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Intern Insight - The School of Life

by YPU Admin on May 1, 2020, Comments. Tags: animal ethics, ethics, french, Humanities, intern, intern insight, language, and spanish

Introduction

Hello! I’m Krystyna. I’m a graduate intern at the University of Manchester and I work in the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation team. This means that I work in a team which works closely with schools and colleges in order to show learners what university is all about and what other options young people have to continue their education and succeed in the future.

I studied French and Spanish at the University and in my final year I did an extended research project on the topic of anthropomorphism – the way that animals (or non-human characters) are treated as if they had human qualities. Not at all French or Spanish! But what does all this have to do with what I studied and my current job?

         

What is the School of Life?

You may have heard people refer to university as ‘The School of Life’, but what do they mean by this? Arriving at university is an experience unlike any other. You are likely to be living without your family for the first time, independently, with a group of other students. You can meet new people every day if you want to through your course, and though the various societies (clubs) and activities going on on-campus or in the city. You are faced with so many new situations that your ability to overcome problems gets better, and you find yourself getting more confident. More confident and learning a whole lot of new skills and knowledge. All of these experiences give you an insight into the world beyond your comfort zone and prepare you for your future whether you have a career in mind or not.

As you find your feet, and get deeper into your work and settle into your student life, you also start finding out more about your interests – what are the things that spark something inside you? What are the things that get you excited? Where is it that your strengths lie? What do you want to get better at? These were some of the questions that helped me make the most of the opportunities at university.

How does this help you grow?

University isn’t only about attending your classes and only sticking to classes from your course – that’s right! If you’re doing a business degree you can take up a language and vice versa! I was able to take a course on animal ethics in my final year which explored the relationship that we, humans, have with animals. Not only was this fascinating, but it also changed my world view. This, paired with my growing abilities in the languages I was learning, made me reconsider my future. I started thinking beyond my subject and started thinking about how I wanted to impact society in the future.

I became a student ambassador in my first year through to my final year. This is a role in which you represent the university at events and get to talk to people visiting campus about your experience there. As an ambassador, one of the things I enjoyed was the opportunity to work with schools. I would help university staff run events that encourage secondary school pupils to take up languages and in my final year, I was able to teach four beginner French lessons to 12 pupils in year eight at their school. This is because many, if not all, universities also work with their local communities in many different ways and I was able to be a part of that.   

             

How does this help shape your future?

As I came closer to finishing my degree, I started to understand that my degree doesn’t restrict me to finding a job linked directly to my studies. I started to understand that at university you learn so many different skills that can be applied to many different jobs. At university, not only did I gain independence, experience and learn about many things that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned about (such as studying linguistics, and animal ethics, and even studying abroad), I was able to reflect on my experiences and skills, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and find where it is that I want to go next.

If you decide to come to university, I hope that you will push yourself to learn and experience new things, get involved in the work that your university does in its community and discover, from these experiences, where your passion might lie. I hope you have an excellent experience in the School of Life!


 

The Mechanics of Language

Introduction

My name is Alina, and I am a first-year PhD student in Linguistics. The most common two questions I get asked when I say this are: “What is Linguistics?” and “How many languages do you speak?” So, I’ll begin by answering these. Linguistics is the “scientific study of language”. It is a vast discipline, but some examples of what linguists are interested in are: how grammars are constructed, how language changes, what the similarities and differences are between the languages of the world, how children and adults learn languages, how people’s use of language varies according to social factors (gender, age, context etc.), how the order of words in a sentence gives that sentence meaning, the list goes on…!

As for the second question, being a linguist does not automatically mean you speak tons of languages (though some do)! I speak French, I am learning Spanish, and I understand Reunion Creole, which is the language that my PhD research is on. Reunion Creole is spoken on the island of La Réunion, a French overseas department (next to Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean). Creole languages are relatively new languages (compared to English or French, for example) which arise when groups of speakers with different native tongues are found in a situation where they need to communicate with one another. This happened in La Réunion when French colonisers settled on the island and imported slaves from Madagascar and East Africa. Later, immigrants from India and China came to the island to work. Over the subsequent generations, the language formed through the interaction of these groups of speakers. It is now the native language of the majority of the island, spoken alongside French. Many of the words in Reunion Creole are derived from French words, so it may sound familiar to a French speaker, but the grammars of the two languages are different. 

Cap Noir, La Réunion: here’s a picture which shows you the beautiful mountainous landscape of La Reunion

In Depth…

So how did I find myself doing a PhD on this topic?! I have always had a fascination for foreign languages, and just words in general, which led me to study French at undergraduate level. During my degree, I chose modules in French Linguistics and really enjoyed them. I enjoy the discipline as it applies the scientific rigour and logic of the Sciences and Maths, to an inherently social phenomenon: language. In the third year of my degree, I got the opportunity to go on a year abroad. I chose to study in La Réunion, and it was there that I discovered Reunion Creole.  On returning, I decided I wanted to continue studying and explore the subject of Linguistics in more depth with an MA and PhD.

