Tag: European Union

Study Abroad: ‘It’ll be an adventure so don’t waste a second!’

In a few weeks, many of our Year 3 students will be setting off on their integral semester of Study Abroad. We wish them all well for the semester and hope they have a fantastic time, and are very grateful to Lily, who was at the same stage a year ago, and who has just sent us this extremely well-timed post. Lily spent her semester in France as an Erasmus exchange student but much of the advice she gives will be helpful for students heading for some of our other Erasmus partner countries or beyond the Erasmus network to Quebec, Morocco, Switzerland or (for those also studying Spanish) to Latin America:

2019 Dec Lily Ice Cream‘This time last year, I was preparing to move to France for my ERASMUS semester abroad, and I was panicking. Endless paperwork, the terrors of flat-hunting and of moving to another city… think first year of uni all over again, mais en français.

I’ve now moved to France on two separate occasions – first as a teaching assistant just outside Paris, and secondly on an ERASMUS exchange to Angers. Both were amazing experiences, though terrifying at the outset as I figured out how to navigate a new country and settle into a whole other way of living.

So, for this year’s French students preparing to go on their university exchanges: it may feel totally overwhelming right now, but believe it or not, you can do this. If there’s one thing I learned from my time in France, it pays to be prepared. With that in mind, I’ve put some information together that I wish someone had given me before moving to France.

Paperwork

Take everything. In triplicate. Every piece of paper you’ve ever touched. You may have heard of the stereotype that the French like bureaucracy. This is a lie. They LOVE it.

For enrolment, accommodation, banks, housing benefit: here’s some of the stuff you might need. Originals and copies!

Passport photos, Passport photo page, Proof of home address (bills or bank statements from the last three months or so with your name on them), Birth certificate, Stirling University enrolment letter, Host university enrolment letter/paperwork confirming exchange, Proof of activity for the last five years or so (if not covered by your university enrolment letter), European health card…

Any student cards, youth cards or Young Scot cards are also good to have on you for getting into museums and attractions for free. Many attractions are free for EU residents under 25, so have proof of age with you wherever you go (post-Brexit, you may also need proof of residency in France such as your French student card). Failing that, many museums and galleries are free on the first Sunday of the month – but arrive early, as these tend to be their busiest days!

2019 Dec Lily Les machines de l’île Nantes

Money

Money: believe it or not, you’re probably going to need some.

My friends and I chose a lot of different ways to handle our finances abroad. Here’s a few options to consider. Also: take some hard cash with you when you first head out – enough to survive on for a week or so while you get yourself set up or in case of complication or catastrophe.

Opening a French bank account.

Pros: If you want to try and claim French housing benefit, you need to have one of these. Some services – like renting a bike in certain cities – require one. The simplest way to avoid messing around too much with currency conversion and international payment charges.

Cons: I won’t lie, it’s difficult to set up an account. Most banks ask for proof of a French address (bill/bank statement with your name on it, letter from landlord, etc.) as well as proof of identity amongst other things. Some banks may be hesitant to set up an account for so short a period of time.

My opinion: Probably the most faff, but worth it for the security and flexibility it gave me while abroad. My university in France made an agreement with a local branch to help their foreign students set up short term accounts, so check with your exchange coordinator or ask other exchange students which branch they have gone with.

Using your British Bank

Pros: Easy. You already have it!

Cons: You’re subject to changing exchange rates and foreign transaction fees depending on your bank, meaning this is one of the more costly options. Additionally, it’s hard to say how Brexit will affect access to your British account –  there’s been a few newspaper articles about UK citizens losing access to their accounts while abroad in the case of a no-deal.

My advice: This seemed the more popular choice amongst my British friends but come prepared to look into other options just in case. Check your British bank’s rules and charges and notify them before leaving the UK so they know your details haven’t been stolen by a French tourist, lest you be blocked from your own account for buying your pre-class croissant.

Travel Credit Card

Pros: A card that will let you withdraw money in any currency in any country without charging foreign transaction fees. Simple and flexible.

Cons: Again, interest fees. Some cards use their own exchange rates.

My advice: This is good for frequent travellers as it will work for you almost anywhere in the world. However, be careful what kind of card you get, and make sure to keep track of your spending lest you end up with the mother of all debts at the end of your holiday semester.

2019 Dec Lily Rennes StreetTravel

Lucky you! France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Top tips for getting around:

Trains

The SNCF carte jeune is a 50 euro youth railcard valid for one year for 18-25 year olds, which gets you a decent discount on most train journeys. It may feel expensive for just a few months, but train fares in France are rarely cheap and if you plan on doing lots of exploring, you’re sure to get your money back. You can also get offers on last-minute tickets that haven’t sold. Ouigo is also worth checking, as it offers budget rail travel often far cheaper than its competitors.

