Tag: Erasmus

Study Abroad: ‘Just do it!’

One last blog post for the moment and this time it’s one from Sofie, who is about to enter the final year of her BA Hons in French and Journalism, and has just spent her Semester Abroad at the University of Tours:

‘Studying in another country can be a daunting experience and it makes most people nervous but these feelings change to excitement once you’re in your country of exchange. You’ll meet a lot of different people from different countries and make a lot of new friends so there’s really nothing to be afraid of. I speak of my own experience of going abroad twice and I’ve had the most amazing adventures both times of which one is still ongoing. I first went abroad when I moved to Scotland to study as a full-time student in 2015 and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice of country. My second time was quite recently when I studied one semester abroad in France as an exchange student and it went better than I expected, again.

2018 Sofie Karlsson old town ToursI went to Tours in France where I studied literature at Université François Rabelais. I knew I wanted to be close to Paris but I also wanted to live in a smaller city so Tours was perfect for me and it’s only 1 hour away from Paris by TGV. Tours also reminded me a lot of Stirling with its blend of old and new so it was easy to feel at home. It was also very easy to find friends thanks to the ESN community for exchange students. This did mean all students who joined were students from other countries except for France so it wasn’t as easy to befriend French students but ESN arranged many fun events where we got to learn a lot about French culture and food. They also organised trips almost every weekend to visit places like Saint Malo and Saint Michel but also amusement parks like ZooParc de Beauval and Parc du Futuroscope and of course many castles since Tours is located in Val-de-Loire which is famous for its beautiful castles. The trips weren’t expensive either so we saved a lot of money traveling France this way and everything was arranged for us which was really helpful. We just payed and tagged along.

2018 Sofie Karlsson Saint-Malo

Studying at a French university was interesting and a bit difficult since it was all in French but if I could manage to do it, then anyone can do it, trust me! I missed studying at university of Stirling a little bit though because I know how things work there but everything made more sense with time. I chose to study five courses which were comparative literature, French literature, two French language courses (CUEFFE) and translation from French to English. It was a challenge but I learned a lot of French and it was a fun way to learn the language. Studying wasn’t the most fun thing out of the experience though, for me, it was to meet so many amazing people from all over the world. I made friends from USA, Canada and other various countries in Europe and it’s nice to know I’ll always have connections there. There were also opportunities to meet locals who were interested in other cultures but I had to look for these places myself. In Tours, there’s a nice café/restaurant called NewLita aka “the language café”. I went there a few times and it was a great way to practise my French and meet new people.

2018 Sofie Karlsson Gare de Tours

But how did I end up studying abroad? Well, I had one mandatory semester abroad in a French speaking country during my 3rd year since I’m studying French as part of my degree. Being me, loving to travel, I didn’t hesitate one second when I found out I was expected to study in France. However, I had a lot of thoughts the summer before the start of my 3rd year because I didn’t know anything, at the time, of what needed to be done before going but things got clearer once we got more information during the autumn semester. There was of course a lot of paperwork but it got easier with time so it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed at first and I didn’t have any issues with anything. I was also eligible to receive the Erasmus grant, since I studied in Europe, and I got it in time so I had an easy experience overall with the application process. Besides, all the preparations during the autumn semester made everything more real which was exciting at the same time as it was stressful. The whole study abroad experience had its ups and downs but I’m so happy I did it. I would recommend anyone who’s thinking about it to just do it because you won’t regret it. It was definitely worth it!’

Many thanks to Sofie for this great post (and pictures!) and we look forward to hearing more about your time in Tours when you’re back in Stirling in September. In the meantime, bonnes vacances!

