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.
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.
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:
If someone had asked me at the start of my final year of my
undergraduate degree, ‘do you fancy doing a PhD when you finish uni?’ my answer
would have been an outright NO! Yet, here I am, now in my second year of my PhD
in the role of exercise on cardiovascular disease risk in psoriasis. So what changed my mind? Well, it was only
when I entered my final year of my undergraduate degree that I actually started
to seriously consider my career options. My undergraduate degree was in
Biomedical Sciences and I wanted to find out what I could do with my degree
(aside from the obvious career pathways like Biomedical Scientist or scientific
So, after hours of trawling the internet, numerous career
appointments and countless chats with my academic tutors I had a much clearer
idea of what was out there. However, despite all this time and effort I
invested into researching potential future careers I still wasn’t 100% sure.
Although, I particularly liked the idea of becoming a medical writer because
writing is something I like doing and something that I enjoy. Also I had a lot
of time for my subject area as I found it interesting and enjoyed learning
about various aspects of science.
Another thing which interested me was intellectual property,
which was first brought to my attention in one of my pharmacology lectures. I
soon learned that I could become a patent attorney. The more I read about this
area of work, the more it appealed to me. This career path is an opportunity to
merge law and science. Naturally, because I don’t have a background in law
(like the vast majority of patent attorneys according to my research) this
career requires you to undertake training and sit examinations. This is
something which doesn’t really bother me too much (after all I’ve already spent
years doing it and a couple more won’t hurt!). Anyway, after reading up on
what’s required for this type of career I found that a PhD is ‘preferable.’ Now
I know this doesn’t mean a PhD is essential, however, I thought whether I
decide to go into medical writing or become a patent attorney, either way a PhD
will stand me in good stead.
So that’s when I took the plunge and began searching for a
PhD. I had a specific criterion already in mind in terms of what I wanted from
a PhD. The things I knew for sure was: a) I wanted to stay at the University of
Manchester, b) I wanted a PhD with a studentship so I didn’t have to worry
about funds for the next 3 or 4 years and c) I didn’t want a PhD that was
solely lab-based (I didn’t mind a bit of lab work but I hated being in the lab
for hours on end!). So with all this in mind I started looking at what was on
offer and began to pick out projects which captured my interest.
Eventually, I decided to apply for two PhD projects. I
realise this doesn’t sound like a lot but the way I saw it was a PhD is a huge
commitment and I wanted to be sure that my chosen project was something I was
interested in and something I wanted to dedicate my time and effort to. And so
for this reason I was very selective in terms of my applications for PhD
projects. Something else which really helped me decide on which projects I
wanted to submit applications to was going and actually talking to the
supervisors about the project and what exactly I would be doing as a PhD
student on their project.
So… out of the two applications I submitted I was invited
for interview for one of the projects along with two other candidates. The
supervisor requested that each candidate put together a presentation covering
various topics including: why did we want to do a PhD, why did we want to do a
PhD in Manchester and why did we want this specific project. Each candidate was
also sent a copy of the research proposal which we were asked to read and
comment on in our presentations. We had to say how we would structure our
approach/time to the work outlined in the proposal and also comment on how we
would perhaps improve the proposal and what other ideas we had.
The interview itself was, as you can imagine, nerve-wracking
and very stressful! However, it was a valuable experience. There were five
interviewers on the panel, three of which were my potential supervisors.
Personally, I found the interview particularly stressful as I was up against
two other candidates who both had a Master’s degree along with other research
experience, whereas I had just come to the end of my undergraduate degree and
was expected to achieve a 2.1.
Anyway, after the stress of my final exams and the PhD
interview I found out (just a few days after the interview) that I had been
awarded the position on the PhD programme. Naturally, I was over the moon and
accepted the place on the programme! Now here I am in my second year of my PhD
and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience so far.
Find out about studying Biomedical Science at the University of Manchester here. This blog was originally posted on the University of Manchester careers blog, which can be found here. You can find more information about careers in Biomedical Science here and here.
Our ‘Undergraduate Research’ section will provide an insight into research conducted at an undergraduate level and feature case studies of undergraduate researchers at the University of Manchester.
Hello! My name
is Susie Jones, and I graduated from The University of Manchester in 2013 with
a joint honours degree in English Language and Chinese.
The topics I
studied in English were very different from those studied in 6th
form – there was a greater focus on linguistics (the scientific study of
language). Although different, I found it really interesting and decided to
focus my studies on language variation in my final year. I was interested in
how and why certain groups of people speak differently, whether these
differences have changed over time and across space, and whether they have an
impact on people’s attitudes towards language.
As for the
Chinese side of my course, I started studying it from scratch and my year abroad
in China inspired me to find out more about the language and how it works.
Although writing a research dissertation wasn’t a compulsory element of my
course, I felt it would be a good way to get a deeper understanding of the
language I was learning and develop a range of skills.
My researchWhile I was in
China, I noticed that people often used different words for the same thing. Not
a particularly strange phenomenon (this occurs frequently in English too), but
I found it odd that in Chinese, some of these would sound quite similar to
English. For instance, a bus would sometimes be called ‘gong-gong-chee-chur’
but could also be called ‘ba-suh’, which is obviously inspired by the English
There are lots
of examples of these two languages ‘borrowing’ from each. Did you know, the
saying “long time no see” is actually taken from Chinese? It’s a result of language contact as the world becomes
smaller and people have become more geographically mobile.
