From Dumyat to the Montagne Saint Victoire

Keeping things ticking over nicely on the blog, another update from one of our current students. This time, it’s the turn of Alex Janes who is coming to the end of his compulsory Semester Abroad which he has spent in Aix-en-Provence (among other places…):

‘I did a blog post over a year ago about my first 18 months at the University of Stirling and I said that I would probably be writing another blog post about my semester abroad. So here it is!

From the beginning of my research, I knew I wanted to go the south of France for my semester abroad. It was an area of France I’d never been to and the partner institutions there had a great selection of modules to choose from. So when I discovered that the French department at Stirling decided to allocate me to Aix-Marseille Université, I was beyond excited. And after a lot of decision making over modules and a stressful application, I made the journey to the small city of Aix-en-Provence in mid-January.

The first full day after arriving was truly extraordinary. After a welcome meeting in the morning at the university, I spent the afternoon taking in the sites and scenery. I was not to be disappointed as with its stunning architecture, narrow shopping streets and bustling market squares, I knew that Aix was going to be a great place for the next few months. I spent most of the first week investigating the cafes and restaurants, so unsurprisingly a lot of wine was consumed in the process.

2018 Alex Janes Cours Mirabeau Aix
Market Day in Aix

Considering that the campus I was on was solely dedicated to Arts, Languages and Humanities subjects, the university had a vast array of modules. One module recommended to the Erasmus students was “Les études comparées des sociétés européennes contemporaines”, which covered modern history in European countries such as Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Russia. The most peculiar but interesting module I took was “L’introduction de l’étude des mondes arabe et musulman”, which gave an insight into the Arab and Muslim worlds. This module covered population statistics, languages, the Quran and the Caliphate empires. I had learnt about French culture before but had never taken a module like this before. I was totally fascinated by how much I learnt in the 12 weeks of teaching, even learning a few basic Arab characters and Algerian words.

2018 Alex Janes Tour eiffelTo make the most of my time abroad, I went on several trips to discover other parts of the country. After just a 3-hour journey on the TGV, I went for the first time (ever!) to Paris to reunite with some friends from university. Over the course of the 3 days I was there, I managed to visit a host of landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, Arc d’Triomphe, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, Sacré-Cœur and the Pantheon. I reunited with more friends in Bordeaux, which is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. The lively shopping streets, strolling along the river and of course, the beautiful wine, were the highlights of that weekend.

2018 Alex Janes Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon

An organised coach excursion took myself and a group of Erasmus students into the Alps of Provence. Following the winding roads in the mountains, we explored quaint villages with glorious view points and the Gorges du Verdon, which is the largest gorge in the world by distance. And after finishing my exams, I spent a weekend in Nice absorbing the gorgeous sunshine and mid 20-degree heat. Nice has everything you could need for a weekend away with a wonderful beach, intriguing museums and wonderful green spaces. A 20-minute train ride away was Monaco, where my eyes were opened to the world of money, flash cars and business men in suits. As well as these longer trips, I took shorter day trips to Marseille, La Ciotat, Barrage du Bimont and Les Îles de Frioul, all within an hours travel from Aix-en-Provence.

2018 Alex Janes Maja Jack Thomas EJ Montagne Saint VictoireBiggest achievement would have to be climbing Montagne Saint Victoire, the mountain famously depicted in much of Paul Cezanne’s artwork and seen easily from Aix. Standing at around 1000m in altitude (2.5 times higher than the height of Dumyat), it was a challenging climb to say the least but felt so satisfying once you reached the top.

Overall, my semester abroad has most definitely been a positive experience. It was a massive culture change and different way of living, but I soon got used to it. I would urge anyone who is thinking about doing a semester or year abroad or has any opportunity to live abroad, to go for it. I feel very privileged that I have been given this opportunity to enrich my student and life experience as a whole, considering the uncertainty hanging over Brexit and the future of exchanges. If I had any advice, it would to be immerse yourself as much as possible with the natives and locals. They are the people who can have the greatest influence on your time abroad, especially when it comes to enhancing your language skills.

And who knows, maybe there will be a graduation blog post?!’

Many, many thanks to Alex for taking the time to send us this post and for so kindly volunteering to write another!! In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your Summer and we look forward to welcoming you back in September.

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Camaraderie and the price of croissants!

Following on from Stuart’s update earlier, another follow-up post here from Eilidh Wynd who has just finished her 2nd year on the BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society:

‘2 years of Stirling University, where have you gone? It doesn’t feel so long ago that I last posted for the blog, saying how excited I was for my future time in the languages department and what I was looking forward to. Now, it’s 18 months on, older and wiser (apparently), I have reached the half way stage in my degree. It has been a tough but rewarding journey, so I thought I would update you on how the course has been and what adventures are yet to come.

