn’t quite explain the financial aspects of studying there and a few of us realized we don’t have enough money to cover for… anything. We were just about to sign the papers for the loan for our tuition fees, but our accommodation would not be covered for the first year – as was initially promised.
What to do now? My ticket to London is already bought. I am packed. I have a new raincoat. I don’t want to stay in Zadar. But I also can’t go to study.
So, naturally, I took a gap year and spent the first two months of it volunteering on a farm in East Grinstead, next to London. The university was kind enough to save me the place for the next year, until I saved some money and came back to study. Life on the farm was reinvigorating. I was learning about beekeeping, sheep…; I was painting the shed and the cottage; I was pruning those little green bushes while being attacked by some bees because I put almond oil in my hair the night before and forgot about it…
It was time to find a job. I managed to find one, in the heart of the Europe – Luxembourg. I became an Au Pair and took care of one little girl who was 1.5 year old at the time. In Luxembourg everyone speaks at least 3 languages. And when I say at least, I mean the older generation of people who didn’t learn ‘any foreign languages’. German, Luxembourgish and French are the norm. And when you speak only 3 languages fluently and find yourself there, you don’t feel good about yourself. As the little girl was starting to talk more and more, so was I. We were learning French together, so for the first period of time, I used a lot of baby words like: dodo, lo-lo, pi-pi… I know, quite a vocabulary!
In the middle of my first gap year, I had an epiphany and realized I don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life. So, as I was lying in my bed at 1am, I decided to e-mail the university in England and say: hey, I’m not coming. As I was lying in my bed at 1.20am, I realized I had no Plan B, and thought: merde.
After an intensive session of googling and trying to find the perfect university, I stumbled upon the SAAS page. I checked out all the uni portals and pictures, and what not, I had my mind set on Stirling. First of all, the programme. Secondly, the campus. Also, Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn…
Here I have to mention my mother, who loved to wear tartan since I was a child and has two tartan suits, one red and one green. They both have matching hats and shoes. No, it is not a thing in Croatia and yes, my mom is a very creative person and has her own style. I think that she subconsciously led me to study in Scotland.
I ended up taking another gap year and worked in Denmark as well as Luxembourg. I applied again to the universities in Scotland, by myself. At this point, I could already speak a lot of French and understand it better. Me and the little one had proper conversations about the horses and snails, the usual nanny talks. But, Luxembourg being Luxembourg, it did not allow me to practice my French more. People there are so nice and helpful, and when they see you struggling with a word or explaining something, they immediately start speaking English to you. Mais non, je voudrais pratiquer!
Even before I lived in Luxembourg, I wanted to learn another language. French became my obsession after reading Les Misérables, so the goal is to read it again in its original language. After experiencing a bit of francophone culture, Scotland was a great addition to my story. To study at its heart, in the current political climate and with all the benefits of the multicultural environment – some of the many reasons I’m happy here!
I should probably mention that I had never even visited Scotland before coming here in September last year. But hey, it turned out fine.
Even though it took me a bit longer to get here, I am very content with what I managed to do in my first year of the university. I was a course representative for the Introductory French module and I became the new president of the Politics Society. I am happy that the university let us settle in and discover our interests before pushing us into strict academic mould.
Hopefully, in the future I will write all of this in French. Until then, I’ll stick to my comfort zone with horses and snails.”
Many thanks to Margareta for finding the time to write this post and we do, indeed, look forward to future blog posts (whether in English or French, or maybe even a bit of Croatian!) as your degree progresses.
A few weeks ago, three of our students (Stefano, David and Ross) were invited to McLaren High to act as Student Language Ambassadors and to talk to a wide range of pupils about their own experiences of studying Languages at University. The visit was a great success and I’m delighted to be able to pass on Stefano and David’s accounts of their day:
Stefano: “Why did you choose to study Languages at the University?… What does it mean to be a Language Student?… Is it true that you can then travel a lot?… These are just few examples among the several questions we were asked at McClaren High School in Callander by crowds of enthusiastic and curious pupils of different ages during our visit as Language Ambassadors on 9 February.
