Hear Estephany Reyes, an ESU TLab Scholarship recipient, discuss her experience of the 2021 SUISS Creative Writing course. In this presentation she covers quarantine, travel, the academic and social/ cultural programmes, the lasting impacts of the summer school, and what she will take back to her own classroom.
Due to the pandemic, the cancellation of the Edinburgh Festivals as a result, and the ongoing government restrictions, it was no great surprise that we followed suit and cancelled the 2020 summer school. It was the first time this had happened in our 74 year history, and as you can imagine, we were all terribly saddened. However, it was the right decision for the school, and all those involved, and we were optimistic that we would once again welcome students back to SUISS in 2021.
Despite all the obstacles, we managed to have a small cohort of students. Though it was by no means a normal year for us, the SUISS spirit prevailed, thanks to our wonderful students and committed staff. There were hikes up Arthur’s Seat, author readings, cinepoem competitions, late-night conversations about literature at our ‘virtual pub’, and so much more.
We also introduced an online course that ran parallel to the residential course option, which was incredibly successful. So much so, that we have decided to continue offering both online and residential course options for 2022. Not only have we found that the online course appeals to people who would not normally be able to travel to Edinburgh, it also allows us some flexibility in the face of all the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
Above all else, SUISS strives to connect students of all backgrounds and beliefs through literature (and a robust social/ cultural programme!), so the creation of an online course presented a new challenge. Read these powerful accounts from Juliana Del Rosso (Brazil) and Debjani Chakrabarty (India), and what they have to say about their online experience:
I came from Campo Grande, an almost rural neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. Even
though Rio is a big city, it would take me at least two hours to get to the places where art was being created and shared: museums, theatres and galleries were not only expensive, but far, far away from my place. I am an actress, as I previously said, but I went to the theatre for the first time when I was 13. Then, when I was 15. Then, when I was 18. Only after that I was able to actually take part in what I had been dreaming about for years.
Theatre was, when I was very young, my impossible dream. Life and support brought me where I am, but it has never been easy. I currently live in São Paulo – this time, in a big neighborhood. I am a bachelor of dramatic arts trying to make a living in a country that doesn’t care about art and doesn’t give us enough money, time or attention. I have to work on things that I don’t like in order to keep on working on what I really love – theatre and cinema. All the rest, to be quite honest, is just something I have to deal with.
Since Bolsonaro became our president – a sad, sad situation -, things became harder for all of us. Part of the country is struggling to get something to eat; meanwhile, politicians are giving themselves more money. Theatres are closing their doors. Artists that I know went back to their parents’ houses or gave up on art forever. I can understand that, for I was almost one of them.
A few months ago, I was unsure I should keep on trying. I was having a hard time convincing myself there was something left for me in art. At the same time, I was telling myself I didn’t have what it takes to be a good actress, an interesting person, or a good story-teller.
Then SUISS came along and offered me a scholarship. And I remembered myself, being
13 years old and having the dream of going abroad. Suddenly I was back to the days when I would wake up really early, take a shot of burning coffee and live the experience of being in love with art for hours and hours. I felt alive, breathing and capable of finally giving my heart what it needs: the possibility of expressing itself.
I do not mean to sound silly; I mean to sound honest. I have been letting myself talk of love, of all kinds of love, since Jo Clifford’s play and speech. I cried for hours after meeting her, even though we were an ocean away from each other. This is one of the things I would never be able to do if SUISS had not offered me such an opportunity. For this and much more, I am truly grateful.
After SUISS – and after all the experiences that have been happening in my life since the summer school believed in me -, I feel that I am able to do something great. Time to change the
world, I guess. Finally.
Thanks to the generous support of Creative Scotland, we were privileged at SUISS to welcome Isabel Hurtado de Mendoza and Margaret Rigaud, two fantastically talented and experienced professional translators, to our Text & Context programme this summer. As in previous years, a key component of the Fellowship is for our translators to deliver presentations on their practice as part of our Translation Showcase event. This year the event took place on Zoom, and we’re very pleased to be able to share Isabel and Margaret’s presentations here for those that missed the event. Isabel’s presentation focuses on the thorny issue of translating cultural reference points, while Margaret’s picks up on some of the same ideas in its exploration of the translation of vernaculars. We hope you find their presentations as illuminating and entertaining as we at SUISS did, with our thanks again to Isabel and Margaret for sharing their energy, enthusiasm and expertise.
I was one of the lucky awardees to have received an Edwin Morgan Translation Fellowship in 2021. This fellowship is addressed to professional translators with an interest in twentieth-century and contemporary Scottish writing, and its goal is the promotion of Scottish literature abroad.
I have been a translator for over 20 years and have recently started translating fiction. I lived in Edinburgh for ten years, so I have a strong bond with Scotland and, seeing how popular it is as a tourist destination and the fascination it holds for Spaniards, I thought that this fellowship would give me the opportunity to link my two passions by helping Scottish works reach a Spanish-speaking audience through translation.
