Frequently asked questions - Department of HiPLA

We asked the Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (HiPLA) some questions about what it's like to study with them. Here's what they said.

We are adapting our teaching methods and spaces in accordance with the latest COVID guidelines and therefore the information below may be subject to change.

What makes this department at the University of Bristol unique?

HiPLA is a department with wide-ranging interests and specialisms in the cultures, histories, languages and literatures of Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan-speaking countries around the world.

With experts in areas ranging from visual arts to history, linguistics to literature, film to sport, we offer a wide range of specialist units that enable students to deepen their knowledge of particular areas, approaches and subject matter, while at the same time exploring how their studies fit in to wider global culture and history, giving them a global perspective on the cultures of hundreds of millions of people.

Hear from our staff and students about what makes the School of Modern Languages special

How does the research at the school benefit the experience of the students at the school?

The school offers research-rich teaching in all degree courses so that students can benefit from our expertise in a wide range of cutting-edge topics and methods. Our research spans twelve languages (Catalan, Chinese, Czech, French, German, Italian, Occitan, Portuguese, Russian, Scots, Slovak and Spanish). It extends from the Medieval period to the contemporary, reaching beyond Western Europe to Russia and large areas of Latin America and Africa.

Our academic staff collaborate with a broad range of partners across the world to respond to global challenges, for example through work on political reconciliation, exile and migration, mental health, cultural heritage, and environmental sustainability. Students are introduced to this work through our teaching.

With experts in art and visual culture, film, history, linguistics, literature, politics and theatre our primary teaching and research specialisms include:

  • Transcultural encounters (within and beyond Europe; colonial, pre-colonial, post-colonial);
  • Intermediality (the interrelations between word and image from medieval manuscripts to contemporary photobooks, film, theatre, video games, graphic novels, manga, digital culture, auditory culture, art in galleries, on the street and online, the media);
  • Literary, cultural, social and political histories (including gender and sexuality, race, mental health, the environment, sport, heritage, politics, intellectuals, religion, and integration policy);
  • Translation, adaptation, and reception;
  • Sociolinguistics and language variation (with a focus on minority languages).

What does the school do to welcome students when they first start at Bristol?

There is normally a programme of introductory events for new students in Welcome Week. Usually, this includes a plenary meeting for the entire school, where we introduce important support structures such as the tutoring system, the Wellbeing Service, the Careers Service, the library, and the Student Union.

There is also a department-specific induction, a meeting with your Personal Tutor and time to get to know your lecturers and fellow students socially.

There are several student societies related to the interests of the department, including the Portuguese Society, Spanish Society, Mexican Culture Society and Capoeira and Salsa societies. There is a Café-Català that meets weekly and a Catalan, Portuguese and Spanish-language Cine-Club that has a programme of screenings over the year.

What is the first year timetable like for this course?

Please click on the relevant degree on the programme catalogue.

Where can I find out more about the detailed structure and content of the degree programmes?

Please click on the relevant degree on the programme catalogue.

What support does the school offer to new students?

We know that the transition to university can be challenging as well as exciting and we are determined to provide every student with the support they need in order to flourish while studying with us.

Every student is assigned an Academic Personal Tutor, who is on hand throughout your study at Bristol (including during the year abroad) to help with academic and personal development. Personal Tutors help in many ways: 

  • they are someone you can talk to about your degree and the subject-specific academic skills you need to do well;
  • they can give advice on how to juggle your studies and extracurricular activities;
  • they can help to signpost you to help and advice if you are struggling with financial, health or other problems.

The Senior Tutor in the School of Modern Languages is also available to help students with any concerns. The University of Bristol provides a range of other support services, including Residential Life Advisers in student residences, Student Wellbeing Advisers and the Student Counselling Service. For a full list of health and wellbeing support services, visit Health and wellbeing

How will the course set me up for my future career?

We prepare our students to become agile participants and leaders in the global world. We do this by helping you to acquire functional competency in one or more languages and by fostering a range of other skills and attributes. These include multilingualism, intercultural understanding, analytical and critical thinking, clarity and self-confidence in communication, an aptitude for collaborative work, adaptability, resilience, and creativity. These transferable skills are highly valued by employers and embedded in everything we do.

The world of work will change radically in the coming decades. This is why our teaching incorporates our cutting-edge research and encourages independent learning by instilling the habits of curiosity, openness, rigour, self-reflection and evidence-based thinking, which will prepare you for a flexible future career. We also provide units in professional practice, for example in translation and interpreting, language-teaching pedagogy, and business culture.

In addition, students are able to work towards the Bristol PLUS employability award during the course of their studies. The University of Bristol is the fourth most-targeted UK university with leading graduate employers (High Fliers 2020).

Are there any employers or other initiatives that the school works with for industry placements?

Students are able to work with a wide range of employers during their year abroad (third year of the degree). You can arrange your own work placements, subject to approval by the School of Modern Languages, and use our extensive contacts with employers overseas. We take great care to support you in this.

In your final year, you will reflect on how the skills you have acquired while living abroad can strengthen your employability and personal development. You will discuss, analyse and reflect about your experience abroad in class in your final year, write a report about the year abroad, and suggest recommendations for second-year students.

