Exchange broadens the mind

Eight students’ accounts of their experiences abroad

 Students at Aix-Marseille, as elsewhere, are strongly encouraged to apply for exchanges abroad. But what is really behind this presumably enriching and colourful experience—an experience that has become became a rite of passage for students committed to the study of English? In the French academic system, a year abroad is not compulsory when you study Modern Languages, so the decision to leave is entirely personal.

What are the reasons why some students choose to leave in the first place? Is the process of leaving as easy as it sounds, and is coming back as natural as one thinks?

If “difficult” and “unique” seem to be two recurrent words when a student is asked to summarize her/his experience abroad, how do these two terms co-exist in the making of such a journey?

Over the next few months, EN-globe’s editorial team will attempt to answer these questions, and to measure the impact of what is, for most, a unique and authentic academic adventure. We will provide eight genuine records of students’ experiences in various English-speaking countries, from Britain and Ireland to the US and Canada.

Why go back to English wor(l)ds?

By Édouard Brasey (2015)

Where did I get this strange idea to go back to school – sorry – University in order to get yet another diploma? Does it make any sense? Is it a reasonable project or totally absurd? All of these questions turned round and round in my poor old head for days on end – I am exaggerating a bit, of course – before getting an answer, which eventually was: ‘Don’t worry. Just do it!’

But maybe I should introduce myself first in order for this post to make more sense. My name is Edouard Brasey, and I am a writer. It is my job. I am 60. So far, I have published around 70 books and novels, many essays, encyclopedia articles and illustrated books on very serious subjects such as faeries, hobgoblins, mermaids, unicorns and other elves and Little Folk. I have had the good fortune to win a number of prizes and awards for Fantasy writing, and if you are interested in dragons, wizards and vampires, you might have already read one of my books (even if you do not remember my name). I have also been translated into different languages including English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian . . . and Japanese (I cannot be certain of the authenticity of this last translation; maybe my books inspired some Manga cartoonists, who knows?).

Translation! Ah! Indeed, my decision to enroll in this second year Masters degree at Aix-Marseille University (Anglophone studies, specializing in translation) is because of translation. I wanted to know a bit more about it and I have not been not disappointed. Allow me to explain.

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LERMAsteriales: an overview of the day

By Mylène Della Monica (2015)

The LERMAsteriales were divided into eight sessions. The first session developed the idea of commitment in times of war and peace. It began by looking at the work of Ernest Hemingway, emblematic author of the ‘Lost Generation’; we saw how a whole generation of artists could commit to a cause, in response to the trauma of World War I, but also how Hemingway can be seen to have dealt with personal trauma through his female characters. War was also the ‘Greater Game’ of sportsmen, who extended their athletic commitment from stadiums to the greater arena of the front, and who also learnt how to use sport to escape the horrors of war. Lastly, we saw how the United States struggles as a country to commit to peace. War seems to cement union and national agreement, but, when at the end of the Cold War, a plan of military conversion was designed, this new cause clearly did not bring people together. While individuals often do commit to a public cause, it appears hard for a whole nation to really commit when it comes to peace.

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LERMAsteriales 2015: A Commitment to Research

By Mylène Della-Monica (2015)

On Friday 6 March 2015, at 8.45am, Professor Anne Dunan-Page, who has been organizing the LERMAsteriales for the last four years, opened the conference. After two long months of intense preparation, the LERMAsteriales were about to begin. Twenty-seven anxious students filled the room, facing a large audience of professors, former students, relatives and friends to give their first papers.

Comité LERMAsteriales 2015

The LERMAsteriales are an exceptional opportunity for Master’s students to dive into the real world of research. We were given the chance to discuss our own research and to get a sense of what organizing a conference means. It gave us an insight into what a researcher’s life is made of: the thrill of the organization, the adrenaline rushing when you are up on stage, but most of all the excitement filling you up when you are about to start delivering your presentation.

LERMAsteriales 2015 session 4

Ten minutes – that is all each of us had – to convince, persuade, and share our passion for our subject. The LERMAsteriales is a great opportunity for young Master’s researchers to share their enthusiasm and interest for a topic of their choice. It was also a chance to discover what we were capable of, to share our research but above all, to communicate a message in an academic context.

LERMAsteriales 2015 session 8

In the end, even the most worried of us took great advantage of those few minutes. It also broadened our knowledge of the subjects of other students. As Prof. Dunan-Page had predicted at our very first meeting, we came out of this experience as a strong and united group.

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To search or not to search? Students’ perspectives on the Master ACMA

By Élodie Galiana-Camarena, co-editor of EN-globe (2015)

Aix-Marseille University offers a wide range of graduate programmes, among which a 2-year Masters degree in English Studies (ACMA is short for Aire Culturelle du Monde Anglophone). Through four main disciplines – literature, translation, history and linguistics – , this Master explores a great variety of subjects and allows students to pursue their own research. Students are also encouraged to spend time abroad to experience life and research in an English-speaking country. At the end of our first year, we have to write and defend a short dissertation, in English. The second year is more advanced, laying the foundation for a Ph.D.

