And finally, as promised, in this little flurry, something more research-centred with news of publications, conferences and talks from our colleague Bill Marshall who’ll be retiring at the end of August.
Bill’s Cinéma-monde conference at Stirling in May was a great success. As well as including papers covering everything from Franco-Romanian cinema to the films of Rachid Bouchareb via discussions of the subtitling of banlieue cinema and the role of remakes, the two-day conference also featured two film screenings. Chloé Leriche’s 2016 work Avant les rueswas screened as the conference opener and Bashir Bensaddek’s Montréal la blanche(also from 2016) brought the conference to a close. Both directors were in Stirling for discussions around their films.
And as well as organising that particular conference, Bill has also given a lecture entitled ‘Canadian Cinema: Between the National and the Global’ as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s ‘Focus on Canada’ strand and his chapter ‘Equality and Difference: Queering Guyane?’ is just out in Locating Guyane, edited by Sarah Wood and Catriona MacLeod.
It’s going to be very strange to start our new academic year without Bill but we’re hoping he’ll continue to keep us posted on his plans and projects (and travels…) over the months and years ahead! And, of course, we wish him a very, very happy retirement!
Having finally pulled together the information passed on by this year’s French at Stirling finalists, I thought I’d also try to catch up with last year’s graduates whose plans looked something like this! One year on, here’s what’s been happening, hopefully with some additions to come over the weeks ahead (if you happen to be reading this as a 2017 French at Stirling graduate, please do drop me an email)…
Emily, who graduated with Single Honours in French, is still aiming for a career in firefighting and a return to Australia. She’s currently working as a waitress/bartender but has passed her full bike license and has a car test booked for next week. After that, she still needs to get an HGV license and a first aid certificate before November, at which point she will ‘be moving back to Australia to pursue the whole firefighting thing.’ Although French isn’t an obvious component of Emily’s career plans, she does feel that her degree gave her ‘a lot of skills and experiences that will serve me well no matter what, and I’m especially glad I got another language out of it. I am sure it will make me a stronger candidate when I apply as a firefighter, and indeed most other jobs.’
Mareike, who was off to start an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour at Bournemouth, having completed her Psychology and a European Language degree with us, has just finished her exams and has the dissertation left to write over the Summer. After that, she has been looking at ‘a couple of doctoral programmes in Berlin, trying to get back into more brain-related research. Something that combines nutrition and the brain would definitely be my first choice. Otherwise, I am also considering making use of my newly acquired nutrition knowledge in a company developing online nutrition courses.’
This time last year, Luise was about to graduate in French and Spanish, and had been accepted as an English Language Assistant in Colombia. She went off to Colombia last summer, so that did actually work out and was a great experience: ‘I taught English at a public secondary school and everything was very different from what I know of European education. ‘My’ kids were noisy, musical and very curious – and so were my Colombian fellow teachers. There generally was a lot of singing and dancing going on. My description of pretty much every aspect over there would be: different. Everything is different. Heat and humidity, great coffee, life-threatening traffic, slums and extreme poverty, music and dancing, men whistling or calling on the street whenever they like a woman’s looks, delicious greasy food, getting lost in the jungle, colourful houses and traditional music, and, from my German point of view, a general lack of efficiency paired with a general abundance of ‘Lebensfreude’. It was great!’ Luise is now back in Scotland, working at Deanston Distillery and saving up for her driver’s licence and Masters.
Rebecca, who graduated in Single Honours French, was also successful in her application to work as an English Language Assistant and is reaching the end of her year in Quebec. She has had a great year teaching English and says ‘it has been great to see such a massive improvement in my students’ English. I took a role in our school’s immersion activities which included 3 weeks of hosting students from across BC and from Maddawaska, Maine – even better, I was given the opportunity to travel to these places too. I’ve had so many fun experiences out here. I spent Christmas with other monitors in a lakeside chalet (complete with our personal frozen lake for skating), watched many hockey games, got lost in fjords, been whale watching, been in the audience of Silence On Joue (Québec TV Game Show), done some apple picking on Isle d’Orleans, and tried so many different activities with my school. My French has improved so much and I really love my job. I am even going back for a second year with my school. I am home for the summer then back in September for another 6 months of the Québecois Winter. I am planning to come back to Scotland next year to do my Masters in Translaton and TESOL at Stirling, however all may change in a year’s time!’