This semester I have been asked by the French Department to represent Stirling, together with my colleagues and friends David and Ross, in an ambassadorial role for the promotion of the languages at University level and I am glad to have the possibility to share here some of the highlights of our visit. In two words: great experience!
One of the language teachers from McClaren High School, Mr Alistair Brown, picked us up early to give us the chance to deliver a brief presentation at the pupils’ general assembly in the morning. More than 150 students attended and it was really good to get a chance to talk to them about our own experiences and the many opportunities that languages (and Stirling University) can offer.
After the initial gathering, David, Ross and I were asked to go to different classes with some of the teachers from the school in order to talk to smaller groups of pupils more broadly about what studying languages at the University really means.
My first class was French, Higher and Advanced Higher, with David. There, we told them our different experiences as language students at Stirling, focusing both on the possibilities in terms of jobs and travel and on the reasons that led us to undertake this path. It was great to share our passion for languages with interested pupils, hoping to make them realise how fascinating and convenient knowing more than a language can be! Most of the students in class immediately engaged in an interesting group-conversation, asking us questions and sharing with the rest of the class their thoughts and expectations about the possibility to further their knowledge of French.
During the class that followed, things got even more interesting; after another short talk about my experiences as an international language student, the teacher asked the class to put some good French into practice by practising “la conversation orale” together and by…asking me to teach them a bit of Italian in exchange! We all had great fun practicing our French and trying out some simple Italian sentences, because, after all, who knows? Maybe some of them will eventually end up studying Italian too in the future!
After a break, Ross and I attended a class together where we talked more specifically about the possible careers available with a Language degree. Once more, we did not miss the opportunity to have some fun with languages; knowing that we are respectively fluent in Italian and Spanish, the teacher asked me and Ross to try a “multilingual” conversation to see whether or not we could understand each other! Quite surprisingly, we managed to get through a short dialogue and we showed how knowing more languages can in fact lead also to great fun.
For my last class of the day, I went to another French class with David, where the pupils were especially interested in our experiences at the University of Stirling. We told them how and why we decided to come to Stirling to study Languages by sharing with them some of the amazing opportunities that our University can offer, from excellent quality in teaching and different and exciting experiences abroad to the numerous clubs and societies where it is possible to meet friends from all over the world and, once again, to engage and learn different languages.
To our great surprise and teachers’ astonishment, some of the pupils we met on that day immediately asked for the forms to pursue the study of languages at their Higher classes for the next year! Donc, ça a été une journée très spéciale!
It was a great honour and a pleasure to represent Stirling and Languages on this special occasion. I personally believe that, as language students, we have a huge opportunity (and responsibility) not only for ourselves, but for our future societies in terms of the capacity to understand and meet people from different cultures and it was amazing to share the beauties of this journey with the younger generations.”
David: “Taking part in the Student Ambassador initiative at McLaren High, near Callander, was a genuinely enriching and fun experience for me. I went with two other students, Stefano from Italy and Ross from Scotland. We thought that trying to convince students to pick languages as their Highers would be a difficult task but it turned out that the students were really interested in what we had to say. In fact, the pupils were extremely curious, interested and engaged, asking us many questions ranging from our favourite type of food to why we had chosen to study languages. It was quite tiring talking to different classes about the same topic but the questions were varied and we really enjoyed the pupils’ willingness to participate.
I think this initiative can have a very positive effect on high school pupils as, in the past few years, language teaching has been declining in Scotland. Many students don’t realise the importance of learning languages, especially nowadays in such a globalised society. Many told us they didn’t think it was necessary to learn another language as “everyone speaks English”. This mentality is exactly what we are trying to get rid of; they don’t realise that Spanish, for instance, will soon be the most widespread language around the world, in front of English and Chinese. I am hoping that after our discussions at the high school, we will hopefully have inspired the pupils to take an active interest in languages, even if they don’t choose it as one of their study options.