My PhD project investigates the syntax and focus structure of Reunion Creole. This is essentially how the word order of a sentence can be manipulated to change its emphasis and by consequence, its meaning. And what is the point in this research? Firstly, a better understanding of the mechanics of individual languages enables us to make comparisons with the languages of the world. This in turn allows us to better understand the faculty of language, which is a fundamental part of our existence. Secondly, knowledge of the technicalities of a language also enables us to better teach it in the classroom. In La Réunion, Reunion Creole is an officially recognised regional language and French is the national language. Historically, French has been more highly regarded and continues to be the language of the law, administration and schooling.  Like many creole languages, Reunion Creole has not always been highly regarded with respect to French, despite it being the native language of the majority of the island. A person’s mother tongue is a fundamental part of their identity, so I consider it very important that it be valued. Furthermore, research has suggested that bilingualism has cognitive benefits, which may reduce the likelihood of dementia, for example. It is therefore imperative that bilingualism is encouraged, so any research promoting historically undervalued languages serves this purpose.

La plage de l’Ermitage, La Réunion. 

Going Further…

If you’re interested in languages generally, there are plenty of resources that may feed your curiosity:

Grand Bénare, La Réunion: at the top of a hike in La Réunion – above the clouds! 


 

Study Abroad: Where will your degree take you?

by YPU Admin on November 12, 2015, Comments. Tags: European Studies, french, languages, politics, Research, Study Abroad, undergraduate, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Carys Rees-Owen and I am a recent graduate of European Studies and French. Doing a joint honours degree gave me loads of options, which is why I chose this degree. I studied French, History and English Literature at A levels – I always knew I wanted to study French at university, as I loved languages, but I also wanted to specialise in another subject. European Studies allows you to choose any module from the Politics, History or Economics department, with one or two compulsory modules in European Politics every year. I decided to focus on politics modules as I’d always followed the news and took part in debates.

In Depth

Choosing Where To Go

The best thing about my degree was the option to spend my third year abroad in order to improve my French. I had the choice of studying abroad, teaching English abroad as an English Language Assistant or working abroad. I wanted a bit of variety, and definitely wasn’t ready to get a proper job or internship. I wasn’t too eager to spend a whole other year studying either, but I did want to experience life as a French student. I decided to make a compromise – I applied to study at a university in Lyon, France for the first term and then applied to be a Comenius assistant in Martinique, a small French island in the Caribbean, for the second term. A Comenius assistant is similar to an English Language Assistant, however with the option to teach another subject besides English (like politics). All assistant jobs are funded by the British Council, meaning all my accommodation, food and travel costs were covered as well as an allowance for living. I also got an Erasmus grant for studying at a European university, so the cost of going abroad was never a big worry for me.

My Year Abroad

I moved to Lyon, France’s second biggest city, at the end of summer 2013. After a lot of searching, I managed to find a flat with another 3 French students just down the road from my university. The next five months are a blur of cheese, good wine and French cafés. I loved living in France, but studying there was completely different to how I imagined. Lectures lasted 3 hours long (when in Manchester they last an hour) and it felt a bit more like high school – there was a lot less discussion and debate than I was used to in Manchester. I studied Politics modules there, but in French. It was interesting to see how similar topics were taught in France but from a completely different angle. I did struggle at first with my courses but as my French improved I found it a lot easier. I saw such a drastic improvement in my French in such a short amount of time, and definitely took advantage of discovering a new city.


I then moved to Martinique in January 2014. It’s such a beautiful island, with so many white sandy beaches, thick jungle and a great mix of French and local Creole culture existing there. I worked in a high school for 5 months, working roughly twelve hours a week.  This meant that the rest of the time I had there I was free to do whatever I wanted. I spent my time on beaches, hiking in the jungle and mountains and exploring the island. Teaching English was challenging, especially considering that my pupils were only 4 years younger than myself but it was a really good way to integrate into the local community. I made really good friends with some of the other teachers there, who taught me more about the culture and history of Martinique.


Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better year abroad. I got to experience French student life, as well as spend months lounging on white sand beaches in the Caribbean. More importantly, my French improved drastically, as did my confidence. Moving to a completely different country without knowing anybody is incredibly challenging, and sometimes frustrating, but the experiences I had were definitely worth it.