Skills and knowledge you'll gain living abroad include: language acquisition, communicative skills, team work, coping with changes (adaptability / flexibility), facing new challenges, being out of your comfort zone, versatility, problem-solving skills, initiative, creativity, learning skills, open-mindedness, resilience, curiosity, cultural awareness, personal growth.

Examples of previous student work placements have included:

  • Catalan - Institut Ramon Llull internships in Barcelona; students also work in other sectors such as those listed under Spanish (below).
  • Portuguese Brazil - Dehouche (travel agency), Global Translations.
  • Portugal - University of Porto (part of research projects), University Nova of Lisbon (students employed by the Sports Department).
  • Students have worked mainly for banks and big companies in Brazil, and for the press as translators in Portugal.
  • Spanish - We have students working in different sectors: social media, marketing, advertising, journalism, politics, Chambers of Commerce (Chile, Ecuador, Madrid), teaching, arts, music, ONGs, real estate, event organising, public relations, publishing houses and more. 

What do graduates go on to do after studying this course at Bristol?

Our graduates go on to a wide range of careers and achieve the third highest earnings among students from Modern Languages degrees five years after graduation (Institute of Fiscal Studies, 2018). Many also go on to postgraduate study.

For further information about modern languages graduate destinations see our Careers Service.

Example occupations for HiPLA graduates: Teacher, Wildlife Conservation Consultant, Business Development Associate, Travel Writer and Marketing Coordinator, Translator intern, Community Outreach Manager, Social Media Producer, Financial Analyst, Underwriting Assistant, Sales Executive, Publishing Partnership Executive

Example employers for HiPLA graduates: Deloitte, British Army, Foxtons, Battersea Power Station Development Company, Heavenly Recordings, Ten Toes Media, Moore Stephens, Galavanta Colombia Tailored Travel, Tap Lingua, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, the Spanish Theatre Company

Example study courses: MA International Relations, MA Translation, MA History of Art, MSc Globalisation and Latin American Development, MA Latin American Studies, PGCE.

What opportunities are there to study abroad as part of this course?

Our year abroad scheme enables you to immerse yourself fully in the culture(s) that you have been studying throughout your first and second years. This experience helps to develop skills that are transferable into a broad range of personal and professional activities, including: increased linguistic competency; cross-cultural communication; international understanding; self-management; and adaptability.

Normally, students are able to visit a great range of countries, including the many nations that compose Latin America, Portugal, and Spain. The school provides extensive information, advice and support to all Modern Languages students throughout the entire process – before, during and after the year abroad to ensure each student is able to make informed choices about where they want to go, what they want to do there, and how to make sure their experience is as safe, rewarding and exciting as possible.

What are the facilities like on campus that students will use to study this course?

The School of Modern Languages is housed in the Arts Complex on Woodland Road on the main University of Bristol campus in Clifton. In addition to a range of lecture and seminar rooms and a welcoming student common room, the school benefits from a state-of-the-art Multimedia Centre that includes a cinema suite, a large collection of foreign-language DVDs, an audio recording and video editing studio, a language lab and several study areas for independent and group work.

How many hours (on average) are required outside of lectures for additional work and study?

Based on the 2019/20 academic year, students are expected to spend an average of 40 hours per week engaging with their degree programme, of which 12 to 13 hours will typically be contact time (lectures, seminars and language classes) and the rest will be independent study.

How do assessments work for the department?

Assessment is carried out through a mixture of coursework and examinations. Find detailed information for each degree course on the online prospectus

What would you say are the main differences between studying at school and study at university?

  • You have a greater ability to develop and follow your own academic interests, guided by our specialist academic staff.
  • You can tailor your pathway through your degree by choosing to focus on areas such as film, gender studies, history or linguistics. You can also take up an additional language in the second year.
  • You have greater responsibility for directing and organising your own learning.
  • You can contribute to an ongoing process of cutting-edge research as our academic staff often run courses related to their current projects.

What are examples of final year projects/dissertations that students have worked on when they study this course?

  • The Ethics of Poverty in Brazil
  • The Legacy of Eva Perón
  • Sexual Taboos across Cultures
  • ¡Viva Fernando y vamos robando!
  • Patriotism or personal gain? The motives of guerrillas during the Peninsular Wars in Spain
  • The Law of Historical Memory in Spain
  • Gender, Honour and Transgression in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna
  • Myth, magical realism and religion in Gabriel García Márquez’s Los funerales de la Mamá Grande: a necessary form of escapism from the reality of “La violencia” in Colombia?
  • Guernica Revisited
  • Mexican Narco-Terrorism
  • Frida Karlo; A Mirror of Mexican Society

Is there anything I should check out to familiarise myself with the subject matter before I would start the course?

Have a look at the Bristol Futures online courses that typically run in October, February, and July. The one on Global Citizenship has many themes that are very relevant to the study of Modern Languages.

Engage with online media such as newspapers and blogs in your chosen language/s, aiming to read something every day and find out about any vocabulary or syntax that you don’t understand.

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