Tag: Rap

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!

From Stirling to Amsterdam via Aix-en-Provence

With teaching over, and the oral exams for French already a thing of the past, it’s time to catch up a little bit with blog posting and for another few posts from recent French at Stirling graduates, starting with Saara who graduated with a BA Hons in French almost two years ago:

‘I came to Stirling University to study Business Studies but eventually decided to change my course and graduated with a degree in French in 2014. The reason why I chose to study at Stirling University was because I wanted to move abroad from Finland, where I’m originally from, and was keen on studying in English. I then decided to visit a few universities in Scotland. As soon as I had seen Stirling, I decided that it was my top choice as the campus was stunning and the modules offered seemed very interesting.

2016 Saara Sippola St Andrews April
Trip to St Andrews

I still receive questions on why I wanted to study French in an English-speaking country but I always tell people that it was one of the best decisions I made. Not only did my English improve but I also made lifelong friends, studied a variety of interesting modules and was taught by excellent tutors and lecturers. Scottish people were warm and welcoming and I never experienced a culture shock, a feeling I have encountered in other countries I have lived in.

2016 Saara Sippola Monaco April
Monaco

My favourite part of the degree was my semester abroad. I chose to study at the Aix-Marseille University in Aix-en-Provence. I was very nervous when I moved there as I didn’t know anyone but I quickly got to know to other Erasmus students and we became a close group who would travel around the French Riviera. The university in itself was very different compared to Stirling. There was less freedom when it came to choosing modules, for example, and in the beginning it was a challenge to follow the courses in French but it did get easier.

What I enjoyed the most in the South of France were the food and the weather. After my Erasmus was over, I decided to stay in France and agreed to work as an au pair in a French family. My language skills improved quickly and I learnt colloquial French – this was very important as I felt that I understood the culture better. As much as I enjoyed my time in France, I was very happy to return to Scotland.

2016 Saara Sippola Aix-en-Provence April
Aix-en-Provence

When I returned, it was time to start writing my dissertation on North African Immigration in France. The reason why I chose this topic was because of my experience in Marseille and in other cities in France that have a high number of immigrants. As much as I would have liked to cover the whole topic, I understood that it was too vast and decided to tie immigration and French rap music together. I was very motivated when writing my dissertation as I noticed it improved all the time. The meetings with my supervisor, David Murphy, were very beneficial as he gave me a lot of support and was always available for my questions. The dissertation inspired me so much that I am hoping to study a Master’s course in Immigration Management soon.

My French degree has helped me to get different positions in international companies and I now work in Booking.com’s Amsterdam office and manage the company’s Freelance Translators. Even if I do not translate myself, I understand the translation industry completely and it has also made me interested in working as a freelance translator in the future.

Overall, I’m very happy I chose to study at Stirling University. The quality of teaching, the approachable tutors and lecturers and the other students interested in the same topics are the key factors why I would choose Stirling again. Even if I enjoy my time in Amsterdam, Stirling is still very special to me and I’m hoping to return very soon.’

Thanks to Saara for this article and best of luck for the future!

Welcome to French at Stirling

Bonjour! Hello! And welcome to French at Stirling!

This blog aims to create a space for news about life and events on the French programme at Stirling University, as well as to give those of us who teach on the programme a chance to say a bit more about our own research and teaching.

French sits within the Division of Literature and Languages, alongside Spanish and Latin American Studies, Religion, Global Cinema, English Studies, Publishing Studies and Creative Writing. At undergraduate level, our students can either opt for Single Honours French or can combine French with a range of other subjects from History to Management via Education, Politics, Philosophy and much more besides. We also contribute to a variety of postgraduate teaching on our MRes Humanities, MLitt in Film Studies, taught MRes in Translation Studies and MSc in Translation with TESOL, and we have PhD students working on topics as diverse as the sociolinguistics of French and Belgian rap music and Moroccan urban cinema.

The blog is very much a ‘work in progress’ and any questions or suggestions for items we might include can be sent to Cristina Johnston (cristina.johnston@stir.ac.uk).