Being from a bilingual background myself, I have first-hand experience of the advantage of speaking more than one language and I hope to return to the high school as a language assistant and further encourage students to realise the potential of learning another language. Overall, it was a very eye-opening experience and I would love to take part in such an initiative again.”
Many thanks to Stefano and to David for sending these blog pieces, and to all three of our Student Language Ambassadors for having made the time to undertake this visit. We’re looking forward to continuing our visits in local schools – and schools beyond the local area – over the weeks and months ahead. And if any of this has made you curious about studying Languages at Stirling, come and meet us at one of our upcoming Applicant or Open Days.
Taking advantage of the calm before the (relative) storm of the start of teaching next week, we’re delighted to have the chance to post another profile of a current French at Stirling student. Alex Janes is entering the 4th semester of his BA Hons in French and Maths and has sent us this account of his time at Stirling so far:
“When I was sixth form and in the process of researching courses and universities, I was certain that I wanted study Maths further. But the certainty of my decision soon faded as I progressed through college, my interest in French grew ever stronger, leaving me undecided. It wasn’t until I started researching courses that I discovered some universities offered the two subjects together as a Joint Honours. That was when I knew that I wanted to do a French and Maths degree.
So the search began for the right university for me. From Swansea to Nottingham Trent and Heriot-Watt to Hertfordshire, I visited a total of 8 universities across the UK. As a result of national declines in maths and languages students in further education, I could see why the universities were eagerly persuading me to become one of their students. Each university had a different approach to both subjects, throughout the whole of the degree. Therefore, the decision came down to the aspects of the programme, but most importantly for me, “where could I see myself living and not just studying?”. In the end, nothing could compete against Stirling. The flexibility on the degree programme, the spectacular surroundings, getting as far away from home as possible (only kidding!), it just seemed ideal for me.
Now that I have been at Stirling for 18 months, writing this post has given me great time to reflect on my experience so far. I don’t think I’ve ever learnt so much content for two subjects in this period of time. From contemporary culture to the French revolution, this was my first in depth experience of learning about French culture and history. It has most definitely stimulated my interest further in the subject. The programme is cleverly set out to provide you with as much information as possible, whilst at the same time developing linguistic skills essential for the language. With regards to Maths, it has really changed the way I think about everything mathematical in our lives. Theories, algorithms, formulae, just to name a fewlt, all appear in our lives at some point. I always treat Maths as the same as learning a language; you start with the basics, and then gradually as you learn more and more content, you expand your wealth of knowledge. It has very much been a positive experience not just from a studying sense, but in a social sense. I have made some incredible friends, who originate from across the world. I have also been lucky to explore some wonderful locations in Scotland, on my first time to the country besides university open days, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and nearby Callander.
Another great thing about this degree programme is the opportunity to go on a semester abroad to study in a partner institution of the university. I will be starting this experience this time next year, and will inevitably be writing another blog post just to share my time wherever I decide to go! I can safely say that I have no clue as to what occupation I wish to go into after university. But the beauty of this degree is that there are so many options available; translation, accounting, banking, international business, teaching, etc. This degree has definitely opened up a window of choice for my future. So thanks to my degree programme at the University of Stirling, I will have taken a huge step in the right direction towards a prosperous future!”
Many thanks to Alex for taking the time to send us this – and for the promise of more blog posts next year… – and best wishes for the semester ahead.
Following on from the profile of Mairi Edwards posted a little earlier today, another couple of profiles of current French at Stirling students. Doganay Cavusoglu is just completing his first semester of a BA Hons in French and Law, starting French in our Beginners’ stream, while Jasmine Brady is halfway through the second year of her BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society which means she is studying French and Spanish as well as Management.
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!