“I’m confident I’ve found myself on the right path”

Following on from our graduate Natalie’s reflections on where her languages have taken her over the past few years, it’s time for another profile from a student just starting out on that journey with us. Jegan is in the first semester of a BA Hons in French with us, in the Advanced stream for his French modules:

“When I first came to the decision to study French, I did so on a whim. My best friend’s girlfriend at the time was a Parisian, teaching French as a foreign language to secondary school students in Glasgow. I remember having a conversation with her over coffee one afternoon about language learning and mentioning I was under the impression that, being twenty-four years old at the time, it was probably already too late for me to learn a language to fluency. She quite rightly told me that I was talking rubbish, and that bilingualism was within anybody’s grasp if they were willing to put in the work. 

It feels strange thinking back to that conversation now. It’s one of the few moments that I can single out as having changed my life’s trajectory. Up until that point, my only real passion had been music. For four years I’d been pulling pints and pouring coffees in part-time hospitality gigs to support my work in the Glasgow music scene. I’d never had any interest in learning a second language and my only exposure to French had been two lacklustre years of Standard Grade French during which I had spent more time doodling in notebooks than memorising conjugations. Still, I left the café that afternoon fired up, excited about the prospect of a new challenge. 

Four years, two textbooks, forty-eight conversation classes, and a-million-and-one podcasts later, here I sit, a student of French at the University of Stirling. My life has taken many twists and turns, but I would never have thought, even after falling in love with the language, that I would one day pursue French at a degree level. This is doubly the case given I’m now considered, much to my chagrin, a mature student. After my first five weeks of classes though, I’m confident that I’ve found myself on the right path. If you’re reading this as a prospective student of French, weighing your options and trying to decide if this is the right choice for you, then hopefully my opening thoughts on the course here might be of some use. 

I came to Stirling already having some background in the language, but by no means being fluent. I have found the early advanced stream language classes extremely helpful in solidifying the basics of grammar rules.  If you’re already confident with French, you might still find the revision useful but, if not, the seminars progress through different topics at a fast pace, so you shouldn’t get too bored. On the flip side, if you’re not confident with French, or even if you have no experience with French whatsoever, don’t let that put you off! Everyone has come into the advanced stream with varying skill levels and everyone’s improving quickly. There’s also a beginner stream where you’ll be able to spend more time getting to grips with the basics before joining the advanced classes. Help is easy to come by as I’ve found all of our tutors to be friendly and easy to get a hold of. It would be disingenuous of me to say that the language portion of the course is a walk in the park. Everyone is responsible for ensuring that they keep up with the material and, as with all things, you get out what you put in. That being said, I fully believe that with a good work ethic and a genuine enthusiasm for the language everyone will thrive in this environment. 

The culture classes have been super interesting. France is a country with a rich history and strong values in regard to how their society functions politically and ideologically. Already I’m starting to feel that as we discuss more and more aspects of French culture, the context is helping me make more of my time engaging with French media. The news makes more sense. The books I’m reading are becoming easier to tease apart and analyse. Conversations with my French language partner are getting richer as we’re both able to discuss topics relating to one another’s countries with greater contextual understanding.

This brings me onto another important aspect of my time in Stirling so far: the Language-Swap program, a scheme offered by the Uni that allows language learners to connect with native speakers of their target language who are studying in Stirling on exchange programs. They help you improve your target language, while you offer them help with English in return. In my experience there really is no substitute for conversing with native speakers when trying to improve your foreign language fluency. If you decide to study here I’d encourage you to give it a shot as it’s a fun way to learn and it’s a great way to make new friends! 

So far, I’ve had a very positive experience during my first few weeks at Stirling. The classes are challenging and engaging without being discouragingly so and people have been incredibly friendly so far. Despite being ten years older than the majority of my classmates I’ve found I haven’t had any issue fitting in and making friends. The campus is a beautiful place to live and study, with forests and fields stretching out for miles in every direction and the uni amenities (library, gym, cafes etc.) are all excellent. Perhaps my only word of warning would be, if you’re fond of a night out, Stirling Uni may not be your best choice as the campus is a little isolated from the city centre and, from what I’ve heard, the city doesn’t boast the same bustling nightlife as Glasgow and Edinburgh. All in all though, I’ve found Stirling to be a great place to restart my uni career and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next four years of study can take me.”