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Research at Stirling: Exhibitions, Conferences and Interactive Maps

A Summer of changes for French at Stirling, not only with new cohorts of students coming to join us and our ELAs and Study Abroad students returning, but also on the staffing front. As we’ve mentioned here before, Bill Marshall retires at the end of next month and we are currently advertising for two new lecturers so there’ll be new faces in the teaching team over the months ahead. And, as we’ve also spoken about on the blog, Fiona Barclay – who has been on research leave this past semester – was awarded an AHRC Early Career Researcher Leadership Fellowship so we’re also appointing a fixed-term lecturer to replace Fiona for the next two years. We’re looking forward to introducing you to these yet-to-be-appointed colleagues very soon but, first, we thought it’d be good to get Fiona to tell us a bit about what she’s been up to over these past few months and what lies ahead. And that also gives us an excellent excuse to introduce Dr Beatrice Ivey who was recently appointed to work as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant with Fiona and who we’re very excited to welcome to Stirling!

‘Greetings from the sunny south of France, where I’ve just finished my semester of research leave! Stirling seems very far away but as the semester comes to a close it’s a good time to look back on the last few months and reflect on plans, progress, and the inevitable changes that happen…

I came to France in January with the plan of writing a couple of chapters of the book that I’m working on, using local libraries, and accessing some archives. The book is on the European settlers who came to Algeria following its conquest by the French in 1830. Almost all of them – 900,000 – were forced to leave for France when Algeria became independent in 1962 in one of the biggest population movements since 1945. Since then, a proportion of them have been very vocal in French politics, whilst others have produced a large corpus of literature which records their memories of their homeland and works through their feelings of loss and nostalgia. My project looks at these narratives and representations, and the ways in which the community’s identity is being passed on to the younger generations born in France since 1962.

Plans are often subject to change, and so it was on this occasion. My idea of using the local university library ran into trouble straightaway, when I discovered that, due to a combination of a local strike against university mergers, and the subsequent national blockade of universities, it was closed until further notice. In the end ‘until further notice’ meant nearly 5 months, giving me a new perspective on the UK’s UCU strike action, and a lot of sympathy for local students who were still expected to sit exams. Thankfully Stirling’s electronic library holdings and lending provision has developed a lot in the last few years, so I was able to access most of the texts needed.

2018 Fiona Barclay Research Leave Blog Pic
Le Voyageur

The second change to my plans came in February, when I received news that my application to the AHRC’s Leadership Fellows scheme had been successful. The award is £250,000 for a two-year project starting next month and, in addition to the completion of the book, it has a substantial set of public engagement activities, some of which will start early in the project. Consequently, I’ve spent much of the last few months working with colleagues in museums and archives in Paris, Perpignan and Port-Vendres to organise access to images, video testimonies, artefacts and so on. These will feature in a year-long exhibition opening in September at the Pathfoot Gallery in Stirling. I’m also working with colleagues at Stirling to build a new project website, which will feature an interactive map giving access to many of the images, videos and sound-files, as well as links to a free access online course (MOOC) and film season taking place as part of the UK French Film Festival in November 2018.

The project will also have another team member, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant who will work on the project for 15 months. I’m delighted that Dr Beatrice Ivey, who recently completed her PhD at the University of Leeds, will be starting at Stirling on 1 September. She will be leading on many of the digital and online parts of the project, and also co-organising an international conference on forced migration which will take place at Stirling next May. We look forward to welcoming her to Stirling!’

Many thanks to Fiona for this update – news of the exhibition and other events will follow in due course! – and over to Beatrice:

‘I’m joining the ‘From Colonisers to Refugees’ project at the University of Stirling as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant and, in this role, I’ll be assisting Dr Fiona Barclay with the management of the project website, the organisation of an international conference at Stirling in 2019, research and publication as part of a planned special issue. I will also interview people who have settled in Scotland having fled Syria as refugees for the project’s Digital Cartographies and Storytelling Soundscapes components.

