Strasbourg Summer School Tales

Back in June, a small group of our students were lucky enough to be able to attend the annual Summer School organised by our partners at the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg, an opportunity that gave them a chance to spend time in a beautiful city but also to benefit from fantastic classes and visits to European institutions and much else besides. Nick, Paloma and Stefano are now all back in Stirling and they’ve each sent their own take on the experiences in Strasbourg.

2017 Oct Strasbourg Stefano Pic IFor Stefano, ‘one of the most thrilling aspects of our Summer School was the possibility to go on business trips to the European Institutions that are located in Strasbourg. Within our first ten days there, our group was invited to visit the Council of Europe, the continent’s oldest political organisation, founded in 1949. It was exciting to experience such an institutional and international atmosphere! Once we got there through the beautiful surroundings of Strasbourg’s diplomatic area, we managed to explore the building with its famous Hemicycle and we also got the chance to attend a conference on “The role of the Council of Europe in the European Political Architecture”. It is perhaps worth mentioning some key facts about this vital institution in Europe. The Council itself groups together 47 countries, including 21 countries from Central Eastern Europe and it currently has one more application from Monaco. Moreover, the Council has granted “observer status” to 5 external countries (US, Canada, the Holy See, Mexico and Japan). Broadly speaking, the Council is distinct from the European Union, but no member state has ever been part of the Union without joining the Council of Europe in the first place.’

2017 Oct Strasbourg Stefano Pic II
Stefano, Paloma and another Stirling student, Annika, visiting from her internship in Germany

 

Stefano also points out that the EU’s motto (United in diversity) fits very well with their entire programme of classes and visits: ‘ As a group of 30 students from, almost literally, all over the world, we had first-hand experience of how so many different countries can work within European Institutions. For instance, just one week after our visit to the Council of Europe we got the chance to explore the European Parliament, the only directed body of the EU. Most importantly, we were lucky enough to attend real sessions and debates of the Parliament over the following week; throughout these experiences we got a strong sense of how the Parliament elaborates community laws and how strongly its relations are intertwined with those of the European Commission and the Council of Ministers.’

2017 Sept Strasbourg Paloma Pic IFrom Paloma’s perspective, the cultural, geographical and linguistic aspects of the month in France were as important as the access to elements of the structures of the EU. ‘Strasbourg is a mixture of two cultures, French and German, perfectly balanced. Generally, the French were friendly and easy to talk to (as long as you were trying to speak in French…), however body language and gestures were required if our French wasn’t enough. Also, a large proportion of the older generations spoke German (or the alsacien dialect).

It is an adorable city, the perfect size, not too big, not too small. Sightseeing in Strasbourg was hence relatively easy: from the cathedral and la Petite France to the Parc de l’Orangerie (a mini zoo) a few blocks away from the school and the Place Kléber with the main shopping area. The first Sunday of the month gives you free access to some cultural spots, so we took advantage and visited a few museums, the cathedral tower and its astronomical clock.

As Strasbourg is located very centrally, we could easily travel around to Nancy, Colmar, Obernai, and even Zurich and Karlsruhe. However, its central location and its position as the seat of many EU institutions means that living expenses are quite high, so we took the tram line to Kehl in Germany to do our weekly groceries.

2017 Sept Strasbourg Paloma Pic II
Stefano, Paloma and Nick

 

Local cuisine included tarte flambée (dough bread covered with cheese, crème fraiche, onion and bacon), baeckeoffe (casserole with vegetables, pork, beef and lamb cooked slowly in white wine), kouglof (bread-cake that is displayed in the window of every bakery in Strasbourg) and lots of white wine. Local farmers’ markets in the street parallel to our accommodation every Saturday had everything from yogurt, fruit and vegetables, bread, flowers, to second-hand clothes and pots and pans. The boulangerie was a few blocks away from the school; in the morning you could see the French queueing for the bread of the day.

On the 21st of June, we experienced La Fête de la Musique. Once a year, the city transforms into an “open concert” with music for all tastes. A different band plays in every corner downtown Strasbourg. For us (as Paloma is of Mexican origin), some of the highlights of the night were an Ecuadorian duo and a Brazilian party.’

And finally, from Nick’s point of view, it was the mix of classroom-based learning and extra-curricular activities that really stands out: ‘During my month in Strasbourg all students had a significant number of classes alongside the social activities most of us took part in outside of the curriculum. The classes were divided into several different subjects: European Integration, French Language and Business, which included Marketing, HRM and other topics.

