Seizing the Opportunity: Why You Should Do an Internship

As second-year master students we are offered the opportunity to do an internship, and here is why you should do it. Students are invited to attend conferences and symposiums organised by the Laboratoire d’Études et de Recherche sur le Monde Anglophone (UR 853) on a wide range of topics. This research internship is an occasion to step outside of your comfort zone and discover new fields of research, outside of your own. Students also have the possibility to do a professional internship, at the LERMA or elsewhere. I did my internship at the LERMA, mostly at the Maison de la Recherche with Professor Sophie Vallas.

Marc Chénetier, professor emeritus of American contemporary literature, donated his personal archives to the LERMA as part of the HÉPISTÉA project.[1] The archives include professional and personal documents, translation drafts, letters, photographs, etc. as well as André Le Vot’s personal archives. Le Vot, who was also a professor of American contemporary literature and a Fitzgerald specialist, passed on his archives to Chénetier. During my internship, I was assigned to label and organise the correspondences, both of Marc Chénetier and André Le Vot. As my final year dissertation deals with linguistics, working with archival documents was a real discovery for me. I dealt with handwritten letters, and organising them chronologically allows us to understand a person’s whereabouts, which emails sometimes fail to do. Such primary sources are important documents to preserve for future research, hence the importance of archives. For example, I was able to read handwritten letters from Paul Auster, postcards from around the world, and look at drawings by Noah Baumbach from when he was a child. This internship made me discover a new side of research and realise the importance of preserving primary documents in order to facilitate the diffusion of knowledge.

Being an intern for a few weeks provides a very good professional experience insofar as you acquire both new skills and knowledge. In particular, if you are unsure of what you want your career plans to be, an internship will help you define your project more clearly because sometimes it takes a working experience to realise whether the reality matches your expectations or not. Moreover, an internship in a field unknown to you can help you broaden your horizons and set you onto a new path. As research students, we have very little field experience, and a professional internship is an interesting way to balance this lack of experience. Being an intern is both a way to acquire skills and experience, and to make good use of your master’s degree.

 

[1] https://anglistique.hypotheses.org/les-archives-de-marc-chenetier

Crédits Image: Photographe: Suzy Hazelwood.
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Licence CC0.

A Student Guideline for a Better Mental Health

Every year, mental health issues and burnouts affect more students than it might seem. A burnout is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as a physical or mental collapse caused by overwork, stress, or lack of purpose or understanding of the tasks. And although experiencing high level of stress at this level of study is relatively common, severe depression and burnout can be very dangerous for one’s mental and physical health. One can start to feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet demands; the simple idea of working on a particular assignment might make them nauseous or even light-headed.

It is very important to remember that sitting all day in front of a laptop –with thirty-seven open tabs in one’s internet browser– will not help if you are not able to write two words in a row within the first hour. This is called mental block and might lead to overwork,  which is counterproductive.

In the meantime, it was found that there is a positive correlation between mental health and physical exercise and how the latter improved one’s performance regarding concentration and facing workload.[1]  It is a common knowledge that endorphins from exercising brings happiness and positivity and thus results in stress-reduced headspace. Moreover, when interviewing students who regularly engage in physical activities, experts found that it provides the person a sense of achievement. This feeling can then be translated into university work where the students know that they can achieve their goals.[2]

Also, many students admitted, they suffered from lack of sleep, also involved in mental health issues, which workout can help with. For all these problems, AMU offers different possibilities. Different sport packs enable students to choose between 80 physical exercises, which may also help them in socialising. The “Pack Sport AMU” is free for students and offers to practice two sports a week. If you want to challenge yourself the “Pack Sport + AMU” allows you to practice three sports a week but is chargeable for the semester, depending on the sport.[3] If you’d rather do it on your own, YouTube is a great alternative, even more so since Covid.

If one is affected by more severe cases of mental health issues, one should not hesitate to reach for professional help. Bearing in mind that depression and burnout can be medically treated, AMU offers medical assistance at the SIUMPPS (Service Inter-Universitaire de la Médecine Préventive et de la Promotion de la Santé).[4] For a more consistent medical follow up, students can contact the nearest CMP (Centre Médico-Psychologique)[5] in their area. Remember, students should not wait to ask for help, or to talk about how they feel, since mental health is a serious matter.

Leslie Allemandi and Julie Verstavel.

