Tag: Postgraduate Studies

‘Where do I go from here?’ From Scotland to Japan

Term has finished now in Stirling but there’s still lots going on, in particular with our two days of events for secondary school pupils next week (more on that later!). It’s also a good point in the year to catch up with tales from current students finishing off time abroad and graduates whose post-graduation paths have taken them in unexpected directions like Brett who has just sent us this great post and who graduated in French and Spanish this time last year: ‘

2019 Borthwick Graduation Photo June19‘If you’re a languages student on the cusp of graduating, you’re probably at the infamous crossroads: translation or teaching. I’ve stared down that path before too, but I just couldn’t bring myself to walk it. I’ve done translation work, and I like it, but I’m not ready to commit to specializing in any field just yet. I’m also quite sure that I don’t want to be a teacher in the UK either. So what does that leave me with? After working for TAPIF (via British Council) in France, and having the time of my life on Erasmus in Seville, I wanted more from language learning before diving into the pool of post-grad uncertainty.

As if Fourth Year isn’t hard enough (specially with studying two foreign languages), I decided to also study introductory Japanese ‘for fun’. If you’re questioning my sanity, you’re right to do so. On Thursdays I used to have a two-hour Spanish class, a two-hour French class, another two hours of Spanish and then two hours of Japanese from 6-8pm. There was method to the madness, however. I’d always been interested in Japan as a teenager, and even at the age of fourteen I knew I wanted to live and work there. I’d heard of the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Programme, but I had pushed it to the back of my mind, thinking there was no way I’d be eligible to go with basically no Japanese ability. But one day, during our weekly 2-hour Japanese class, representatives from the Programme came to Stirling University. It didn’t take long for me to make up my mind.

I started the application process. That in itself was a journey. Doctors’ appointments, trips to the Consulate in Edinburgh, and mountains of paperwork awaited me (I thought I’d had it bad in France). It paid off though, as I was notified in May that I’d been accepted. But in the afterglow of being successfully hired I was asked the same few questions.

“Why Japan?”

“Urm, why are you going to Japan?”

“Don’t you think it’s a waste after studying Spanish and French?”

2019 Borthwick Tokyo Photo June19
Tokyo

I just gave a smile and said “it’ll be an adventure!” But the truth is I didn’t know what I was doing. Why invest so much time, money, and energy into something if you’re not going to utilize it? I pushed those thoughts aside as I got on the plane and endured the 18-hour flight to Tokyo. But the thoughts didn’t leave my mind during the 3-day orientation. It seemed everyone had studied Japanese, or had at least been to Japan before. Even though I had successfully gone through the same application and hiring process as everyone else, imposter syndrome started to creep in.

After the orientation, I flew to my final destination: Tottori City in Tottori Prefecture. Tottori Prefecture lies in Western Japan, and is very inaka (rural). It’s the least populated prefecture, with a rough total of 570,570 inhabitants. Starbucks finally made its debut in Tottori in 2015 (I’m using that as a measurement of ruralness). Other measurements of inaka-ness include; being surrounded by rice paddies, having to pay with exact change on the bus, and always hearing the hum of the cicadas wherever you go. As for weather, it’s hot and humid (around 35 degrees Celsius) in the summer and below freezing in winter.

2019 Borthwick Tottori City Photo June19
Tottori City

My job is an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) at a high-level academic Senior High School. You may have some preconceived ideas about Japanese students.

“They must be so polite!”

“They’re amazing at English!”

“They’re so clever!”

2019 Borthwick Calligraphy Photo June19Of course, they are, in part. On the whole my students are lovely to work with. They always say “hello” in the corridors, they give me sweets or presents when they come back from holidays, and they often come to chat to me in the staff room. At my high school, every student wants to go to university, so learning English is important for them. This makes my job easier, because it means they try hard to begin with (a welcome change from my situation in France). Outside the classroom, I try to involve myself in cultural activities. I joined my school’s ikebana (flower arranging) club. I’ve also experienced tea ceremonies and attempted Japanese calligraphy.