With support from Creative Scotland, SUISS offered me the opportunity to attend the four-week Text and Context course (Contemporary British Literature and Scottish Literature) online. Even though the course was quite demanding in terms of compulsory reading, watching lectures, giving presentations and participating in seminars, I found it of very high quality. I am normally quite difficult to please when it comes to my professional development, but SUISS exceeded my expectations. I also thoroughly enjoyed the programme because SUISS managed to gather a very interesting and diverse group of students. In fact, I am seriously considering attending the school again next summer if the programme is updated. I only wish it can be in person this time!
As regards the main goal of the fellowship, I believe the knowledge I acquired will definitely help me in my career. I plan to keep up to date with news and developments in the publishing industry in Scotland and, who knows, maybe one day I will have the opportunity to translate a Scottish author into Spanish! In the meantime, I am already promoting quite a few of them among editors in Spain, so keep your fingers crossed for me!
Apart from attending the course and promoting Scottish literature in my country, another requirement of the fellowship consisted in giving a presentation about any aspect of translation that would appeal to an international audience like SUISS students, who might not be familiar with my craft. Since I am passionate about intercultural communication, I decided to talk about how to translate culture-specific elements. I touched on what translators actually do and how their output compares to automatic translation. I also described some specific strategies we need to use when dealing with tricky referents, like some that are specific to Scottish culture and that I chose to illustrate this point. Hopefully, after watching my video, you will have a better understanding of the value of human translators 😉
I wish to thank SUISS and Creative Scotland for awarding me one of two 2021 Translator Fellowships. I relished the opportunity to spend the summer discovering new writing from the British isles. As a reader and a translator, I am always on the lookout for new voices and was especially curious to find out more about contemporary Scottish writing. It was lovely being a student again and, as a translator, SUISS provided me with some interesting leads which I hope to follow in the coming months. Fingers crossed!
Isabel Hurtado de Mendoza is an English into Spanish freelance translator with over twenty years’ experience. A Qualified Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and a member of ACE Traductores (the Spanish association of literary translators), Isabel’s translations include Ann Cleeves’ novel Silent Voices, published as Almas silenciosas by Ediciones Maeva, and El invasor, for Matamua Books.
Margaret Rigaud is a freelance literary translator and College Research Associate at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Her translations into French include James Pennebaker and Joshua Smyth’s Écrire pour se soigner, published by Markus Haller, while her translations into English include Filippo Bonini Baraldi’s Roma Music and Emotion, published by Oxford University Press, and Pierre Bordieu’s Manet: A Symbolic Revolution, with Peter Collier, published by Polity.
Photo credit: Gary Walkow/Jules Selmez
Applying for postgraduate study was for me like working on a puzzle: Essentially it was about putting different pieces from our academic history together to form a meaningful, coherent and appealing picture of what we did. The admission committee will look at that picture, and if it meets their requirements, hopefully they will let us in.
In my application to the Master’s programme in English Studies at Aarhus University (Denmark), where I am now enrolled as a student, SUISS stood out as a very important piece of the puzzle (or in a punny way of speaking, you can call it the “master piece” of my application). I studied Contemporary Literature at SUISS in the summer of 2018, just after I finished by BA. And I always thought it strange how those short two weeks in Edinburgh could help me so much in working towards where I am now.
But it all makes sense. SUISS was the most intensive learning experience I ever participated in. To prepare, we had to read six whole books and a bunch of excerpts from short story and poetry collections. Every weekday we had a thematic lecture by literary scholars from different universities in the U.K, followed by a seminar with our tutor where got to look more intimately at different aspects of the text under study. So two weeks wasn’t long, yes, but at the end of the programme our minds were all bubbling with exciting names, concepts and ideas. SUISS actually inspired a classmate of mine to write her Master’s thesis on one of the authors that we studied in the course. Isn’t that amazing?
You also have the option of doing a written assessment if you want to receive academic credits from the course. This might be useful for those who want to further their studies into English literature but otherwise come from an academic background where literature isn’t a focus (Since some universities might require applicants to possess a specific number of credits in the subject that they are applying for). So I wrote a 2000-word essay, which came back some two weeks after its submission with a grade and very detail comments by my tutor. I later used that essay as a “writing sample” in my application for Master’s study. Plus I got a fancy academic transcript, which I also included in the application pack.
Before SUISS, I had been shuffling around in different subfields of English studies – linguistics, cultural studies, translation studies, etc. – not really knowing which area to focus on. After SUISS, however, I knew firmly that I want to be a literature student. Everything was so inspiring: the lectures, the coffee talks, the readings by guest authors, and most of all the extensive discussions with my classmates and tutor, who, like me, love to indulge ourselves in the pleasure that language and the imagination have to offer.
Many of the friendships that I made at Edinburgh remain with me even now. SUISS has become for us like a tradition, or an “imagined community” if you will, which we feel ourselves attached to, to which we look back with longing and nostalgia every summer. I hope what I write here has given you a perspective of what is in store for you at SUISS, and motivates you to take a bold step towards this incredible opportunity.
I didn’t think about my students when I was in Edinburgh this summer. I meant to, of course. But I didn’t. I didn’t think about them when I was investigating every cafe that JK Rowling might have written in, when I was attending poetry readings in large white rooms with abstract black and white art, or when I was being drenched with rain while we all climbed Arthur’s Seat. I didn’t think about them when I was writing for hours in any cafe that would have me, or when I was falling in love with everything my peers had written, or when my friends and I would walk into pubs with freshly signed books of poetry clasped in our hands. I didn’t think about them at all.