Most classes were quite intense and well-structured. They were also very interesting and engaging (for the most part) with the only downside being the teaching rooms which did not have air conditioning or any real ventilation. It can get very hot in France during summer…

Some of the courses included some very cool field trips, such as a visit to the Europa Park, which was supposedly related to the business part of the course. It wasn’t really, as we spent most of the day on awesome rides (or queueing for them), but unsurprisingly nobody complained about that.

I feel it is maybe important to let future participants of summer school know that the amount of class in hours per week is significantly more than most of us will be used to from UK universities. This, however, is no issue at all, as self-study time is kept at a minimum and most classes are very informative and highly enjoyable, with lecturers from all over the world (Ireland, the US, Poland, France, etc.).

I can personally say that I genuinely learned a lot about the EU, European culture and French language during my stay in Strasbourg. I loved the outside activities and the group we were in was amazing and very international. The lecturers were entertaining, clever and left us all with an unexpectedly large amount of knowledge. I would recommend Strasbourg summer school to anyone at any educational level and from any background based on my experience this past summer.’

Many thanks, indeed, to Nick, Paloma and Stefano for sharing their experiences and their photos from the Summer School. Having also had the pleasure of visiting colleagues at EMS in September, it’s particularly nice to be able to confirm that it really is a great place to send time so thanks to the students and to colleagues at EMS for having made us all feel welcome!

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Language Ambassadors at Cathkin High

2017 Oct Dodds Downey Limoges PicFollowing on from the general update on French news, a great, positive account of a Student Language Ambassadors’ visit to Cathkin High School by two of our final year students – Nicole Downey and Catherine Dodds, both of whom were at the Université de Limoges last semester on Erasmus Study Abroad – a couple of weeks ago. We’re looking forward to continuing to send our students out to act as ambassadors for language learning and I’m hoping to have a blog post about another visit to Wallace High in Stirling before the end of the week. In the meantime, though, over to Nicole and Catherine:

‘We believe that Student Language Ambassadors are a key factor in language learning. It is essential to encourage young people to continue learning languages and to inform them of their future prospects and opportunities. Recently, we visited Cathkin High School in Cambuslang during their modern languages week to give a presentation and discuss our experiences, both at Stirling and abroad.

2017 Oct Dodds Downey Limoges
Limoges

 

We found that the students appreciated the opportunity to speak to other young people, who aren’t a great deal older than them and in particular were inspired by our experiences abroad. Although not all of the students wanted to continue learning languages in higher education, it was still useful for them as they were able to speak to us about the university process and life at university.

It was satisfying for us to see that the pupils were very engaged by the evidence that learning languages does actually provide you with amazing experiences, which would otherwise not be possible without studying languages.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time as Student Ambassadors and would love to have this opportunity again.’

Many thanks to Catherine and Nicole for this blog post, and for having taken the time to go along to talk to the pupils at Cathkin High School. And thanks to pupils and staff there for their warm welcome.

2017 Oct Dodds Downey Eiffel Tower

Lots of French News!

It’s been a very busy few weeks since the new semester started in mid-September and there’s a bit of a backlog of blog pieces to be posted so, hopefully, we’ll make some progress on that over this week. As I get the information together for those various articles, here – in no particular order – is some of the news about French at Stirling from this new academic year…

First and foremost, we’re very pleased and proud to report that French at Stirling was rated 17th in the UK and 3rd in Scotland in the Sunday Times Good University Guide last month. A great achievement!

On the research front, welcome to our new French at Stirling PhD student, Lauren Kenny, who will be working on the translation of subtitles, supervised by Cristina Johnston and our colleague in Translation, Xiaojun Zhang. And congratulations to our continuing PhD student, Fraser McQueen, who has had another article on contemporary France published in The Conversation, as well as an article in Modern and Contemporary France on ‘France’s elites, Islamophobia and communities of friendship in Sabri Louata’s Les Sauvages.

In terms of research events, this year’s Literature and Languages research seminar series started with a great talk on the role of the public intellectual in France by the University of Edinburgh’s Emile Chabal. Plenty of food for thought and good to see staff, postgrads and undergrads in attendance. In December, we’ll be welcoming a group of French-English Translation postgrads and postdocs to Stirling for a week-long workshop on translation for historians and for history journals. We’re running the workshop in conjunction with our colleagues at ATLAS (the Association pour la Promotion de la Traduction Littéraire) with our own Siân Reynolds as one of the tutors for the week. And we’re also looking forward to seeing the full line-up for Bill Marshall’s Cinéma-Monde Conference that is due to take place at the end of May next year.

