Tag: Food

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!

School in the Sunshine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

2019 Wynd Marseille Pic II

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

 

Colombia, Sicily, Glasgow: Keeping your options open

Another ‘life after graduation’ update today from one of our recent graduates, David, who completed his BA Hons in French and Spanish with us two years ago:

‘After graduating in 2017, I decided to go off to Latin America to not only discover a new culture but also try to gain some professional experience. Having lived in León, Spain for a full year during my Erasmus+ exchange, I’d met people from all over the world including quite a few who were from Mexico and Colombia. The Latin American Studies focus at the University of Stirling had also sparked my interest (shout out to Guillermo!) and so I took part in the language assistantship programme through the British Council. I was appointed to the Universidad Católica de Pereira in Colombia and I absolutely loved it! I taught English at the university but also organised many extra-curricular activities such as a weekly Conversation Club where students and teachers who were interested in learning more about Scottish and British culture could do so in a less formal setting. I even had my own podcast at the university’s radio station which was something I’d never expected to be doing! In addition, I had the opportunity to translate academic journals in collaboration with the psychology department at the university. Apart from these professional opportunities, I was able to travel to breath-taking places around Latin America and even met up with friends from Mexico, Peru and Ecuador I had met during my year abroad.

After this professionally challenging but wonderful year being part of a completely different culture, I decided I wanted to be closer to home but still keep discovering different cultures and enhance my language skills. I also wanted to be sure that teaching was definitely for me and so, through the British Council once again, I embarked on my next adventure in Catania, Sicily where I taught English in a secondary school. Having never spoken Italian before, I realised just how lucky I was to have studied other modern languages at university as this helped me to pick it up quickly. Although I am not fluent, I am now able to communicate fairly clearly and understand Italian! On the work front, teaching was not always easy but I grew attached to my colleagues and students who were always interested in what I had to offer (although they weren’t fans of Irn Bru!). I felt part of the community and I now realise how lucky I am to have had the chance to live beside the biggest active volcano in Europe (risky, I know!) in a city built from lava stone full of history and deliciously cheap pizza!

I have now started to study for my PGDE at the University of Glasgow. Despite the cold, I am very happy to be back in Scotland, enjoying the comforts I longed for while I was abroad such as Greggs coffee and tatty scones – as well as the open-mindedness of the Scots who are always so welcoming to people from other cultures and backgrounds. After obtaining my Diploma, I hope to be posted somewhere up north and discover more of Scotland. Although I am currently quite focused on teaching, I think it is important to keep one’s options open and I might consider taking up postgraduate research or maybe even further explore the idea of academic translation.’

Many, many thanks to David for this great update and we wish you all the very best for the PGDE – looking forward to updates as the months go by, too.

Jumping in at the deep end: Speaking French in Québec

Following on from Brett’s tales of life in Japan, more travelling French at Stirling adventures, this time courtesy of this great post from Stuart who has spent the past academic year working as an English Language Assistant in Québec:

2019 Close Snow Photo June 19‘Salut tout le monde! It’s been a while now since my last post which, as you know, has been due to working as an English Language Assistant on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Québec, one of the last bastions of French in North America. With my nine months there over now, I’m excited to share a little bit about my experience with you.

First off, I want to address the elephant in the room here. Yes, les québecois do have a very different accent to the French we’re used to hearing in a European context. At the beginning this can be a major shock to the system and can leave you in situations like when, in the very first week, I had a 20-minute conversation with an elderly bus driver where I understood about 10% of what he was saying! However, by the end of the nine months, your ear starts to tune into it far better and you can feel yourself starting to accept the things they say and even repeat them without even thinking about it (those of you in my conversation classes next year will have this challenge to look forward to!).

When I was anxiously awaiting news of my placement in Québec last year, I had a few people tell me that it might be a detriment to my French dealing with the accent and all the slang (this ended up encouraging me more as I am rather stubborn!). I’ve since found out that this is what some French language assistants are told about coming to Scotland! I won’t lie: it is challenging, but challenging ourselves by stepping outside our comfort zone is a common occurrence when trying to learn a new language. Plus, at the end of the day, it is still French, albeit with many strange new phrases like fin de semaine (which they’re very proud of and like to ridicule their European cousins for saying le weekend ), c’est plate (that’s boring) and c’est correct (pronounced corr-eck and meaning the same as that’s good or that’s fine).

