Tag: Spain

Support for the British Council

Not only was that last blog post from Louise well-timed because it made for a great start to the month but its timing was also particularly good because it coincides with a campaign in support of the work of the British Council and gives us an opportunity to lend our support to that campaign.

And, for a change, I’m going to write this one in my own voice (Cristina Johnston, that is, with some help from colleagues and links to other posts along the way!). Every year, at Stirling, both in French and in Spanish we encourage as many of our students as possible to apply for British Council English Language Assistantships, whether between the end of the 2nd year and their return into 3rd year or as finalists thinking about opportunities that are open to them after graduation. Some of our students apply for assistantships because they are studying French and/or Spanish with Education and the ELA is a great way to fulfil the language residence requirement for school-level language teaching. However, many other students also apply, across a range of subject backgrounds and combinations and often without any specific intention of going into teaching after they graduate. Rather, for many of the students, this is a paid opportunity to spend time living and working in another country, in another language environment and they seize the opportunity to travel, meet new people and adapt to new environments.

As with any job – and we do always remind the students that they are in paid employment, with the responsibilities that brings, and that the application process is not a foregone conclusion – unfortunately not everyone has an overwhelmingly positive experience and we try to support students through any difficulties as far as possible. However, in many, many instances, a year as an ELA becomes a key turning point in a student’s life, whether in terms of their career plans or in their personal lives. They may not always notice the changes but, when they come back and rejoin us for their Year 3 and 4 classes, we notice the differences in them, in their confidence, in their openness, not to mention the excitement and enthusiasm with which they recount their year when they come back to Stirling. And the same goes for the finalists who undertake ELAs after they leave Stirling.

For many of us teaching in French at Stirling, the enthusiasm is not only great to see in our students but it also serves as a reminder to us of our own experiences of English Language Assistantships, whether as something we’ve undertaken ourselves or as we remember assistants in our own schools. My own year as an ELA came in 1995-96 when I was lucky enough to get an assistantship at the Lycée Marie Curie in Strasbourg. I’d spent time living in France before and was lucky enough to have travelled and spent time elsewhere in Europe, too, but I didn’t know Strasbourg or Alsace, other than via a very short school trip years before. When I think back, lots of things stand out. I remember nervously turning up in the staffroom on my first day, opening my little locker and finding that a colleague-to-be had left me a jar of home-made jam as a welcome present. I remember some truly awful conversation sessions I tried to deliver with no real sense of how on earth to get the pupils to actually talk to me and then the sense of satisfaction, as the weeks progressed, at kind of figuring it out. I remember my flat there – a tiny studio right, just outside the old town, opposite a fantastic pâtisserie.

Mainly, though, what stands out is one particular group of pupils who were in terminale and doing the European Bac, with extra English classes during the week, as well as History and Geography lessons in English. I spent more time in class with them than any other group and was invited to accompany them on a school trip to Northern Ireland, among other things, and have very positive memories of their enthusiasm for languages and for learning which, in turn, I associate with the opportunities offered via the British Council assistantship scheme.

Other colleagues at Stirling have similarly positive experiences and memories. Hannah Grayson, for example, first came across British Council assistants in 6th form: ‘I benefitted from 1:1 sessions with both a French and German language assistant at my school. Our German language assistant was so enthusiastic that she persuaded me to enter a British Council competition, producing a leaflet all about the benefits of the language assistantship programme. We ended up winning and I was awarded my certificate at the top of Canada Square in Canary Wharf by none other than Sir Trevor McDonald! 

After those dizzying heights, my own language assistantship took me to Laval in Mayenne for 9 months of teaching in two collèges. I had wanted to be in Montpellier teaching lycée but it turned out to be one of the best years of my life. I lived with people from all around the world, travelled across France, and got the bug for teaching that still excites me over a decade later. When on my first day, the girl at the front of the class queue looked at me disdainfully and said, “I (h)ate English,” my naïve optimism was somewhat crushed, but the year turned out to be a wonderful experience and I am still in touch with the friends I made that year.’