I completed my PhD at the University of Leeds in 2018, examining the gender performativity of cultural memory in writings by Assia Djebar, Hélène Cixous, Ahmed Kalouaz, Malika Mokeddem, and Nina Bouraoui. My thesis, entitled ‘Performing Gender, Performing the Past’ argued that acts of cultural memory also reiterate, and possibly subvert, the gendered imaginaries associated with French colonialism in Algeria. I examined specific cases of gendered memory which produced connections between the memory of French Algeria and other disparate histories of extreme violence, such as the Holocaust, Partition, Slavery in the Caribbean, and the ongoing ‘Border Crisis’ (Daniel Trilling 2017) in the Mediterranean. I have published a chapter ‘Hélène Cixous’s L’Indiade ou l’Inde de leurs rêves: Gendering Memories of Colonialism in Algeria and India’ in the volume French Feminisms 1975 and After (Atack, Fell, Holmes, Long 2018) and an article ‘Affect, Gender, and Postmemory in Nina Bouraoui’s Representations of the 1970s’ in the International Journal of Francophone Studies. 

My current research focuses on the transnational memory of forced migration in Francophone cultural production from and about the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean.’

Many thanks to Beatrice and Fiona for these posts, and good luck with the project!

Further tales from former students

Having managed to post articles about this year’s finalists and their plans, and to catch up with some of last year’s graduates, I thought I’d try an experiment and see whether I could get updates from students who graduated further back. Thinking that I’d maybe get one or two responses, it’s been fantastic to switch on email over the past little while and to see more and more emails from graduates from 3, 4, 5… years ago landing in my inbox. I’ve pulled together information from all the messages I’ve had so far here in this blog post and some of this will also link up with longer posts, as and when I get them online. As ever, it’s great to see the variety of paths taken by our graduates – not to mention the collective distances covered!! – and it really has been great to get a chance to catch up like this.

Where to start? It’s hard to decide so, in no particular order…

Yasmin, who graduated with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish in 2014 has, since then, successfully completed two British Council English Language Assistantships in different regions of France and is now living and working in Australia, as well as fitting in a good deal of travel around South-East Asia. There’s more on Yasmin’s experiences and travels here! Katja, who graduated in 2016 on our International Management with European Languages and Society programme, is now working on an EU-internship in Brussels. Iida, who also graduated in 2016 but with a BA(Hons) in French and Human Resource Management, completed a Masters at Maastricht University last year and is now living and working in Helsinki: ‘I first got a job at Fortum, Finland’s biggest energy company and then in April moved companies to Unisport, as I got a permanent position as an administrative coordinator. Though my tasks and responsibilities are diverse, sadly I don’t really use French in my current position. I have, however, benefited from my second major at Stirling, namely HR, as well as some of the minors I took like marketing and business management. Additionally, I have to say, cultural studies obviously give you an edge on understanding and working within a global/multicultural company so in that sense having studied French has been useful for me in work life as well!’

Going a little further back, Dawn graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish and, since then, has spent time teaching English in Spain, working in a local authority education department and, most recently, working for a third sector employer which helps people with disabilities find and retain paid employment. More about Dawn’s experiences since graduating here! Susan, who graduated back in 2011 like Dawn, also in French and Spanish, is now teaching English in Guatemala (more here!) and Jana, who graduated a little more recently (in 2014) with a BA(Hons) in French, has recently completed an MSc in Language Teaching at Edinburgh University and feels that the combination of Single Honours French at Stirling and the Edinburgh MSc have helped her to ‘very fulfilling jobs interpreting and providing study support to adult students with dyslexia.’

Then there’s Jonny who graduated in 2012 with BA(Hons) in French and Global Cinema and who has been working as a secondary school French teacher but is about to leave the profession to take up a post with the charity Sense Scotland next month. And Jennifer who graduated with a BA(Hons) in 2016 in French and Spanish and who first spent a year living and working in Vigo, Galicia through the British Council programme in order to determine whether she wanted to pursue teaching as a career: ‘It was a fun and challenging year and even though I decided that teaching is not for me, it was an excellent learning curve and allowed me to figure out the next step on my career path. In September, I will be graduating with a Masters in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow. I am currently working on my dissertation, so I haven’t had a huge amount of time to fully consider my options, but I am hoping to have a clearer idea by September. In the meantime, I have applied for a traineeship as an Editor/Translator at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. If unsuccessful, I would consider reapplying next year because it sounds like an excellent opportunity. I have also been accepted into the British Council programme again, but this time in the region of Valencia. My plan would be to start off my career as a freelance translator on the side, instead of doing extra private lessons. However, I am still unsure of this option. Alternatively, I would stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh and dedicate my time to translation networking and building up my personal profile as a translator – I’ve been told that the sooner, the better! This will present significant challenges, but this is my desired long-term outcome.’