Attention! Check strike dates before you book your ticket. There’s usually a lot of them. It’s France – what were you expecting?

Planes

Companies like Ryanair offer fare discounts and free luggage for students with an ESN (Erasmus student network) card. Check esncard.org for more info.

Cars and Coaches

Probably the cheapest options out there. Coaches operate just about everywhere for the road-tripper on a tight budget. Alternatively, Blablacar is very popular in France as a kind of long-distance rideshare scheme. [Note from the blog: Do remember to take the same precautions with such sites and schemes as you would do anywhere else!]

Accommodation

This is the one that seems to stress everyone out the most. Step one: don’t panic!

Where to look?

Your university may have an accommodation services office – this is a great place to go to for help, and they’re usually prepped to help the wave of incoming exchange students.

University accommodation: some universities will offer one-semester digs in their student accommodation. This is a great way to meet students both local and on exchange.

Famille d’Accueil: Some universities have programs that will lodge you with a French family during your stay. A wonderful way to make friends with locals, practice French and perhaps try some homemade French meals!

Airbnb: Surprisingly, several of my friends found studio flats on Airbnb. Search for properties with discounted monthly rates.

Roomlala.com: This is the site I used when I moved to France as a teaching assistant. Good for finding spare rooms in flats or houses shared with other people. Range of different options/types of accommodation available. Other students have recommended appartager.com

My main recommendation is to live with French speakers if you can. It may seem daunting at first, but it really is the best way to immerse yourself in the language and culture. You’ll really see the difference down the line!

Addition: For moving in, some students have recommended companies like Send My Bag as a cheaper and easier alternative to lugging your suitcases from one country to another. They’ll send your luggage right to your door so you don’t have to struggle with heavy bags while you’re travelling.  

Housing Benefits

Rent prices can be higher in France as landlords know that many of their tenants receive help paying for accommodation. Luckily, you might qualify too!

If you can make a successful application to CAF (Caisses d’Allocations Familiales) then you can do anything. CAF is notorious for being an awkward, laborious mess of bureaucracy, even for native French speakers, but a successful application can pay a couple hundred euros a month towards your rent. No pain, no gain!

Top tips:

Start early, work fast. CAF is usually very slow to reply, so send in any paperwork they ask for as soon as you can. Additionally, who knows how the rules will change after Brexit – try to make as much progress as you can ahead of the deadline.

Make your account the month before you arrive: CAF won’t pay benefits for the first month your account is opened, so don’t wait until your arrival to begin setting up your account.

Practice makes perfect: CAF will let you “faire un simulation” i.e. make a pretend application to estimate if you are likely to qualify, and for how much. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get what the simulation estimates, but it might help you decide whether the process is likely to be worth your time.

Check with your uni: my accommodation services office offered to help exchange students with their applications.

Remember, to receive CAF you will need a French bank account. Which means… more paperwork. Quelle surprise!

Phones

Most UK networks will now let you use your phone as usual, up to a point. The fair usage policy means that if you use your phone more in another country than you do in the UK, they’ll add roaming charges. If you’ve been on your contract for a long time, this will be fine as long as you don’t use more data in France than you’ve already used in the UK the whole time you’ve been on your contract. If you’re on a newer contract, you’re more likely to pass the amount you’ve already used at home, at which point you will start getting roaming charges. Insert usual warning about Brexit changing all the rules here.

If you’re going to be charged for using your UK number, Free Mobile is popular as a pay-by-month sim card for short-term French residents.

Pros: No contract, decent value for money

Cons: Notorious for difficulties in ending subscriptions.

Make sure your phone is “unlocked” if you think you’re likely to get a French sim card. This will allow you to switch out your sim card, but can take some time, and may be easier to do before leaving the UK.

Other

2019 Dec Lily UCO Scottish Desk

Your university will likely organise a lot of events and exchanges for foreign students. Take food, flags, decorations, postcards etc from Stirling/Scotland/the UK for displays or for sharing. That is,if there’s any room left in your suitcase!

2019 Dec Lily English FoodIf you find yourself dying for a taste of home, check out the foreign food section of your local supermarket, if only to laugh at what the French supermarkets think qualifies as “English” food…

Most important (if cliché) advice of all: have fun, try new things, and roll with the punches. It will be an adventure, so don’t waste one second!’

Many, many thanks to Lily for having taken the time to send through all this advice which will be incredibly helpful for future students. And for those reading this and getting ready to head off, profitez bien de ce semestre et on se reverra en septembre!