Nina Parish’s experience also spans her own school days and time as an assistant while at University: ‘At school, we were lucky to have French and German assistants – I can remember the German assistant in particular being so helpful when we were studying for A-level. Having access to someone closer to our age was just brilliant.

I was an English assistant on my year abroad in Marseille – I think it has to be the best year of my life – still now – many years later! I worked in two collèges (and lived free of charge in one) and the English teachers were so welcoming – they really made me feel part of the team. I returned to Provence once I graduated studying for a Maîtrise and DEA at the university in Aix-en-Provence. It’s here in an Art History class that I discovered Henri Michaux – and the rest is history!’

This year has, of course, been more challenging than most for our students who were away as assistants when Covid-19 hit but, whether as students or staff, we are clear about the importance of the benefits that can come thanks to English Language Assistantships, in particular, but also more widely in terms of the work carried out by the British Council. If you want to find out more about the campaign of support, please do read the information available on the UCML’s website here, and add your voice to the statements of support.

And if you want to read about our students’ and graduates’ experiences of British Council assistantships, there are loads of examples on the blog but you could start here or here or here!

2020 French Finalists and their plans

Following on from Mira’s reflections on life as a Public Service Interpreter, the second of today’s blog posts give us our traditional annual opportunity to get a sense of the hopes and plans of this year’s French at Stirling finalists. To say it has been a difficult few months for them would be a tremendous understatement but, first, like the French at Stirling teaching team, they made the rapid adjustment from classes on campus to online learning. And now, despite the extremely challenging backdrop, many of them have taken the time to reply to a request for reflections on their plans for life after graduation.

We’ve been putting a similar post together for a few years now (see 2019’s here, 2018’s here…) and we were all a little anxious about asking the same questions in the current circumstances but, having spent the past few days reading through the replies, looking at the photos of their travels, reading the good wishes that also came in their messages, I can honestly say this has been an unexpectedly uplifting experience. So, with no further ado, and in no particular order, here goes:

2020 May Finalists Mairi Eiffel TowerMairi, who will be graduating with a BA Hons in French and Spanish, is planning to embark on postgraduate study next year, either with an MSc in Gender Studies at the University of Strathclyde or at the University of Stirling: ‘When I started 4th year I thought I would have been going into a graduate job after I finished my degree but due to the impact of Covid-19, it has been really difficult to find work. I have always wanted to do a postgrad in Gender Studies but I had thought it would be a few years down the line after some time in the working world. But things rarely happen in the order we expect them to. Here’s to the future and whatever it brings.’

Eilidh, who has just completed a BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society, attended a 2-day assessment centre in London back in February, following which: ‘I was successful in my application for the commercial, sales and management graduate programme for Bakkavor. The company is an international food manufacturer, supplying meals, desserts and snacks to all major retailers in the UK and overseas. The programme lasts for 2 years, where I will be promoted to a manager after the programme is completed. Despite the job not being directly related to French, I fully intend keeping up with the language, and encouraging the company to work with a French bakery company so I can get back to France!’

2020 May Finalists Kirstie I

As for Martina, who has completed a BA Hons in French and Spanish, ‘as a final year student during the Coronavirus pandemic, I find myself ending my undergraduate studies in some of the most unexpected circumstances in Stirling University’s history. I started my Joint Honours in French and Spanish in 2015 and spent a gap year between the second and third year of my degree working as an English Language Assistant with the British Council in a small ski town called Briançon, in the French Alps. After this incredible experience I was also fortunate enough to spend a semester living in Seville, Spain. Both these experiences greatly helped me develop my proficiency in these languages as well as my confidence overall.

2020 May Finalists Martina Skiing BriançonAs I have been learning Spanish for almost 11 years, I have always felt very passionate about this language and, as such, I decided to apply for a place on the Masters by Research in Hispanic Studies course at the University of Edinburgh. After producing two pieces of research work at undergraduate level, I am now hoping to develop my skills and hope to be accepted on this course to work on the topic of Latin American and Caribbean feminisms. I have also applied to their prestigious Literatures, Languages and Cultures Masters Scholarship, awarded to 4 outstanding students undertaking a Masters Programme within this division. I also applied for a second scholarship, the Muriel Smith Scholarship. I am now waiting for an update on these applications, but I am very hopeful for what the future holds for me! While I may not have ended my undergraduate studies the same way previous students have, I still had an enjoyable, albeit stressful, year and I am very proud of everything I have accomplished.’

