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Why modern languages? - Student experiences

Marissa Munderloh, PhD student in German

Marissa Munderloh I came to St Andrews to start my Masters degree in Cultural Identity Studies, a subject that exactly fit my field of interest. With a BA in Communication and Spanish from the University of Massachusetts Amherst I wanted to elaborate on the cultural side of my previous studies through a specified program. After finalizing the taught courses I wrote my MLitt dissertation titled “The Third Space in Cinema: cultural hybridity in the films of Fatih Akin” which was supervised by Dr Michael Gratzke. Having had a pleasant and successful working experience, I was able to remain under his supervision in order to pursue a PhD.

My interest in cultural identity has now resulted in investigating the role that urban environments play for one’s identity formation. My target research group are Germans with ethnic as well as immigrant backgrounds, who are members of German HipHop communities and who express their place affiliation through rap, DJing, graffiti, and break dance. Furthermore, I intend to discover how differences in size, image and multiculturality of urban areas affect HipHop and place identity constructions.

Being in the first year of my PhD, I am looking forward to attending a variety of research seminars, national and international conferences as well as conducting my own field work in Germany.

Aside from academia, St Andrews has also offered me the opportunity to be part of the ‘Blue Angels’ dance team with whom I proudly represent the university, the town as well as Scotland at regional and international dance competitions.

Christie Margrave, PhD student in French

Christie MargraveA beautiful, friendly town
When I was 17 and first applying to university, my school French teacher handed me a copy of Andrew Lang’s Almae Matres. Very soon afterwards I visited the ‘little city worn and gray’ and fell in love it. I first arrived to study here in 2003 as an undergraduate student of French and Latin. After graduating, I trained to teach both my languages, but quickly decided that researching French literature was where my interest lay. The expertise, research interests and immense friendliness of the staff in the French department attracted me back to conduct my research in St Andrews. I returned in 2008 to study for the MLitt in French studies and soon discovered a relatively unexplored niche of late eighteenth-century French literature.

Space in 18th and 19th century French literature
I am now currently in the first year of my PhD, working on French prose fiction of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in particular with respect to the representation and narrative function of space and place. My research involves close textual analysis of works by several authors from both the Pre-Romantic and the Romantic periods of French literature. My work incorporates several theoretical approaches to understanding space, in particular narratology. However, it also takes into account socio-historical considerations for the emergence and evolvement of various types of spatial settings and the ways in which they are presented over the period between 1760 and 1830.

The Eighteenth-Century Reading Group
Along with several other eighteenth-centuryists in various Schools throughout the University, I have recently been involved in creating the University’s first eighteenth-century reading group. This has allowed great opportunity for interaction between PhD students from various disciplines. Not only has it provided a fantastic chance to meet others working on the same era, but it has created an informal forum for discussion and for the sharing of ideas.

Jennifer Cadman, PhD student in Spanish

Jennifer CadmanHaving completed my undergraduate studies in St Andrews, the rewarding degree programme and the enthusiastic staff had made a significant impression on me, prompting my decision to stay and do a MLitt in Spanish and Latin American Studies. I benefited from the expertise of staff across the entire School undertaking not only modules specific to my general area of research but also modules in research methodology and critical theory. I am also fortunate to receive excellent guidance and support from two supervisors, experts in my two main areas of research: Republican Exile and Autobiography. In addition to academic support I have been given the opportunity to meet influential academics and even one of the authors I am researching through my supervisors! There is also a friendly, supportive PhD student community in the School which runs a fortnightly Postgraduate Research Seminar.

Melissa Boyd, PhD student in Spanish

When it came to choosing my undergraduate programme St Andrews was the perfect option. I was able to do a joint degree, Spanish and History, with an integrated year abroad. Having been brought up in Spain, I was not interested in spending a year there. I finally chose La Paz, Bolivia, where I volunteered with street workers.

Melissa Boyd

This was the first chance I had to study, read and discuss Latin American history in depth. I finished my undergraduate degree, joined the real world and less than two years later I returned to St Andrews to do my PhD on 19th Century Mexican political history, under the supervision of Prof. Will Fowler. I entered as a fully self-funded postgraduate and a combination of teaching in the Spanish Department, translation work and being a wardennial Assistant allowed me to do this.

I was offered the chance to spend a year in Mexico researching. Prof. Fowler was able to arrange for me to undertake an estancia de investigación at the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas Dr. José María Luis Mora, in Mexico City. My co-supervisor here, Dra Zarate Toscano was amazing, and the Institute provided me with assistance and guidance, which made for an optimum research experience. In addition, I received the Woodward Scholarship in November 2010 which allowed me to extend my stay in Mexico. Although I have spent a great deal of time away, the University has provided me with a wealth of opportunities and experiences, both at home and overseas.

Eduardo Tasis Moratinos, PhD student in Spanish

Eduardo Tasis MoratinosI came to St. Andrews through the Erasmus Programme in 2005 and I must confess that I fell in love with the place, in particular, with the way things work in the Spanish Department. It was since then that I started planning my postgraduate study in St. Andrews. One year later, after finishing my degree in Spain (Filología Hispánica), the Spanish Department offered me the possibility of doing a PhD here.

Currently, I am in the last stages of my PhD studies. It is this year that I would like to submit my thesis: “Why the vital significance of writing in Tomás Segovia and Angelina Muñiz Huberman”. I have had the honour of studying in the second best Spanish Department in the UK, and under the supervision of Nigel Dennis, one of the most important Hispanists in the field of Spanish exile. Professionally, my experience in the University of St Andrews has been a huge step forward. Not only have I been able to attend and participate in congresses and conferences in the UK, Spain and France, I have also been able to improve my teaching skills, thanks to the part-time teaching opportunities that this university offers. On this basis, I have been teaching Spanish grammar and literature seminars from beginners to second year students.