Graduation first for language prize

John Hargrave

Published on 11 July 2019

Each year, the University of Sunderland’s School of Culture awards a number of prizes to exceptional students during the week-long graduation ceremonies at the Stadium of Light, but this was an extra special year with the inaugural Heidi Gritzan Prize for Modern Foreign Languages being awarded to its first recipient Barbara Weclewska.

The prize is for the best performance in final year in a foreign language and Barbara has won for her achievement in Spanish.

Heidi Gritzan joined Sunderland as a Lecturer in German in 1980 and was Team Leader for Modern Languages from 1997 until her retirement in 2009. She was an inspirational advocate for language learning, influencing generations of language students and well know across the university. Heidi died in 2017 and the new prize is being awarded in her memory by her husband, John Hargrave, himself a former Lecturer and Team Leader in French at the University.

Barbara Weclewska, from Poland, was delighted and shocked to be named prize winner and the Most Outstanding Student in Spanish for 2019. She has also achieved a First Class degree in Combined Subjects English Language and Linguistics and Spanish having begun Spanish from scratch in her first year.

I was really surprised and I still can’t believe it to be honest,” said the 23-year-old.

“I wanted to study languages and I was interested in learning Spanish. I chose English language and linguistics because I like challenging myself and thought that it was a great opportunity to improve my English skills.

“I’ve had a great experience at Sunderland and really enjoyed making my friends who supported me no matter what. What I also enjoyed was my year abroad which I spent in Spain and which gave me life experience.”

Barbara spent her third year studying at Rovira I Virgili University in Tarragona.

Unfortunately Barbara could not attend this week’s graduation ceremonies at the Stadium of Light, as she’s now back in her native Poland, but the prize was presented to the School of Culture by Heidi Gritizan’s husband, John Hargrave.

John Hargrave said: "I am delighted and proud to be presenting this award. It's a tragedy that Heidi is no longer with us, she was so committed to her work and to her students. She played a full role in all aspects of University life and it's wonderful that we can keep her memory alive with this prize.

“I congratulate Barbara, our first recipient of the award."

Steve Watts, Head of the School of Culture, said; "The School is delighted to be able to remember our former colleague Heidi through the creation of this Memorial Prize. We thank John for endowing the prize and congratulate Barbara as the first winner of this prestigious award."

Barbara says she now plans to study a Masters in Translation, and hopes that any future job role relates to her university course.