Following on from our congratulations to all of this year’s graduating students a couple of weeks back, we’d like to offer particular félicitations to this year’s French at Stirling prize-winners whose performance really does stand out as exceptional this year. The recipient of this year’s Simone de Beauvoir Prize, awarded to the student with the strongest performance across their French modules, is Laura, who has just completed a BA Hons in English Studies and French with us. And the recipient of this year’s Faculty Research Prize for the highest dissertation grade in French is Evelyn who has just finished her BA Hons in French. Many, many congratulations to Laura and Evelyn on their achievements and we wish you all the very best for the future!
Tag: Student Research
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:
Mairi, 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!’
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.
As 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.’
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.’
In 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!’
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.’
As 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!’
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.’
And 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will very happily update the post!)
Another very pleasant part of this whole blog catch-up thing is that it gives me a chance to pass on great news about successes for staff and students.
The University’s annual RATE teaching award ceremony took place at the end of last month so, firstly, congratulations to our Divisional colleague Bashir Saade who won this year’s prize for Excellence in Teaching in Arts and Humanities. It was fantastic to see a number of French at Stirling staff also being nominated for their hard work and commitment to teaching over this past academic year across a range of categories: Exceptional Student Support Award; Research Postgraduate Supervisor of the Year; Best Tutor; Fantastic Feedback and Excellence in Teaching in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities. And the feedback from the voters always makes us smile:
‘An inspirational teacher and one that I desire to be like myself’;
‘So passionate about her subject and creates an enjoyable atmosphere for learning. Where every student feels their opinion or interpretation is valid’;
‘Very constructive and friendly feedback that gave me the confidence to write essays with more ease’;
‘Most involved, best informed, best organised tutor and professor. Will always get back to you on time, will help with anything, always on time, always available for appointments.’
Thank you to all the students who voted for us – it really is very much appreciated by us all!
And congratulations, too, to Caitlin, Eszter and Eilidh, Stirling’s three successful applicants for this year’s Stevenson Exchange Scholarships, all of whom will be able to benefit from funding to undertake research projects while on Study Abroad or English Language Assistantships next year.
Eilidh – who is studying French with Spanish and Professional Education – will be working on a project exploring how a particular region balances its history and traditions against a desire to modernise and to exist within a changing world, with a particular focus on Lyon where she’ll be spending her year as a Language Assistant. Caitlin – who is on the same degree programme as Eilidh – is keen to explore the influence of Gothic art and architecture on the region around Montpellier where she’ll be working, also as a British Council Assistant. And Eszter – whose degree is in Spanish and Marketing – will be in Spain, on Semester Abroad, and examining feminism and the creative industries while studying at the University of Navarra-Pamplona. Congratulations to all three recipients of these competitive scholarships and we look forward to tales of your time abroad and the work you do with the Stevenson over the year ahead.
As you’ll have gathered over the months and years of the French at Stirling blog, our degree combinations are many and varied ranging from, for example, French and Spanish to French and Philosophy via French and a range of subjects taught within the School of Management (Marketing, International Management, Human Resource Management…), French and Maths, French and Computing Science, and French as part of the range of Education degrees we run (Primary and Secondary).
One of the combinations that hasn’t featured as often here is Psychology with a European Language, a programme that enables students to combine modules in Psychology with modules in either French or Spanish, so it was particularly good to hear from one of our recent graduates, Luisa, who completed precisely this programme a few years back:
‘After graduating, I went on to do an MSc in Health Psychology at Stirling, as I was torn between what to continue with. I’d say the biggest overlap between the two areas (French and Psychology) was that I used a psychological approach called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis for my French dissertation and it was one of my highest grades that year. It was the first time I had combined the two subjects but it worked well. I also had to write a Psychology dissertation that was due about a week after the French one: definitely a good test of time management and pressure having to write both at the same time.
I have taken a year to work in retail and I am now applying for jobs related to Psychology. However, I have also looked into jobs relating to French, as I had been told by a fellow 2016 French graduate that an organisation in Stirling was advertising translation jobs. I have always enjoyed the prospect of having more options because of having a joint degree. I still try and use French whenever I can and I hope to re-integrate it into my life in the near future.’
Many thanks to Luisa for sending us this blog post and we wish you all the best with the job applications, whichever route they take you down.