Maybe you’re thinking, well that’s great, but you’ve not used your skills in Spanish and French. Au contraire. Being a Language Assistant in France gave me my first insight into teaching English as a foreign language. On top of that, my Erasmus semester gave me the courage to speak to people in a foreign language, without the safety net of English to catch me. You might have already experienced these things in Spanish and French-speaking countries, but it can be daunting when your new country doesn’t even use the same alphabet. Thankfully, I also have very kind teachers and colleagues to help me when I’m struggling.

I was lucky enough to be placed in a Super Global High School. What does that mean? Our school takes part in international projects (mainly focused on social and environmental issues). We also have students partake in international exchange programmes. Right now, we have an Argentine exchange student who doesn’t speak much English or Japanese. So, I’ve been proactively helping her, translating any information she doesn’t understand and speaking to her in Spanish when she’s struggling. I guess that’s a job that couldn’t be done if I hadn’t studied Spanish at university.

On top of all of this, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places that I otherwise would never have been to. I’ve also made my TV debut on both small local stations and prime time nation-wide programmes. Who would have thought?

2019 Borthwick Kyoto Photo June19
Kyoto
2019 Borthwick Miyajima Photo June19
Miyajima Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in Japan has given me the chance to reunite with two other Stirling University alumni: Daisuke and Atsushi. They helped tutor me in Japanese and gave me some great advice before I left the UK. If I hadn’t studied languages at Stirling Uni, I would never have met two great friends and developed a support network before I even arrived in Japan.

2019 Borthwick Osaka Photo June19

The obvious thing to mention is the challenge of learning the Japanese language. It’s different in almost every way to English, Spanish and French. Forget the patterns of “Subject, Verb, Object” and noun/adjective placement. I’ve had to unlearn the knowledge I acquired over the last ten years and treat this as something completely new. On top of that, there are three writing systems used in Japanese! Yes, three! Although it’s been a slow process, I feel like I’ve made some small progress in the (almost) year that I’ve been here. In July I’m taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and aiming for N5 level (the equivalent of A1/2 in the CEFR exams).

2019 Borthwick K-Drama Photo June19
Seoul: K-Drama Dream

I’m still not sure what the future holds, but I know I’m going to be in Japan until at least August 2020. After that, I still haven’t made up my mind. I’m torn between staying in Japan, moving to South Korea or travelling around South America. I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience is that there is no one way to do things. So, if you’re standing at a crossroads and you can’t decide which route to take, why don’t you forge your own path?’

Many, many thanks to Brett for this fantastic post – we’re delighted that JET and Japan are working out so well for you and look forward to more updates over the months ahead. Do keep in touch!

 

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News from a former PhD student

2019 Verbeke Blog Pic 4 May19Many of the articles on this blog over the past months and years have given an overview of what our undergraduate students go on to do after graduation and we’re hoping to continue that particular stream of posts in the weeks ahead. For just now, though, a slightly different perspective, in the shape of this article from Martin who completed his PhD with us, under the supervision of Bill Marshall and Cristina Johnston, a few years ago now, working on language and French and Francophone rap:

‘Since the end of my PhD in June 2016, I have focused primarily on teaching and publishing my PhD research. Although my main area of study was French at university, I started working full-time as a Dutch and English teacher in a Belgian secondary school in September 2016 because of the shortage of such teachers. My Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpreting combined with my time spent in Flanders (for my Master’s degree) and Scotland made me a very sought-after candidate for such vacancies.

Of course, I would have preferred to teach French right away, ideally in a high school or a university (both types of higher education in Belgium), but there are many French teachers on the job market. Even with a PhD, it is hard to stand out when applying for a vacancy. This was made even more complicated by the introduction of a new law regulating the degrees needed to teach in secondary schools. Since September 2016, it has become mandatory to possess a teaching degree from a university (called agrégation). Without this degree, it is hard to find a teaching position, you get paid less, anyone with a teaching degree, even fresh out of university, will be prioritised over you regardless of your years of service, and it is impossible (actually illegal) to get a permanent contract.

2019 Verbeke Blog Pic 3 May19As I had been made aware of this upcoming legislative change, I enrolled in a French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain in September 2016, right after my PhD. This course normally takes one year to complete, but I took it over two years while working full-time. It is only worth 30 credits on paper but takes a lot of time and effort and represents many more credits in practice. In fact, if you take it within a Master’s degree, you are allowed to take a 6-credit ‘empty course’ as compensation because they do realise that it would be too hard otherwise. Unfortunately, they do not offer such a privilege to people who only follow the teaching part of the degree. Things were made even more difficult by my father’s passing away in October 2016. Despite all of this, I somehow managed to finish the degree with the highest distinction (18/20 average) while having a second daughter and publishing 5 articles based on chapters from my thesis. My hair was thinning before and now I am completely bald… Go figure!