Naturally, when studying any language, you have grammar classes. I would like to personally thank Jean-Michel for putting up with us in these classes. Whether it’s supporting us through imperfect subjunctive-based meltdowns or praising us when we finally grasp the difference between a direct and indirect object pronoun, he has been a rock for all of us on the course and his dedication to us reflects the whole teaching staff within the French department.

Alongside grammar, a personal highlight has been the weekly speaking sessions. With topics ranging from ‘are ghosts real’ to the influence of the media on young people, we have covered a range of issues. These classes are only made more enjoyable by the professors who never fail to entertain us with a story or two, and regularly give us handy tips for when we go abroad.

Finally, we have our culture classes where we discover more about past and present France. I have found these very insightful and I now have a much deeper understanding of the French way of life and their underlying morals. Through studying a variety of films and books, we have all managed to identify the differences between Scotland and France and understand France’s culture better.

2018 Eilidh Wynd Year 2 Pic II May18An important factor I want to highlight in this post is the camaraderie within the French module. Unlike modules such as business or sports studies, French is much smaller so there is a massive feeling of team work and community. Through this module, I have met some of my closest friends and had many a lunch or coffee break with class mates to discuss very important French issues…such as “do you think croissants are more expensive or cheaper in France than here?” I personally feel that’s an important issue anyway!

Due to studying both French and Spanish, I must complete time in both countries. Since I decided I would go to Spain for my semester abroad next year, I have successfully been accepted to do a 3-week internship at La Giraudière in Bordeaux at the end of August. I am very excited for this adventure where I will work and live amongst locals, experience living in a foreign country and, of course, sample some of the local delicacies.

2018 Eilidh Wynd Year 2 Pic I May18So, that’s a wrap from me. Despite, snow, strikes and stress, myself and everyone on the French course believe we are on the best module. Here’s to the next two years and hopefully we can progress through them as well as we have progressed through the previous years. I would like to end on a quote (I am famous for loving a good quote) which I believe represents the French module and the true co-operation and encouragement between students; “Les amis: une famille dont on a choisi les membres”- Alphonse Karr. Over and out x’

Many thanks to Eilidh for taking the time to send us this update and we’re looking forward to hearing how the internship goes later in the Summer – all the best for it!

 

Off to Quebec…

About a year ago, the blog ran a series of articles by students who were just reaching the end of their first year studying French at Stirling. One year on, we thought it’d be good to see how things were going so here’s the first of the follow-up articles by Stuart Close who has just finished the 2nd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish:

2018 Stuart Close Year 2 profile follow-up pic2.docx‘Salut encore! Now that another year of French at Stirling has come to an end, I’d like to share my experiences of the 2nd year of the course. Overall, the format of the module is the same as last year: Culture, written language and oral. The difference this year, in my opinion, is the complexity of written language and oral. I enjoyed discussing topics that could well come up in conversation with francophones, and complex grammatical structures that although difficult, have had a significant effect on my confidence in speaking French. The culture topics this year have been a good variety – from the experience of French Jewish people in World War 2, colonial atrocities and conflicts; to Quebec cinema and the representation of French Muslims.

2018 Stuart Close Year 2 profile follow-up pic 1.docxI like to monitor my progress in French in real life settings each year. This year I was able to practice in two instances. Firstly, during reading week I travelled through Switzerland to parts of France near the border such as Evian-les-Bains and St Louis. And secondly, during the semester I had French cousins of my girlfriend round at my flat for what was meant to be just a night. However, owing to the ‘beast from the east’, they ended up staying for the better part of a week, which was an excellent opportunity to practice my French during visits to the pub or even a game of ‘cards against humanity’ which needed to be interpreted.

I feel that the course materials and assessments this year have given me a great foundation for my British council placement in Quebec later this year, and I hope to come back to third year with a solid level of French (and hopefully not too strong an accent!). Au revoir!’

Many thanks to Stuart for taking the time to send us this update and we look forward to tales of life in Quebec over the year ahead – good luck with the ELA!

More follow-ups and other articles to follow soon…

 

We’re back!!

The blog has been rather quiet over the past few months but, as the teaching and assessment side of the semester winds down, it’s time to get things started again. There’ll be new student profiles, articles on what our students are up to on Study Abroad and news about research activities and plans but, by way of a starting point, a healthy list of congratulations!