2019 Close Snow Scenes II Photo June 19The other thing you might have heard about Québec is that it snows a lot there. Let me tell you, words cannot do that justice, so I’ve included some photos to give you a sense of it. The average temperature was around -25C (even reaching -50C one evening with the help of some polar winds. So, bloody cold safe to say (or il fait frette en tabernak, asti! as I would often hear). The beautiful thing about Québec is that even faced with these temperatures and snow levels that would totally shut down most other countries (*cough* the whole of Britain during the ‘snowstorm’ March 2018), life goes on and then some in Québec. I’d safely say the most fun I had was in winter – skiing, snowshoeing and watching live ice hockey matches became part of daily life.

2019 Close Snow Scenes III Photo June 19

2019 Close Poutine Photo June 19If I was to write about my whole 9 months there, you’d be reading this till the end of next semester, so I’ll leave you with one little language learning victory. To make a long story short, the day in question had been extremely long and exhausting and I fancied a nice big poutine to make it all better (poutine is chips with gravy and cheese curds, and I’ll miss it dearly). I headed to a local fast food place with my heart set on the biggest format – Réguliere. In what I knew was good French. However, when the receipt came back it read: bébé… I knew that this just wasn’t going to cut it so I pointed it out to the cashier. He went into the kitchen (which was right in front of me so I could hear every word they were saying) and I could make out through the huffing and puffing the cashier saying in French : ‘Yeah I know man, it’s just that he speaks French so weirdly’. Normally, I would have brushed this off, but after the day I’d just had I couldn’t help myself. To the two guys and the entire queue forming behind me, I loudly announced ‘c’est parce que je suis écossais’ (it’s because I’m Scottish). I think they’d assumed I couldn’t understand what they were saying, because, after looking very taken aback, they changed the order to the big format at no extra charge! Learning a language pays!

While I wouldn’t quite say I’m fluent in French yet. I can definitely see an improvement from where I was last year and I’m excited to test it out back at Stirling this year. I hope you enjoyed my ramblings about Québec and maybe take some inspiration for where to go for your ELA year (which I highly recommend doing of course). Merci, et à la prochaine!’

Many, many thanks to Stuart for the fantastic blog post – we’re delighted to hear that things have gone so well and hope that you won’t miss the poutine too much when you’re back in Stirling…

Study Abroad: ‘So many more places I want to travel to’

There’s a bit of a ‘Tours theme’ emerging in these recent posts, just based on the coincidence of what articles come in and when and what we’re all up to. What is particularly fun about this all is that we’re getting different perspectives on the Erasmus exchange process, from our colleagues going to Tours to Tours colleagues coming to us and now, after Mairi’s recent post about her first impressions, Rhiannon, who is also in Tours for the semester as part of her BA Hons in French, has sent her thoughts and some great photos of her travels:

2019 Quinn Tours Blog Post Cathedral Feb19‘Bonjour,

This semester I am doing my study abroad in a place called Tours in France. It’s in a region that is part of the Loire Valley meaning that it is surrounded by history with many castles and museums which I love because there are so many interesting things about France. For example, I learned more about the French revolution and Joan of Arc when I went to Orléans and actually stood in the very spot where she once stood, which admittedly gave me chills.

Since coming here, I have managed to do a lot of travelling. We had a week’s holiday during February, and I managed to go to Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria and the Czech Republic (all by bus) which was so surreal. I had the best time seeing places that I’d never thought I would ever get to see, in particular, Lake Bled in Slovenia. The scenery was just breath-taking, and we had an amazing view of the Alps in the background. The weather also seemed to work in our favour and surprisingly it didn’t rain.

2019 Quinn Tours Blog Lake Pic Feb19

Tours itself is very nice, and I have been able to try some amazing food. There are more bakeries than I can count so it is nice to always have a selection of cakes and pastries wherever I go. There is a huge cathedral that I am always in awe of whenever I am nearby as it is simply stunning. One thing that I do love is the transport system and how efficient it is. It is so bizarre to me that a bus can actually be on time.

I am enjoying my classes at the university and have found that all my teachers are lovely and very helpful and welcoming. All of my classes are for exchange students which I do very much enjoy as I am meeting people from all over the world and have made very good friends with people from countries such as the USA, Germany, England etc.

I am now nearing the half-way point of my study abroad and it has gone by so fast. There are so many more places that I want to travel to and I am thankful that this experience has given me the opportunity to do it all.’

Many, many thanks to Rhiannon for having sent this great blog post and we hope you’re able to continue taking full advantage of everything Tours has to offer, as well as travelling well beyond the city, over the remaining months of the Semester Abroad.

 

Semester Abroad: ‘Aix has begun to feel like home!’

