In just under a fortnight, our new semester kicks off and we’re looking forward to welcoming back our continuing students and to welcoming to Stirling our new first year intake (currently enjoying our online Bridging Materials to help them prepare…) and all those visiting from our wide range of exchange partners from Strasbourg to Perpignan.
Following on from the success of our schools’ events in June and the fantastic presentations given by finalists and graduates, we’re continuing to develop our focus on the employability of Languages graduates. To help embed this even more firmly within our degree programmes, we’re launching a new Languages and Employability module that our students (of French and/or Spanish) will take throughout Year 3.
The module offers sessions on presentation skills (in English and French), decoding job adverts, producing a tailored CV and cover letter in French, and careers/employer workshops, as well as generic skills in personality profiling, and use of social media. It’ll be taught by colleagues from French and Spanish with input from Stirling’s Careers Development Centre with classes and workshops in Stirling in the Autumn semester and online content delivered during the Spring Semester Abroad.
We’re hoping that this new module will give our students a chance to build on the skills they’ve already gained – not least via the English Language Assistantships that many of them undertake between Year 2 and Year 3 – and that it’ll encourage them further to think about career opportunities for Languages graduates, whether in the UK or beyond.
After a brief lull in blog activities while everyone caught their breath after a busy end of academic year, it’s great to be able to pick things up again and particularly good to start a new round of blog posts with two articles by students who have just graduated in this year’s cohort. This first article is by Charlotte Cavanagh who graduated last month with a BA Hons in French and Journalism:
“Having just recently graduated, I have had the opportunity to reflect about my time spent at the University of Stirling, the memories I have made; the majority of which are positive, and how studying at the university has prepared me for the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed my course of study from start to finish: There were modules that interested me, friendly peers and a French department who were always within reach. A combination of these things has made my time at Stirling enjoyable and I can happily say that my French language skills have vastly improved over the past 4 years.
As I continue to think about my time at the university, I realise that some of my most happy moments came from my time abroad doing both the British Council assistantship and Erasmus. As a French language student, the opportunity to go abroad not once but twice felt like a dream come true! I had the most amazing experiences abroad and I owe it all to Stirling and their brilliant languages department for providing me with such great opportunities.
I also feel the need to emphasise how supportive the French department were during my time at the university, especially in fourth year when I was panicking about what to do once I had graduated! The support from my personal tutor was indispensable. She told me that the skills you acquire from a languages degree can open a great number of doors and opportunities and she was right. Despite the panic of not knowing what I wanted to do after university, I have managed to land a job as a project coordinator in London, for a company that provides translation and many other language services to companies all around the world. I am excited to start this new chapter in my life and cannot wait to see where this opportunity will take me, but I will always look back fondly at my time at the University of Stirling and be grateful for the time I spent there.
If I was to give advice to anyone studying languages it would be the following: 1) If there is an opportunity to practice your language skills, whether that be abroad or in the classroom, take it. It is a daunting prospect, but the effort you put in really pays off. 2) There is no need to worry about the future. Languages students have a great many skills to show off about in the job market and speaking from experience, everything does fall into place.”
Many thanks to Charlotte for taking the time to write this post and all the very best for the new job! We look forward to updates over the months and years ahead.
Félicitations to Annika, Nicolas and Stefano – three French at Stirling students who have just finished their 2nd year and who have each been awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship to help them undertake a project of research during their Semester Abroad next Spring. This is a great achievement for all three and we’ll post updates on their progress while they’re away on Study Abroad but we wanted to share their success.
The Stevenson Exchange Scholarships are awarded competitively each year with applicants from across all the Scottish Universities who have to submit an application including a research project outline and then attend an interview at Glasgow University. The range of topics Annika, Nicolas and Stefano will be exploring thanks to their scholarships gives a really good sense of the variety of research interests across undergraduate Languages students.
Nicolas’s project aims to build on time he has already spent working in the fashion industry near Milan in order to further pursue his interest in fashion and the development of the fashion industry in France. As well as attending events around Paris Fashion Week, he intends to visit the Musée de la Mode in Albi and the Musée de Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs in Lyon.
This year’s trio will be following previous Stirling Stevenson successes, including Jeanne who is currently in Granada for her Semester Abroad, having been awarded a Scholarship through Spanish at Stirling. Having already undertaken a good deal of research into the question of the teaching of ‘untold’ histories through discussions with teachers at school and University-level about their experiences teaching on aspects of Franco’s Spain, Jeanne is now planning to focus to expand her research to include visits to historical monuments. “I will visit the Centro Federico García Lorca, where there is a library, to see if the War and the dictatorship are depicted and if so, how. I will also visit the rest of the Provincial Prison of Granada, almost fully destroyed, and the Campana prison for political opponents during Francoism, and the Cartel de las Palmas (where torture used to be carried out). She’s also planning a trip to Madrid, to see Guernica, and to Toledo, to visit the Museum of War.
Félicitations once again, to both the new Stevenson Scholars and those currently completing their projects from this past year!
