Tag: European Union

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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Strasbourg Summer School

Much more to follow on this a little later in the Summer but, in the meantime, a quick photo of three of our French at Stirling students – Nicolas Masdorp, Stefano Intropido and Paloma Mondragon – who are currently enjoying a Summer School with our partners at the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg where, as well as attending classes at the EM, they are benefitting from a fantastic range of activities, including a visit to the Council of Europe!

2017 Strasbourg Summer School Stefano Nicolas Paloma June17

International Politics and French: ‘I couldn’t be happier with it!’

And, following on from Stuart Close’s profile, another great article, this time by Margareta Roncevic who has just completed the first year of her BA Hons in International Politics and Languages:

“These things used to be so much easier to write. I used to have a blog until I was about 15 and then high school reputation smacked me in the face and I couldn’t afford to have a blog anymore. Shame really, I might have been one of those popular blog people who eat, and travel, and have nice Instagram profiles…

Well, now that I think about it, I do eat. I travel quite a lot. And I just opened an Instagram account – so, hey, I’m not that far off. But even better is that I am studying what I adore at this magnificent place called Stirling. I’m one of those students who are inexplicably happy with their choice of studies, and who try to be as engaged as possible in the student life. I have only finished a first year of my degree in International Politics and French, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

You hear students talking how they picked their universities: how they went for the open days and visited campuses, how their parents heard good things about a certain course, or they liked the fact that it is far away from their hometown. Well, none of that quite explains what happened to me…

Croatia, the wee country I’m from, only joined the European Union in 2013, when I was 17. Until then, the idea of studying somewhere else was foreign to me. I had my mind set on the University of Zadar, in my hometown. And then suddenly, Croatia signs some papers and voilà! Dozens of new things you can do!

We had people from the UK and other parts of the EU coming to give presentations at our school and explaining how we could enrol at the universities there. And all of a sudden, I wanted to go abroad. In my last year of high school, I worked with the agency that was helping students enrol in universities in England. I obtained my Cambridge certificate, wrote my personal statement, got my recommendations, translated my transcripts, prayed and more. On my prom night, I checked my e-mails, because that’s what you do when you are celebrating the end of your high school years and are having last few days with your class, and funnily enough I found out that said I had been accepted to all of the universities that I had applied to. I was good to go!

Or, not really. See, since we were the first generation of students from Croatia going to England with this programme, some mistakes were made. Long story short, they didn’t quite explain the financial aspects of studying there and a few of us realized we don’t have enough money to cover for… anything. We were just about to sign the papers for the loan for our tuition fees, but our accommodation would not be covered for the first year – as was initially promised.

What to do now? My ticket to London is already bought. I am packed. I have a new raincoat. I don’t want to stay in Zadar. But I also can’t go to study.

So, naturally, I took a gap year and spent the first two months of it volunteering on a farm in East Grinstead, next to London. The university was kind enough to save me the place for the next year, until I saved some money and came back to study. Life on the farm was reinvigorating. I was learning about beekeeping, sheep…; I was painting the shed and the cottage; I was pruning those little green bushes while being attacked by some bees because I put almond oil in my hair the night before and forgot about it…

2017 Margareta Roncevic Luxembourg Pic IIIt was time to find a job. I managed to find one, in the heart of the Europe – Luxembourg. I became an Au Pair and took care of one little girl who was 1.5 year old at the time. In Luxembourg everyone speaks at least 3 languages. And when I say at least, I mean the older generation of people who didn’t learn ‘any foreign languages’. German, Luxembourgish and French are the norm. And when you speak only 3 languages fluently and find yourself there, you don’t feel good about yourself. As the little girl was starting to talk more and more, so was I. We were learning French together, so for the first period of time, I used a lot of baby words like: dodo, lo-lo, pi-pi… I know, quite a vocabulary!

In the middle of my first gap year, I had an epiphany and realized I don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life. So, as I was lying in my bed at 1am, I decided to e-mail the university in England and say: hey, I’m not coming. As I was lying in my bed at 1.20am, I realized I had no Plan B, and thought: merde.

2017 Margareta Roncevic Campus Pic June17After an intensive session of googling and trying to find the perfect university, I stumbled upon the SAAS page. I checked out all the uni portals and pictures, and what not, I had my mind set on Stirling. First of all, the programme. Secondly, the campus. Also, Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn…

Here I have to mention my mother, who loved to wear tartan since I was a child and has two tartan suits, one red and one green. They both have matching hats and shoes. No, it is not a thing in Croatia and yes, my mom is a very creative person and has her own style. I think that she subconsciously led me to study in Scotland.