This new degree has created opportunities for me. It allowed me to start working part-time as a French teacher in a secondary school last September while continuing to teach English to ‘immersion’ classes (with students who have certain courses in English despite being in a French-speaking school). Next school year, I am very likely to work as a French teacher full-time. My goal is to do this for a few years and to eventually find a more fulfilling position in a Belgian high school or maybe university if I get the right opportunity. A big reform is about to take place with regards to teaching degrees, which means that high schools and universities will be looking for new teachers. The director of the French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain told me that he will get in touch with me then, as I impressed him during my studies. I’ve had interviews with other high school directors who told me that my profile would be very interesting then. I do enjoy teaching in secondary schools, but students can be unruly and the school programs uninspiring at times. Furthermore, it does not make long-term sense, in my opinion, as my PhD is not valued at all (nor even taken into consideration).

In any case, we will see what the future has in store for me! I will make sure to let the University of Stirling know. In the meantime, you can read some of my publications on non-standard vocabulary in Francophone rap if you want to: in French here, and in English here, here, here and here!’

Many, many thanks to Martin for having found the time among so many other commitments to write this blog post for us and we look forward to hearing how things work out in the next academic year, and send you our best wishes!

‘Learning languages can open many doors’

2016 Rogers Picture I MayAnd what better way to round off today’s blog catch-up than with a lovely post by our former student Stephanie who graduated a few years back in French and Spanish:

‘It’s been nearly three years since I graduated from the University of Stirling. I remember the stress of finding work and final exams looming. If only someone had told me to stop worrying and just enjoy spending time with friends on the beautiful campus.

When I left Stirling, I spent an incredible few months working as an English Language Assistant with the British Council just outside of Paris. Aedín, one of my lecturers, had told me “Take these fantastic opportunities while you’re young- they didn’t exist when I was in University!” Teaching with the British Council was indeed fantastic, and having not taken a placement during my studies, it was amazing to be able to go when I finished. Whilst I was there, I did some translation for the school where I worked, and this led to me doing a Master’s in translation and interpreting – this time at the University of Surrey. I loved this course, and although it was challenging, I would recommend studying translation and interpreting to anyone who has done a language degree, because these are transferable skills which can take you anywhere!

Other students from my year in Stirling have gone on to teach abroad, gained PGCEs, travelled the world as Flight Attendants, worked as translators and much more. Learning languages can open many doors, but even if you choose a career where you don’t use them directly, they will continue to be invaluable when travelling and meeting new people.’

Many thanks, indeed, to Stephanie for sending us this post and we wish you all the very best for the future – keep us posted on where life takes you!

Congratulations one and all!

Another very pleasant part of this whole blog catch-up thing is that it gives me a chance to pass on great news about successes for staff and students.

The University’s annual RATE teaching award ceremony took place at the end of last month so, firstly, congratulations to our Divisional colleague Bashir Saade who won this year’s prize for Excellence in Teaching in Arts and Humanities. It was fantastic to see a number of French at Stirling staff also being nominated for their hard work and commitment to teaching over this past academic year across a range of categories: Exceptional Student Support Award; Research Postgraduate Supervisor of the Year; Best Tutor; Fantastic Feedback and Excellence in Teaching in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities. And the feedback from the voters always makes us smile:

‘An inspirational teacher and one that I desire to be like myself’;

‘So passionate about her subject and creates an enjoyable atmosphere for learning. Where every student feels their opinion or interpretation is valid’;

‘Very constructive and friendly feedback that gave me the confidence to write essays with more ease’;

‘Most involved, best informed, best organised tutor and professor. Will always get back to you on time, will help with anything, always on time, always available for appointments.’

Thank you to all the students who voted for us – it really is very much appreciated by us all!

And congratulations, too, to Caitlin, Eszter and Eilidh, Stirling’s three successful applicants for this year’s Stevenson Exchange Scholarships, all of whom will be able to benefit from funding to undertake research projects while on Study Abroad or English Language Assistantships next year.