The previous post about this year’s applicants for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarships, reminded me that I still had one other article lurking in my files, waiting to be posted, about a French at Stirling student’s success. In this instance, the scholarship in question is the University of Stirling’s Williamson Travel Scholarship which, last year, was awarded to Stefano, currently in the final semester of his degree in International Politics and Languages, along with his fellow student Christopher. Their joint research project was entitled ‘(Dis)integration in Southern Europe. A comparative observation of integration practices for migrants in Italy and France.’
Stefano and Christopher used the research they conducted under the auspices of their project to observe perceptions towards integration of migrants in two different European countries, namely Italy and France, through on field observations of integration practices at both local and regional level. Last July, they made use of their scholarship to spend two weeks in Southern Europe to carry out a comparative review of approaches to integration between two neighbouring countries which have been dealing with an increase of migrants in recent years, in order to enhance their understanding of the ways these countries can foster the integration of migrants in their societies. As well as examining national media representations of ‘the migrant question’, they also made contact with local civil servants and representatives of NGOs to further their knowledge and understanding of the situation. For example, they interviewed Dr Stefano Pasta, Adjunct Research Fellow at the Catholic University of Milan (Research Centre for Intercultural Relations), Journalist and senior volunteer at the Community of Sant’Egidio, a leading international NGO founded in Italy to support and integrate foreigners and migrants in Europe.
In their report on the project, Stefano and Christopher explained that having had the possibility to spend time in two European countries which have both been affected by the arrival of migrants since the start of the humanitarian crisis in 2015, ‘it has been deeply interesting to further investigate their different approaches and attitudes towards migration and subsequent integration within their societies’ and they hope their research will foster ‘awareness of the necessity for an ever greater deal of solidarity and cultural understanding in order for all of us to be oriented by the inspiring examples encountered along the journey.’ And they are, of course, grateful to the Williamson Trust for its trust in them and for its financial support through the scholarship.
Many thanks to Stefano for sending us the information about this project and for his patience while the article somehow sat in an email folder waiting to be posted!
As ever, French and Spanish at Stirling have been busy over the first couple of months of the year working with the students who will be applying for Stevenson Exchange Scholarships for 2019-20, either to supplement the work they’ll be doing as English Language Assistants or to run alongside their integral period of Study Abroad. This year, we have three applicants to the scheme across the two languages: Eszter, Eilidh and Caitlin.
Eszter’s proposed project would enable her to explore the role and representation of women in Spain’s creative industries. Caitlin would like to make use of a Stevenson Scholarship to explore the legacy of Gothic architecture in France, starting with Montpellier and its surrounding region. And Eilidh is interested in learning more about how smaller towns, museums and locations contribute to the ‘marketing’ of France and its regions to a tourist audience.
Regular blog readers will know that French and Spanish at Stirling have a great track record of success with the Stevenson scheme and you can read more about previous Stevenson recipients and their projects here and here for starters. All three of this year’s students should learn whether they’re through to the next stage of the selection process over the next month and we wish all three of them the very best of luck with their applications!
As this year’s Year 3 students think about where they might be going for their Semester 6 Abroad (destinations will be confirmed next week…), time for another student blog post looking back over Study Abroad. Natalie, who is studying International Management with European Languages and Society, was at the heart of Europe in the Spring and has sent us the following reflections:
‘I started my Erasmus exchange in the charming city of Strasbourg in January of this year. Although I was apprehensive at the prospective of moving to another country, I was excited to discover a new culture in a city which I had heard so much about.
Strasbourg’s location in the heart of Alsace was one of the biggest factors when choosing my university for semester six. The beautiful town is situated on the French-German border and therefore, it is ideal for travelling and discovering new cities! Strasbourg is also home to various European institutions such as le Parlement européen, la Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme and le Conseil de l’Europe. I would certainly recommend visiting these institutions – we visited the European Parliament for free! We were able to enjoy the panoramic views of Strasbourg and we visited the Hemicycle which is used for the most important debates!
Capitale de Noël
I arrived in Strasbourg on the 5th of January and fortunately, the Christmas spirit was still alive in the town which claims to be the ‘Capital of Christmas’. Strasbourg boasts one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. I was able to try local delicacies and discover the wonderful Alsatian Christmas decorations. It was a truly magical start to the semester which made me feel at home!