I didn’t think about my students at all this summer. But when it was time to start attending those ever so inspiring day long meetings at the end of August, when it was time to arrange desks in my room and figure out how to work the new smart board, I did not have the same sense of anxiety that normally creeps in during the first week of August. I did not mourn the summer, or wonder aloud where all the time had gone. I knew where it had gone. It was in cups of coffee from Brew Lab, it was in Fringe posters that lined any available surface in Edinburgh, it was on the table that my seminar group gathered around three times a week, it was in the snooze button that could only be pressed once because there was so much fun to be had and so much work to do. It was in the first four chapters of my novel.
I didn’t think about my students at all this summer. But when school started again, the first thing I told them about myself was that I spent the summer writing in Edinburgh. I told them about the poetry evenings, how I *almost died* when I went hiking in Glencoe by myself, and how they are seniors and they could absolutely spend their next summer what I had just spent my summer doing too. And when we started writing our personal essays I brought out poems and flash fiction that we’d studied in seminar. And when we had one on one appointments I told them to “let all the verbs and nouns do the heavy lifting” and I told them to take out their sentences that were only a six or a seven so that their nines and tens had full range to shine. Everything that I had learned this summer while I was absolutely not thinking about my students came spilling out into my classroom.
This summer, I recommend that you don’t think about your students. Not for one single second. Instead, think about yourself. Pour your attention into your own work. Read new things. Discuss it all with new people. Also, do it all in Edinburgh. Art and literature are what keep the cobblestones glued together there. Fall in love with writing and with literature all over again. Fall in love with your own work. When you come home you will feel fresh, and it will all come pouring out into your classroom. I promise.
When I learned about the ESU scholarships and SUISS program in Theatre and Performance, I knew I had to go for it. I am in my 11th year as a Theatre and English high school teacher on Long Island, and I have been eager for an opportunity to broaden my knowledge. From the moment I arrived at the University of Edinburgh dorms, I was warmly welcomed by the staff and our student leaders. I was pumped for a new experience, and eager to get settled and see what was in store for me. When I made my way to my room and opened the curtains, I found myself face-to-face with Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano at the edge of Edinburgh. This was the moment where I realized this experience was going to be more than I had expected.
Too often for teachers, the professional development we experience is chosen for us. It is not often (at least for me) that we get to decide what to study and to be able to go in-depth with those studies. Applying for the Theatre and Performance SUISS program and the scholarship available through ESU was one of the few opportunities I have found to take charge of my own professional development.
This program provided me with the chance to both learn about different viewpoints on modern theatre, but also give me the space to see how these can be applied to my own teaching. In our daily seminars, I got to be a student again, listening and engaging in conversations about theatre that I have not been able to have in years. Teachers are still students at heart, so I am always eager to listen and engage with others. A few times each week, we participated in various workshops throughout the two weeks. These workshops focused on such topics as acting, clowning, playwriting, and storytelling, all run by professionals in the field. Each workshop gave me ideas to bring back to my students, whether it was the “15 Rules of Acting” from Ali D’Souza and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, or clowning activities with Tim Licata from Plutot la Vie, this program served as a refresh button on my theatre teaching practices.
One of the best parts of this program was meeting other teachers and growing and learning with them. I found a small teacher tribe here, and while we all teach at different schools around the country, as theatre teachers, we are often part of very small departments, or even one-person departments working alone. Here, we had other people who knew all too well the struggles we all face. We commiserated, as well as discussed all the different ways we could implement what we were learning.
One of the biggest takeaways for me came in our workshop with playwright Jo Clifford. Jo told us “theatre is a gymnasium of empathy.” If my theatre classes can teach students empathy as they go out into the world, then I will consider myself a successful teacher. SUISS provided me with the chance to develop new ideas for teaching and sharpen the tools I already have.
Listen to 2016 SUISS Alumni Can Öztürk chart his path from the Text and Context Modernism course at SUISS to graduating with an MSc in Literature and Modernity at the University of Edinburgh in 2018.
“The seminars were led by enthusiastic academics and writers, and the groups were culturally very diverse, which helped incredibly in uncovering different ways of thinking about texts and contexts. There were also many events to take you around different parts of Edinburgh and reveal to you its many beauties.”
We were delighted to hear our 2016 Alumni Elspeth Reilly talk to the University of Edinburgh about her experience of the SUISS Creative Writing course and how it helped prepare her for further study at the University.
“this is a program of talented and dedicated professors, all passionate about the craft of writing, who are invested in your growth as a writer”
You’ve checked out the brochure, the books and the tutors, but what’s SUISS really like? Here’s our amazing 2018 alumni Sarah Paterson on her experience of the Creative Writing course. We just love the creative way she’s summed it up. #suissin60seconds
Watch our talented 2018 Alumni Kristen Cervenak explains what studying creative writing at Scottish Universities’ International Summer School is like in under 60 seconds… wow! #SUISSin60Seconds