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How would you describe the learning experience at Chester in the Modern Languages department?

The Modern Languages Department at Chester is not large, so nobody is lost in the crowd. Classes are kept to a friendly size where everyone can get involved in discussions and oral classes are even smaller. We get to know our students really well by the end of their degree programmes and we have an open door policy, so our students can always come and ask us questions if they need to.

What is your favourite part of your job?

When students go on placements abroad to Spain, Costa Rica or Mexico and their language studies become their daily life experience rather than just part of it as they discover new places, people and cultures. Reading blogs that students send back to us is always refreshing and visiting them in their new home town is even better!

How does the course prepare students for ‘real life’?

It depends on what ‘real life’ means! We work on all sorts of practical issues such as writing CVs and letters of application, signing rental contracts and going to the doctor before we send students abroad. Through placements abroad there are plenty of opportunities to undertake teaching assistantships in primary or secondary schools and students can also choose to obtain plenty of practice in translation skills in our courses. There are also modules where students can study business language through texts and role plays or gain an introduction to teaching English as a Foreign Language.

What is the most memorable lesson you’ve ever taught?

I once fell off my chair under the desk while trying to mime the word avestruz (ostrich). I was imitating an ostrich putting its head in the sand but forgot that the chair was on wheels. The class loved it and bought me a toy ostrich at the end of the year, so it now sits on my office shelf to remind me of them!

Where do students go to on placement? 

Chester offers two placement periods, a short one after Easter in the second year and then the year abroad the following year. Many students choose an experiential learning placement in Costa Rica for their short placement but others go to Albacete, Huelva and Cuenca in Spain. For their year abroad students often end up in many varied places in Spain, Portugal and Latin America. For example, next year students will be living in Mexico, the Canary Islands, Lisbon, Madrid, Murcia, Barcelona, Granada, Galicia, Valencia, Porto, Zaragoza and many other places.

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?

I’m currently chair of my subject association, the Association for Contemporary Iberian Studies, so I really enjoyed organising our conference last year in Barcelona. I’m currently editing a book based on the papers presented there by scholars from a wide-range of countries including Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the United States, Japan, Austria and Germany, as well as the UK. Our next conference is in Lisbon.

What has been your proudest moment whilst working at the University?

Watching students graduate in Chester Cathedral. Particularly those who have overcome significant challenges of illness and disability such as lack of sight, cerebral palsy and Crohn's disease. I’ve been proud that the University has been able to support them through placements abroad and the challenges that this entails.

How would you summarise your Chester story?

Never dull! I work with really interesting colleagues and it’s a beautiful city to live in. The big cities of Liverpool and Manchester, as well as the Welsh mountains and coast, are nearby. Also, working with languages takes me abroad often.

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