La dimension franco-allemande
Situated close to the German border, Strasbourg’s culture is a wonderful mixture of German and French influences. As a multicultural town, its historical city centre has been granted the title of World Heritage Site by UNESCO. One of the biggest attractions in this fairy-tale town is ‘La Petite France’ which is a historical and quaint part of Strasbourg. You can walk through the narrow streets, discover the Gothic architecture and enjoy a tarte flambée (speciality of the region) at one of the local restaurants. I would also recommend visiting la cathédrale de Strasbourg to climb up to the rooftops and enjoy a breath-taking view of the town and the Black Forest in Germany. There is also free entry on the first Sunday of each month to take all of your family and friends!
Strasbourg’s location is perfect for students who want to travel throughout their semester abroad. During my exchange, I visited Germany on a daily basis to go shopping. There is an excellent tram service which connects Strasbourg and Germany, I could not believe that I could travel across a border in only ten minutes! I also visited Zurich in Switzerland, Paris in Spring and carnival with my Erasmus friends in Cologne, Germany. As well as visiting other countries, I travelled to some beautiful towns within the Alsace region and I would recommend visiting Colmar, a small town accessible by bus from Strasbourg. The multi-coloured buildings, cobblestone streets and canals are incredible. We also visited the food markets to try some local delicacies!
Grande ville étudiante
During my Erasmus exchange, I studied at L’EM Strasbourg business school. I was able to choose from a wide variety of modules including subjects that are not available at Stirling University. One of my most fascinating subjects was ‘Introduction to Grape and Wine knowledge’ which included a trip to the vineyards in a small town called Ribeauvillé. This was an excellent trip to learn about the production of wine in Alsace, the grape varieties and to show off our knowledge about wine and food pairings. We even had the opportunity to put the theory we had learned in class into practice by participating in a wine tasting afternoon!
EM Strasbourg business school focuses on welcoming international students to ensure that all of its students feel accepted and included in university life. The student associations organise activities, buddy systems to meet French students and cultural trips throughout the semester. The buddy system allowed me to meet French friends that I would not have been able to meet otherwise. Also, the university promotes the local language cafes or ‘Café des langues’ in Strasbourg to practice your French. There are several language cafés across Strasbourg which allow students and locals to meet up, share experiences, meet new friends and learn French in a relaxing atmosphere!
On the whole, I really enjoyed my experience in Strasbourg and I even decided to dedicate my independent research project on the city itself in order to explore the French-German relationship. I would definitely recommend Strasbourg to all students who are looking for an enriching experience in a vibrant and dynamic town with the opportunity of travelling easily across borders. Upon reflecting on my experience, I would not change a thing and I cannot wait to return to Strasbourg!’
Many thanks, firstly, to Natalie for this great post (and pictures!). As it happens, Natalie is also one of a group of Year 3 and 4 students who are heading to Wallace High School in Stirling tomorrow as Student Language Ambassadors to lead a series of workshops as part of their annual Languages Day so good luck with that and we look forward to hearing all about it.
And hot on the heels of Stefano’s post about his semester in Paris, this article comes from Annika who will also be coming back to Stirling in September, having spent her Spring semester in Strasbourg:
‘I have spent my Erasmus semester at the Ecole de Management in the beautiful city of Strasbourg, which was a fantastic opportunity and I would do it all over again. Strasbourg is a multicultural, historic city at the heart of Europe. I was in France and yet there were many aspects that made me feel like home in Germany, not only its location at the border, but also the half-timbered houses, the Alsatian street names, some traditional dishes and not least the carnival parade. I even had the direct comparison, because I invited six Erasmus friends to my hometown in Germany to celebrate Karneval in Bonn and Cologne.
To get a first orientation and some historic knowledge the boat tours around the city and the free guided tours of Strasbourg and the Petite France are great offers. You get a panoramic view of Strasbourg if you climb up the tower of its famous cathedral. In the evenings we enjoyed sitting at the River Ill watching the boats and eating tarte flambée at Au Brasseur. Another beautiful brasserie and restaurant is the Corde à Linge situated at the canal which surrounds the Petite France, a very picturesque historic quarter of Strasbourg. To buy groceries you can get great offers at the markets and my favourite bakery is called Au Pain de Mon Grand Père.
