Tag: Bordeaux

School in the Sunshine

Time abroad features in many way across our degrees and is a crucial part of language learning at University. As you’ll know from previous posts, some of our students undertake English Language Assistantships, some spend a semester on Study Abroad (Erasmus or otherwise), some do both… For students doing both French and Spanish, the situation becomes a little more complex because language residence needs to be fulfilled for both languages. Many students opt to do this by undertaking an ELA in one language area and Erasmus in the other but this doesn’t always work for everyone, for all sorts of reasons.

In those cases, our students choose one language area for the Semester Abroad and have to fulfil our minimum residence for the other language. We try to be as flexible as we can and the basic position is that this means the student needs to spend at least 4 weeks in a country where that other language is spoken before they graduate (not necessarily in one 4-week block). Because this is for a shorter period, funding is not available and our students find all kinds of different ways of fulfilling this requirement. In the past, this has meant everything from language schools to working as an au pair or nanny to finding internships.

Eilidh, who has just started the final year of her BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society, is one such student who has just finished off the last portions of her time abroad and has sent through the following post about her experience:

2019 Wynd pic III‘Between January and April of this year I spent a semester abroad in Pamplona, Spain. After this amazing experience, I had one more week left in France to fulfil my time abroad and complete my essential time abroad for my degree. After spending three weeks last year in Bordeaux, I decided to go to the South East of France and spend a week in Marseille. A week in 30 degree heat in the south of France and it qualifies for my university degree…it’s a hard life being a language student.

I had researched in depth my choices for language schools in France and I found the Ecole Internationale de Marseille and an ideal AirBnb just ten minutes’ walk away so it sounded perfect. Adding a direct flight from Glasgow to Marseille (unlike my 3 flights and a train to Bordeaux) I signed myself up and headed off.

In my class, I had a Russian couple, a Brazilian transfer student and 2 professors. We were all of the same ability and on the Monday morning, the professor wrote my least favourite word on the board…SUBJUNCTIVE. I could have cried as I have spent many a seminar with my girls and Jean-Michel DesJacques complaining about the subjunctive. Why is it needed? Does it really matter? Apparently it is important, so the professeurs of the Marseille school soon realised they had a problem on their hands with me. However, after some intensive classes and thousands of worksheets, I can safely say I understand the subjunctive. Round of applause s’il vous plait.

2019 Wynd Marseille Pic IEveryday, after class, I would try and explore a part of the city or go somewhere new. However this was sometimes difficult due to the heat and the smell of fresh bread and pains au chocolat were a slight distraction. A particular highlight was going to sunbathe and do my homework (or in reality, read my book) in the palace gardens which overlooks the old port. It was so picturesque and a great way to unwind after a stressful class.

 

Another highlight of my trip away was my walk up to Notre Dame de la Garde. At the top of one of the hills in Marseille, there is a golden statue of the Virgin Mary. The locals say it is so she can watch over the boats coming in and out of the old port and grant them a safe passage. It looks spectacular from every angle and can be seen from all over Marseille. On my final day I decided to walk up and see the church for myself. I didn’t plan this entirely well as it is quite far and very hot. Nevertheless I soldiered on and it was totally worth it. It was beautiful and I would really recommend it if anyone travels to Marseille.

Overall I had an incredible experience and the school were very supportive. I am hoping to go back to Marseille again and enjoy some more sunshine and seafood!’

2019 Wynd Marseille Pic II

Many, many thanks to Eilidh for the great blog post – loads of ideas here for future students looking for ways to make the most of their time abroad – and we wish you all the best for this final year!

 

Erasmus+ Teaching Exchange in Limoges

As we mentioned in the previous blog post, this year’s French at Stirling Study Abroad cohort are just starting their semester at one of our many partner institutions across France and the wider Francophone world. Most of them will be doing so as part of an Erasmus+ exchange so, as they start that particular chapter, we wanted to post an article by Aedín ní Loingsigh who also benefitted from the Erasmus+ programme just before Christmas but, in her case, in order to undertake a teaching exchange with one of our partners:

“In December, I spent a week teaching at the Université de Limoges as part of the Erasmus + staff mobility programme. The location of Limoges in west-central France meant I was able to fly to Bordeaux and spend some time there before beginning my teaching. I had lived in Bordeaux as a student many years ago (I won’t say how many…). Although the city has changed a lot since my time there, it was wonderful to stroll around and recall the thrill of discovering the possibilities that France seemed to offer as I was coming to the end of my undergraduate studies.