So I set about
putting together a questionnaire to test whether Chinese speakers in China were
more likely to use an ‘Englishised’ version of a word (one that sounds similar
to English), or an indigenous equivalent (one that is originally made from
Chinese sounds). My supervisor (a specialist
in language variation and change) helped me design a questionnaire to test the words that speakers would use,
which included naming pictures, filling in gaps and judging the acceptability
of sentences containing ‘Englishised’ words.
was sent to 72 Chinese speakers in China who were of a range of different ages,
came from different areas of China and had varying levels of education. This
way, I would be able to see whether these three variables would have an effect
on the words that they chose.
Before doing the
research, I had predicted that a speaker’s age, location and level of education
would have an impact on whether they chose a more ‘Englishised’ word or not. However,
my results showed that these factors didn’t have much of a bearing on their
linguistic choices. Rather, speakers were more sensitive to the deeper
linguistic characteristics of the word itself (the number of syllables or
location of stress for example). With further research, these types of findings
could have a significant impact on the work of translators, dictionary writers
and those who work on language policy.
influence of English in mainland China has not been as extensive as it has been
in other Chinese speaking regions such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, which have been
historically more open to the rest of the world. It’s a nice example of how
socio-political circumstance can have an impact on the way we speak and
demonstrates how language is intrinsically connected with the way the world
time you think some other language is strange, remember that yours is just as
strange - you're just used to it.
Going furtherFor more information about the
English Language and Linguistics courses at the University of Manchester, click here.
For information about languages at the University of Manchester, click here.
Mandarin Chinese isn’t as
difficult as you might think! Find out why here.
There are many reasons to study languages - find out why here.
Our new ‘Undergraduate
Research’ section will provide an insight into research conducted at an
undergraduate level and feature case studies of undergraduate researchers at
the University of Manchester.
my name is Samantha Levitt and I have just graduated from The University of
Manchester with an undergraduate degree in English Language, Literacy and Communication.
During my time at the University of Manchester, I undertook 2 separate pieces
of research; one in the second year of my course and one in my third and final
year. My second year piece was based on child language acquisition but in my
third year I decided I wanted to research something completely different.
the time of choosing my third year research question for my 12,000 word
dissertation, I was working part-time at The University of Manchester in their
Recruitment and Widening Participation department. The role of the department is
to implement activities which encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds
which are under-represented in Higher Education to raise their aspirations and
consider Higher Education. I was specifically working with a programme called
the Manchester Access Programme (MAP) which supports college students in the
Greater Manchester area applying for university – I was a participant of the programme
myself. My interest in this area of work led me to consider the possibility of
using this subject area and the programme as the basis of my research.
I had the name of my Research Supervisor, I met with her to discuss whether my
research was possible and if so, how I would do it. She agreed with me that she
felt this was a good line of enquiry, although believed that I needed to refine
my research in order to ensure that I was going to be able to fit all of my
research into 12,000 words. With the help of my tutor, I decided I would use MAP
as a case study for investigating how effective Widening Participation
programmes are in supporting the students involved.
I had my idea, I needed to decide how I would collect my data. I had the choice
of either collecting quantitative (numbers and figures) or qualitative (opinions)
data. After much consideration, I decided upon qualitative data as I wanted to
gain evidence on how the students felt about the programme. Also, my insight
into the programme taught me that there was a large amount of quantitative gained
by the team but there was only a small amount of qualitative data so it would
be more useful to the programme to gain some qualitative data for them to reflect
I had decided which type of data I wanted to use, I had to think about which
research method I would use. After much reading and discussions with my
Supervisor, I decided that interviews and focus groups would allow me to expand
on ideas the participants have and would allow me to have a select few
participants who provided a large amount of information.
the biggest challenge of my dissertation was actually being able to fit all the
information I had gathered into 12,000 words as I had collected a large amount
of data, read extensively about the subject area and had a lot of opinions
regarding how I collected my data and
came to various conclusions. However, the large amount of information meant
that my research was successful in establishing a variety of conclusions. The
conclusions of my research indicated that MAP was highly successful in
supporting their students in a variety of ways such as the scholarships the
students receive, the advice they get from the programme and the experiences
they have such as, being able to write an academic assignment with the help of
an Academic Tutor from the University. However, my research also highlighted
some improvements that the programme could make.
after handing in my dissertation, I applied to for the position of an
Undergraduate Recruitment and Widening Participation Intern (MAP Programme) and
was successful. Therefore, my dissertation not only gave me great skills such
as research, independent work and academic writing but it also allowed me a
great insight into a profession and helped me to decided that this was
definitely the career for me. Also, the knowledge I gained from completing this
research gave me a great head start when I started my job.
information about the Language, Literacy & Communication course at the
University of Manchester, click here.
details about the Manchester Access Programme can be found here.
Guardian recently ran a feature about how to plan and write a dissertation.
at the British Council of Undergraduate Research which recognises the
research taken by undergraduate students. It also gives you the opportunity to browse journals and articles written by