From Strasbourg you can easily go by bus to the idyllic, historic city Colmar where you can visit the famous Musée Unterlinden and feel like in New York when you see Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty from afar. We took part in an interesting tour around the city which you can book at the tourist information and had a great traditional lunch at the Brasserie des Tanneurs. Another place worth a visit is the historic Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg from where you have a splendid view when it is not foggy… Nearby is the lovely town of Ribeauvillé. A trip to Ribeauvillé was the highlight of our great Introductory grape and wine knowledge course, because we got to visit our teacher’s family owned vineyards and winery and got to taste some of their great wines.
I would also advise every Erasmus student who goes to France to buy the Carte culture which gives you free entry and discounts for many museums, cinemas, theatres, operas and other events throughout France. Among other things, I went to see Werther at the Opéra de Strasbourg and visited the Musée historique de Strasbourg which displays Strasbourg’s eventful history. It is also definitely worth getting involved in the Café des Langues which is a weekly event where you can meet fellow international students and other people to make new friends and practice foreign languages. Not only did I improve my French there, but also my Spanish. It takes place at three different locations: The Café Berlin on the Place d’Austerlitz, the Taverne française and the District Bar & Club. This is where I got to know a woman who had migrated from Madagascar to France at the age of 10. Talking to her and to another woman from Kosovo who had immigrated aged 15 and interviewing them about their life stories inspired me to focus my research project on the integration of migrant women in French society. I continued my research at the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration in Paris and found a lot of good literature on the topic in the Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg.
From Strasbourg I could easily take the train to Paris to visit my fellow students from Stirling. In Paris we also visited the Musée du Louvre, the Panthéon and we climbed up the Arc de Triomphe at night to see the Eiffel tower sparkle, which was definitely the highlight of my trip to Paris.
Since April I have been working as an intern at GIZ (German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH) in Bonn in the Development Workers Section. During my internship I took part in a study trip to Paris together with other interns and we went to hear very interesting presentations from several organisations and engaged in enriching discussions with them. We went to visit the Economy Division and the REN21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century) of the UNEP, a think tank called I4CE (Institute for Climate Economics) and the IEA (International Energy Agency), where we heard a presentation on energy access topics with main focus on the SDGs. Furthermore, we visited a social project called Les Canaux, where we learned about the ESS (Économie sociale et solidaire) sector.
During the summer I also had the opportunity to visit two fellow students in Morocco who spent their semester abroad in Rabat. This trip was an enriching experience because it gave me the opportunity to see a country of origin of many immigrants in France.
Looking back on my semester abroad in France I am pleased to say that I am not done with Strasbourg yet, I am looking very forward to going back to do my master’s degree there.’
Many, many thanks to Annika for the great post and for all the tips for students planning to visit Strasbourg!
As ever, the blog is a little quieter over the Summer months but I’m determined to post a few articles, as and when they make their way to me so today it’s a chance to catch up with Chris who graduated a few years back now and whose career has taken him in rather unexpected directions since then:
‘It is hard to believe that it is seven years since I graduated from the French Department with the degree in International Management and Intercultural Studies. This programme was what drew me to Stirling – it was unusual in that it offered the chance to go to Strasbourg and get a Masters from a top French Business School.
Following my time in Strasbourg, the opportunity came up to do a funded PhD which, although I had never been sure about what direction I would take following my Masters, felt like the right path for me. I came back to Stirling, because I really wanted to work with a lecturer who had taught me during my undergraduate time. My PhD looked at energy policies and green entrepreneurship in Britain, France and Germany, so I still used my French skills and conducted research in France as well as in the two other countries. During my PhD studies, I also did a stint teaching French at Stirling which I really enjoyed but I found very challenging, especially teaching things like direct and indirect objects to students fresh from school. It was fascinating to see it from the other side.
For the past two years, my life has taken a different direction. I have moved to Germany and started working in a research institution called Forschungszentrum Jülich, near Cologne, and I currently do research on the economic aspects of Germany’s energy policy. Although I already spoke German quite well, I have loved improving my German and becoming familiar with a new country. The skills I learned during my programme in the French department, involving a lot of time abroad, helped enormously with adapting to the new country and new language.
I still get to use my French quite regularly. The city in which I now live, Aachen, is on the Belgian border and close to Paris (two hours by train), so I am in the French-speaking world quite often. I also organise the French “Stammtisch” at work – it is a table of French speakers who meet once a week to have lunch, so that helps me to “keep my hand in” with the French.