I left Bordeaux early on the day that a large Gilets jaunes protest was planned. Driving inland to visit some friends in Agen, I encountered a small number of protesters at various roundabouts. These were all cheerful encounters and did nothing to prepare me for accounts I later heard of the violence that had broken out in Bordeaux after I had left. Chatting with people later, I noticed that the Gilets jaunes was an ‘event’ that people wanted to explain to me just as they wanted me to explain the story of Brexit dominating the news in the UK.

These topics of conversation did not disappear when I got to Limoges. If anything, Gilets jaunes/Brexit became the ‘must-be-acknowledged’ issue to broach, however briefly, each time I encountered somebody new. Some of the most interesting conversations were with the students I taught. They were particularly keen to learn how the Gilets jaunes movement was being interpreted in the UK and what I had understood was happening since my arrival in France. In my responses, I noticed how they ‘corrected’ what they thought was ‘inaccurate’ and how they sometimes disagreed amongst themselves as they tried to ‘explain’ the reasons behind the actions of the French protesters. In my own attempts to ‘explain’ Brexit, I became highly aware that my own views on the subject invariably coloured the version of events I was providing for my French listeners.

2017 oct dodds downey limogesIn the end, I saw that this was a really interesting way into some of the key principles of translation theory that I had been asked to teach during my visit. The key point I had prepared for discussion with the postgraduate Translation Studies students in Limoges was the question of ‘translator stance’, i.e. the idea that translators/interpreters are not neutral figures who simply transform the ‘same’ story into another language. As translators translate, they are also trying to explain. But it is inaccurate to imagine that as translators do this, they somehow remove themselves from the reality of the world they live in and become neutral figures. In other words, it is wrong to think that bias becomes lost in translation. Discussing this idea with the students in Limoges was really rewarding, especially once we had established how our own ‘stance’ can influence our explanation of events across different languages and cultures. As well as thinking about how we translate ourselves, we looked at different examples of translators/interpreters in the colonial era and tried to find evidence of their ‘stance’ in things like footnotes, 2017 quentin hotel-ville-mairie-limoges marchprefaces, diaries and personal correspondence.

The seminars I taught were longer than I am used to in Stirling (two of the seminars I taught were 3 hours long) and the students weren’t quite as used to working in groups as students in Stirling are. But they were enthusiastic to work in new ways, they were well prepared, and they had lots of ideas they wanted to share. They were also happy to be active translators in the classroom and willingly helped me to find equivalents for any terms and concepts I couldn’t find in French. In the end, the length of seminars went unnoticed. Moreover, with my teaching largely timetabled for the morning (8.30am starts are quite common), I had plenty of time to go to the university restaurant for a delicious three-course CROUS lunch for less than 7€ — students pay even less. In some respects, the university buildings and teaching facilities in Limoges were less well maintained than in Stirling but the emphasis on healthy, affordable food and communal eating was really inspiring and made me wish it was done so effortlessly in our own university.

My time in Limoges was too brief. I only managed to see a little of the city centre and had no time to explore the beautiful countryside I had seen on my long train journey from Agen. But I saw enough to want to go back and make teaching in France something I try to do more often. Learning from the students in Limoges, translating at the same time as I was teaching about translation, and being confronted in real time with the complexity of communicating ideas back and forth between English and French was deeply enriching. I had many wonderful experiences in Limoges but what it reminded me above all else was the importance of exchange: of engaging with other ways of doing things, of learning about/from differences of culture and opinion, and of striving to be open at all times to new experiences.

Finally, two discoveries from my week in France might be useful to students in Stirling reading this blog as they prepare for discussion of topical matters related to France this Spring:

  1. This podcast from France Culture called L’esprit public. It comes out every Sunday and is a really clear and accessible discussion of the big political events of the previous week.
  2. This short text from Édouard Louis, Qui a tué mon père. It is a very moving, personal account of this young author’s relationship with his father crossed with a more detached, sociological attempt to understand the cultural and economic factors shaping working class life in North East France. Although it doesn’t directly address the ongoing political upheaval in France and the significance of the Gilets jaunes, it was the best ‘translation’ I came across of the deep frustration and anger that is underpinning this movement.”

Many thanks to Aedín for the great blog post and to our partners at Limoges for their hospitality!

Life as a French at Stirling graduate: Translation and walking tours of Bordeaux

A little over a year ago, the 2017 French at Stirling graduates and staff were enjoying a celebratory drink and speculating about plans for life after graduation. At that point, Kitti, who graduated in French and Global Cinema, wasn’t quite sure where life would take her, other than towards France. And it turns out she was right:

‘I’m doing great, currently living in Bordeaux with my boyfriend and I work as a tour guide in English and Hungarian, and soon in French too. They want to train me because they think my French is good enough – I hope I do as well as they expect me to! We do walking tours around the city as well as different wine and food tasting tours. I love my job. I have a lot of fun working and I meet a lot of interesting people.