Eilidh – who is studying French with Spanish and Professional Education – will be working on a project exploring how a particular region balances its history and traditions against a desire to modernise and to exist within a changing world, with a particular focus on Lyon where she’ll be spending her year as a Language Assistant. Caitlin – who is on the same degree programme as Eilidh – is keen to explore the influence of Gothic art and architecture on the region around Montpellier where she’ll be working, also as a British Council Assistant. And Eszter – whose degree is in Spanish and Marketing – will be in Spain, on Semester Abroad, and examining feminism and the creative industries while studying at the University of Navarra-Pamplona. Congratulations to all three recipients of these competitive scholarships and we look forward to tales of your time abroad and the work you do with the Stevenson over the year ahead.

And thanks to Jean-Michel DesJacques and Jose-Maria Ferreira-Cayuela, Study Abroad Coordinators for French and Spanish respectively, for all their work in helping develop the applications.

Travel, internships, language assistantships, translation, further study…: 2019 French Finalists’ plans

As ever, with the end of the academic year, we like to get a sense of what plans our finalists have for life after graduation at the end of June – it’s becoming something of a tradition. And, as ever, those plans are diverse and varied so, with many, many thanks to all those who contributed (and to those who have promised additions to this post as and when their final assessments are over…), here’s a taste of what lies ahead for them:

Greig, who has been studying for a BA Hons in French with us, has been saving to go travelling over the past year with the intention of going to south-east Asia at some point in the near future for 6 months to a year. Over the summer he’ll be ‘working for a wealth-management company (Succession) doing data-entry and reviews just to help add to my travel-funds and then after summer I intend on applying to work as a chalet host in the Alps in France for a ski-season. After that I hope to have saved up enough money to begin my travels and, as cliché-d as it sounds, do a bit of soul-searching and find out what I want to do with my life.’

Like Greig, Samantha, who will be graduating in French and Spanish, is ultimately very much hoping to become a translator. However, she hopes to spend ‘at least a year saving up for a backpacking trip around Europe in Spring-Summer 2020 before either starting a Masters in French translation or doing a translation internship and eventually gaining enough experience to become a freelance translator in French, but also maybe in Spanish and Italian. I’m not sure when I’ll officially have a career as a translator but it’s definitely my end goal and has been my dream since I was 6 years old.’

Paloma is on our International Management and Intercultural Studies programme that we run in conjunction with the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg and, having completed her Stirling modules and a semester of Study Abroad in Rabat, she’s off to Alsace in the Autumn for the Master Grande Ecole. As she says ‘Back in 2017, I had the chance to take part in a Summer School in Strasbourg, and I fell in love with the city. After finishing up my bachelors in Stirling (where did time go?), I am excited to go back and study a masters at EM Strasbourg starting in September. I am looking forward to being at the heart of Europe in a buzzing, historic, and multilingual city filled with European institutions.’

2019 Hornberger UN Bonn Pic April19Another of our International Management and Intercultural Studies students, Annika, has just started a Summer-long network and research internship with the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) based in Bonn, with a pretty fantastic view from her office windows. Core to her role will be to assist in the planning and preparation phase of the 2019 UNEVOC TVET Leadership Programme in Bonn later this year, including logistical support, preparation of communication, PR and programme materials. Thanks to her language skills, she’s also been asked to work with the Communications and Capacity Building Team there. And then in September, she’ll be hopping over the border to Strasbourg to start her MGE year.

As for Alex, who has been studying French and Maths at Stirling, as he says: ‘Like many 4th year students, I am yet to decide what field of work I’d like to go into. Despite this, I have applied for the British Council placement to become an English Language Assistant in France for roughly 8 months. This opportunity will give me good experience in teaching, especially if I decide to become a teacher, whilst further improving my level of French. I have received confirmation that I am likely to get a place and am awaiting allocation of my destined region, which I should know by the end of June.’

Among the plans of other finalists are more intentions to travel far and wide, as well as offers for Master’s programmes in everything from International Political Economy to Peace Studies. To all our finalists from this year, we send our very best wishes and look forward to learning where life will take you – keep in touch!