We’re on a bit of a roll with blog posts from recent graduates this week thanks to Emma’s tips on Alpine ski seasons yesterday and, today, tales of life beyond French at Stirling that both involve teaching but in rather different forms and contexts. Tales of Megan Davis’s life as a Language Assistant in the Canary Islands will follow shortly but, first, Jonny Terrell’s first steps in the world of secondary education. Jonny graduated in 2012 with a BA Hons in French and Global Cinema and Culture and is now about halfway through his first year as a French secondary school teacher:
“Since graduating from Stirling University in French and Global Cinema and Cultures, I have gone on to further use my language skills by training to become a French teacher at a Scottish secondary school. This started in 2015, when after three years working for a fundraising company in Glasgow, I learned about the PGDE programme (post-graduate diploma in education) from a friend. This turned out to be a very intensive and tough year training to become a teacher. However it was incredibly rewarding and I am now a good few months into my probationary year working as a full time French teacher in East Dunbartonshire.
My French degree has helped me get started in what I hope to be a long teaching career, and additionally it has been great fun to reactivate my language skills and get a chance to speak and teach French on a daily basis. To help improve my future job prospects I will be looking to add a second language (most likely German!) and I definitely feel that the grounding in language learning that Stirling University gave me will greatly help in this regard.
Outside of employment, my language degree has turned me into a much more confident and ambitious person than I was at the start of my degree. I especially feel that the six months of Erasmus in Tours had a huge impact on this – if only it could have been a full year! I would certainly not be in the exciting position in life that I’m in today had it not been for my four years studying French at Stirling University.”
Many thanks to Jonny for this blog post. We hope the probationary year continues to go well and wish you all the best for your new career – keep us posted!
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.
Teaching ended here last Friday and our students have just finished their oral exams and handed in last essays of the semester so – apart from now waiting for feedback and grades… and the occasional exam in other subjects – it’s time to settle into the festive break until the new semester in January. To mark the occasion, our Language Assistants Brigitte Depret (for French) and Maria Sanchez (for Spanish), organised a pre-Christmas get-together for Year 3 and 4 students yesterday and Brigitte has very kindly written the following post with plenty of positive thoughts on the semester that’s ending from those in attendance!
‘As the semester is drawing to a close, and the exams are over, a Christmas party co-hosted by our Spanish colleagues, was the perfect opportunity to ask our 3rd and 4th year students what the highlights of the semester have been for them.
Colm, a final year BA Hons French and Spanish student, has found the shift back to Stirling after his Semester Abroad in Spain challenging but says “we were lucky to have extra oral classes this year. These were really helpful to me. We are also lucky to have very friendly staff here, and interesting classes to keep us motivated.” Colm’s fellow final year French and Spanish student, Luise says she is “really happy with the language class where the students are encouraged to take part. Our small classes are ideal to work in and it makes learning French a very enjoyable experience.”
David, Lysiane, Conni and Jennifer, who are all also taking both French and Spanish in their final year, were equally positive about the past semester. David enjoyed both the weekly written and spoken language classes this semester: “With Mathilde, in our Spoken Language class, we speak about current affairs, French culture and French society, which keeps us up-to-date with everything we should know about France. It’s a class-based discussion, with lots of interaction in a relaxed atmosphere. I was lucky to have Cristina for written language. As a teacher, she is very approachable and always there to help. Anytime you need support, she’s there.” For Lysiane, “Talking about current affairs, politics have been especially helpful to understand the French society. My teachers were all lovely, especially Cristina who did help a lot in translation. It has helped me to expand my vocabulary and gain more confidence. It was also a great human experience. At Stirling, there’s a real feeling of community.” And Conni and Jennifer are clear that “Our confidence has improved a lot, thanks to great tutors.”
Alongside the weekly oral classes, our French Language Assistants, Brigitte and Mathilde, also scheduled shorter individual and paired slots for further opportunities to speak French throughout the semester for our Year 3 and 4 students, something that seems to have been particularly appreciated by Brett: “I really enjoyed the course, because it opens lots of room to progress, especially because of the extra one-to-one language slots we were offered this year. I am glad I had the opportunity to improve in a well-structured environment and thanks to small classes.” And for Anna, a Year 3 French and Spanish student, the “highlight was the written class which I enjoyed very much. The articles we read in class were really interesting. They widened my knowledge in the realm of politics and French society.”
Determined not to be out-done, our Year 2 students also got into the festive spirit, deciding to wrap up the semester with a Xmas Jumper challenge during their Language Class. The idea came after they talked about fashion as one of the topics of the Language class in November. They wanted to do something funny and memorable, and then the idea of a Hawaiian shirt came up… Alas, weather not permitting, they had to give up on that idea and Xmas jumper, it was! Two students arrived dressed as Santa with some balloons and nice treats for everybody, while the majority, including our tutor had on their very fashionable jumpers…
For Jack, who is in the 2nd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish with Professional Secondary Education, the “Langage Parlé sessions have been relaxed, fun and informative. I greatly look forward to this class every week where we just sit down and spend an hour speaking French. Whether it’s stereotypes or Siberian Skiing, fashion or Facebook, the LP class has given me the opportunity to improve my ability to express my opinions and I feel more confident using French in conversation.”