 

[1]. Dr Nick Peirce et al., “The Role of Physical Activity and Sport in Mental Health,” Fsem.ac.uk, 2019, <a href=”https://www.fsem.ac.uk/position_statement/the-role-of-physical-activity-and-sport-in-mental-health/”>https://www.fsem.ac.uk/position_statement/the-role-of-physical-activity-and-sport-in-mental-health/</a>.

[2]. Florida National University, “The Link between Sports and Academic Performance,” Florida National University, June 11, 2019, <a href=”https://www.fnu.edu/the-link-between-sports-and-academic-performance/”>https://www.fnu.edu/the-link-between-sports-and-academic-performance/</a>.

[3]. https://sport-suaps.univ-amu.fr

[4]. https://www.univ-amu.fr/fr/public/siumpps-service-inter-universitaire-de-medecine-prevention-et-de-promotion-de-la-sante

[5]. CMP Jean Sutter, Aix-en-Provence : https://www.ch-montperrin.fr/Pages/Page%20de%20contenu%20publique/CMP-Jean-Sutter.aspx Tél.: 04 42 28 34 73

Photo credits: Images site Pxhere.com, licence CC0.

Lockdown and Peer Tutoring

Working alone can be difficult in general, but the situation worsened with the arrival of the COVID-19. People had and may still have to work from home, which can lead to a lack of motivation and productivity. It was challenging to remain focused during lockdown and work every day to finish my assignments and dissertation. An unexpected video conference with a friend of mine to discuss a particularly difficult text we had to study became a life-changing experience. It was exciting as it helped us develop our ideas and discuss the difficult points so that, in the end, we both had a better understanding of the text.

We decided to repeat the experience, and it became a routine: we met every day at a given hour and worked on similar or different projects. Once the semester was over, we still had to do our research and write our dissertations, and we decided to continue until our respective work is over. These meetings were a way to stay motivated and to help each other, and they allowed us to speak about our ideas, to share and broaden our views. Through our discussions, we were able to deepen our thinking and develop new ideas about many issues; when one of us faced a problem, we generally managed to solve that problem by discussing it. Soly Mathew Biju –professor at the University of Wollongong in Dubai– explains that “[p]eer tutoring has emerged as one of the most effective mechanisms of enabling learning and improving the academic performance of students at all levels of education.”[1]

I have gained a lot of experience through peer tutoring. It allowed me to increase my writing, analytical, and editing skills, but it also benefitted my efficiency and motivation. Nevertheless, one of the inconveniences is that we would sometimes lose our focus and go off-topic; and at certain times, the prolonged exposure to computer screens made it hard to stay focused on an assignment, and we would eventually have to take a break and come back later.

My experience is the result of lockdown, and if it had not happened, I might not have taken advantage of this study method. I would highly advise the next generations of students, either MA, Ph.D., or BA students, to pursue this method even after the pandemic. Finally, what matters most is finding somebody you will feel comfortable discussing and debating with during sessions. Peer tutoring is indeed rooted in this desire to share and learn with somebody; it is not individualistic but rather collective learning.

[1] Soly Mathew Biju, “Benefits of Working in Pairs in Problem Solving and Algorithms – Action Research,” Athens Journal Of Education 6, no. 3 (2019): 223–36. https://doi.org/10.30958/aje.6-3-4.

Photo credits: Photographe: Julie M Cameron.
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Licence CC0.

Interview on Intellectual Honesty with Dr. Marc Calvini-Lefebvre

Doing research on feminist issues in the fourth wave of feminism: a recipe for intellectual honesty according to Dr Marc Calvini-Lefebvre.

My research topic is intrinsically linked with my political opinions: I am a feminist, a cinephile and an idealist who believes words can contribute to changing the world. I chose to do my research on the representation of prostitution through the male and the female gaze, and to dive directly into the theorizing of two subjects that are at the heart of a contemporary struggle. Facing this statement, I had to wonder what was expected from me, as a Master student writing a hundred-page dissertation. How to write a Master’s dissertation and not a political pamphlet? Can and should one separate their personal opinion from their research? To help me answer this difficult question, I asked Dr Marc Calvini-Lefebvre[1] for his opinion on the subject.