Many thanks to Jegan for taking the time to write this blog post! We’re delighted you’re enjoying your classes so far and hope that continues to be the case as the semesters go on. We’ll look forward to hearing how you’re doing a little later in your degree, I’ve no doubt.

A Passion for Languages

Time for some more from our students and graduates! I’ll be posting another profile by one of our Year 1 students a little later but to start of this week’s blog updates, news from Natalie who graduated in 2019 and who continues to find ways to put her languages to excellent use in her career:

“It’s hard to believe that I graduated over three years ago, where has the time gone! Since graduating in International Management Studies with European Languages and Society, I have been lucky to use my language skills on a daily basis in the workplace. Although, I have to admit that I wasn’t always sure what career path to take. But one thing was sure, I wanted to find a job that allowed me to not only pursue my passion for languages but also develop my knowledge of international business.

Since graduating, I have worked in an e-commerce business. I currently work as a Marketing Manager where I have been lucky to use my Spanish on a daily basis to converse with Spanish colleagues. I have also used my French skills to write copy for the web and translate our products for online platforms including Amazon.

It’s great to keep up my language skills, but it’s also important to not forget all the transferable skills my degree has taught me. Studying abroad at EM Strasbourg Business School developed my cross-cultural awareness and knowledge of international business. I also developed my communication skills working as a Language Assistant for the British Council in Spain.

One of the reasons I chose to study this degree was due to its flexibility. I have acquired skills which are highly sought-after in the global job market. I would recommend this degree to anyone wishing to use their languages in an international context.”

Many, many thanks to Natalie for sending through this update and we wish you all the best for your career and for the years ahead – we look forward to checking in again in the future!

Language Ambassadors: Opportunities and Inspiration

We mentioned back in October that our Language Ambassador scheme was up and running again, and that we were very pleased to be working with colleagues and students at Strathclyde University and SCILT this year. Well, following on from the very successful European Day of Languages visit to Wallace High, our Ambassador Emma has been talking to pupils at Park Mains High and Queen Margaret Academy about her experiences studying languages and both visits have been a real hit with all concerned.

For Emma, the visit to Park Mains meant getting to spend a really lovely morning with the teachers and pupils:  “I spoke to a range of age groups, from first year to Higher language classes, and the pupils were really engaging with my presentation and what I had to say. I even had quite a lot of questions! I spoke about the importance of learning languages, the transferable skills you gain and my personal experience with languages, including living abroad in France, to hopefully interest the kids in studying a language. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly, so thank you for the opportunity!” And for Jeanette McKeown, Principal Teacher of Modern Languages at Park Mains who helped to organise Emma’s visit, it was particularly helpful to give her pupils a chance to hear about how language learning aligns with other studies and careers, including business and management. The pupils also really appreciated the opportunity to see photos and hear anecdotes about Emma’s time spent living and working abroad.

The Queen Margaret Academy visit was online, rather than in-person (we’re offering both approaches this year, depending on schools’ preferences) and was also a huge success. As Susan Doyle, the teacher who organised the event, explains: “S3-S6 French and Spanish pupils had a virtual visit from Emma, a 4th year languages student from Stirling Uni. Emma spoke to the pupils about her experience of studying languages at school and went on to speak to the pupils about studying business with languages at university. She told many stories about her 3rd year of university which she spent in Rouen in France as a language assistant. Pupils were fascinated and asked many interesting questions. The feedback from pupils from S3 to S6 was very positive and we hope that it has given them an insight into the importance of languages to their future career prospects.” Emma was also impressed by the number and range of questions the pupils asked: “I was really surprised at how many questions I received; it was really encouraging! I hope I managed to inspire some of the pupils!”