Travel, internships, language assistantships, translation, further study…: 2019 French Finalists’ plans

As ever, with the end of the academic year, we like to get a sense of what plans our finalists have for life after graduation at the end of June – it’s becoming something of a tradition. And, as ever, those plans are diverse and varied so, with many, many thanks to all those who contributed (and to those who have promised additions to this post as and when their final assessments are over…), here’s a taste of what lies ahead for them:

Greig, who has been studying for a BA Hons in French with us, has been saving to go travelling over the past year with the intention of going to south-east Asia at some point in the near future for 6 months to a year. Over the summer he’ll be ‘working for a wealth-management company (Succession) doing data-entry and reviews just to help add to my travel-funds and then after summer I intend on applying to work as a chalet host in the Alps in France for a ski-season. After that I hope to have saved up enough money to begin my travels and, as cliché-d as it sounds, do a bit of soul-searching and find out what I want to do with my life.’

Like Greig, Samantha, who will be graduating in French and Spanish, is ultimately very much hoping to become a translator. However, she hopes to spend ‘at least a year saving up for a backpacking trip around Europe in Spring-Summer 2020 before either starting a Masters in French translation or doing a translation internship and eventually gaining enough experience to become a freelance translator in French, but also maybe in Spanish and Italian. I’m not sure when I’ll officially have a career as a translator but it’s definitely my end goal and has been my dream since I was 6 years old.’

Paloma is on our International Management and Intercultural Studies programme that we run in conjunction with the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg and, having completed her Stirling modules and a semester of Study Abroad in Rabat, she’s off to Alsace in the Autumn for the Master Grande Ecole. As she says ‘Back in 2017, I had the chance to take part in a Summer School in Strasbourg, and I fell in love with the city. After finishing up my bachelors in Stirling (where did time go?), I am excited to go back and study a masters at EM Strasbourg starting in September. I am looking forward to being at the heart of Europe in a buzzing, historic, and multilingual city filled with European institutions.’

2019 Hornberger UN Bonn Pic April19Another of our International Management and Intercultural Studies students, Annika, has just started a Summer-long network and research internship with the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) based in Bonn, with a pretty fantastic view from her office windows. Core to her role will be to assist in the planning and preparation phase of the 2019 UNEVOC TVET Leadership Programme in Bonn later this year, including logistical support, preparation of communication, PR and programme materials. Thanks to her language skills, she’s also been asked to work with the Communications and Capacity Building Team there. And then in September, she’ll be hopping over the border to Strasbourg to start her MGE year.

As for Alex, who has been studying French and Maths at Stirling, as he says: ‘Like many 4th year students, I am yet to decide what field of work I’d like to go into. Despite this, I have applied for the British Council placement to become an English Language Assistant in France for roughly 8 months. This opportunity will give me good experience in teaching, especially if I decide to become a teacher, whilst further improving my level of French. I have received confirmation that I am likely to get a place and am awaiting allocation of my destined region, which I should know by the end of June.’

Among the plans of other finalists are more intentions to travel far and wide, as well as offers for Master’s programmes in everything from International Political Economy to Peace Studies. To all our finalists from this year, we send our very best wishes and look forward to learning where life will take you – keep in touch!

From Stirling to Brussels…

As you’ll have gathered, one of the characteristics of students who graduate with degrees involving languages is that their professional lives often take them to new countries and continents, with travel forming a key part of careers and social lives alike. A great example of this comes with this post from Katja, who graduated from Stirling a few years ago on our International Management with European Languages and Society degree:

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic I Mar19‘When I wrote my last post for the French at Stirling blog, I had just graduated with my BA (Hons) in International Management, French and Spanish and was about to start a postgraduate course at Durham University. That was almost three years ago, back in 2016. And even though a lot has changed since my university days, my passion for languages, getting to know new cultures and countries has remained the same.

After spending a year in Durham and finishing a MA in Politics and International Relations I was offered the Blue Book Traineeship – a paid internship with the European Commission – and started to work at the European Environmental Agency in Copenhagen in October 2017. The internship lasted until February 2018 and over the course of these five months I gained great insight into the workings of the European Union, the work of the EEA and some of the topics they deal with, especially, circular economy, bid data and integrated environmental assessments.

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic III Mar19

From Copenhagen I moved to Brussels in March 2018, where I worked as a trainee in the representation of one of the regional governments of Austria, helping in the drafting of weekly newsletters on various political and social topics at the regional as well as EU level and attending conferences and events. The dynamics of this traineeship and the multinational and multilingual aspect of this work made me apply for a full-time position within my regional government and luckily enough I was successful. Since September 2018 I have been working for my regional government as part of the Department for European and International Affairs based in Brussels, which functions as the connecting office between the institutions of the European Union and the regional government back in Austria. This way I have found a job that combines both my interest in politics as well as languages. Having lived and worked in Brussels for almost a year now, I understand the importance of knowing several languages even more and am grateful I actually use the knowledge I have gained during my student years in my working as well as social life.

2019 Spanz Stirling to Brussels Pic V Mar19Since French is one of the main languages spoken in Belgium and one of the three European Union working languages, I believe that my training in Stirling prepared me for the environment and position I am working in at the moment. I am currently using French, my native German as well as English on a daily basis, which is exactly the working environment I was hoping for and envisioned when I decided to study a combined business and language degree at Stirling University.’