2017 Erasmus Plus LogoAs for our students, plenty to report there too. Thanks to everyone who came along to our get-together for returning Study Abroad students, Year 3 students about to head off for their Semester Abroad, visiting exchange students and this year’s Translation and Interpreting cohort from our partner at Hebei Normal University in China. Particular thanks to Fiona Buckland and the International Office for their support in organising that event – always great to see our students exchanging their tips about our Study Abroad partners. We also have around a dozen students who have just embarked on their English Language Assistantships across France, a small group of whom are participating in SCILT’s ‘Language Linking, Global Thinking’ scheme, about which more soon… And we’ve sent our first Language Ambassadors of 2017-18 out into a couple of schools to talk to the pupils about the benefits of language learning – again, more on that very soon.

And we have five Erasmus students – Axel, Manon, Léa, Elodie and Léna – who will be leading weekly 30-minute conversation sessions across our degree programmes – a great benefit for our students but also a fantastic addition to the CVs of the Erasmus students who are involved. It’s still early days but all of them seem to be enjoying the experience so far!

Oh yes and our Study Abroad Advisor for French, Jean-Michel DesJacques, has been invited to attend the ‘Erasmus@30’ celebrations at the Scottish Parliament later this month, along with his Spanish counterpart, Jose Ferreira-Cayuela, and Fiona Buckland from the International Office. Watch this space for photos…

What else? Well, the programme for the French Film Festival at the MacRobert has been firmed up so I’ll be able to post a little more about that very soon and Africa in Motion (founded by one of our former PhD students) has also just launched its 2017 programme which, as ever, looks brilliant!

Lots more to follow over the next few days.

Strasbourg and more

Another week until the start of semester and these final few days before the new academic year are full of news to report. Usually, the bits of this blog that are written by me (Cristina Johnston) are written in Scotland but this post sees me making my way to Strasbourg where I’m headed for meetings with our colleagues at the Ecole de Management. We’ve had an exchange partnership with them for many years now and currently have a great Integrated Masters programme that we run with them in International Management and Intercultural Studies. As is the way with these things, most of the time that just means corresponding via email and it’s our students who benefit from being able to enjoy the delights of our respective institutions and cities. Every now and then, though, colleagues come from Strasbourg to Stirling or from Stirling to Strasbourg and that’s what I’m up to just now. A good day of meetings and discussions about possible future partnerships and teaching and research collaborations lies ahead, and I’m looking forward to getting a chance to see the EMS.

The added bonus – from my perspective, at least – is that I spent my own year abroad when I was an undergraduate as an English Language Assistant living and teaching in Strasbourg so it’s a city I used to know well. As those students who were away as ELAs last year make their way back to campus in Stirling, and some of those who are just starting on new adventures as assistants in places as far-flung as Colombia (watch this space for more…) send emails to say hello, it’s great to get a chance to reminisce on my own experiences as a Language Assistant. I taught at the Lycée Marie Curie in Strasbourg where – at the time, at least – they taught both the French Bac and the European Bac, meaning that one class of pupils in terminale had extra language tuition, History and Geography taught in English and an impressive openness to the possibilities that language learning opened up for them.

For me, it was a great first experience of teaching – I wasn’t much older than the pupils, they were (without exception) really keen to learn, and the school was incredibly supportive (of me and of their pupils). As well as the actual teaching, I was lucky enough to be asked to accompany that terminale class on a 10-day trip to Northern Ireland and was just generally made to feel part of the school community. I kept in touch with some of the pupils for a few years after I came back and, ever since then, have also kept in touch with one of the former English teachers from the school so this EMS trip will also give me a chance to catch up with her, having not actually seen her face-to-face in 20 years! All in all, a good trip lies ahead!

Enough about me, though… What other news? Well, Fiona Barclay and I had a great meeting last week with the ever-enthusiastic Grahame Reid of Stirling’s MacRobert cinema to talk about (fingers crossed) bringing some of this year’s French Film Festival films to Stirling again this year. All being well, November should be French cinema month at Stirling but more will follow on that once we get confirmation. French at Stirling has also been busy preparing workpacks for all the modules we’ll be running in the new semester and generally getting ourselves ready for all our new and returning students. And, at the end of this week, just before the focus shifts back more towards teaching, many of us will also be attending a Research Away Day led by Bill Marshall to discuss research plans and ideas with colleagues from Languages, Translation, Religion, English and Creative Writing. Oh yes, and our former PhD student Martin Verbeke has another article forthcoming: “Represent Your Origins: An Analysis of the Diatopic Determinants of Non-Standard Language Use in French Rap” has been accepted for publication by the International Journal of Francophone Studies!