More Ambassador visits are in the process of being finalised for the weeks ahead and we look forward to reporting back on them in due course. In the meantime, though, thanks to staff and pupils at Park Mains High and Queen Margaret Academy for the warm welcome and excellent questions, and thanks to Emma for taking the time to talk to the pupils at both schools.

French at Stirling: “Go for it!”

Following on from Amy’s tales of Study Abroad in Aix and elsewhere in the spring, time to round off the week with another profile of one of our Year 1 students, just starting out on their time with us at Stirling:

“Bonjour! I’m Tom, currently in my first year studying French at Stirling. As my photo shows, leaving school was something I did a while ago now. Going to university to study French has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I’ve recently been lucky enough to see it come true. 

I’ve been fascinated by France for years. Its people, culture, countryside, and history are so close to ours, and yet so different. Although I’ve enjoyed lots of trips, many holidays and even a honeymoon there, it still felt as though I was only scratching the surface of France and the French. The next step for me was to take away language as a barrier to understanding and engaging more, and a university degree seemed like the best way of doing that.

When I started looking around at where to go, being able to commute from home in Falkirk was vital, so that narrowed it to the five universities across central Scotland that offer degrees in French. Visiting each of the campuses, speaking with the tutors and looking into the details of the various courses made it an easy decision to come to Stirling. 

The focus of the course at Stirling is on the today’s French-speaking world, and the university delivers that as a modern, outward-looking institution. The university has also invested a lot of money recently in campus facilities, and it shows. Campus Central is a great facility, with places to sit, eat and study, and with easy access from there to the library, lecture theatres and seminar rooms. Nowhere on campus is more than a 10-minute walk away.

The campus itself is gorgeous, and there is no other learning environment like it in Scotland. This photo was one I sent to my work colleagues during the first week of the semester and having views like this when you’re taking a quick break from your studies is wonderful and really adds to the experience.

So, six weeks in, what is it actually like? Fantastic! 

The range of module options available means that there is something for everyone. In addition to French, I’m studying modules in Politics and Religion in first year, and all three courses are excellent, with great material and really engaged tutors. In French, the formal split between language and culture studies works very well, adding a great additional dimension to the course. We’ve just completed an analysis of a French movie, which was a lot easier than it sounds, and next week we’re starting on a short French novel. The approach to language teaching works really well, with seminars building on top of independent learning.

I was concerned that my big gap between school and university would be a problem, but the university’s Student Learning Services has really helped take those concerns away. They deliver a huge range of support to students, from online courses in study skills and essay writing, to 1-2-1 sessions offering direct support on specific topics.

My advice to anyone leaving school and thinking about a degree in French? Come and have a look at Stirling. It’s a great place to learn.

And, for anyone like me, for whom leaving school was a long time ago and is thinking about going to university? If my last six weeks in Stirling are anything to go by, you should go for it! You will not be disappointed.”

Many, many thanks to Tom for sending through this great post and we’re really pleased your first semester has got off to such a positive start! We’ll look forward to catching up with you over the course of the semesters ahead.

Semester Abroad in Aix: ‘The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done!’

As we head into the second half of our autumn semester, many of our Year 3 students are already thinking (and planning) ahead for their spring semester which they’ll spend on Study Abroad. Depending on degree combinations, for some of them, this will mean time in France or at one of our partners in other French-speaking countries, while others will be off to Spain or Latin America for the semester. And many of this year’s finalists will be thinking back to this time last year when they were making plans for their own time abroad. With that in mind, we thought it was a good time to ask one of our current finalists, Amy, who is doing Single Honours French with us, to reflect on this past spring which she spent in the South of France:

“For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to live in France at some point in my life and the semester abroad was the perfect opportunity to do so. After finding out that I was going to study in Aix-en-Provence, I was ecstatic. It was my first choice and I couldn’t wait to experience life in the south of France. After going through the whole visa process, packing my bags and saying goodbye to my friends and family, it was finally time to leave. On the 6th of January 2022, I flew from Edinburgh to Marseille where I began this new chapter of my life.