We currently have three undergraduate students (Stefano, Nicolas and Annika) completing their Semester Abroad in France and working on fascinating and diverse research projects thanks to Stevenson Exchange Scholarships. Updates on the projects will follow from them but extra congratulations go to Stefano who – we have just learned – has been jointly awarded one of the University of Stirling’s Williamson Travel Scholarship which is likely to be put to very good use to fund fieldwork in Northern Italy and Southern France, examining  integration practices for refugees and asylum seekers between the two countries.

At the recent Conversation awards ceremony, our PhD student, Fraser McQueen, was the recipient of the Most Prolific Author award thanks to articles on the politics of contemporary France that have been read almost 13000 times.

And particular congratulations to our Language team of Brigitte Depret, Jean-Michel DesJacques and Mathilde Mazau who received an array of nominations at the student-led RATE awards (for everything from Excellence in Teaching in Arts and Humanities to the Santander Outstanding Achievement Award) with French Programme Director Cristina Johnston being awarded the Best Tutor prize.

And on a less strictly academic note, congratulations, too, to David Murphy for successfully completing the Stirling Half-Marathon and to our 2014 honorary graduate Mark Cousins whose new film The Eyes of Orson Welles premieres this very night at the Cannes Film Festival.

Yep, definitely a good place to start things off again on the blog! Congratulations to all and look out for more posts over the days and weeks ahead…

Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages Interdisciplinary Project

Many thanks to Alexia, Claire and Pedro from our current final year cohort, and to Céline who is spending a semester on Erasmus exchange at Stirling, for having given up their time last week to meet with local school pupil Kimberley and to talk to her about studying Languages at University. Kimberley is currently in her final year at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk where she is working on her Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages Interdisciplinary Project comparing undergraduate degrees in Languages at Scottish Universities with those offered by Spanish Universities. The meeting gave Kimberley a chance to ask questions about our students’ experiences of Study Abroad, their thoughts on Languages and employability and their own sense of how their language level has progressed over the course of their studies, all of which will feed into the overall project. Thanks to all for their time and good luck to Kimberley with the project! 

And if you want to find out more about studying Languages at Stirling, come along to chat with us at our Applicant Day on Saturday 7 April or at our Open Day on Saturday 9 June.

Exhibitions, Grants, Talks… French at Stirling Staff Updates

The past couple of blog posts have focused on French at Stirling students’ achievements and activities – now it’s time for an update on what staff have been up to and what’s coming up for us over the weeks and months ahead…

Congratulations, firstly, to Fiona Barclay who has just learned that she has been awarded a prestigious AHRC Early Career Researcher Leadership Fellow award which she will hold for 23 months from July 2018 onwards. The award will enable Fiona to work on a major project entitled ‘From colonisers to refugees: narratives and representations of the French settlers of Algeria.’

2018 Staff Updates David Algiers poster Feb18Back in December, David Murphy was invited to serve on the fiction jury at the 8th Algiers International Film Festival: ‘an intense but fascinating week, watching lots of films and meeting filmmakers, actors and other creative artists from all over the world. There was even time for a visit to the famous Casbah, which will be familiar to students from La Bataille d’Alger. Our special jury prize went to a wonderful Algerian film En attendant les hirondelles by a young Algerian director, Karim Moussaoui. You should be able to catch it in Scotland later this year.’

David is also the main organiser for the Scottish tour of the exhibition ‘Putting People on Display’, a pared-down version of a major exhibition (‘Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage’) organised by the French colonial history research group, ACHAC, which was held at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in 2011/12. Three additional posters focusing on the Scottish context have been specially commissioned for this Scottish tour and a longer blog post will follow…

At the end of last year, Cristina Johnston was involved in organising the Stirling-based component of ATLAS’s week-long translation workshops. The workshop brought together a group of translators working between French and English, giving them an opportunity to focus on the translation of a range of articles and chapters under the ‘Translating History’ umbrella and under the expert guidance of Stirling’s Emerita Professor Siân Reynolds (translator, among many other things, of the crime fiction of Fred Vargas) and experienced translator Diane Meur. Workshop participants were also given the opportunity to talk to students on our postgraduate Translation Studies programmes and to visit Stirling’s own Pathfoot Press, courtesy of Kelsey Jackson Williams.