Thanks to the opportunity for interdisciplinary research, students are able to explore a wide range of topics. We are encouraged to communicate with each other and share the fruit of our work. This academic blog, for instance, attests to the fact that researchers are part of a larger community. Working in close collaboration with the Research Center on the Anglophone World (LERMA), we discover what it means to be a University researcher, notably thanks to the organization of the ‘LERMAsteriales’ (a symposium organized each year by the students themselves), the research seminars that we regularly attend, and this new blog, which was created in 2015.

Universities are supposed to train futures thinkers. From our experience, we can say that Aix-Marseille University has offered us a rich learning experience. This Masters degree is an excellent way to start research. It is gratifying, albeit quite challenging, as it requires a lot of time and work, but it makes you even prouder of what you accomplish.

As students, how do we experience it?

Thanks to the diversity of choice offered by this Masters degree, we undoubtedly gain a lot of open-mindedness, cultural awareness, knowledge and maturity. As we choose our research subject independently, we work on a topic that is truly of interest to us. Our supervisors help us make our debut as researchers, guiding us towards the path of academic erudition. With this comprehensive training, we are at the heart of research and all that it implies.

The logical next step is a Ph.D, but we also discover a myriad of possibilities and opportunities, brought by the variety of things we do. Beyond an academic career, there are many alternatives. Thanks to the different projects we are involved in, which provide us with professional experience, we feel adequately equipped to gain a sure footing on the work market.

By Nora Menicucci, co-editor of EN-globe (2015)

I first enrolled in Aix-Marseille University driven by my interest for the English language.

The many different courses offer in-depth exploration of the English-speaking sphere as a whole, in its varied cultural forms. Students are encouraged very early on to immerse in an English-speaking country – and to become aware of its cultural differences, especially academic differences. We benefit from financial support, as well as an educational and administrative structure. If I have not experienced this full immersion yet, I can nevertheless share my experience of four years within the English Department, which led me to enroll for this Masters degree.

 From student to young researcher

Having experienced teaching in a secondary school, and this being my primary goal when I first came to Aix-Marseille University, little by little, I developed a considerable interest in research, and eventually decided to pursue a research-oriented degree, instead of a teacher-training course.

I have developped an interest in gender studies, queer studies and women’s studies after following a course on the history of women from the late Victorian era to the 21st century. And although I had initial concerns that such a discipline, which might be regarded by some as typically American, would be eclipsed within a French Masters degree, the Master ACMA provided me with a long list of supervisors whom I could approach to supervise my dissertation. Thus, during my first year, I choose to work on the representation of lesbianism in the media. All the necessary tools were available to write my dissertation, notably classes in research methodology.

Gradually, the feeling of being part of something big and, in a way, constantly new, wiped away the concern that ever young researcher eventually has – to be invisible among so many available sources and to be, in the end, forgotten. In fact, we are part of a community of young researchers, who share their knowledge and their work in various disciplines. For instance, somebody who chooses to write a dissertation in literature is also given the opportunity to follow seminars in history, linguistics and translation (for instance ‘Britaix’ seminars focus on early modern Britain[1], while ‘ALLITA’ seminars deal with American literature) as the degree strongly encourages students to discover various disciplines.

What future for young researchers?

Ultimately, if the Masters degree does not guarantee a professional future in higher education, it provides young researchers with all the necessary tools to exploit their own strengths and to explore their field of research in the best possible conditions. For instance, last March, we were given the opportunity to present our research at the fourth annual LERMAsteriales, and, even if the work involved was considerable, we were able to share our research and to learn how to organise our own symposium with a high degree of autonomy.


A Call for Further Discussion on the Fundamentals of a Theory of Biography

By Maryam Thirriard (2015)

The first thing a newcomer to the study of life-writing would be likely to do is to set off in search of some references. This could give a sense of direction in this immense new territory. However, one soon discovers it is difficult to find a reference book or an ‘Oxbridge’ introduction to biography theory, or to life-writing in general. So one can only rejoice at the promise of the theoretical input presented in Theoretical Discussions of Biography written by Hans Renders and Binne de Haan. This collectively-written book provides important insights into the historical approach to biography and highlights the pertinent connections between biography and microhistory. However, it seems that the representation of biography in this book is much narrower than what the full scope of biography has to offer. The theory of biography needs to be broadened. The following considerations may seem general, but they reveal that the essentials still need to be addressed and that we have quite a way to go before we find a satisfactory framework in which to build a theory of biography.

Defining the terms

The aim of Theoretical Discussions of Biography is to provide the theoretical framework necessary for biography to achieve the status it deserves as an object of scientific study – a status to which the very tangible flourishing of departments of biographical studies in universities bears witness. One can only welcome such an undertaking. However, Renders and de Haan warn the reader of the price the discipline will have to pay: ‘biography as a research area belongs to history’ (Renders, 3). I am uncomfortable with this delimitation of biographical study, and feel that the field has shrunk from a myriad of life-writing productions of all shapes and forms to what seems more like a private club.

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4th Lermasteriales: 6 March 2015

The 4th LERMASteriales, organized by the Masters students, will take place on campus, 29 avenue Robert Schuman (Aix-en-Provence), on Friday 6th March 2015, Room A220, from 8.45.

LERMAsteriales 2015 posterAs usual, the chosen theme is that of the annual conference of the French Association of English Lecturers, L’Engagement/Commitment.

To download the full programme, click here.

To download the book of abstracts, click here.

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