Student Language Ambassadors

A few weeks ago, three of our students (Stefano, David and Ross) were invited to McLaren High to act as Student Language Ambassadors and to talk to a wide range of pupils about their own experiences of studying Languages at University. The visit was a great success and I’m delighted to be able to pass on Stefano and David’s accounts of their day:

Stefano: “Why did you choose to study Languages at the University?… What does it mean to be a Language Student?… Is it true that you can then travel a lot?… These are just few examples among the several questions we were asked at McClaren High School in Callander by crowds of enthusiastic and curious pupils of different ages during our visit as Language Ambassadors on 9 February.

This semester I have been asked by the French Department to represent Stirling, together with my colleagues and friends David and Ross, in an ambassadorial role for the promotion of the languages at University level and I am glad to have the possibility to share here some of the highlights of our visit. In two words: great experience!

One of the language teachers from McClaren High School, Mr Alistair Brown, picked us up early to give us the chance to deliver a brief presentation at the pupils’ general assembly in the morning. More than 150 students attended and it was really good to get a chance to talk to them about our own experiences and the many opportunities that languages (and Stirling University) can offer.

After the initial gathering, David, Ross and I were asked to go to different classes with some of the teachers from the school in order to talk to smaller groups of pupils more broadly about what studying languages at the University really means.

My first class was French, Higher and Advanced Higher, with David. There, we told them our different experiences as language students at Stirling, focusing both on the possibilities in terms of jobs and travel and on the reasons that led us to undertake this path. It was great to share our passion for languages with interested pupils, hoping to make them realise how fascinating and convenient knowing more than a language can be! Most of the students in class immediately engaged in an interesting group-conversation, asking us questions and sharing with the rest of the class their thoughts and expectations about the possibility to further their knowledge of French.

During the class that followed, things got even more interesting; after another short talk about my experiences as an international language student, the teacher asked the class to put some good French into practice by practising “la conversation orale” together and by…asking me to teach them a bit of Italian in exchange! We all had great fun practicing our French and trying out some simple Italian sentences, because, after all, who knows? Maybe some of them will eventually end up studying Italian too in the future!

After a break, Ross and I attended a class together where we talked more specifically about the possible careers available with a Language degree. Once more, we did not miss the opportunity to have some fun with languages; knowing that we are respectively fluent in Italian and Spanish, the teacher asked me and Ross to try a “multilingual” conversation to see whether or not we could understand each other! Quite surprisingly, we managed to get through a short dialogue and we showed how knowing more languages can in fact lead also to great fun.

For my last class of the day, I went to another French class with David, where the pupils were especially interested in our experiences at the University of Stirling. We told them how and why we decided to come to Stirling to study Languages by sharing with them some of the amazing opportunities that our University can offer, from excellent quality in teaching and different and exciting experiences abroad to the numerous clubs and societies where it is possible to meet friends from all over the world and, once again, to engage and learn different languages.

To our great surprise and teachers’ astonishment, some of the pupils we met on that day immediately asked for the forms to pursue the study of languages at their Higher classes for the next year! Donc, ça a été une journée très spéciale!

It was a great honour and a pleasure to represent Stirling and Languages on this special occasion. I personally believe that, as language students, we have a huge opportunity (and responsibility) not only for ourselves, but for our future societies in terms of the capacity to understand and meet people from different cultures and it was amazing to share the beauties of this journey with the younger generations.”

David: “Taking part in the Student Ambassador initiative at McLaren High, near Callander, was a genuinely enriching and fun experience for me. I went with two other students, Stefano from Italy and Ross from Scotland. We thought that trying to convince students to pick languages as their Highers would be a difficult task but it turned out that the students were really interested in what we had to say. In fact, the pupils were extremely curious, interested and engaged, asking us many questions ranging from our favourite type of food to why we had chosen to study languages. It was quite tiring talking to different classes about the same topic but the questions were varied and we really enjoyed the pupils’ willingness to participate.

I think this initiative can have a very positive effect on high school pupils as, in the past few years, language teaching has been declining in Scotland. Many students don’t realise the importance of learning languages, especially nowadays in such a globalised society. Many told us they didn’t think it was necessary to learn another language as “everyone speaks English”. This mentality is exactly what we are trying to get rid of; they don’t realise that Spanish, for instance, will soon be the most widespread language around the world, in front of English and Chinese. I am hoping that after our discussions at the high school, we will hopefully have inspired the pupils to take an active interest in languages, even if they don’t choose it as one of their study options.

Being from a bilingual background myself, I have first-hand experience of the advantage of speaking more than one language and I hope to return to the high school as a language assistant and further encourage students to realise the potential of learning another language. Overall, it was a very eye-opening experience and I would love to take part in such an initiative again.”

Many thanks to Stefano and to David for sending these blog pieces, and to all three of our Student Language Ambassadors for having made the time to undertake this visit. We’re looking forward to continuing our visits in local schools – and schools beyond the local area – over the weeks and months ahead. And if any of this has made you curious about studying Languages at Stirling, come and meet us at one of our upcoming Applicant or Open Days.

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