Month: October 2018

An eventful semester in France

A few weeks back, we posted a great article by Stefano about his Semester Abroad spent studying at Sciences Po in Paris. Not only did Stefano make fantastic use of his time in Paris, he also managed to spend some of his holiday time accompanying a French high school trip to Lourdes to add to the experiences of his Semester Abroad:’

‘Spending a semester abroad, in France, has by far been one of the most eventful adventures of my academic life. When students have to choose a country for their foreign study experiences they usually, and rightly, focus on a number of factors to help them decide, from the linguistic region to the quality of teaching, from the costs of living to the different courses offered at the host institutions and so on and so forth. If I were to give any piece of advice to students considering any experience abroad, I would recommend you to keep a very open-minded approach to all the elements you may want to consider throughout your decisional process. Why? The reason is pretty straightforward and I hope not to fall into too much of a cliché: the best part of setting off to a new destination is not knowing where your path is going to lead you. In other words, there is nothing better than starting a journey keeping eyes and mind open to all the different adventures you might find along the way.

In my case, I had to choose among partner-institutions in France, Switzerland, Morocco and Canada and I eventually decided to apply for SciencesPo, in Paris. In a previous article on this blog I have already described what a semester in the Ville Lumière looks like, but spending those months abroad entailed so much more than just experiencing a new, thrilling, student life. Living and studying in France, especially in Paris, offers a wide range of opportunities for everyone, such as museums, parks, exhibitions, great food and a lovely culture to discover more and more.

But I did not imagine how eventful and powerful this semester could be.

Leaving aside all the marvellous opportunities I enjoyed while studying at SciencesPo, I would like to share another experience that made my time in France even more remarkable (and I did not even think that could be possible, to be honest).

It is a story of travels, of journeys within this journey and of how incredible life can be sometimes. I really wish to thank the Stirling’s French Department for having given me both the opportunity to study in Paris and the skills to get the most out my adventures there.

2018 Intropido Lourdes Pic V Oct18It all started one evening as I was walking back to my flat right outside Paris with my French friend and host when he asked me whether I was interested in working for his former High School in Meudon, since he knew of my previous working experiences with pupils and youth groups abroad. From that moment in time, so many things happened that it is not even that easy to recall them all on paper.

So, let us proceed step by step.

 

Shortly after that conversation, I went to a meeting with the High School’s Principal in order to get to know each other and, most importantly, to present me the project they were looking for help with. Following on from this initial presentation and other meetings, I eventually managed to get hired as Group Leader and Pastoral Animator in my friend’s former Catholic High School. It sounds like a job like many others; it has been a mission. Yes, a mission: something in between an apostolic journey and a potential new Mission Impossible movie, for two main reasons. The first is of a religious nature: when I accepted to embark on this new adventure I joined a cheerful and lively team of six leaders whose duty was to take a group of 50 French pupils to Lourdes, for a week-long pilgrimage, within a huge event (the so called FRATERNEL) organised by the Catholic Dioceses of the Ile-de-France which gathered more than 10000 French young people to sing, pray, have fun and reflect upon the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome; Pope Francis himself sent us a letter and a video-message to thank us for this great opportunity!

The second reason I would describe this journey as like an imaginary new Tom Cruise movie relates to the challenges of bringing 50 French teenagers to Lourdes (by night bus and then by night train), being totally immersed in the language (as well as the more colloquial slang young people would use), 24/7 on duty and still having enough energy to sing, jump, dance, shout out all our joy on the wave of enthusiasm with the other 10000+ jeun.es français.es.

2018 Intropido Lourdes Pic I Oct18

After a not-so-comfortable night bus journey, we thus got to Lourdes where we spent a fully packed week of events, activities, Masses and exploring excursions that left us all exhausted but happy as we have never felt before. Words and pictures will hardly describe how thrilling and energetic the atmosphere was. It was all new for me: I had never been to Lourdes, neither to that part of France, I had never worked alongside French colleagues nor with French pupils, I had never heard of the Hopen and Glorious rock-pop bands and I had never been surrounded by such an enthusiastic crowd. For the first time in my life, I was also in charge of small pastoral groups of 10 pupils each…and they were understandably all French; I have enjoyed this experience so much, trust me! We managed to carry out interesting projects (before, during and after Lourdes) with all groups, despite accents and Verlan. So it must be true, after all: communication is the key and knowing different languages can really bridge people and communities.