2018 Staff Updates Cris Film Matters Cover Feb18The dossier on ‘Cinema and Childhood’ Cristina coordinated with contributions from a group of Stirling undergraduates (past and present) was also published towards the end of last year in Intellect’s journal of undergraduate film scholarship Film Matters. The dossier contains articles on representations of ‘Orphan Annie’ by Hayley J.  Burrell, a comparison of La Vita è bella and The Boy in the Stripded Pyjamas by Floriana Guerra, an examination of children and the destruction of innocence in WWII films by Laura Jones, analysis of ‘children as the uncanny’ in The White Ribbon from Regina Mosch, Ralitsa Shentova’s exploration of girlhood, fairytales and reality through Atonement and Crows, Lewis Urquhart’s essay on ‘concealed childhoods’ in Caché and Conor Syme’s reflections on childhood faith in science fiction. A fantastic set of articles by some impressive future film scholars!

2018 Staff Updates Elizabeth Cinema of Things Cover Feb18Elizabeth Ezra’s book The Cinema of Things was published by Bloomsbury in early November last year, and her updated chapter on ‘The Cinemising Process: Film-Going in the Silent Era’ is in the 2nd edition of The French Cinema Book just out from the BFI. And, as Elizabeth launches her new option module on Children’s Literature, we’re particularly pleased to be able to sing the praises of her children’s novel Ruby McCracken: Tragic without Magic which was named by The Herald as ‘One of the Nine Best Books for Children and Teenagers’ in its Christmas 2017 round-up. The novel also won the 2016 Kelpies Award for New Scottish Writing for Children.

Bill Marshall – whose ‘Cinéma-Monde’ conference will take place in Stirling at the end of May – was recently invited to the University of Vienna where he gave a talk entitled ‘Quebec Cinema as Global Cinema?’ and, later this month, he will be at UNISA (South Africa) where he will deliver a keynote on ‘Deleuze, Guattari, Hocquenghem: Anti-Oedipal Texts and Minor Cinemas’ as part of their February Lectures on ‘Queer Life in the Global South.’

2018 Staff Updates Bill Poster Vienna Feb18

And our Language Team (Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau and Brigitte Depret) continue their hard work updating our language programmes, including our new format of oral and aural teaching for final year students which enables them to benefit from weekly 15-minute paired sessions, as well as more standard classroom-based conversation practice.

More to follow on much of the above as the blog continues its revival!

Explaining the mysteries of whisky in French

One of the topics that frequently comes up in conversation at Open Days and Applicant Days, as well as with our current students, revolves around the question of the jobs that Languages students go on to do. As many of the posts on this blog show, there are more answers to that question than you might expect, ranging from language teachers to commercial coordinators for major wine exporters, from translators to financial crime analysts with much, much else in between. For many of our students, the benefits of languages in terms of their employability become clear while they are still studying and find themselves taking on part-time or vacation jobs where their languages make them a real asset to a particular company or workplace. And, in return, that workplace-based experience of using language skills brings its own benefits to students in terms of their fluency, confidence, communication skills and all-round employability.

To give a sense of what this can actually mean in practice, we’re very pleased to get a chance to post the following article by Andrea Kolluder who is currently in her 4th semester and who has a part-time job working for a local distillery:

‘Learning French has had its many challenges. I have often found it difficult to improve my spoken French, simply because I had a great fear of speaking French words out loud. The fear of pronouncing things wrong, and making terrible mistakes with grammar would pull me back from speaking any of the French I knew. I would have never thought that it would be the subject of whisky that would eventually break my wall of fear of the spoken language. Yet, in May last year, when I started working for a whisky distillery, I gained some much-needed confidence in my spoken French.

When asked at my interview about whether I thought myself capable of doing guided tours around the distillery in French I said yes without hesitation. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. The concept of speaking French to native speakers – tourists with many questions no less – was terrifying at first. But like with many things, once you do it the first time, the next time becomes easier, and so after the first French conversation, the next one suddenly seemed a lot less frightening.

Thankfully my interactions have all been positive, which really helped. French-speaking visitors seem to always be glad to find a French speaker willing to explain the mystery of whisky to them in their native language. In return for a French tour, they were always patient and understanding even when it took me a lot longer to explain certain things to them. They would help me find words I couldn’t find off the top of my head or wait until I finally realised the words I was missing. The best part was that in the end, despite pronunciation or grammar mistakes, I could get meaning across. People were actually understanding my French. And of course, the best motivator of all, was that little praise that my French was very good, just as they were saying goodbye.

A job in tourism is a great one for making you realise how much you can communicate even without words. When you do know a few words though, the quality of the conversation grows for both sides. After many challenging language situations from disinterested teenagers to very curious families, I have built an interesting set of miscellaneous vocabulary about whisky in the French language. And now, I look forward to using it even more often.’

Many, many thanks to Andrea for taking the time to write this blog post and for patiently waiting for me to actually get it online!