2020 May Finalists Caitlin Strasbourg

Stephanie, another soon-to-be BA Hons French and Spanish graduate, is also clear that Covid-19 is having an impact on her plans but in a different way: ‘As is the case for a lot of people, my plans are in a sort of limbo at the moment. I have accepted a position, though, with the JET Programme as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan. The scheduled departure date is in September, but obviously I’m not sure if it’ll actually go ahead as planned, and what will happen if it can’t go ahead as planned… Despite the uncertainty, I am excited about the prospect of living and working abroad for a while. The JET Programme allows me to have that break from studying that I want whilst also affording me the opportunity to discover a new country and learn a new language.  As far as longer term goals go, I am looking into getting into teaching. Right now, I’m leaning towards primary teaching but I’m not yet ruling out secondary. The ALT position will give me some valuable experience in a classroom which is something that I’m lacking at the moment.’

Like Stephanie, Laura, who has just finished her BA Hons in English Studies and French, also has travel plans for the coming year: ‘My plans for September are going to Finland for a Master’s degree. I have received three offers from three Finnish universities of Masters’ programmes in educational sciences based on teaching languages as a foreign language. I have not chosen yet which one I will specifically choose but I am sure I will spend my next two years in Finland.’

2020 May Finalists Evelyn La Piscine RoubaixIn some cases, the impact of the current situation is such that original plans are having to be rethought as is the case for Evelyn who is graduating with Single Honours French: ‘I don’t actually have any post-graduation plans as yet. Coronavirus has thrown a bit of a spanner in my job hunting as well as my hopes of getting some work experience this summer. I am hoping to go into publishing or copyediting but unfortunately, work experience opportunities are currently fairly thin on the ground at the moment. As such, I am using this time to brush up on skills that will come in handy when looking for a job in this sector. I have also set up a blog to review the books that I am reading during lockdown, so I’m throwing myself into that at the moment as well as keeping the job search active!’

2020 May Finalists Evelyn Vieille Bourse Lille

Another of our Single Honours French finalists, Rhiannon, finds herself in a similar position: ‘My final year didn’t quite go as I had planned, and I feel like I’ve not really had the chance to say goodbye to my time at Stirling University. However, I have had some of the most amazing times there and met some of my best friends. I plan to go to university much closer to home in Glasgow to do a post-grad but I’m still a bit unsure what I want to do. I’m a bit undecided between doing translation (which is what I’ve always originally wanted to do) or doing something completely different. I’m currently interested in doing Gender Studies at Strathclyde but again I am still quite undecided. I’m also extremely interested in doing something related to history or museum-related as I love learning all about the past.  The future is so undecided and scary right now so I am using these months of lockdown to have a really hard think about where it is I would like to go.’

2020 May Finalists Caitlin ReimsAs for Caitlin: ‘After four years studying BA Hons in French and Spanish, I made the decision this year to apply for PGDE primary teaching in order to pursue a career as a primary teacher. I have just recently accepted my place at the University of Aberdeen on this course. This career is what I have always wanted to do, and so I am delighted and excited to have been offered a place. I am also looking forward to moving to and discovering both a new city and a new university. The experience I obtained working as an English Language Assistant in France between my 2nd and 3rd year at University helped me to realise that this was what I wanted to do.’

The teaching route takes many forms and, like Caitlin and Stephanie, other finalists are also planning a year (and possibly more) than involves language teaching in different forms and different places. For Lily, who completed her BA Hons in English Studies and French with us: ‘My plan for the coming year – if all returns to some semblance of normal – is to work in Spain as an English Language Assistant with the British Council so that I can get my Spanish up to a similar level of fluency as my French. Still figuring out what comes after that!’