Before arriving in Aix-en-Provence, myself and Rose, one of the other students who was also placed on her semester abroad there by Stirling, decided to do a bit of travelling. I had no idea that I was about to make a lifelong best friend. We explored Marseille, St Tropez, Cannes and Nice before moving into our uni accommodation in Aix. I was placed in a building called “Gazelles, Pavillion 7” which was predominantly for international students. My room was small but cosy. I had my own bathroom and fridge and plenty of desk space to do uni work. It was basic but had everything I needed. The kitchen on the other hand was an experience. We had no oven, one hob, one microwave and one sink that the 36 of us on my floor were expected to use. At first, it was a little difficult to get used to, but after a while, I got into a routine. I ate a lot of pasta, salads, baguettes and we also ate out quite a lot! Student accommodation was quite different compared to Scotland, everyone tended to keep to themselves so I would recommend joining an Erasmus group to meet people and going to events that they host. In Aix, they had an Instagram page where they would post regular social events for Erasmus students as a way of meeting people.

I absolutely loved daily life in Aix. There are so many things that you are able to do! Whether this be the cinema, bars and restaurants, the gym, a scenic walk or coffee shops, you are never stuck for choice. Le Cézanne fast became one of our favourite places for dinner and drinks, and the French wine definitely lived up to expectations!! Place des Cardeurs is also a lovely little square, full of music, bars and liveliness – ideal for students and those wanting to make new friends. La Rotonde is the centrepiece of Aix and is an absolutely stunning monument also. The weekly markets were also a firm highlight – so authentically French and a perfect way to spend your Saturday morning! Waking up every day in such a beautiful place is something that I tried never to take for granted !

Uni itself was such a fantastic experience. It is a ten-minute walk away from students halls and definitely isn’t as daunting as the confusing corridors of Cottrell! Classrooms are easy to find and students are always happy to help you find your way. We had to choose our classes before moving to France. The translation class was mandatory and was only for Erasmus students, as was our FLE class, which focused mainly on grammar. To ensure that we were awarded the correct number of credits by Stirling, we also chose to take a European Societies class where we learned about the history and politics of European countries and an Anthropology class. All classes were in French and although it seemed daunting at the start, it massively helped to improve my French. I was in classes every Monday and Friday and had an optional lecture on a Tuesday which left me a lot of time to study and travel!

Travelling played a massive role in my time abroad. Every opportunity that we got, we travelled somewhere new. Some of these places included, Courchevel, Paris, Bordeaux, Brussels, Vienna, Rome, Cassis, Lyon and La Ciotat. We always prioritised finding cheap flights and hotels so that we were able to go and do and see as much as possible. One of my favourite memories from my whole time away was our trip to Courchevel. Rose and I decided to go skiing in the French Alps and I was absolutely amazed at the way of life there. This was such a once in a lifetime experience and one that I’ll forever have fond memories of.

Whilst I was in France, we had a speaking exam and a mini dissertation for Stirling and a number of assessments for our uni in France. The biggest piece of advice I could give to others is start your mini dissertation early and don’t leave it until the last minute!! Researching something to do with where you’re staying in France can be really interesting and gives you something to focus on too.

If I could go back and do my semester abroad again, I’d do it in a heartbeat. It’s without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done and I would recommend it to anyone. It’s such a life changing experience and you meet so many amazing, like-minded people!”

Many, many thanks to Amy for taking the time to write this post – it’s always great to read about our students’ time abroad and we hope this will also offer some useful pointers and advice for other students thinking ahead to their own semesters or years abroad.

Language Learning: Logical or Ludicrous?

As we reach the mid-semester point at Stirling, it seems like a good time for a new series of profiles of our students. As regular blog readers will know, we have students who start with us as Beginners and others who come to us with a secondary school qualification and who join our Advanced stream. We have students on our Single Honours programme and others doing French alongside another subject or subjects, everything from English to Psychology via Business Studies, Education and Law. And we have others who study French with us for a few semesters, not as part of their core degree focus but to develop their language skills and cultural awareness. And, as you’ll see through the profile posts that’ll go up over the coming couple of weeks, our students are a fascinating, diverse, international and enthusiastic group of individuals!

