We currently have students on Study Abroad exchanges in Quebec, Switzerland, Morocco and across France, as well as a number of students working as English Language Assistants in metropolitan France. It would be untrue to suggest that there isn’t, now and then, the odd case of homesickness, for our Study Abroad Advisor, Jean-Michel DesJacques, to deal with but, for the vast majority, time spent abroad as part of the degree is a hugely positive experience and, in some instances, becomes a springboard towards something quite unexpected, as the experience detailed below sets out:
‘My name is Yasmin Grant and I am a final year student studying French & Spanish at the University of Stirling.
I decided to study languages by chance. My UCAS form and personal statement were almost entirely dedicated to sport but I decided to throw a language course in the mix and, without sounding too cliché-d, it was probably the best decision I ever made! Studying language courses is extremely underrated and the hidden perks and benefits of studying this type of course are just not talked about as much as they should be.
I started the French course at an “advanced” level, so naturally French came easier to me than Spanish did. After realising that my language skills weren’t up to the standards that they should be at, I was given the opportunity to do an assistantship with the British Council in l’Académie d’Amiens. I actually had no idea this option was available to me until it was suggested by the tutors. I was placed in a village with no public transport (well, the train station was 20 minutes away by car), hardly any shops and there were no English speakers apart from the English teachers that I worked with. But I didn’t care; I was in France!
Despite being so far from civilization, I was almost never bored. I travelled all around France, I lived with a Spanish assistant and an American assistant, I met a German au-pair, and a Russian au-pair and we were all warmly welcomed into the social circle of the languages teachers who were en stage. The moral of this story is expect the unexpected!
At the end of the assistantship, I had to face reality; I had 2 more years of Uni left so I really had to work hard! Coming back to University for 3rd year was quite difficult, but fortunately I had an ERASMUS exchange to look forward to for the following semester. I spent my semester in Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain (a city which rains more than any other city in Scotland!) The ERASMUS exchange was completely different from my assistantship; I lived in a nationalist area of Spain and I felt that locals kept to themselves more (they also have more strikes than France does!). Having said that, I had an amazing time and made the most of the situation. The trick is to just be open-minded and respect cultural differences instead of judging them.
My experiences abroad (via British Council and ERASMUS) have encouraged me to work with Stirling University’s International Office as a Study Abroad ambassador, as part of the Saltire Scheme. The idea of the scheme is to promote Study abroad and ERASMUS programmes to students in primary and secondary schools and to make them aware that these opportunities are available to anyone at University. The scheme focuses on making these students aware that there are plenty of opportunities to study abroad at University and the unforgettable experiences that they will have during their exchange. My role as an ambassador is to talk to them briefly about my own experience abroad and to hopefully encourage them to take part in a study abroad exchange in the future – (and of course to let them know that a semester abroad is the most exciting part of your course if you’re a language student!).’
Many thanks to Yasmin for sharing her story!