2020 May Finalists Caitlin View from Sedan Castle

Jack, who is graduating with a BA Hons in French with Spanish and Education, is also taking a teaching-related route in the first instance: ‘Everything changed very quickly as the countdown to graduation approached. Lockdown for me, like everyone else, changed all my plans and added to the uncertainty of what I would do once I finished my degree. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, it has been really nice spending time with my family, going on a daily bike run and having time to read for pleasure regularly. In the spirit of the times we live in, I begin work next week teaching Chinese children English online. I have already started my ESL training and it’s already evident that my degree is coming in handy.

I’m still looking for something more permanent starting later in the year, and I’ve applied for many different jobs so fingers crossed. It’s proving particularly challenging this year as the jobs market has suffered greatly. Living in Dumfries and Galloway where there are few job opportunities at the best of times I’m looking further afield, so who knows where I’ll end up.’

2020 May Finalists Kirstie II BilbaoAnd Kirstie, a BA Hons French and Spanish finalist, is planning to move to Belgium and ‘Brussels specifically. I’m going to teach English, either as a language assistant with the British Council or with another language school, and I’ll also to continue to work on my travel blog. Brussels is a great hub in Europe and I plan to do a lot of travelling around the continent in the coming years!’

Last but not least for the moment, Jack, who has also completed a BA Hons in French and Spanish, reflects that: ‘Near-future planning has become more difficult amidst the current uncertainty in the world, but I am now looking to focus on my backpack business, Cancha, as well as advancing my tennis career. This does not come without challenges. Lockdown has hindered my tennis training routine for quite some time now, and the fact that national borders continue to close and flights are sparse paints a bleak picture for the professional sport scene. However, I am confident that the world will return to normal and, when it does, I want to make sure I am as prepared as possible to take full advantage of this. The same goes for Cancha: buying backpacks for travel and sports is almost certainly not on people’s minds at the moment, but I am using this ‘down-time’ to make more subtle changes in the company, such as refining our message, and the ways in which our company can both endure this episode whilst also giving back to the community and the environment.

Although many graduate students at Stirling are unsure of their next steps, especially during this world crisis (which has stopped almost everyone in their tracks), there are ways in which each one of us can improve and make progress in our ambitions, albeit in an untraditional way.’

We’re always grateful to our finalists for sharing their plans and hopes with us as they reach the end of their degrees but this year, it would be fair to say that we are particularly appreciative of the thoughtful, helpful and positive responses. Many, many thanks to you all, not to mention congratulations on having reached the end of your degrees! And, of course, we wish you all the very, very best for the months and years ahead and hope that you will keep in touch with us in the future.

(And, as ever, if you’re a French at Stirling finalist reading this and wanting to add your contribution, please do just send me an email (cristina.johnston@stir.ac.uk) and I will very happily update the post!)

From Tour-Guiding and TEFL to International Marketing: ‘Language Skills and Cultural Knowledge’

2020 Feb Kitti MarseilleTime for another great update from one of our former students – after Paul’s tales of financial crime analysis, this time, we’re delighted to have news from Kitti who graduated just over two years ago:

‘My name is Kitti and I studied French and Global Cinema and Culture between 2013 and 2017. I really enjoyed my time at Stirling, I met some wonderful people, I learnt so much and I had a lot of fun. I spent a semester in the South of France studying at Aix-Marseille University. I was having a hard time with the accent, so I promised myself I would move back to a different part of France once I graduated.

2020 Feb Kitti Bordeaux TourShortly after graduating I moved to Bordeaux. I loved this gorgeous city from the moment I arrived. Everyone was kind and welcoming and I found the accent much more understandable. I started working on the reception of a youth hostel, and soon a local tour company hired me as one of their guides. I enjoyed every minute spent tour guiding. I learnt so many interesting things about the city and I met a lot of different people. I spent six months in Bordeaux, after which I returned to Scotland and started thinking of going into French teaching, even though I wasn’t 100% sure it was for me.