2018 Intropido Lourdes Pic III Oct18

Best satisfaction? The pupils’ joy and the mutual understanding to think bigger, all together; the feeling of having given a lot, to have grown as a person and not just linguistically. I think it is thus safe to say that we all taught something to each other. We shared a journey, not just through France, but in life and this is something I think we will all cherish forever.

The journey back to Meudon-Paris was not any more comfortable, but it was alright in the end: we had too many songs to sing to worry about our travel home.’

Many, many thanks to Stefano for sharing this with us and for taking the time to send us another great blog post!

 

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French at Stirling Language Ambassadors at Wallace High

Every year, French at Stirling students are invited out into local schools to act as Language Ambassadors, to talk to school pupils about the benefits (and challenges) of studying languages at University and the opportunities it offers. This year is no different and a group of our Year 3 and 4 students (Stefano, Heatherlea, Natalie, Meg and Eilidh) were invited to Wallace High in September for their annual activities organised around the European Day of Languages. As ever, it was a fantastic experience for both our students and the pupils at Wallace High, as the students themselves can explain for better than I can. As Stefano says:

‘Studying languages is not only very useful nowadays, but it can also entail a lot of fun! This was certainly the main message we all tried (and perhaps even managed) to convey for this year’s Languages Day at Wallace High School, in Stirling. So, what was it exactly all about?

On Friday 21 September, a group of five students from our University, myself included, acted as Language Ambassadors at one of the key events organised by the Wallace High School in Stirling, not far at all from our beautiful campus; we were there to show, talk about and share our experiences in relation to the study of languages in order to encourage S3 pupils to undertake this amazing multilingual learning path. Our main role was indeed to promote how beautiful, rewarding and mind-opening studying one or two extra languages can be.

From the moment we arrived at the school, we could really feel the enthusiasm of teachers and pupils alike and the excitement for the activities to come over the afternoon. Before the main workshops started, we all had the chance to attend the welcome reception in the main hall where one former pupil has delighted the audience with his passionate stories of learning, travelling and teaching across most Asian countries thanks to his commitment to languages.

As Language Ambassadors, we were then asked to run a series of quick workshops with eight different groups of 18-20 pupils at a time, each lasting around 10 minutes. In this way we managed to talk to a significant number of S3 pupils, being able to both present our stories and answer any questions they might have. Since the five of us represented a cohort of university students who had either just come back from a semester abroad (to a French and/or Spanish-speaking country) or are preparing to go for next semester, we were all able to share our first-hand experiences on how empowering the study of languages can be; by covering topics from great perspective career options to exotic journey destinations, all the workshops gave us the possibility to encourage students to pursue a multilingual curriculum both at the secondary and university levels.

We all had something to share: a story to tell, an experience to present or even some fun-facts about the different idioms we could speak. And this resulted in a very pleasant afternoon for all the people involved.

So, it is true; studying languages does open doors in ways sometimes we are not even able to foresee. As I said during the workshops, being Italian myself and knowing different languages has made my presence and my contribution at Wallace High possible and I certainly had a lot of fun there; once you start studying a language, where is no limit to where you could end up being, trust me!’

Heatherlea adds: ‘For me, it was really enriching to share my experience of learning a language and all of its benefits with the future generation. To know that I, and my peers, may have had an impact on just one person is truly touching. It was also really great for me to learn about the fourth years’ various experiences whilst studying abroad as my own semester in France is fast approaching!’

And Natalie explains: ‘As a Student Language Ambassador, I recently had the opportunity to participate in the S3 Languages Day at Wallace High School. The event which takes place every year aims to promote both the importance and fun of language learning. Throughout the afternoon, we conducted a series of short workshops aimed at third year pupils to discuss the advantages of learning a new language, our personal experiences of living abroad and we even had the opportunity to test their language skills! Furthermore, we were also able to learn about their own experiences abroad and their hopes for the future after high school.