On the question of neutrality and the necessity to separate one’s political opinion from one’s research, Dr Calvini-Lefebvre answers that “you can’t be neutral, so I don’t think being neutral is the goal”. He insists instead on the necessity of striving to be intellectually honest to do good research and to do so, the recipe is simple: first, “the only way to be intellectually honest is to make your biases known to the reader.” But also “you fairly represent the views of people you disagree with” and finally “you do not hide evidence that is contrary to your preferred point of view.” Intellectual honesty therefore does not prevent you from being political in your research. “Research is activism,” Dr. Calvini-Lefebvre asserts. The choice of your topic itself “promotes thinking about issues around your subject.”

© Les Plages d’Agnès, dir. Agnès Varda, Ciné-Tamaris, 2008

Another topic I wanted to approach with Dr. Calvini-Lefebvre was the question of legitimacy. Who am I to talk about prostitution? Who am I, even, to talk about cinema? For Dr. Calvini-Lefebvre, the question was even more elementary: being a man, who was he to work on feminism? He feared the “white knight complex” going with the idea that he was doing that to help women. He finally found an answer to that question reading the work of Catherine Hall (a white woman, British academic) on racism. He understood that he was doing this work to realise “what it means to be a white, male, heterosexual, middle class, person in a society built for somebody like [him].” His point therefore is not to claim that he knows better than other historians working on the subject, nor to explain feminism to women, but he sees it as a sort of “self-enlightenment” and hopefully contributes to enlightening others.

If you are wondering if it is your place to write on a feminist matter, it always is, but know where you speak from. Know what your biases and your privileges are. As a feminist doing research, you contribute to assert the place of feminism in the academic world. You are an activist.

 


Header’s photo credits: UnratedStudio on Pixabay (PixabayLicense)

Embeded picture: Les Plages d’Agnès, dir. Agnès Varda, Ciné-Tamaris 2008

[1] Marc Calvini Lefebvre is a lecturer at Aix-Marseille Université, and a member of the “Project Horizon,” a research program in LERMA that focuses on the question of women’s resistance to feminism in the English-speaking world since the 19th century. He is also a member of the scientific committee of l’Institut du Genre, and Secretary of the Société Anglophone sur le Genre Et les Femmes (SAGEF). To quote a few of his latest works, in 2018 he co-edited the issue “Women in Britain since 1900: evolution, revolution or plus ça change?”, for the French Journal of British Studies, XXIII-1 and in 2017 he co-edited FEMMES, SEXE, GENRE DANS L’AIRE ANGLOPHONE: Invisibilisation, stigmatisation et combats, L’Harmattan.

The Experience of a Lifetime as a Foreign Student in France

Studying abroad is undoubtedly the most significant experience in my young life. Having the project of opening up to the world is the most rewarding and at the same time the most painful thing. After a few years of university studies in my home country, Ivory Coast, I decided to leave my comfort zone to discover new things abroad. That is why I decided to come and study in France. This is when the challenges begin.

Application and Admission

First of all, to get an admission in France, I had to go through Campus France to put together an application file. You must search for the training courses offered by the universities in order to identify the one that corresponds to you and that is in adequacy with your basic training. To maximize your chances of being accepted, you must make sure that you meet the admission requirements for the program you are interested in. To find out about it, you have to visit the websites of the universities. If you have any doubts, you can make an appointment with a Campus France agent for more information or attend an information meeting organized by Campus France.

Interview

After submitting your application to Campus France, you will be invited for an interview, a decisive step to obtain your visa. Therefore, the interview must be prepared: master your study and professional project and make sure to have the necessary information about the universities and cities you have chosen. Once this step is completed, the waiting period for the universities to answer begins. This period resembles a desert crossing because there is no guarantee for you to get an admission despite the fortune you spent in the process. After a few refusals, I finally received an acceptance from Aix-Marseille University.

Visa

The joy might be short-lived as an admission does not guarantee a visa. In order to avoid a refusal from the embassy that can shatter your dream, it is necessary to submit a complete file with authentic documents. As soon as you get an admission, you should not wait too long before looking for accommodation in your host city since it is difficult to find one in France while staying in your country. Proof of accommodation in France is a determining factor in obtaining a visa.

At this stage, I was still melancholic because my future was at stake and if the visa was refused, it would be jeopardized. The most striking day was the day I received a message from the French Embassy to come and pick up my passport. I was overwhelmed by anxiety, but my joy was great when I was granted the visa. I finally realized that my dream was coming true.

Arrival and Problem of Housing

I now had to prepare for my trip to France. It was the very first time I had left my country, my parents and my friends. The day I took my flight at Abidjan airport was not an easy day as the separation felt like a journey of no return.