I completed my application, but I already had a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, so I thought why not make some use of it and gain some experience before starting the PGDE course. I applied for a few TEFL jobs and I landed in a role in Madrid, Spain. I worked in two schools, a nursery and a so called ‘business vocational school’, which is similar to colleges in Scotland. I loved both of these jobs. However, I started giving evening classes for teenagers in a language school, which I didn’t enjoy as much. I found working with teenagers much harder than working with any other age group, and I started asking myself if teaching French in high schools is really the right path for me.

2020 Feb Kitti Cadiz

After returning to Scotland five months ago, instead of going for the PGDE, I decided to give myself a little more time to figure out what I really wanted to do. Since I have teaching experience, I got a job in a primary school, where I support children with learning difficulties. In the meantime, I kept wondering and asking myself what should my next step in life be. I do love working with children but I felt like there might be a more suitable path for me, so I kept searching for career options.

Recently I was accepted to study for a Masters at Edinburgh Napier University. The course is called International Marketing with Tourism and Events and it starts in September. I am over the moon and cannot wait for it to start. All modules sound as if they had been tailored to my interests. When I first read about the course, I couldn’t believe how perfect it all sounded. The year is split into three trimesters, two will take place in Edinburgh while the third one in Nice at IPAG Business School. I am most excited about studying festival management, as I hope one day I can work on film and music festivals. I am equally looking forward to working in settings where I can use my language skills and cultural knowledge. In the end I am happy I decided to take my time to figure out what I truly wanted, I am certain it will pay off. I just hope I will find the southern French accent easier to understand this time round.’

Many, many thanks to Kitti for finding the time to send us through this post and photos. We wish you all the best for the Masters next year and look forward to updates over the months and years ahead.

‘I Can’t Recommend Study Abroad Highly Enough!’

A few weeks from the start of the new academic year seems a good point to breathe some life into the French at Stirling blog which has gone a little quiet over the summer months. Our Bridging Materials are up and running for students joining us on our Semester 1 Advanced French module and we’re all looking forward to welcoming a new intake of students to both the Advanced and Beginners’ streams in mid-September.

It’ll also be good to catch up with all our returning students and to hear tales from those who’ll be back in Stirling after a year on a British Council English Language Assistantship (whether in France or elsewhere) or who’ve been away for their compulsory Semester Abroad at one of our numerous partner institutions. As we wait to welcome people back in person, we’re delighted to be able to post a couple of articles by students coming back from time abroad, starting with this post by Andrea who’ll be heading into her final year in Stirling in the Autumn:

2019 Kolluder Toledo Aug19‘Having recently returned from a semester abroad in Spain, third year has ended as the most challenging but also the most fun year so far in my degree. The language side of my International Management and Intercultural Studies course changed a bit, as the language learning focused more on learning a set of new skills like translation and essay writing rather than the division of classes like previous years. The skills previously developed in year one and two were now brought together for the writing and speaking classes rather than being separately focused on as before. Most of the classes were more unilingual than before (except of course for when we focused on translation) which was helpful to push me more towards thinking in French and Spanish, rather than thinking about these languages in English.

2019 Kolluder Seville Aug19

The change in the teaching was the followed by my semester abroad on Erasmus. I went to the Seville in Spain, and was and still am a bit worried that my French got a bit left behind as I made the best of the opportunity to improve my Spanish in a native environment. However, I did not completely leave behind my French studies, I signed up for a French module in Spain. It certainly was a very different experience learning French in Spanish. On one hand, it was a bit confusing to be learning a foreign language in another foreign language but on the other hand, it helped to clarify some of differences and similarities between the two languages. It has on occasion been challenging to separate the two languages in my head, but having someone fluent in both languages clarify some of the differences and similarities helped to box away the two languages separately in my mind. Also, it was a good experience to listen to other language speakers struggle with French pronunciation and it made me feel less self-conscious about my struggles with my accent when speaking French. Depending on our native languages we all struggle with trying to acquire a less foreign sounding accent in the languages we speak. So, for any of the students also learning both French and Spanish I recommend taking up a module in your other language when you go on your study abroad, it certainly widened my language experience.