Many thanks, indeed, to Katja for sending us this fantastic post and we’re delighted to hear that things are going so well for you in Brussels – we look forward to more updates over the coming months and years and wish you all the very best.

Strasbourg: un mélange charmant de deux cultures

As this year’s Year 3 students think about where they might be going for their Semester 6 Abroad (destinations will be confirmed next week…), time for another student blog post looking back over Study Abroad. Natalie, who is studying International Management with European Languages and Society, was at the heart of Europe in the Spring and has sent us the following reflections:

‘I started my Erasmus exchange in the charming city of Strasbourg in January of this year. Although I was apprehensive at the prospective of moving to another country, I was excited to discover a new culture in a city which I had heard so much about.

2018 Natalie European ParliamentStrasbourg’s location in the heart of Alsace was one of the biggest factors when choosing my university for semester six. The beautiful town is situated on the French-German border and therefore, it is ideal for travelling and discovering new cities! Strasbourg is also home to various European institutions such as le Parlement européen, la Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme and le Conseil de l’Europe. I would certainly recommend visiting these institutions – we visited the European Parliament for free! We were able to enjoy the panoramic views of Strasbourg and we visited the Hemicycle which is used for the most important debates!

Capitale de Noël

I arrived in Strasbourg on the 5th of January and fortunately, the Christmas spirit was still alive in the town which claims to be the ‘Capital of Christmas’. Strasbourg boasts one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. I was able to try local delicacies and discover the wonderful Alsatian Christmas decorations. It was a truly magical start to the semester which made me feel at home!2018 Natalie Capitale de Nöel

La dimension franco-allemande

Situated close to the German border, Strasbourg’s culture is a wonderful mixture of German and French influences. As a multicultural town, its historical city centre has been granted the title of World Heritage Site by UNESCO. One of the biggest attractions in this fairy-tale town is ‘La Petite France’ which is a historical and quaint part of Strasbourg. You can walk through the narrow streets, discover the Gothic architecture and enjoy a tarte flambée (speciality of the region) at one of the local restaurants. I would also recommend visiting la cathédrale de Strasbourg to climb up to the rooftops and enjoy a breath-taking view of the town and the Black Forest in Germany. There is also free entry on the first Sunday of each month to take all of your family and friends!

2018 Natalie La Petite France

Strasbourg’s location is perfect for students who want to travel throughout their semester abroad. During my exchange, I visited Germany on a daily basis to go shopping. There is an excellent tram service which connects Strasbourg and Germany, I could not believe that I could travel across a border in only ten minutes! I also visited Zurich in Switzerland, Paris in Spring and carnival with my Erasmus friends in Cologne, Germany. As well as visiting other countries, I travelled to some beautiful towns within the Alsace region and I would recommend visiting Colmar, a small town accessible by bus from Strasbourg. The multi-coloured buildings, cobblestone streets and canals are incredible. We also visited the food markets to try some local delicacies!

2018 Natalie Colmar food markets

Grande ville étudiante

During my Erasmus exchange, I studied at L’EM Strasbourg business school. I was able to choose from a wide variety of modules including subjects that are not available at Stirling University. One of my most fascinating subjects was ‘Introduction to Grape and Wine knowledge’ which included a trip to the vineyards in a small town called Ribeauvillé. This was an excellent trip to learn about the production of wine in Alsace, the grape varieties and to show off our knowledge about wine and food pairings. We even had the opportunity to put the theory we had learned in class into practice by participating in a wine tasting afternoon!

2018 Natalie The end of an adventureEM Strasbourg business school focuses on welcoming international students to ensure that all of its students feel accepted and included in university life. The student associations organise activities, buddy systems to meet French students and cultural trips throughout the semester. The buddy system allowed me to meet French friends that I would not have been able to meet otherwise. Also, the university promotes the local language cafes or ‘Café des langues’ in Strasbourg to practice your French. There are several language cafés across Strasbourg which allow students and locals to meet up, share experiences, meet new friends and learn French in a relaxing atmosphere!

On the whole, I really enjoyed my experience in Strasbourg and I even decided to dedicate my independent research project on the city itself in order to explore the French-German relationship. I would definitely recommend Strasbourg to all students who are looking for an enriching experience in a vibrant and dynamic town with the opportunity of travelling easily across borders. Upon reflecting on my experience, I would not change a thing and I cannot wait to return to Strasbourg!’

Many thanks, firstly, to Natalie for this great post (and pictures!). As it happens, Natalie is also one of a group of Year 3 and 4 students who are heading to Wallace High School in Stirling tomorrow as Student Language Ambassadors to lead a series of workshops as part of their annual Languages Day so good luck with that and we look forward to hearing all about it.

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.

 

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!

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