I ended up taking another gap year and worked in Denmark as well as Luxembourg. I applied again to the universities in Scotland, by myself. At this point, I could already speak a lot of French and understand it better. Me and the little one had proper conversations about the horses and snails, the usual nanny talks. But, Luxembourg being Luxembourg, it did not allow me to practice my French more. People there are so nice and helpful, and when they see you struggling with a word or explaining something, they immediately start speaking English to you. Mais non, je voudrais pratiquer!

Even before I lived in Luxembourg, I wanted to learn another language. French became my obsession after reading Les Misérables, so the goal is to read it again in its original language. After experiencing a bit of francophone culture, Scotland was a great addition to my story. To study at its heart, in the current political climate and with all the benefits of the multicultural environment – some of the many reasons I’m happy here!

I should probably mention that I had never even visited Scotland before coming here in September last year. But hey, it turned out fine.

Even though it took me a bit longer to get here, I am very content with what I managed to do in my first year of the university. I was a course representative for the Introductory French module and I became the new president of the Politics Society. I am happy that the university let us settle in and discover our interests before pushing us into strict academic mould.

Hopefully, in the future I will write all of this in French. Until then, I’ll stick to my comfort zone with horses and snails.”

Many thanks to Margareta for finding the time to write this post and we do, indeed, look forward to future blog posts (whether in English or French, or maybe even a bit of Croatian!) as your degree progresses.

‘I feel much more confident in my abilities for having studied at Stirling’

We’re at the end of our first week of teaching of the new semester here and, as those entering their final semester as undergrads start to think much more about what lies ahead, this seems a good point to post another account of life after Stirling from one of our recent graduates. Stewart Hogarth graduated in French and Spanish in 2015 and has plans for a career in translation with key world institutions:

‘It has been just over eighteen months since I graduated from the University of Stirling with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in French and Spanish. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, yet sometimes, I wonder where the time has gone.

I have a lot of fond memories of my time at Stirling. I come from the Isle of Bute in the West of Scotland which has a population of just under 7,000 people. At the time, I was not accustomed to life in the city and living and working in such a multicultural environment, so in that respect, Stirling felt like a good fit for me. It was neither too large nor too small. It must have one of the most spectacular campuses in the world. It sounds silly, but having grown up surrounded by water on Bute, I took comfort in the fact that I could walk to my classes and look down upon the Airthrey loch or see the Ochil hills in the distance. It was a home away from home.

I would never be so presumptuous to think that I have mastered the art of speaking French and Spanish, but it is undeniable that I feel a lot more confident in my ability to express myself for having sat through (most of the) classes and been encouraged to develop my communication skills by an EXTREMELY patient staff. Even now I miss the awkward silences that filled the air at the start of Bernadette’s Langage Parlé hour when everyone was either too nervous to start the conversation or looking at each other with bated breath hoping that they wouldn’t be asked first. It’s the little things.

2017-hogarth-jet-deau-jan17My undergraduate degree also afforded me the opportunity to spend a semester abroad at the Université de Genève in Switzerland where I studied French in the Faculté de traduction et d’interprétation. After overcoming the initial homesickness and litany of basic linguistic errors, I settled down and began to appreciate just how good I actually had it. Aside from studying in a top-class institution, I also managed to fit in a fair bit of sight-seeing and even got to see Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka limbering up for a Davis Cup tie. I would often go down and sit by Lac Leman with a “poulet curry” baguette in hand looking over at the Jet d’Eau. Ah, those were the days!

So, what have I been doing since? After graduating, I applied to do a Master’s degree in Translating at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. I enjoyed my undergraduate degree at Stirling, but felt I should attempt to specialise in a specific discipline and given the fact I somehow bagged an award for French translation in my Honours year, I thought that area might as well be Translating.

The course at Heriot-Watt was very much geared towards preparing students for life in the workplace with modules in a range of areas such as Interpreting (the less said about my performance in that subject, the better), Translation Technologies and Business Communication. The campus was strikingly similar to Stirling and also featured a loch running through it. The easy access to large expanses of water is not a pre-condition of whether or not I decide to attend a particular university by the way. Trust me!

2017-hogarth-graduation-jan17It has been a strange feeling since leaving Heriot-Watt. It is the first time since I was a toddler where I have had no school or university looming on the horizon to keep me busy, although I am not complaining about having some much needed time off. I have two interesting options to pursue in the near future. I have applied for a Translation Traineeship at the Directorate-General for Translation at the EU in Brussels. While the Brexit vote may limit job opportunities in the future, the UK has not left yet and as long as you are from a member state, you can still apply for such initiatives. You also get a bursary for each month which is pretty handy. I have been fortunate enough to be pre-selected for the block starting in March and ending in July. I think it would be an interesting and unique experience to be able to work in such a large institution albeit for a brief period. I am also in the process of applying to sit the English translator’s exam for the United Nations. In order to be eligible to apply for jobs within the UN, you must have sat the Language Competitive Examination (LCE) and know at least two of the UN’s official languages which are Arabic, Chinese, Russian, French, Spanish and English. While it will undoubtedly be an arduous process, I feel much more confident in my abilities for having studied at Stirling and learned from some of the best in the business. It would also be nice to secure a return to Geneva in a professional capacity as there happens to be a UN office based there. Applications are open until February 8th and I would encourage anyone interested to have a look at the UN careers website, although not at the expense of your studies. I know for a fact you will have plenty to be getting on with.’