And Helen who – so far – is among the ‘oldest’ graduates, ie from the cohort that graduated the furthest back, in 2010, when she successfully completed her BA(Hons) in French and who says she always looks back fondly on her time at Uni: ‘I loved the strong sense of being part of something bigger in our subject. I still genuinely believe that I had the most rounded degree experience. There aren’t many options where you can study English, politics, literature, film, history, sociology… (I could go on) AND have a fab semester abroad thrown in. I studied in Aix and gained so much from using a higher level of French and meeting people from all walks of life. I managed to make the most of my summers and worked in France every year for a few months, as a watersports instructor. After graduation I was lucky to work in three primary schools on Réunion Island, through the British Council. Wow, what an incredibly different culture shock that was!

Anyway, I now use all of these stories at school to entice the kids who ‘don’t need languages’. I am currently Director of Faculty for Languages in a high school in Preston. I love being able to use my French and Spanish daily while working with young people. I also provide whole school training and I play a key role in the county’s language teachers network. I love the variety of work and no two days are ever the same. Somewhere in between I now have three children and we spend six weeks in France every year (my husband is also a teacher).’

As ever, many thanks to everyone who has got back in touch and sent updates. We really do like to get a chance to know where people end up after they graduate! And if you happen to be reading this as a French at Stirling graduate (from whichever year) and fancy sending an email, please do get in touch.

 

‘Making life-long friends from all over the world is something I’d never have done if I hadn’t studied languages’

As part of the process of catching up with recent-ish graduates, it was lovely to get this update from Dawn who graduated back in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish which gives a great sense of the range of avenues down which our graduates travel once they finish their studies with us:

‘The summer after graduation I spent in Barcelona doing a six-week intensive CELTA course to qualify me to teach English as a foreign language all over the world. This is an internationally recognised qualification and can be taken at various locations in Scotland if you want to study closer to home. After my CELTA course finished I stayed in Barcelona for about a year and a half teaching English in private language schools to adults and doing after school tutoring.

I returned to Scotland and I got a graduate internship working with the local authority’s educational department. The role given to each of the interns matched with our background, interests and future career goals. My role was to develop the teaching of modern languages within primary schools. I was delighted! I taught some Spanish in schools, worked with pupils whose first language wasn’t English and acted as a mentor for foreign language assistants coming from abroad. I particularly enjoyed being a mentor due to having been a language assistant in France during my studies.

I moved to Glasgow a couple of years ago and I currently work for a third sector organisation which ultimately helps people with disabilities and health conditions to find and retain paid employment. I am a Networks Development Officer with responsibility for the west of Scotland. Although I am not directly using my language skills in this job, I am constantly using the skills I gained from my degree. The writing of a dissertation taught me how to accurately conduct research from various sources, collate information and present it in a way that someone with no knowledge of the subject would understand. This skill has been replicated in my job on multiple occasions.

Additionally, studying languages makes you a very clear communicator; you consider your word choice and phrasing before speaking. This is a transferable skill that has proved very important when speaking with clients who have communication difficulties or a learning disability.

Although I don’t use French and Spanish in my job I keep them alive by speaking with friends I made in Spain when I did Erasmus or friends in France when I was a language assistant. I read international magazines online and I still have a passion for foreign cinema. I look back on my time at Stirling University with very fond memories. I am grateful for the opportunities the degree gave me; working in France for a year and studying in Spain and making life-long friends from all over the world is something I’d never have done if I hadn’t studied languages at Stirling. Thank you!’