2019 Kolluder Madrid Aug19I cannot recommend study abroad enough either. It was a fantastic opportunity to live the language, experience a different education system and culture, and meet new people. At first, it can seem like a daunting idea to pack your bags and go somewhere new alone, whether you’ve done it before or not, but it has been a great confidence boost to find my feet in completely new and unfamiliar surroundings once again. From my experience it’s good to be prepared for a long paperwork trail, start looking for accommodation early, and once your abroad to try as much as possible to make some native speaker friends (the culture clash really improved my language skills, too).’

Many, many thanks to Andrea for the great blog post and we’re looking forward to seeing you back in Stirling in a few weeks.

‘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!

 

Further tales from former students

Having managed to post articles about this year’s finalists and their plans, and to catch up with some of last year’s graduates, I thought I’d try an experiment and see whether I could get updates from students who graduated further back. Thinking that I’d maybe get one or two responses, it’s been fantastic to switch on email over the past little while and to see more and more emails from graduates from 3, 4, 5… years ago landing in my inbox. I’ve pulled together information from all the messages I’ve had so far here in this blog post and some of this will also link up with longer posts, as and when I get them online. As ever, it’s great to see the variety of paths taken by our graduates – not to mention the collective distances covered!! – and it really has been great to get a chance to catch up like this.

Where to start? It’s hard to decide so, in no particular order…

Yasmin, who graduated with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish in 2014 has, since then, successfully completed two British Council English Language Assistantships in different regions of France and is now living and working in Australia, as well as fitting in a good deal of travel around South-East Asia. There’s more on Yasmin’s experiences and travels here! Katja, who graduated in 2016 on our International Management with European Languages and Society programme, is now working on an EU-internship in Brussels. Iida, who also graduated in 2016 but with a BA(Hons) in French and Human Resource Management, completed a Masters at Maastricht University last year and is now living and working in Helsinki: ‘I first got a job at Fortum, Finland’s biggest energy company and then in April moved companies to Unisport, as I got a permanent position as an administrative coordinator. Though my tasks and responsibilities are diverse, sadly I don’t really use French in my current position. I have, however, benefited from my second major at Stirling, namely HR, as well as some of the minors I took like marketing and business management. Additionally, I have to say, cultural studies obviously give you an edge on understanding and working within a global/multicultural company so in that sense having studied French has been useful for me in work life as well!’

Going a little further back, Dawn graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish and, since then, has spent time teaching English in Spain, working in a local authority education department and, most recently, working for a third sector employer which helps people with disabilities find and retain paid employment. More about Dawn’s experiences since graduating here! Susan, who graduated back in 2011 like Dawn, also in French and Spanish, is now teaching English in Guatemala (more here!) and Jana, who graduated a little more recently (in 2014) with a BA(Hons) in French, has recently completed an MSc in Language Teaching at Edinburgh University and feels that the combination of Single Honours French at Stirling and the Edinburgh MSc have helped her to ‘very fulfilling jobs interpreting and providing study support to adult students with dyslexia.’

Then there’s Jonny who graduated in 2012 with BA(Hons) in French and Global Cinema and who has been working as a secondary school French teacher but is about to leave the profession to take up a post with the charity Sense Scotland next month. And Jennifer who graduated with a BA(Hons) in 2016 in French and Spanish and who first spent a year living and working in Vigo, Galicia through the British Council programme in order to determine whether she wanted to pursue teaching as a career: ‘It was a fun and challenging year and even though I decided that teaching is not for me, it was an excellent learning curve and allowed me to figure out the next step on my career path. In September, I will be graduating with a Masters in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow. I am currently working on my dissertation, so I haven’t had a huge amount of time to fully consider my options, but I am hoping to have a clearer idea by September. In the meantime, I have applied for a traineeship as an Editor/Translator at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. If unsuccessful, I would consider reapplying next year because it sounds like an excellent opportunity. I have also been accepted into the British Council programme again, but this time in the region of Valencia. My plan would be to start off my career as a freelance translator on the side, instead of doing extra private lessons. However, I am still unsure of this option. Alternatively, I would stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh and dedicate my time to translation networking and building up my personal profile as a translator – I’ve been told that the sooner, the better! This will present significant challenges, but this is my desired long-term outcome.’