We’re really pleased to start this series of posts with an article by Kirstin who is studying Law at Stirling and has picked up French modules in her 2nd year:

“Initially, I thought picking up a language that I had never studied before was an absolutely terrible idea. I had no prior knowledge of French, its origins, its culture, nothing. The only French I had ever spoken was an occasional sarcastic “au revoir!” on the phone to my friends. It was something that I hadn’t considered incorporating into my degree, until the option came up the day I had to pick my modules.

The selection was vast, but my interest was limited. A lot of the modules focused on business or mathematics, topics which I was more than happy to put behind me in high school. I looked at the content and method of assessment and, whilst being slightly traumatised by the thought of taking another speaking exam, decided to investigate further.

As a law student, I figured that I had enough on my plate as it was. I didn’t have the time to sit down and learn a completely new language and conjugate verbs whilst trying to understand and apply Scots law in my other studies. Despite this, the more I researched careers in the law profession, the more apparent it became that a language was a vital component in order to practise internationally. I didn’t and still don’t know which field of law I want to practise in, but being able to speak more than one language significantly increased my chances of being considered for commendable roles in the international sector of law.

For French, most companies required a minimum B1 qualification in the language. As certified by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, this ultimately means that the language can be spoken without too much strain for the learner or native speaker. They are able to communicate spontaneously about a range of topics and participate in everyday conversation. Seems easier said than done! This was daunting to read at the time. Nevertheless, it was something to work towards, and whilst I knew that I wouldn’t achieve this straightaway, the opportunity to try was there and I knew I would be disappointed if I didn’t. So, after much deliberation I concluded that I would, in fact, try. I reinstalled Duolingo (we all know how that ends), ordered my textbooks and prepared for my first seminar.

The class went okay, I was relieved that we were all on the same level in that we were all starting from the bottom of the ladder. I am aware that it was an introductory module I had signed up for, but even so, the thought of being the one who knew the least was a prevalent one. They were easy to follow and steady paced, a lot of revision took place of the previous weeks’ content, which I was very thankful for! The classes themselves are certainly far better than those I had in school, due to their independent nature. As valuable as the teachers are, I found it a lot easier to ask questions about my own study as opposed to the entire group’s, a common trait found in secondary classroom learning. There is definitely a difference in attitude towards language learning at university, the teacher is an asset, a tool to your own independent study. They are not relied on for spoon-feeding purposes. While they are beneficial in providing support, much of the learning is individual. It is up to yourself to choose to learn the grammar, practise pronunciation and generally do the work.

As the weeks proceeded, I found learning French was more of a hobby than necessity to my degree. It was an enjoyable process which I used as a wind-down from other study. I wanted to learn more and work harder, not because I was told to, but because I enjoyed the problem solving and challenging nature of the course. The best way to explain it is that it felt like I was working a different part of my brain, I didn’t have to worry about the legality of irregular verbs, just learn them. It must be noted that an accelerated course is not something that can be achieved easily, there is a certain level of commitment that must be sustained. But, in keeping up with the classes and staying on top of the work, it is rewarding. 

It is easier to say all of these things than demonstrate them of course, everyone has moments where they don’t understand and want to quit. I think overall learning a language is something to keep chipping away at. It will be frustrating and some things will be forgotten now and again, I myself am terrible at pronouncing consonants, but it is something that I want to work at and improve. If nothing else, it is important to keep an open mind and take it easy on yourself when mistakes are made, and learn from them. If all of that fails, the image of myself strolling through the streets of Marseille and ordering coffee like a pro is a pretty good incentive to keep at it.

So, to answer the question in the title, logical or ludicrous? Both! It will get me where I need to be, it is a life skill and a potential asset to my future career. It is also a lot of work, extra stress and ultimately, effort. But! It is invaluable professionally and socially, and I couldn’t be gladder that I started.”

Many, many thanks to Kirstin for taking the time to write this post and we hope you enjoy the rest of your time studying French with us, and are able to put your language skills to good use in your future career!