A flurry of pre-semester activity! And pictures of Strasbourg will doubtless appear on the blog over the next week or so…

Welcome to our Erasmus Students!

Not all the French and Francophone exchange students who come to Stirling from our network of partners take modules run by the French at Stirling team but we’re always really pleased to welcome them to Stirling and will be inviting them along to a range of events over the course of the semester.

This year, at last count, we have 24 exchange students coming from 11 different French Universities, business schools and grandes écoles with whom we have long-standing partnerships: the Universités de Limoges, Aix-Marseille, Clermont Auvergne, Lorraine and Perpignan, the IUT de Sceaux (Paris Sud), Sciences Po, the Ecoles de Management of Strasbourg and Normandie, ESSEC in the outskirts of Paris and the Université Catholique de l’Ouest. We’re looking forward to getting to know these students over the course of their time at Stirling and, this year, we’re particularly pleased to be giving some of them a chance to led informal conversation sessions with our Stirling-based students.

Who knows? We may even be able to convince a few of them to write blog posts about their time in Scotland…

New Semester, New Oral Classes

Our new Languages for Employability module is not the only teaching innovation for this coming academic year. Last year, we launched fortnightly paired oral sessions for Year 3 and 4 students, led by our great Language team of Jean-Michel DesJacques, Brigitte Depret and Mathilde Mazau. Building on their success, we’re expanding this provision for the new year ahead.

This year, all our final year students will benefit from a weekly paired session, while our Year 3 students will continue to benefit from fortnightly sessions. The idea behind the sessions is partly to offer more scope for students to prepare for the format of oral assessments they encounter in the final two years but it’s also a means of giving our students a greater say in the topics they discuss since they are responsible for finding articles to talk about at each session.

For Year 1, 2 and 4 students, we’re also introducing weekly 30-minute conversation sessions to provide further opportunities to build fluency and confidence. These sessions will be led by incoming French exchange students from across our partner institutions, helping them to get to know their Stirling peers at the same time as they get a chance to develop their professional experience.

When we asked last year’s finalists for advice they’d pass on to future students, many of them picked up on the importance of oral and aural classes, emphasising the importance of speaking up and not being afraid to make mistakes. This advice is echoed by our Language Assistants in the workpacks they prepare for oral classes: ‘The Spoken Language class is your best opportunity to improve your speaking skills. Of course, you will be confused at times, make mistakes many times (as we all do when we learn, whether it be a language or any other skill), but most importantly, your tutors will be there to support and guide you. We aim for this learning process to be a successful adventure, which means you have to be involved without holding back. Don’t be afraid, don’t be shy, and your language abilities will go from strength to strength. You will all learn from your own mistakes but also from each other’s in a relaxed atmosphere.’

With this in mind, we’re looking forward to feedback on the new oral formats from our current students!

New Semester Just Around the Corner…

In just under a fortnight, our new semester kicks off and we’re looking forward to welcoming back our continuing students and to welcoming to Stirling our new first year intake (currently enjoying our online Bridging Materials to help them prepare…) and all those visiting from our wide range of exchange partners from Strasbourg to Perpignan.

Following on from the success of our schools’ events in June and the fantastic presentations given by finalists and graduates, we’re continuing to develop our focus on the employability of Languages graduates. To help embed this even more firmly within our degree programmes, we’re launching a new Languages and Employability module that our students (of French and/or Spanish) will take throughout Year 3.

The module offers sessions on presentation skills (in English and French), decoding job adverts, producing a tailored CV and cover letter in French, and careers/employer workshops, as well as generic skills in personality profiling, and use of social media. It’ll be taught by colleagues from French and Spanish with input from Stirling’s Careers Development Centre with classes and workshops in Stirling in the Autumn semester and online content delivered during the Spring Semester Abroad.

We’re hoping that this new module will give our students a chance to build on the skills they’ve already gained – not least via the English Language Assistantships that many of them undertake between Year 2 and Year 3 – and that it’ll encourage them further to think about career opportunities for Languages graduates, whether in the UK or beyond.

More news of the semester ahead to follow…