And Helen who – so far – is among the ‘oldest’ graduates, ie from the cohort that graduated the furthest back, in 2010, when she successfully completed her BA(Hons) in French and who says she always looks back fondly on her time at Uni: ‘I loved the strong sense of being part of something bigger in our subject. I still genuinely believe that I had the most rounded degree experience. There aren’t many options where you can study English, politics, literature, film, history, sociology… (I could go on) AND have a fab semester abroad thrown in. I studied in Aix and gained so much from using a higher level of French and meeting people from all walks of life. I managed to make the most of my summers and worked in France every year for a few months, as a watersports instructor. After graduation I was lucky to work in three primary schools on Réunion Island, through the British Council. Wow, what an incredibly different culture shock that was!

Anyway, I now use all of these stories at school to entice the kids who ‘don’t need languages’. I am currently Director of Faculty for Languages in a high school in Preston. I love being able to use my French and Spanish daily while working with young people. I also provide whole school training and I play a key role in the county’s language teachers network. I love the variety of work and no two days are ever the same. Somewhere in between I now have three children and we spend six weeks in France every year (my husband is also a teacher).’

As ever, many thanks to everyone who has got back in touch and sent updates. We really do like to get a chance to know where people end up after they graduate! And if you happen to be reading this as a French at Stirling graduate (from whichever year) and fancy sending an email, please do get in touch.

 

Stirling, Spain, Guatemala, Japan: Language teaching around the world

Every now and then, over the past few years since the blog started, I’ve been really pleased to be able to post updates (here, for example, and here) from Susan who graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish. Since then, I think I can safely say that I’ve really never been able to guess where the next update would come from so it’s been fun waiting to see this time and we’re certainly not disappointed by the result…:

‘I was in Spain last time I blogged and I am now in Guatemala after three months in Japan, so yes a blog update is needed.

2018 Susan Peattie Pic StudentsIn Japan, I was teaching at a University in Noda which is an hour north of Tokyo, mainly focusing on communication and presentation skills. With three of my students, we worked on a presentation of a business idea for the Hult Prize and they won an all expenses paid trip to the US for the next round.

Now, though, I’m actually teaching English at the school where I did my six months residency requirement for my degree, with a UK-based charity called Education for the Children. The plan was to only volunteer for two months and return to Japan. However, they were struggling to find a teacher for the upper grades, so I am here in a paid role until October. This is by far the most challenging job ever. The children are all from the slum areas and often their chaotic home lives can lead to discipline and behaviour issues in the classroom. So, planning to get back to the tranquillity of Japan in January, via Mombasa for the Children’s Home 20th anniversary party in November.’

2018 Susan Peattie Pic Sports day

Many thanks, indeed, to Susan for this latest update and we’re delighted to see the travelling (and the language teaching) continues, and that the Children’s Home is going strong! And, of course, we’re looking forward to more updates in the future.

New Chapters and New Adventures

Following on from Jonny’s tales of life starting out as a secondary teacher in East Dunbartonshire, another account of life in teaching but this time from Artie who graduated in 2016 with a BA Hons in French and Spanish. Artie applied for a British Council English Language Assistantship in their final year and has been working as a Language Assistant in Tenerife since last Autumn:

 

“While I couldn’t quite believe that my time in Stirling had come to an end, I was itching to start a new chapter and embark on a new adventure. Luckily, the opportunity to apply to be a language assistant with the British Council cropped up while I was in my final year. I was still not entirely sure of what direction I wanted to gear my career towards, so I decided to take it.

 

From my point of view, a year with the British Council was ideal. It meant I could have a go at teaching without committing myself to pursue it as a career. Similarly, it enabled me to take a small break from full time education, and yet still allow me to gain valuable skills, as well as spend a year living in Tenerife. Having now established myself and spent a few months at my school, IES Canarias, I can honestly say I am thrilled with my decision to come here.