And Michaela, who graduated in French and Law, has been working as a Legal Analyst at Ashurst LLP in Glasgow for the past 6 months or so: ‘The job is obviously in the legal sector but my degree in French has enabled me to get involved in some interesting workstreams in the office. This has involved translating legislation of African francophone countries (which did not have English translations readily available online) as part of a pro bono research project and picking up ad hoc translation tasks for French-related projects from our Luxembourg office. I’ve found my French skills have enabled me to contribute to the team at work and I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to keep using them.’
Many thanks, of course, to our graduates for getting back in touch and giving us these updates. We’re delighted to hear that things are going well and continue to wish you all the best! And to look forward to further updates!
If I’m quick, this might even go up on the blog before Bill Marshall’s Cinéma-Monde conference on ‘Film, Borders, Translation’ that starts this evening with a screening at the MacRobert of Chloé Leriche’s 2016 film Avant les rues. The conference continues over the next couple of days, with participants from across the UK, North America and Australia, and papers from three French at Stirling colleagues. David Murphy will be talking about ‘Filming the First World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar 1966’, Elizabeth Ezra will give a paper entitled ‘TransFormations: Cinema’s Uncanny Origins’ and, as for me (Cristina Johnston), I’ll be talking about the ‘ruptures, cooperation and paradoxes’ of Franco-Iranian cinema.
It’s a busy time for conference over the next week or so, as Stirling is also running its annual Arts and Humanities postgraduate conference tomorrow on ‘Arts and Humanities Research Through a Gender Lens’ and our own French at Stirling PhD student, Fraser McQueen, will be there, talking about ‘Islamophobia as a gendered phenomenon in French radicalisation cinema.’ And then, next week, Fraser is off to the University of Birmingham for the SFPS Postgraduate Study Day where he’ll deliver a paper entitled ‘Borders between us and them in female radicalisation fiction.’
About a year ago, the blog ran a series of articles by students who were just reaching the end of their first year studying French at Stirling. One year on, we thought it’d be good to see how things were going so here’s the first of the follow-up articles by Stuart Close who has just finished the 2nd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish:
‘Salut encore! Now that another year of French at Stirling has come to an end, I’d like to share my experiences of the 2nd year of the course. Overall, the format of the module is the same as last year: Culture, written language and oral. The difference this year, in my opinion, is the complexity of written language and oral. I enjoyed discussing topics that could well come up in conversation with francophones, and complex grammatical structures that although difficult, have had a significant effect on my confidence in speaking French. The culture topics this year have been a good variety – from the experience of French Jewish people in World War 2, colonial atrocities and conflicts; to Quebec cinema and the representation of French Muslims.
I like to monitor my progress in French in real life settings each year. This year I was able to practice in two instances. Firstly, during reading week I travelled through Switzerland to parts of France near the border such as Evian-les-Bains and St Louis. And secondly, during the semester I had French cousins of my girlfriend round at my flat for what was meant to be just a night. However, owing to the ‘beast from the east’, they ended up staying for the better part of a week, which was an excellent opportunity to practice my French during visits to the pub or even a game of ‘cards against humanity’ which needed to be interpreted.
I feel that the course materials and assessments this year have given me a great foundation for my British council placement in Quebec later this year, and I hope to come back to third year with a solid level of French (and hopefully not too strong an accent!). Au revoir!’
Many thanks to Stuart for taking the time to send us this update and we look forward to tales of life in Quebec over the year ahead – good luck with the ELA!