Before I arrived in Aix-En-Provence, where my host university is located, I first landed in Paris at my grandfather’s house. Then, I had to face the big problem of housing as it is not easy to find student housing in Aix-En-Provence. Note that in my visa file, I had proof of a housing offer from the CROUS Aix-Marseille, but I had to be on site, register at the university and complete certain administrative procedures before I could access this housing. After a few days in Paris, I was accommodated by a French friend in Marseille until I finished all these steps.

On the day of the administrative registration, you must have a credit card or a cheque for the payment of your registration fees. So, the first thing to do is to open a bank account to pay the registration fees which will allow you to secure your school certificate or student card needed for all the steps to settle in: housing file, subscription to the different insurances, etc. It is a tedious process, so it is better to come as soon as possible in order to finalize all these procedures so that it does not coincide with the beginning of the courses.

Beginning of Class

At the beginning of courses, I was a bit lost, but the studying conditions were good: very cordial professors with international students, modern libraries, etc. Then, I was able to befriend a student in my class who helped me integrate and integration is very important when you are new. It was really a rewarding experience for me because I am perfectly integrated, and everything is going well now.

 

 

Photo credits: Images site Pxhere.com, licence CC0.
Montage: Julie Verstavel.

“Nuit Européenne des Chercheurs,” 15th edition

          From November 27th to December 4th, 2020, I had the chance to take part in the 15th edition of the European Researchers’ Night. The event turned completely digital this year, in line with the current politics of distance learning, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s theme was labelled ‘Little Nocturnal Secrets’ –« Petits secrets nocturnes »– and surveyed diverse cultural interests and activities, stemming from a shared interest in research and critical thinking.

         Indeed, the European Researchers’ Night first took place in 2005. This initiative was primarily launched thanks to the valuable contributions of scholars and of Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for the Education, Culture, Youth and Sport European Commission. Its primary goal consists in “bring[ing] science and researchers closer to the general public and to stimulate interest in research careers – particularly among young people.”[1] The European Researchers’ Night is a Europe-wide public event, funded under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, which attracted 1.6 million visitors[2] in 400 cities in 2019.

        As far as I am concerned, I have been highly convinced by this online format since I did not only find it convenient – to take part in as many virtual activities as possible – but also remarkably stimulating, thought-inspiring, and captivating. Moreover, the event was both informative and entertaining. Although I have a marked literary streak, I enjoyed discovering scholars whose interests are more geared towards molecular sciences, artificial intelligence robotics, or renewable energies, in keeping with current environmental issues and the climate change crisis.

       I was able to follow Dr Reynes, my thesis supervisor, who is specialised in North American Modernist Literature, including European transatlantic cultural transfers, and American writers from the first half of the 20th century. An active participant in the European Researchers’ Night 2020 edition, Dr Reynes was asked to write “A Letter to her Research Object,” in which she retraced the evolution of her scientific and research interests, from the beginning of her career to the present day. Moreover, Dr Reynes has recently been involved in the European project ‘Transitive Modernities, Modernisms in Transit’ – as part of the new CIVIS Consortium of European Universities – which partly justifies why she took part in this year’s edition.

       The 2020 edition of the European Researchers’ Night was a moment of relaxed and intimate sharing, which offered valuable insight into innovating research. I mainly discovered scholars conducting research in environmental sciences, racing against infectious diseases and leading clinical trials; disciplines which are vital to preserve global health currently. These fields of research are very different to mine but were worth exploring. This is the whole point of this event which allowed me, in substance, to discover first-hand testimonies from scholars who are conducting emerging, but necessary research. The uniqueness of this research night lies in its opportunity to investigate the lives of researchers,[3] allowing visitors to familiarise themselves with laboratories and learn about the exciting, and beneficial activities of scholars.

 

 

Photo credits: Image site Pxhere.com, licence CC0

[1] & 2 Stable URL: https://eu-pearl.eu/european-researchers-night-27-november/, accessed 06/12/20.

3 “10th Anniversary of the European Researchers’ Night – Science is wonderful! event” – Stable Web URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6bnXmRW4Zk&list=PLvpwIjZTs-LipXfZlh964n7cdMXWMIUO J&index=15&t=0s&app= desktop, accessed 06/12/20.

 

Research Blog of the Masters Students in Anglophone Studies (Aix-Marseille University)

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