Another group of dynamic students was also up for the Xmas jumper challenge. On that occasion, Rebecca (in the middle, below) went the extra mile to bring us chocolates, cupcakes and biscuits. Who said we can’t speak French, learn and have fun at the same time?!!
And finally, for Amy, who is in the 2nd year of her BA Hons in Primary Education with Modern Languages, “French this year has been great. I really enjoy the written grammar classes as it gives me the opportunity to practice the grammar that is so necessary for us during exams. Langage Parlé classes are also really good as you get the necessary practice speaking French in a very relaxed and unpressured setting. It’s been a really helpful and fun semester.”‘
Many thanks to Brigitte for putting together this blog post and to the students for their positive and kind words! Enjoy your break and joyeuses fêtes! We look forward to welcoming back our Year 4 students (and Year 2 and 1, of course!) in the New Year and to hearing tales of Semester Abroad adventures next Autumn from our Year 3 students.
Rachael Ringland graduated with a BA Hons in French and Spanish just over a year ago and we’re delighted to get a chance to post this update on what she’s been up to since graduating and how many doors a degree in languages has opened for her.
“It has been just over a year since I graduated. June 2015 was a slightly terrifying month because everything I had known for the past five years was coming to an end. At this point I should stress how much I genuinely loved university; it was an experience I could have never predicted.
The University of Stirling itself is fantastic, from its breath-taking scenery to the fantastic amenities on campus, it truly is an amazing place to spend your days at uni. I had the privilege of studying French and Spanish, and I honestly couldn’t fault anything within the department. The tutors are wonderful people, there’s a great range of modules in 3rd and 4th year which allow you to concentrate on your strongest or favourite subject, and a lot of help and support readily available should you need it. For me, exams were sometimes a pain because both French and Spanish departments set their exams around the same time, but unlike many of my friends I was able to get everything over and done with extremely quickly (silver linings!).
It has to be said, though, that the best part about studying languages is the opportunity to live abroad. When I was at school, I considered myself to be a home bird; I had never left Northern Ireland for longer than a couple of weeks before I came to Stirling, and to be honest the thought of living in Scotland was terrifying at first, never mind in France or Spain where I didn’t even speak the language (fluently!). But I went. I chose to work in France as an English Language Assistant then study in Spain the next year.
I could get carried away so easily here, so I will try not to babble! My time abroad has completely changed my life: I have made so many friends from all over the world and met so many amazing people who have had a massive impact on my life. I’m actually just back from a visit to Wales, where I was visiting two girls I met only four years ago whilst we were in France. I now consider them two of my closest friends and I can’t even imagine my life without them. The experience of teaching English was so surreal. I was in a Lycée and my students ranged from 15-22 and every one of them was at a different level. I say surreal because at the time I was only 20 and many of my students were older than me! They found it hysterical, obviously. Studying in a different language was a pretty intense experience too, but it really paid off. In fact in my last semester I was much more confident and obtaining better marks in exams than before!
Since leaving university I have started working. At the beginning I was considering going into teaching, but having taken so long to decide I actually missed my application deadlines (awkward) so I decided to get a job in the meantime to keep myself busy and to earn my own money after having lived on student loans for so long. I applied for everything going for a month or two until I finally got a job at Holland and Barrett. Interestingly enough, my time abroad and my degree was a massive deciding factor during my first interview. I applied for a supervisor role, and obviously my future boss had to decide whether or not I was responsible enough to be in charge of other people! She also had to gauge how capable I was to do the mountain of training I had to undertake before being fully qualified. I assured her I was well used to studying and working hard, and thankfully she took my word for it! She was very impressed that I had spent time abroad and was amazed that I had teaching experience at the age of 20. I honestly believe that was one of the main reasons she hired me, so even though my interview wasn’t for anything language-based, my skills have proven to be completely transferable!
I am still working at Holland and Barrett over a year on and I genuinely love it. In May I attended the company conference (it was a Carnival conference!) and whilst there I attended a talk on the company’s expansion- we now have branches all over the world from China to UAE, and more importantly in Spain and Gibraltar. I am in the process of working my way through the training and climbing the company ladder so that one day I can go and run their new branch in Gibraltar (or France if they ever open one…). At the minute I am also looking in to TEFL and TESOL courses with a view to becoming a fully qualified English teacher. I decided that teaching French and Spanish is not, in fact, the route I would like to pursue, so I am building upon my experience as an ELA. It would give me much more flexibility teaching English, and it’s something I could use in any country should I decide to pack up and explore the world for another few years. At the moment I am leaning towards doing a course online, simply because it will allow me to continue to work full time and save up for any upcoming adventures I may plan! But I noticed Stirling is offering an MSc TESOL course too so my decision has been swayed again! Watch this space…”
We will, indeed, watch this space and hope to maybe get a chance to welcome Rachael back to Stirling to do that TESOL MSc! In the meantime, though, thank you for this blog post and all the best for the current job.