More follow-ups and other articles to follow soon…
Last Thursday’s get-together for our Year 3 and 4 students and our HNU Translation and Interpreting class was a chance for them to exchange thoughts and tips on Study Abroad as our finalists (across all degree programmes) settle back in here and our 3rd years get ready for their own departures next semester. With that in mind, it seemed like a good time to get an account of Semester Abroad from one of our students who has returned from furthest afield. Rachel Talbot – who is just starting her final year in French and Journalism – spent her Spring semester at our partner Laval University in Quebec, partly thanks to funding from Santander which is vital to our students who opt for non-EU (so non-Erasmus) locations. As you’ll see in the account that follows, there’s much more to Study Abroad than just an opportunity to see what another University system is like:
‘From 5th January until 1st May 2017 I had the opportunity to study at Laval University in Quebec City. I had never been to the Americas before and flying from Scotland to Iceland onto Toronto and then Quebec was a huge journey in itself. I had heard Quebec City described as s a ‘Piece of Europe in North America’. Unlike the grid like road maps and blocked buildings of most North American cities, Quebec has an ‘Old Town’ and small, winding cobbled streets and architecture which makes it a gem in the North.
I attended the FLE Language School at Laval University which meant I had 16 hours a week. I enjoyed having that much contact time and the course, especially my public speaking class, boosted my confidence greatly speaking French and aided my advancement in the language massively.
At Laval University there is a huge international community (I didn’t meet a single fellow British citizen while I was there!) and it was incredible to meet students from all round the world. Everyone was so open and friendly on their Study Abroad experience that I was lucky enough to have a good group of friends from the very first day!
Not only did the Language school organise my classes but they organised activities at least three times a week, every week. With FLE I was lucky enough to visit the Quebec Parliament, the “Cabane de sucre”, (a traditional French-Canadian restaurant where everything was smothered in Maple Syrup!), the incredible Ice Hotel and many other brilliant landmarks.
Living in Quebec is definitely not for the faint-hearted, with the temps reaching -25c! At first we found it bizarre to have to leave for a night out with full snow boots and a ski jacket. However, our university was connected by tunnels so you could go to the gym, class, even the pub without stepping a foot outside. This took some getting used to but added to the experience. Despite the cold, to see everything blanketed in snow was a beautiful sight.
With the amount of snow there were lots of opportunities to try out new winter activities such as skiing, dog sledding, ice skating and ice fishing. We managed to do all these activities at discounted prices through the university – you could basically try a new sport weekly. We also became massive Ice Hockey fans and had the chance to watch the local team play many times – a massive highlight for us all! I did try my hand at skiing in Vermont and despite thinking I was a natural, I managed to break my collar bone on the second day. Having to be tobogganed down the hill and treated in an American Hospital has become a good story to tell – but definitely sabotaged my budding Ice Hockey Career!
I lived in Quebec for 4 months and during that time my friends and I managed to do a lot of travelling. As Quebec is positioned very well in North America we took the chance to visit to New York, Boston and Vermont. This was something I had always dreamed of doing and I couldn’t have achieved if I had chosen to stay in Europe. Buses were cheap and we had a week off for Spring Break so it was fantastic to see some of the States as well as Canada.
We found the Quebec people warm and friendly. The history of Quebec and how it was founded and formed interested me hugely and I decided to do a comparison project for my coursework examining how Scotland and Quebec have both bid for independence in the past. I managed to gain a huge insight into Quebec and its culture through this research. It was definitely an amazing experience which came at the right time during my four years of University as it has only motivated me to master this fascinating language even more. I would never have had such a perfect chance to visit North America either while still studying towards my degree. For this I am so thankful to the University and I look forward to visiting Quebec again soon!’
Many thanks to Rachel for taking the time to send us this great post and we look forward to more tales from Quebec from future Study Abroad students!
“To commemorate European Languages Day 2016, we went along to Wallace High School to promote the benefits of language learning to the pupils. Having all had a ball working and studying abroad, we were keen to talk to the pupils and encourage them to stick in with their modern language studies.
The school organised many different workshops, speakers and activities throughout the building across different departments, including a French cuisine sample session arranged by the Home Economics department. Our workshop was designed to work with small groups of students and tell them about the opportunities that learning a language have opened for us. Working in small groups allowed the students to ask us questions and also tell us their ideas about their future and if learning a language would be part of their plan.