Many, many thanks to Dawn for taking the time to send this update and we look forward to more updates over the years ahead.

Final year: ‘A mix of hard work, excitement and nostalgia’

The countdown to graduation (on Thursday for most of our students…) has started so it’s something of a scramble to get life-after-graduation posts up on the blog in time but a fun scramble! This time, it’s one of this year’s finalists, Alex who is about to graduate in International Politics and Modern Languages and who has sent a post reflecting, as he puts it, on the ‘past-future questions’ that arise as you reach the end of your studies:

2018 Alex Sorlei Pizza Maker June18‘What will you do next? That’s the million-dollar question that you get from friends, family and university professors. But for me the question to ask a student who has just finished his four years of study is a different one. My question for me would be: how were these four years for you?

Most of them would start by saying that the first year is the most exciting one because you meet lots of people from all around the world. A new world of opportunity and knowledge opens up for you and you learn things you would have never thought you would. Most of them will remember about “international dinners” where they would have twelve or more different nationalities who got together and each cooked a typical dish from their country. Some will remember signing up for all these sports clubs and societies and unfortunately not having time to attend activities for all of them. They will remember how hard it was to choose one over another.

Then they will remember how university life became something normal and how Freshers’ week was a time when the campus was off limits. Too crowded, too many Freshers. They will remember the dozen CVs they handed in and their first job as a waiter, cleaner or other roles.

After the first two years they will tell you that from the third year onwards studies will take over your social life. No more clubbing, limited sport, junk food and long nights in the library. Those who go on Erasmus will tell you that going abroad was their best ever experience. Some will say the contrary.

About the fourth year they will tell you that it’s a mix of hard work, excitement and nostalgia. All happening at the same time. You will reflect back to your first year and you will realise how much you have achieved and how mature you have become in so little time.

When you ask them what will they do next many will not know the answer straight away. For me the answer is that during my four years of university I managed to learn many things that will help me with my future plans. It’s not necessarily about the new language that I learned nor how international organisations work, but how to treat people, talk to people and, most importantly, to respect people. That will help me in my mission to bring Neapolitan pizza to as many people as I can and to change the view of those who consider pizza unhealthy and greasy.

I am studying to become a professional pizza chef as I want to be able to have the knowledge to teach as many people as I can to make their own pizza at home. I want to learn more about the ingredients, nutrition and the food industry in general. I believe this will be a very interesting and important matter in the future as more and more people realise the importance of good alimentation. Food waste is also very interesting and something that needs more focus on.

2018 Alex Sorlei Pizza Maker II June18After the Stirling opening, I’ve attracted lots of interest from investors and I am now opening a second location in Edinburgh. After this new opening I would like to open other two locations (still investor interest) but not more than that. I want to keep Napizza at four and not more locations. I don’t want to become a “monster business” like the big chains. I believe you should work for a standard of life where you can fully enjoy it. If you work too much you will get older and older and all you time will fade away. We live now, and we need to enjoy our life now, not in ten or fifteen years when who knows if we will still be able to enjoy it or not.

I am also building a three-wheel van with an oven on the back in order to attend events, shows or just parties. Moreover, I want Napizza to become socially responsible and I am always looking for charities to support and create events that will help the community that Napizza is in. I am also planning to create some urban gardens and grow vegetables either for Napizza or personal use. Finally, I hope I will be able to find the time and do some consulting for pizzerias as this is something that I like doing more and more every day.

My philosophy at the moment is to work 20% of my time and 80% to plan and enjoy life. I am all about making mistakes and learning from them but the mistake that I am afraid to make is to work for something that will never come. I live now, therefore I try to enjoy these moments NOW and not later.

For the future I hope to live by the 20/80% rule and enjoy more my moments of life.’

Many thanks to Alex for the great blog post and we wish you all the best for the future, both in terms of your business plans and the 20/80 rule!

Congratulations all round!