We are planning to stay in Bordeaux until the end of September for sure, then we are thinking of moving to Melbourne for the winter (well, to avoid the winter…), but we are not sure, we will see how things work out. For now, I’m working hard on my French and have made a lot of French friends. Luckily, everyone is very nice in Bordeaux and the city itself is stunning. If you ever visit let me know and I’ll take you on my tours for free!! So, for now I’m working on my French and I’m hoping to work with translators after the summer, either in an office or shadow and freelancer, because this is the field where I’d like to work and I have experience with interpreting (thanks to a job French at Stirling helped me find while still a student which provided me with jobs for a full year before I moved away to France) but I need more experience with translation. After that, I would like to set up my own business and work for myself.’

Many, many thanks to Kitti for the great blog post (and the invitation to a free tour of Bordeaux…) and we look forward to following your travels and your career over the months and years ahead.

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.

Experiences as an ELA (Part I)

The deadline has now closed for students applying for English Language Assistantships in France (though anybody interested in applying for Spain has a little longer to apply…) and, as ever, a large number of our Year 2 students and a growing number of finalists have submitted their applications. As they wait for news over the coming weeks and months, it seemed like a good time to post some tales from previous assistants with thanks to Charlotte (the author of this piece), Colm and Ellen (the authors of the next two pieces!) for sharing their experience:

Charlotte spent 8 months living and working as an English Language Assistant in Bordeaux and would ‘100% recommend giving it a go as although it sounds clichéd, it definitely has been the best experience of my life so far. My time in France taught me a great deal, it wasn’t always easy but I have gained so much from it, and I learnt from both the negative and positive experiences that I encountered.

2016 Cavanagh Miroir dEau
Le Miroir d’Eau, Bordeaux

The first few weeks I spent in France were some of the toughest moments I have ever had to experience. This was due to a number of reasons: problems with accommodation, problems with the organisation of the school (which never got easier), organising mobile phones and bank accounts and the language barrier.  I went to France thinking that I could speak the language well, but I was soon to realise that I had a lot to improve on. I had regular experiences of listening to someone talk for 5 minutes and not understanding a single word that they had said! But it got easier over time, the important thing is to be patient as it does get easier.

For me, the highlight of the year abroad was getting the opportunity to live with French people. My language skills vastly improved due to this and I was given the opportunity to experience Bordeaux the “French” way. When I arrived in late September, I thought I had accommodation organised by my school, but when I arrived to a room with no lock on the door, no kitchen, no water and no internet I quickly realised that I would have to find another home. After a painful 3 weeks living alone and having no luck in finding anything, I found a flat share in the city of Bordeaux. It was no palace, but everything was on my doorstep and I got free travel to and from the schools as most of the staff lived on Bordeaux. From the moment I moved in, my experience of living abroad drastically changed for the better. I was able to meet other assistants, meet the friends of my flat mates and truly experience France in the way I had depicted it.

2016 Cavanagh Lycee

If I was to give one word of advice, it would be patience. Learning a language is a long, tiring and sometimes humiliating process but as long as you stick with it, you will only improve. Having patience is also key in France as administration and paperwork takes a very long time to organise- I am still yet to receive my “carte vitale” health card! The 3 schools I worked at were particularly disorganised at times, which became very stressful. I would receive my timetable the Sunday evening, there were weeks where I worked only 5 hours, and others where I would work 14 or more. It is a stressful process moving abroad, but if you persevere you will definitely benefit and learn a great deal.

Although teaching does not seem to be the profession for me, working at the schools was still a great experience as I did enjoy teaching about life in the UK and watching the pupils improve as the year went on. I worked in 3 different schools; each one being completely different from the other, enabled me to work with the pupils and staff in a numerous amount of ways. For example in the lycée pro (the Lycée Professionnel de l’Estuaire Blaye) there was a working restaurant which different year groups ran depending on the day. I often had lunch at the restaurant and ordered my food in English to help them practice their language skills. This simple activity was one of the highlights of working and I built up a good relationship with the school because of this.

Lastly, a few tips that I would give to anyone thinking about going abroad:

1) Patience and perseverance are key

2) If you need help with anything, ASK other assistants and the teachers you work with. There will be someone who is in the same boat as you and there will always be someone there to help.

3) Remember that you may not get placed in a city centre. But the important thing is to make the most of the experience, travel at every opportunity you get.

4) Be prepared for the criteria of your lessons to be: “Talk English to them” and get ready to teach more pupils than you should be teaching!

5) Join the Facebook groups for assistants in your region. You’ll realise that people are in the same situations as yourself and people also organise day trips on the page so you don’t want to miss out!’

2016 Cavanagh Travels