For Ellen, it was particularly good to “hear the thoughts of the different pupils and it was interesting to hear how many of them felt that language learning might enhance their job opportunities in the future. Many pupils told me that they would like to be able to speak another language but they find their language classes very difficult. Having studied French since high school, I have been through (and I am still going through) the struggle of language classes and the difficulty in grasping certain concepts, so I hope that I encouraged them to be tenacious and power through. In my opinion, the biggest piece of encouragement that I gave the students was that language allows you to travel. I told them about my experience working as a language assistant in France and my study abroad semester in Quebec and how I would not have been able to do those things without studying French. We talked about all the places that you can go if you have a basic understanding or even a few words of French and Spanish to show that there is more to learning these languages than just visiting France and Spain.
I really hope that I have inspired some of the pupils to continue learning a modern language and that they can see the benefits that I have gotten out of learning French and the experiences that I have had. To this day I still find learning French very difficult but it is my love for the language and my interest in experiencing other cultures that make it worthwhile.”
For Charlotte, “as a subject that means a lot to me, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the pupils of Wallace High School to promote the study of languages. What struck me the most was that although many pupils liked the idea of learning another language, they were put off by the idea that it takes a lot of time and effort to master and that they found learning languages extremely challenging. I really enjoyed discussing these thoughts and concerns with pupils, and I hope that by sharing my own stories I have reassured them that although learning a language is not easy, there are so many advantages to studying languages and that it can provide them with so many opportunities.”
David is planning a career in secondary teaching when he graduates so, for him, “it was fascinating both to talk with individual teachers and prospective language students, as well as to try to engage with pupils with no interest in languages whatsoever. Although they were quiet at first, some eventually started asking questions and I could see that they knew there was something to gain. I loved trying to explain to the pupils how languages gave me the opportunity to travel as well as meet new people. Although I thought that speaking of my own experience would not captivate the pupils’ attentions at first, I eventually noticed a spark of interest and one question led to many more. I think what it really showed me was that the pupils see a language only as an academic subject rather than a way to communicate. This truly opened my eyes as to how teachers not only have to teach a language but also have to engage the students. I left the school more determined than ever to become a teacher!”
Thanks to Ellen, Charlotte and David for having given up their afternoon to meet with the Wallace High pupils and staff and for this blog post. We’re hoping to continue to develop our connections with schools in the local area and beyond over the weeks and months ahead so, if you happen to be reading this as a secondary or primary Languages teacher, do feel free to get in touch!
Lelde Benke graduated with a BA Hons in French and Journalism in 2011. After a while living and working in Scotland, Lelde is now in Latvia, working for the Latvian tourist board and she’s sent us an account of her life since graduation:
“In my final year of high school I was sure of one thing – I wanted to study in the UK. However, I was torn between studying Tourism Management, Media Studies and French. Stirling Uni made the decision easier because it allowed me to combine the latter two.
Soon after starting my studies, I switched Media Studies for Journalism which highlights another great thing about the uni – its flexible approach. And now I find myself working in the travel industry so I’m a winner all round!
The presentation, language and translation skills that I developed during my time at uni and my year abroad as a language assistant in Belgium get put to use on a daily basis. My studies, year abroad and exchange semester in Quebec have also made me very open to working with international business partners as I have an understanding of and sensitivity towards cultural differences. These characteristics and skills are greatly appreciated in the travel industry.
Like many recent graduates, after completing my degree I felt a bit lost for a while and wasn’t sure of the next steps to take. I spent a while working as a waitress and applying for jobs in marketing. Six months after graduating, I landed a position with a digital marketing agency in Edinburgh and gained experience in SEO and copywriting for the web but after a while I became homesick so, when a suitable position appeared at the national airline back home in Latvia, I applied and got it which was my first move into the travel industry.
After a year working on the digital side of things for the airline, I realised how much I missed active communication with people. I yearned for a job in which my phone would ring more often, where I’d have more face-to-face meetings and the chance to give presentations.
I’ve now been with the national tourist board for just over two years and love it. My key tasks include organising press trips for international journalists and bloggers, and representing Latvia at B2B travel events. There is a lot of travelling involved. The travel industry is fast-paced and challenging, and I really feel it’s the right fit for a language graduate.”
If you want to learn more about life and travel in Latvia, you can read Lelde’s brilliant blog here. Thanks to Lelde for this article and best wishes for the future!