As well as congratulations to our students who are about to graduate next week, it’s also the time of the year for other prizes to be announced so the perfect time to congratulate a range of French at Stirling prize-winners:

First and foremost, many congratulations to Jack who has just finished his second year in French and Spanish with us at Stirling where he is part of our Tennis Scholarship Programme. Jack has recently discovered that he has been awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship which he will hold next Spring while he is on Study Abroad. The scholarship will enable him to study the internal structures of tennis development in France to understand how tennis within the United Kingdom might grow and what role he could play in that process. French at Stirling has a great success rate for these awards as you can see here and here! Posts from this year’s Stevenson scholars should appear on the blog over the next few weeks and we look forward to updates from Jack when he starts his Semester Abroad.

Congratulations, too, to the winners of this year’s Division of Literature and Languages prizes for French. Our annual Simone de Beauvoir prize which goes to the student who has achieved the Best Performance across their French Honours modules has been awarded to Jeanne who graduates in International Management with European Languages and Society next week. Our two other final year prizes with a French element go to Calum who graduates next week in French and Politics and has won our Translation prize for the Best Performance across the final year translation assessments and to Anne, one of the students on our Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies, who has won our Languages, Cultures and Religions Research Prize for her dissertation. Strictly speaking, the dissertation is in Spanish but we’re happy to add to the congratulations here since Anne’s programme falls under the French remit!

And students at earlier stages of their degrees have also been receiving news of their prize successes… For the Best Performance by a student in our Year 1 Beginners’ stream, congratulations to Monika who is studying French and Spanish, while the Best Performance in Year 1 by a non-Beginner award goes to Yamina who is studying International Politics and Languages. The Year 2 prizes have gone to Jennifer Graham on our Primary Education and Modern Languages programme (for the Best Performance in our Advanced stream) and to Laura Castane Bassa who studies English and French (for the Best Performance in Year 2 by a former Beginner).

Extremely worthy winners all round and félicitations to you all!!

Welcome to Tourzzz! (pronunciation Ryanair-style)

Among all these updates on students past and present, time for a couple of staff-related blog posts, the first of which comes from our Language Coordinator and Study Abroad Advisor, Jean-Michel DesJacques:

2018 JMD la Loire‘I am very grateful to the International Office to have funded my trip to Tours in order to pay a long overdue visit to one of our partners in the Loire Valley. I was lucky enough to be able to meet with Solène Loiseau from their Bureau International, and then with the Co-Director of the LEA programme, Joëlle Popineau. I would like to thank them both for having taken the time to speak to me as Study Abroad Advisor here at the University of Stirling.

It is self-evident but somewhat understated that meeting people de visu and spending some time with them is what helps create a strong and lasting bond between institutions. We don’t have many opportunities for spontaneous exchanges and it was very refreshing to be able to go beyond the usual email niceties and urgent queries.

Inevitably, in spite of all the positive things we had to say about our exchange of students (and hopefully staff soon), the conversation had to revolve around Brexit. I was surprised to hear that there seems to be a lot more anxiety on the French side that there was on ours. I was also very sorry to hear that some programmes had their compulsory semester abroad component in the UK cancelled due to the financial uncertainties that Brexit has created: Erasmus grants are vital to students and the risk, a financial one, was deemed too big to take a leap of faith into the unknown. Interestingly enough, new English-speaking destinations were being sought, rather successfully it seems: the Netherlands in particular and Scandinavia to a lesser extent.

2018 JMD Place PlumereauAs for Tours itself, well, I am not sure where to start: if you are a bit of a gourmet, you are more likely to find happiness wandering on the old Place Plumereau rather than the Pathfoot building. Without necessarily going for a Gargantuan feast (yes, François Rabelais is from nearby Chinon), you could find yourself in a nice bistro for a delightful plat du jour.

There is certainly plenty to do and see and it would be best to let you discover it for yourselves.’

Thanks to Jean-Michel for making the visit and finding time to send us the blog post (and for the great pics!). And we look forward to continuing our exchange with Tours over the years ahead.