We found that the pupils were extremely interested to hear about language learning from a different perspective that included real life experiences. In addition, they asked many questions and they were also surprised to find out that learning a language has allowed us to travel to a wide range of places. Moreover, I was thrilled to hear that so many pupils at Wallace High School are already thinking about studying another language beyond high school and for those who had not yet considered it, we hope that our presentative has given them some food for thought.

Overall, the European Languages Day at Wallace High School was an excellent afternoon and I would love to take part in this experience again!’

Many thanks to Stefano, Natalie, Heatherlea, Meg and Eilidh for their help with this and to Mrs Bell and her pupils at Wallace High for the warm welcome.

 

 

‘Studying at Stirling inspired me to do translation’

It has been a hectic first half of semester so there’s been a bit of a lull on the blog but we’re now halfway through our mid-semester break and there’s a little bit more time to catch up with the backlog so, with apologies to the very kind and patient contributors, let’s go! First up, we have a post by Laura, who graduated in French and Spanish in 2015 and who has just completed a Masters at Glasgow, focusing on Translation Studies:

‘Well, it’s been an intense and really quick year, and I think studying for a Masters in Translation Studies has had something to do with it. As I have the chance to stop and look back at everything that’s just happened, I realise I wouldn’t have been doing all this if it wasn’t for the amazing experiences I had during my undergraduate course at Stirling. After all, it was thanks to my time there that I was encouraged to keep learning and practising languages. Here are the different things that inspired me…

2018 MacFarlane Masters Translation Pic II

Classes

The speaking practice I had in Langage Parlé encouraged me to want to keep practising. And if grammar hadn’t been made so interesting in classes, I would probably remember a lot less today. In the final year, we did a fair bit of translating, including newspaper articles – I always did quite well at it, so it made me realise I could take this area of language study further. Then, after having positive experiences of learning French and Spanish, I thought I would try my hand at something new for my postgraduate, and ended up doing Beginners Chinese as an option module. Tricky, but definitely worth it!

2018 MacFarlane Masters Translation Pic IAdventures

My semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France and year as a language assistant at a primary school in Spain also played a huge part in my decisions. This was where I really got to put language skills to use beyond the classroom (despite often being in classrooms), and have the chance to live everyday life in other countries. I met lovely people from all over the world and had lots of fun visiting new places, and going to many a cultural event. How could I not want to keep using different languages?

Friends

I have lots of great memories with friends I made while studying at Stirling, and it’s always nice to catch up and reminisce with those I still keep in touch with. We’re all doing different things, ranging from teaching to working with animals, but our studies and time spent at Stirling led us to the paths we’re on, whether the influence is obvious or not. Two of my friends at Glasgow had actually studied at Stirling as well, but had been in a different year from me before, so that was a nice surprise and something extra in common.

2018 MacFarlane Masters Translation Pic IVFrench at Stirling

I previously wrote a review on a Celtic Connections concert for French at Stirling. Then after graduating, I ended up e-mailing the festival to see if there were any opportunities to use language skills. As a result, I volunteered there and got to do Spanish speaking for a band from Galicia. Also, as part of my Masters dissertation (which I was delighted to hand in!) I translated articles from a Spanish music magazine, so was able to use my passion for music when translating. I think writing the review made me think a bit more about how I could combine languages with music, and I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to achieve that.

It’s been an amazing and worthwhile experience doing a Masters at Glasgow, providing me with an ideal mix of theory and practice. But my time at Stirling will always be special to me, from the scenery and the loch, to the super language department. Now, enough nostalgia – it’s time to look to the future and see what lies ahead … I would love to keep translating, and I am considering working freelance as well as part-time in a wonderful library. My dream would be to keep mixing languages with music, and do translation for events or media. I’ve helped out with Havana/Glasgow Film Festival for a few years, so I know that I enjoy working with festivals. And finally, even though I focussed on Spanish to English translation, I’d love to keep up my French (bien sûr!) and translate out of that too.

Merci beaucoup!’

And merci to Laura, too, for this great post and all our good wishes for the future – keep us posted!