From Stirling to Brussels…

As you’ll have gathered, one of the characteristics of students who graduate with degrees involving languages is that their professional lives often take them to new countries and continents, with travel forming a key part of careers and social lives alike. A great example of this comes with this post from Katja, who graduated from Stirling a few years ago on our International Management with European Languages and Society degree:

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic I Mar19‘When I wrote my last post for the French at Stirling blog, I had just graduated with my BA (Hons) in International Management, French and Spanish and was about to start a postgraduate course at Durham University. That was almost three years ago, back in 2016. And even though a lot has changed since my university days, my passion for languages, getting to know new cultures and countries has remained the same.

After spending a year in Durham and finishing a MA in Politics and International Relations I was offered the Blue Book Traineeship – a paid internship with the European Commission – and started to work at the European Environmental Agency in Copenhagen in October 2017. The internship lasted until February 2018 and over the course of these five months I gained great insight into the workings of the European Union, the work of the EEA and some of the topics they deal with, especially, circular economy, bid data and integrated environmental assessments.

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic III Mar19

From Copenhagen I moved to Brussels in March 2018, where I worked as a trainee in the representation of one of the regional governments of Austria, helping in the drafting of weekly newsletters on various political and social topics at the regional as well as EU level and attending conferences and events. The dynamics of this traineeship and the multinational and multilingual aspect of this work made me apply for a full-time position within my regional government and luckily enough I was successful. Since September 2018 I have been working for my regional government as part of the Department for European and International Affairs based in Brussels, which functions as the connecting office between the institutions of the European Union and the regional government back in Austria. This way I have found a job that combines both my interest in politics as well as languages. Having lived and worked in Brussels for almost a year now, I understand the importance of knowing several languages even more and am grateful I actually use the knowledge I have gained during my student years in my working as well as social life.

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic V Mar19Since French is one of the main languages spoken in Belgium and one of the three European Union working languages, I believe that my training in Stirling prepared me for the environment and position I am working in at the moment. I am currently using French, my native German as well as English on a daily basis, which is exactly the working environment I was hoping for and envisioned when I decided to study a combined business and language degree at Stirling University.’

Many thanks, indeed, to Katja for sending us this fantastic post and we’re delighted to hear that things are going so well for you in Brussels – we look forward to more updates over the coming months and years and wish you all the very best.

French at Stirling: What happened next…

And following on from Evelyn’s post about Semester Abroad in Aix, another great article by Claudia who graduated in 2012 with a BA Hons in French (the same programme as Evelyn is doing, coincidentally…):

‘I think it must be a couple of years since I was last asked to contribute and let you all know about what happens when you graduate!

I have now taken a bit of a side step from French and I am a trainee legal executive at a law firm in sunny Dorset. My days are now filled with compliance, mortgages and completions instead of language, translation and reading but the skill set I learned at Stirling is transferred daily. For example, learning to translate French literature means I can now read leases and find the key passages with ease. Whilst I did not naturally find presentations and talking in front of the class easy, I can now confidently give advice to clients and speak up in meetings and at networking events.

With the rise of social media, Facebook kindly reminded me recently that it has been 10 years since I started my degree (September 2008) and 8 years since my student placement at Limoges University (January to May 2011). Whilst it may be a while since I graduated, it sure has gone by quickly and the University prepares you well for the world of work. I can’t believe I used to whinge at a 9am start- now that feels like a lie in!

Whilst I may not use French on a day-to-day basis the skills you learn are invaluable and you won’t even realise you are doing it. Legal work is challenging and long-distance learning is tough but the studying I did at Stirling has made me focused in my future career and when I feel I can’t do something I remind myself of all those nights that I wanted to give up and go home. I’m so glad I didn’t and there is no doubt in my mind that Cristina and Aedin kept me at university.

I’m hoping to go back to France soon and explore more of the beautiful cities that France has to offer; the world is bigger than the Pathfoot building, though it may feel as thought that is your world for 4 years. Hopefully the next time I get to write a post I might be a little closer to qualification. Keep an open mind- you never know where French will take you!’

Many, many thanks to Claudia for sending us this fantastic update and we look forward to following your progress in your legal career over the years ahead! And particular thanks from Cristina and Aedin – we’re delighted you stayed!!