Working with schools

Alongside all the usual activities happening in our classrooms and across our programmes (including our Year 3 students making plans for their upcoming Semester Abroad…), our outreach work centred on language learning in schools has also started up again.

On the European Day of Languages, a team of our Language Ambassadors were invited along to Wallace High to talk to the pupils there about the benefits of language learning. For Patrick, who is in his 2nd year studying French and Spanish with us, this was his first in-person school visit and a really positive experience: ‘The afternoon was a great success, pupils were engaging with the activities we had set out for them and have asked to be included in the future planning of similar events. From my point of view, it was an invaluable piece of my time used to hopefully persuade young pupils to continue to study languages.’ Feedback from the S3 pupils at the school was equally positive and huge thanks to Modern Languages teacher, Michelle McCaffery, for inviting us. We’re delighted our Ambassadors helped to convey the fact that, in the words of one pupil, ‘languages can take you places you would not expect!’

Despite some pretty atrocious weather, many of the Ambassadors got together at the end of that week, too, for a training and information session about the Ambassador scheme over the coming year. And while we were talking about that on campus at Stirling, some of the Ambassadors from our Strathclyde partners were out at St John Ogilvie High School, meeting with pupils and teachers there, including our own graduate Sam Evans! We’ll be joining forces for more school visits over the weeks ahead, working with Cédric Moreau from Strathclyde and Emma McLean from SCILT so watch this space…

And on Saturday 1st October, Cristina Johnston, Pete Baker, Fiona Noble and Elizabeth Ezra ran an online workshop for senior phase secondary school pupils, focusing on the multiple benefits that can come from using films as part of the ways we study languages. The event was part of a series of workshops organised by SCILT and was supported on the day by Sheena Bell, Suzanne Ritchie and Alice Lister. We were also really pleased that three of our current students, Dagmara, Alex and Helena, were able to join us on the day to talk about their experiences learning languages and, in particular, the ways in which film and visual culture have formed part of their own language learning. And we’re especially grateful, of course, to all the pupils who attended, from across Scotland, students of French, Spanish, German and Italian. They asked brilliant questions and worked hard on listening exercises involving songs from Encanto, as well as thinking about the wide range of topics that might emerge through the study of that kind of film.

Thank you, merci, Danke, grazie, gracias… to all the pupils at our SCILT workshop and to everyone who has been involved with our outreach activities so far.

European Day of Languages

Happy European Day of Languages to all our blog readers! As we’ve done for the past few years, we decided to use today’s celebrations as an excuse to take stock of the wide range of languages spoken, understood, read… by students and staff across our modules in French and, as ever, the variety is fantastic to see.

So far, this year’s list includes: English, French, Spanish, Irish Gaelic, Korean, Portuguese, Norwegian, Mandarin, Japanese, Québécois, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Catalan, Czech, Latin, Italian, Scottish Gaelic, German, Danish, Turkish, Slovak, Russian, Basque, Polish, Arabic…

We’ll keep adding to the list as and when speakers of other languages get in touch but, in the meantime, to everyone who has already replied: Thank you, merci, gracias, go raibh maith agat, 감사합니다, obrigada, takk, 谢谢, ありがとう, дякую, köszönöm, gràcies, děkuji, grātiās tibi agō, grazie, mòran taing, danke schön, tak, teşekkürler, Ďakujem, спасибо, eskerrikasko, dziękuję, شكرًا…

From Translation to Weddings: Interning at the Polish Embassy in Paris

We’re halfway through the second week of our new academic year already and everyone is settling back into life on campus. One of the lovely things about welcoming people back after the summer is that it also gives us a chance to find out what people have been up to over the past few months and, every now and then, to post blog articles about it… So without further ado, over to Dagmara whose summer included an internship in Paris:

“My name is Dagmara and I am an International Management with European Languages and Society student at the University of Stirling. Because my course is very heavily focused on language studies and mostly based on a deeper understanding of the global environment, I was really keen on seeking study and work experiences abroad. For the language module I had to pick as part of my course, I have chosen to pursue French and this summer I was lucky enough to get accepted for an internship at the Polish Embassy in Paris. Not only was this an exceptional opportunity to spend some time in one of the most beautiful cities in the world while practicing my everyday French, but, first and foremost, an incredible (but also challenging) work experience.