 

Admittedly there was a period of adjustment when my new colleagues informed me they would rather I spoke only English in the school, strictly no Spanish was to be spoken to any of the students. I was initially taken aback to begin with, as I had anticipated my knowledge Spanish being a major asset in my time abroad, as opposed to a potential drawback. Nevertheless, I have adjusted to this new role and see the benefits of it on a daily basis. In general, the students all make an effort to speak to me in English, and really try to understand when I am speaking to them. Moreover, their capacity for understanding has vastly improved now that they are used to listening to me on a regular basis.

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On a personal level I am finding this year incredibly gratifying, not only because of the relationships forged between myself and my new students and colleagues, but also because of the amount of free time. It has meant I have been able to pursue activities and hobbies that I had not yet done, such as joining a choir, which has given me to chance to visit various villages on the island when performing shows.

2017-megan-davis-choir-photo-feb17-docx

Ultimately, I have made the decision not to continue with the British Council next year in favour of returning to Scotland next year to continue my higher education. Despite leaving the Canary Islands, I am delighted that I made the decision to come here and I cannot wait to see what the next few months have in store!”

 

Many thanks to Artie for taking the time to send us this blog post – we hope the rest of the ELA year goes well and look forward to catching up when you’re back in Scotland as a postgrad next year!

Summer after Stirling

2016 Davis Life after Graduation logo April

The exam period has just started at Stirling but French at Stirling modules for final semester students are all coursework-only so our finalists are slowly realising that they’ve had their last undergraduate classes with us (though we hope to welcome some back in future years for postgrad programmes…). As that realisation gently takes shape, one of this year’s finalists, Artie, who is due to graduate with a BA Hons in French and Spanish in a couple of months, has put together some thoughts for us:

“The time has come when I finally have to answer the dreaded question “So, what do you want to do after you’ve finished your degree?” Being in my fourth year, facing the sometimes (always) overwhelming graduate and job market, I now have no other option than to actually come up with something resembling a vague plan.

Thankfully, everyone teaching at Stirling has already been through this process and remember just how terrifying it can be taking your first steps into the “real world”. Because of this, everyone is on hand to give advice on what to do next and highlight any upcoming opportunities that may be of interest. These range from emails containing schools looking for “Lecteurs d’anglais” to help applying to the British Council. So I’d just like to say a quick thank you to all of our lovely tutors for all of the help along the way, it is really much appreciated!

Thanks to the advertising of future opportunities at Stirling, I have had the chance to apply to be an English Language Assistant with the British Council for the following academic year in September 2016. I am incredibly excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to hear back from the organisation to find out which school I will be placed with. Whilst being a E.L.A I will be paid an approximate of €700 a month, be given the opportunity to gain first hand experience in a classroom and promote an understanding of British culture abroad, whilst also immersing myself in the Spanish culture and language. While working with the British Council I have also applied for the Stevenson Grant to receive funding to research a topic proposed by myself. I’ll be investigating whether there is a desire for independence in the Canary Islands, and whether the reasons behind this are linked to formal education or not.

In terms of plans over the summer, I intend to stay in Stirling and was recently accepted as a volunteer with The Big Training Project in partnership with First Aid Africa. I will be a volunteer recruitment officer in the UK, representing and promoting the charities, with The Big Training Project providing personalised First Aid Training here in the UK and donating all profits to First Aid Africa. The latter charity aims to provide First Aid training in various locations across Africa, where it is needed and welcomed. It was a much welcome surprise that my interviewer is also a student at Stirling, creating an immediate bond and putting me at ease moving forward in this position with the charities.

Meanwhile, I am also applying to several internships, the majority of which are made available through the Stirling Internship Programme. The positions I have applied for thus far span across a wide range, including positions such as a PR, marketing and events intern requiring Spanish to an Archivist intern with Stirling University Retired Staff Association, all made possible through the wide range of transferable skills I’ve acquired through studying languages at Stirling.

In short, I’d like to thank everyone here at Stirling, once again, for making my four years here thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you for helping me grow both as a student and a person and for helping make the transition from student to graduate seem somewhat manageable and a whole lot less daunting!”

Thanks to Artie for this blog post and best of luck, first and foremost, for the Stevenson interview and then for life beyond Stirling!