Going Further

Getting the chance to study abroad isn’t just limited to language students either – check if your course allows you to study abroad for a semester! I’d recommend checking out these websites for more information on what you could do:

www.thirdyearabroad.com  

http://www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-create


 

My Journey to a Masters in Italy

From High School I knew I really wanted to study languages and hopefully pursue a career in translation or interpreting. So I chose French and Italian at Manchester because I wanted to continue studying French after taking it at A Level; but I also wanted the opportunity to start a new language from scratch. Manchester offered several ab-initio languages and I decided I really wanted to study Italian.

During my time at Manchester I particularly enjoyed the modules which focused on core language and also linguistics, such as Structures of French Language, French Syntax & Morphology and The Structures of Modern Italian. They allowed me to gain a greater and more in-depth knowledge of both languages whilst benefitting my spoken language and understanding of where modern day French and Italian both stem from.

After graduating, I planned to work for one year, and now, having gained this experience, I will go to Italy and study for a Masters in Language, Society and Communication at The University of Bologna.


 

Witchcraft and demonic possession!

by YPU Admin on July 9, 2015, Comments. Tags: demons, french, history, Humanities, imagery, medieval, Religion, Research, theology, and witchcraft

Introduction

My name is Tom and I am embarking on a PhD in History at the University of Manchester this autumn. I studied for my BA in History at Manchester and I’m currently finishing my masters in Gender History at the University of Glasgow. In between these courses I spent a year working as an English Language Assistant in two secondary schools in Lille, France. During my undergraduate studies I developed a passion for early modern beliefs about the supernatural and I wrote a dissertation on sixteenth-century French demonological treatises (you could call these witch-hunting manuals!). My research has now taken me to the phenomenon of demonic possession in sixteenth and seventeenth-century France and England, particularly on how possession narratives contributed to the cultural construction of the body.

In Depth

Demonic Possession may seem strange to us now, something you expect to see in a horror film, but during the early modern period it was an extremely important phenomenon. There were perhaps thousands of cases of possession and exorcism across continental Europe, including France, during the early modern period (c. 1500-1800).Young boys and girls, often teenagers or young adults, were recorded as having seizures, possessing unnatural strength, speaking in ‘foreign tongues’, levitating and spitting out objects like pins and nails. There are many cases in France where entire convents of nuns were said to be possessed by the devil. During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, when Western Christianity split and Protestant churches emerged, demonic possession and exorcism acted as a vehicle of religious propaganda, a way of showing which religious denomination God favoured.

However it was also an important phenomenon for everyday people. Men and women flocked to see public exorcisms in France and there was a booming book trade which centred on stories of demoniacs (a possessed person) which would rival the best Stephen King novel. In this way demonic possession can be viewed as a type of performance, even a form of mass-entertainment. This is where my research centres. I’m interested in why demonic possession was such an important phenomenon in this period but also how it affected other areas of people’s lives. I look at the use of the body within the performance of demonic possession and how it was written about and understood. I use a wealth of documentation left behind, from the trials of witches accused of causing possession, personal and witness testimonies of possessions and exorcisms and the wealth of printed books which distributed these narratives to a mass audience. In doing so I hope to shed light on how beliefs surrounding the supernatural were connected to early modern cultural ideas about the body and the life-cycle.

I developed my interest for this area of history in my final year of undergraduate studies during a module on Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Europe and I was supported by my supervisors in developing this project. Having French language skills made this a viable PhD project and so if I could give one word of advice it would be to learn a language! Not only do languages give you a competitive edge in academia or on the job market but they’re actually pretty fun and (cliché alert) really do take you places. It was fantastic having the opportunity to live in France and practice my French for a year. I gained life-long friends and memories plus I’ve picked up practical skills in the process. It’s never too late to learn either! I started learning Latin this year and in fact your first year at university is the perfect time to experiment. Manchester’s University Language Centre lets you take a language as part of any degree programme. You may not have clicked with French, German or Spanish at school but have you ever thought about Portuguese, Polish, Chinese or even Arabic? Try it and who knows where you’ll end up!

Going Further

There really is a wealth of on-line resources out there on early modern Europe and the Supernatural. Also, in 2016 there will be an exhibition, “Magic and the Expanding Early Modern World”, at John Rylands Library on Deansgate!

15-Minute History: “Demonic Possession” in Early Modern Europe (Podcast) (http://15minutehistory.org/2013/10/23/demonic-possession-in-early-modern-europe/)

The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft (http://www.shca.ed.ac.uk/Research/witches/)

The Damned Art: The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (Internet Exhibition) (http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/specialcollections/virtualexhibitions/damnedart/)

The Many-Headed Monster (Blog) (https://manyheadedmonster.wordpress.com/)

The Pendle Witch Trial (Documentary) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv-JDUfADiw)

A helpful website on European Witchcraft (http://www.witchcraftandwitches.com/index.html)

Women and the Early Modern Witch Hunts (Blog Post) (http://www.jesswatson.co.uk/post/78990856670/women-and-the-early-modern-witch-hunts)