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Photo: Ashleigh Richards

Ashleigh Richards and Jordan Marshall completed three stints abroad between April 2015 and June 2016. They undertook the demanding challenge of moving between three countries as well as being the first cohort from the University of Chester to study at Shanghai Jiaotong University.

The Modern Language programme allows students to develop high level skills in three languages (from a choice of Chinese, French, Spanish, German and English) and acquire an in-depth knowledge of different cultures.

Ashleigh, 21, from Marlow, Buckinghamshire, relished the opportunity to study a new language as part of her degree and chose Chinese, along with French and Spanish.

Fellow student Jordan, 21, from Hull, studied German, Spanish and Chinese. He said: “I’ve always loved learning languages. I find them and other cultures fascinating.”

Both students spent their first placements in Europe. Ashleigh spent time in France where she attended the IDRAC (Institut Privé de Recherche et d’Action Commerciale) Business School in Lyon. Jordan worked as a research assistant at the Technical University in Brunswick, Germany, for three months.

Ashleigh and Jordan were then both lucky enough to spend the beginning of their third year at Shanghai Jiaotong University, studying Mandarin Chinese with other international students.

Ashleigh said: “In China my Mandarin vastly improved, as I was focused on only the one language and English was very rarely spoken in class. The teaching styles and exams are very different, but nothing to worry about. I feel that as long as you keep an open mind to different learning techniques, any student will be able to cope well.”

Jordan added: “It was hard not to improve your Mandarin when it was constantly spoken for three hours a day.”

Jordan made the most of his experience and went out of his way to meet new people. He said: “You could get very lonely if you didn’t get out there and see the country, make new friends and experience as much as you can, as the lack of English-speaking people can make it difficult, but I had an unforgettable time.

As a result, Jordan shared his wisdom with other students who would be following in his footsteps through a Skype call with his former Chinese teacher and her second year students. He said: “I let them ask me questions and put to rest any worries they had. I also gave them my contact details in case they thought of any other questions afterwards, as somebody with first-hand experience.”

Mark Gant, Head of Department for Modern Languages, said: “Ashleigh and Jordan have been resilient and resourceful in paving the way for future groups, offering support and information to those following after them.”

For Jordan, his most enjoyable placement was in Spain. He said: “I fell in love with the language, the sun, the relaxed way of life and not forgetting the tapas!” Jordan enrolled in the University of Granada, where he studied in the Translation and Interpretation Department. He found that immersing himself in the Spanish culture allowed him to improve his language skills considerably. He said: “I found there were more people willing to speak Spanish with you if you made the first attempt.”

Ashleigh also enjoyed a placement in Spain at the University of Granada where she continued her Mandarin studies alongside French and Translation (English into Spanish). Ashleigh said: “I really enjoyed my time in Spain and made loads of friends as the classes were mixed with the native-speaking students.”

Once he has graduated next year, Jordan plans to undertake a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course. He said: “My ultimate goal and passion is teaching languages. I want to be the best teacher I can be and pass on my love for languages to other people.”

In the near future, Ashleigh hopes to either continue her studies or apply for an internship in a new country, as well as begin to learn Arabic. She aspires to work in international business and hopes that she can use her languages to network and form connections with clients worldwide

She said: “Being able to speak four of the most widely spoken language in the world allows me to communicate with millions of people across the globe, which in turn opens up new opportunities in foreign countries and allows me to learn more about different cultures.”

Jordan added: “Not only have I improved my language abilities, but I have also learned a lot about who I am as a person. I have learnt that I can adapt to different cultures and customs, I have become more confident and also gained many new skills. With every opportunity, you should make the most of it and enjoy it.”


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