When I reflect back on my time at Stirling, I have fond memories of the French Department. It was through the support of the department that I had the opportunity to do the Carnegie and Stevenson mini research scholarships which were very useful to my growth. I found studying contemporary Francophone culture broadened my awareness of different identities in the French speaking world. What I am doing now is quite different to what I did before and that is exciting – I would say that a key thing is to be adaptable and able to learn new skills and I felt that my degree at Stirling was a very good background for this.’
Many thanks (merci, vielen Dank!) to Chris for the update – it’s great to think there’s a Stirling-influenced Stammtisch meeting every week in Jülich! We look forward to finding out where the next few years will take you…
As promised, following on from Alex’s post about his experiences at Stirling and plans for the future, here is the article Jeanne has sent us about her time in Granada. As well as studying at the University there, Jeanne – who is about to enter Year 4 of her degree in International Management with European Languages and Society – has been working on research on ‘untold histories’ that she was able to conduct thanks to a Stevenson Scholarship.:
“The Stevenson Scholarship has been an amazing opportunity. Indeed, it has made me realize that intercultural research is what I want to do in the future. In order to get a better idea of how Francoism was dealt with in Spain, I was able to combine both archival work, buying books (e.g.: Otras miradas sobre Golpe, Guerra y Dictadura. Historia para un pasado incómodo by Fernández Prieto and Artiaga Rego , Qué hacemos para la Memoria Histórica? by Escudero et al. …) looking at the various books on the subject in different libraries in Granada (i.e: Biblioteca Pública Provincial Granada), the University library, Spanish media… and visits to numerous “lieux de mémoire” in Granada, Madrid and Toledo. The project has enabled me to have many discussions with friends, classmates, teachers, guides in museums, librarians…thus providing access to different perspectives and opinions.
In fact, the ‘Valle de los Caídos’ was the most recurring example given by the people I have spoken to regarding my research project on the ‘untold’ and historical memory. They were furious, ashamed that Franco could ‘rest in peace’ in the basilica of the ‘Valle’ while so many mass graves (‘fosas communes) have still not been exhumed, preventing families ‘the right to mourn’. I therefore decided to go and visit the Valle de los Caídos, (an hour away from Madrid), where we find the tomb of Franco, and which is not presented as a site of memory condemning the dictator’s actions but rather presenting him as a ‘hero’.
He lies in a beautiful basilica, in a tomb decorated daily with fresh flowers by the monks. What struck me during my time abroad, and which was particularly interesting was the ongoing presence of fascist symbols, imagery. This could be interpreted as the best example of a lack of political determination (‘voluntad política’). For instance, I learned that the economic crisis in 2008 was used to justify the inability to carry on with exhumations (Escudero et al., 2013). This infers the persistence of a Francoist influence at a political level: the past is still too ‘recent’.
Regarding the way the history of Spain is taught at school level, many students told me they did not study the Civil War nor the dictatorship, or only very briefly, the reason being that it was always taught at the very end, and that there wasn’t enough time to work on it. This is comparable with the Algerian War in France, being a ‘late event’. At the University of Granada, the same problem occurred with the course “Civilisation et Culture Française” which taught the entire French history, from prehistory to modern day in one “cuatrimestre” (four months), making it impossible for the teacher to finish the program, leaving aside the most recent events (Colonisation, WWII). The problem seems to be ‘chronological’. However, many Spanish people have told me it is ‘an excuse’ more than anything when I told them about this ‘chronological reason’. The teaching time could be distributed differently: should it be more dedicated to recent, contemporary events rather than spending more time on the Reyes Católicos in Spain, or the Gaullois in France? It is a long, complicated debate. Nonetheless, the Civil War, and the Dictatorship, need to be taught. At the University of Granada, I also took the course “Spanish Literature of the XXth century: theatre and prose”. We were taught key works set during the Civil War, the dictatorship…such as “Qué has hecho hoy para ganar la Guerra?” by Max Aub (1939). Limiting the teaching in courses focusing on defined time-periods could perhaps be beneficial when it comes to recent, still painful events: it could guarantee their teaching. Moreover, my teacher herself (Gracia Morales) said that literature as a means of communicating, teaching historical facts could help as it is not perceived as the teacher’s own opinion, but as the work of an author which is interpreted. I must say that this was my favourite class!”
Many thanks to Jeanne for this update on how things have gone with the Stevenson and the doors it has opened up in terms of this particular topic of research. We wish you all the best for the rest of the Summer and hope this post gives future Stevenson scholars ideas for ways they can conduct their own projects.