Many thanks to Stewart for this article and for the good advice for students interested in translation as a career, and best of luck with the traineeship. We look forward to hearing about your progress over the months and years ahead!

From French at Stirling to Translation at the European Court of Justice

The Summer is always a good time to catch up with former students and find out where life has taken them since graduating. After Lelde Benke’s account of life working for the Latvian Tourist Office, Mark O’Hagan has written the following piece about his experiences since he completed his BA Hons in French back in 2008.

2016 OHagan Photo

“I grew up in Luxembourg and France and so doing a BA in French in Scotland may seem like an odd choice. However, after having visited Stirling University as part of an Open University summer course, I was really struck by how nice the campus was and the variety of courses and activities on offer. In 2004, I returned to Stirling and undertook a BA in French. The modules available appealed to me and I have always had an interest in languages. After graduation I decided that I would stay in Stirling for my postgraduate studies and began an MSc in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) with the intention of returning to Luxembourg and teaching English. I returned to Luxembourg in 2010 where I taught English at Berlitz for two years. I enjoyed my time teaching and was able to travel to a variety of businesses and financial institutions giving me the opportunity to meet new people and gain much needed experience.

After a conversation with one of my students I found out that with my BA in French and a law degree, there would be opportunities at the European Court of Justice as a native English speaker. I therefore began a GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) online with BPP Law School part time and graduated in 2012. I applied for a Linguistic Verifier position through the Court’s website and have been working there since November 2012.

As a Linguistic Verifier I work within the English Language Translation Unit at the Court and check translations and revisions of EU Judgments, Opinions and Orders, before the hearings take place, with regard to correct language usage, grammar, use of citations and legal terminology. This is done in contrast to the French version as it is important that the English version is consistent with the French. French is the main functional language used throughout the EU Institutions and as such my degree in French has proved invaluable.

Permanent positions are posted on the EPSO (European Personnel Selection Office) website where potential candidates sit an exam and are then placed on a reserve list. English and French are two hugely important languages within the EU and it is hoped by myself, colleagues and other UK nationals hoping to work for the EU, that Brexit will not change this.”

Many thanks to Mark for this blog post and all the best for the future!

 

From French at Stirling to EU Energy Policies and Entrepreneurship

Christopher Ball completed his Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies in 2011 and, following his year in Strasbourg, returned to Stirling where he has recently finished his PhD in our School of Management. He is now embarking on a post-doc and a career in academia and has written us the following post about his time studying French at Stirling.

2016 Ball Photo II

“Since finishing my degree, I have taken a path that I would have not imagined during my undergraduate days. However, one thing that is certain is that my knowledge of French and France has remained very useful to me both professionally and personally.

Following the Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies with the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg, I have been doing a PhD looking at energy policies and entrepreneurship in Britain, France and Germany. My language skills and cultural awareness were key in enabling me to do this challenging project which included field work in the three countries on the back of which I am trying to build a good academic career. Being able to work and do research in other EU countries is really valuable and opens up greater employment opportunities.

Following the completion of my PhD, I have been working in Germany in a large public research centre near to Cologne as a post-doc. There, I look at the future of the German energy system and compare Germany with other countries. I would say that my experience in language learning at Stirling and spending time abroad during my degree has really set me up for working internationally. French at Stirling’s innovative approach with the Integrated Masters programme with Strasbourg has been especially positive for me.

I am really excited about spending the next three years in Germany and building a research career in the Institute in which I am based. I am very keen to deepen my knowledge of energy and sustainability during my time here. Over the past few years, I have become really interested in emerging markets and would like to have greater involvement here in the future. The Francophone parts of Africa and Brazil are particularly interesting to me – recently, I spent some time travelling in Brazil.

I believe that throughout my life, French will continue to be an asset. I believe that, especially in the energy field, I will continue to use French extensively (France is a big player in energy). I also have great friends in Antibes whom I met whilst studying at Stirling and whom I see regularly, so I still get a lot of personal fulfilment from my French also.”

Thanks to Chris for this article and we wish him all the best for what is sure to be a long and successful academic career.