Me and the other interns were mainly responsible for different tasks at the Consulate, which included assisting the consul and the vice-consuls with their everyday work. This included a range of activities but the ones that I found the most fascinating, involved helping Polish nationals in France with the problems they faced. This could mean having to arrange a passport for someone after they got robbed, contacting their friends and family if they needed a plane ticket home, but from time to time it also concerned some bigger affairs. This often meant getting involved with the French authorities, in cases where breaking the law was involved, sometimes even to simply act as translator between the French police and the Polish national.

The tasks were very varied but they helped me expand on my knowledge in very different sectors of life and to further perfect my French skills. We also had an opportunity to take part in an official government ceremony in Normandie that was held to commemorate the discovery of the grave of an unknown Polish soldier. It was a chance to be a part of a beautiful ceremony with a lot of significance for Polish history and culture, alongside a lot of significant personalities including the ambassador.

As interns, we could also witness the consuls at work while dealing with the problems of different petitioners coming to the Consulate. It was an eye-opening experience to see how such an organisation as the Polish embassy functions from the inside. Furthermore, we received tasks such as visiting one of the most popular cemeteries in Paris, Montparnasse, and making sure that the graves of the significant Polish personalities were well preserved. This showed me the importance of taking into account the Polish legacy and history and understanding how significant it is to commemorate it. After all, promoting Polish culture and history is also a big part of the work at the Consular Department.

What’s more, I also had a chance to be a best woman at a wedding held at the embassy. Being part of such an important ceremony in someone’s life was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Furthermore, the wedding took place in the most beautiful parts of the embassy (which is actually also a palace and the most beautiful Polish embassy in the world), so this day was definitely one to remember for everyone involved.

Overall, my time spent in France was one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever had and I would recommend grabbing such opportunities to anyone, especially if you’re studying foreign languages. Such an immersion in the culture and opportunity to work in a foreign, diverse environment is an incomparable life and work experience. I believe it really changes your perspective on life on so many levels.”

Many, many thanks to Dagmara for the great blog post and photos, and we look forward to more tales from our students over the weeks ahead.

Rentrée 2022

And we’re off! Undergraduate teaching begins this week at Stirling, our postgraduates will be coming back over the coming weeks, and we’re all looking forward to being back on campus once again. Lots of new students to welcome to our Year 1 Advanced and Beginners’ streams, returning students to catch-up with, including all those coming back from English Language Assistantships and Semesters Abroad, and news to share from colleagues, old and new (welcome and congratulations to Ashley Harris and, in Spanish and Latin American Studies, Rebecca de Souza and Jacky Collins).

As well as teaching starting up again, plans are also afoot for a whole range of other activities. Our Language Ambassador programme has continued to run online over the past two years but we’re delighted to be working towards a return to in-person visits in the coming academic year. We’re also really pleased to be working with colleagues at the University of Strathclyde and at SCILT on the Language Ambassador programme this time round, with students from both universities going out to schools together over the coming months. And with our colleagues in Spanish and Latin American Studies, we’re also working with SCILT to run a workshop for senior phase secondary pupils in early October that’ll focus on language and film.

The shift back to much, much more happening in-person also means we are able to organise our traditional annual Study Abroad get-together. As in previous years, all our Year 3 and 4 students, as well as all visiting Francophone and Hispanophone exchange students have been invited along to share their plans, experiences and hopes. Most of our Year 4 students spent the spring on Study Abroad and most of our Year 3 students are in the planning stages for their own time abroad which will happen in spring 2023 so this always gives them a really useful opportunity to share tips and questions. And inviting along our Francophone and Hispanophone exchange students from across the whole campus means there are plenty of opportunities for new friendships and building connections across Stirling’s international community. And, of course, colleagues from French and Spanish will be there, too!

A busy few weeks, then, as the semester gets fully underway and we’ll be sharing news from staff, students and graduates as regularly as we can. In the meantime, bonne rentrée!