From an undergraduate degree in French received in China to a PhD in literature in Paris, Xu Yang tells us about her experience as an international student at Université de Paris and her participation in the 2021 Guild Summer School.

Melody Xu Yang is starting her second year as a student PhD in literature at Université de Paris. She came from China in 2018 to pursue her studies in literature and to deepen her knowledge of French. She is now devoting her thesis to the well-known French poet Arthur Rimbaud. This summer, she also participated in the Guild Summer School hosted by the University of Glasgow: an international study programme focusing this year on research communication.

Arthur Rimbaud: a turning point in her studies

After discovering this renowned French poet in 2014, Melody Xu enrolled in an undergraduate degree in China to learn the French language. “In the third year, I decided to pursue my graduate studies in France with a Master of Litterature, where I had the chance to meet my current thesis director”. Since 2018, Melody has been studying at Université de Paris.

For this passionate multilinguist, working with three languages is child’s play: “I started Chinese at the age of one and English at the age of three, so I grew up with more or less  these two languages.” It was at the age of seventeen, when she started her degree, that she began to learn French. “I learned a lot from French and English textbooks because they are similar, and I’m really into French musicals ! ”

Melody Xu is convinced that a good level of language is not achieved by translating word-for-word and repetitive grammar exercises: “After the beginner’s level, you have to incorporate the new language into your daily life, love it and breathe it in. Besides, it’s not a big deal if you don’t have the same level in every language, because our experiences with these languages are (almost) never the same.”

Our young doctoral student is more comfortable in English on a daily basis. She uses French for research and thinks in Chinese when she needs to talk to her family.

The Guild Summer School: a one-week opportunity to broaden your research horizons and build confidence

“I signed up for the Guild Summer School because I was very interested in the topic of communication. As a doctoral student in literature, I am rather solitary in my studies and when people ask me what I do in my thesis, I sometimes find it difficult to answer. For confidentiality reasons, I can’t say everything and I thought it would be nice to be able to ‘communicate’ a bit about what I do”, explains Melody Xu.

During the Guild Summer School, Melody had the opportunity to exchange with other doctoral students with very different backgrounds and research areas: “Despite our differences, I saw how similar our experiences were. It made me feel much less alone”. The presenters and facilitators gave the students tips on how to better communicate their research. Some of the older PhD students shared their experiences and talked about the pitfalls to avoid.

Originally planned to be held in Glasgow, this international programme was finally held online due to the health crisis. “It’s true that it was a bit special to have the Guild Summer School online. But the facilitators did their best to make us feel like we were in Scotland, especially through presentations on Scottish culture.”  

Always looking for a challenge, our multilingual student is currently learning a fourth language: Dutch. Genieten van!

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