The last day of our mid-semester break and it’s time to post a few updates, starting with this great post from Evelyn who is in the 3rd year of a BA Hons in French with us and is currently enjoying her integral Semester Abroad:

2019 McLennan Aix Pic II Feb19‘It’s now been a month and a half since I set off for Aix-en-Provence for my semester abroad at Aix-Marseille Université. The time has flown by and Aix has begun to feel like home which I didn’t think would happen in such a short space of time!

Whilst I had applied for and been granted a room in student accommodation, I wasn’t able to move in until the Tuesday of the first week. This meant that I had to stay in a hotel for the first few nights which, whilst annoying, did mean that I spent a bit of time in the centre of town and so got to know my way around quite quickly. When I was finally able to move into the halls, I was pleased to see how close they are to the university campus and it reminded me happily of my first year at Stirling when I could roll out of bed and make it to class in half an hour! Although basic, the halls are actually really nice, as long as you like aeroplane bathrooms and not socialising with your neighbours. There are thirty rooms to one kitchen, Geddes almost sounds like a dream in comparison, and people seem to enter, cook and leave with nothing more than a simple “bonne soirée”.

2019 McLennan Aix Pic IV Feb19The main university building is almost as much of a maze as Stirling’s Cottrell Building, but thankfully there are maps at the end of each colour-coded corridor to help you find your way. My first class was French to English translation where I quickly learnt that translating into your native language isn’t as easy as you might think! I had a few false starts with my timetable, ending up in one class where I hadn’t completed the first semester of the course and another that I was informed I didn’t have the right to be in; I was promptly asked to leave! It’s all worked out in the end though and I have a timetable of classes that are interesting and definitely developing my French!

I am very lucky to be travelling with my Stirling friend Charlotte who has family nearby in Marseille. Her family has been so kind in helping me to get settled and discover the area. This experience has brought us so much closer as friends as well as introducing us to other great people! We have a small but fun group of friends comprising other Erasmus students with whom we have explored a lot to discover the town and its culture.

2019 McLennan Aix Pic III Feb19There is a fair bit to do in Aix with a choice of three cinemas, lots of shops, several museums as well as multiple restaurants and bars. There are weekly parties organised by the Erasmus Student Network which give us the excuse to discover new bars and meet new people; although I have to say Aix’s IPN Club makes Fubar back in Stirling look pretty impressive! The ESN also organise cultural tours and events around Aix and Marseille which help to discover the local culture.

All in all, I am loving my time here in Aix-en-Provence and I can already tell that leaving in May will be very difficult!’

Many, many thanks to Evelyn for this great post and we hope you continue to enjoy all that Aix has to offer over the months ahead!

From Stirling to Sicily: ‘Why Italy?… Why not?!’

There’s a bit of a theme emerging across recent posts in the shape of travel and the opportunities for travel that come with the study of languages, from current students on Study Abroad to those who’ve come back from Semesters Abroad singing their praises to school pupils or colleagues on teaching exchanges… And, for many of our graduates, the travelling continues. Last time we caught up with David, he was working as an English Language Assistant at a University in Colombia so we wanted to see how (and where!) we is now:

“Hello again! I was off to Scotland again last week for a good ceilidh and some Irn Bru and thought I would give you a little update. In case you haven’t read any of my previous posts, my name is David and I graduated from the University of Stirling with a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish in 2017.

I was in Colombia last year working for the British Council as an English Language Assistant at the Universidad Catolica de Pereira (in the coffee region). It was an amazing experience which enabled me to improve my language skills and gain professional experience. For instance, preparing and teaching my own classes gave me the chance to gain independence as well as build my self-confidence. I was also able to collaborate with other university departments, such as Industrial Design, Comparative Literature, International Relations, etc.

Before working with the British Council, I never imagined I would go from planning speaking activities, to translating psychology and economics theses or that I would end up having a regular podcast on the university radio station on intercultural dynamics between countries. I found out how useful languages really are…! Working 18 hours a week left me plenty of time to travel around a beautiful country and discover a fascinating culture I had not really thought about before. In fact, it is thanks to the programme at Stirling, which focuses as much on Latin American cultures as on Spain, that I was so keen to experience life in Latin America.

When I left Colombia in May last year, I was quite sad to leave a community of friends and colleagues with whom I had spent so much time. However, I didn’t want to miss the chance to travel around Latin America. I saw places, and met people, that I will never forget! As I wasn’t quite ready to go back to Scotland yet and wasn’t sure as to what I wanted to do professionally, I decided to apply for another year as a language assistant, but this time in Italy!

Why Italy, you may ask… Why not? Having worked in Colombia and lived and studied in Spain during my year abroad, I wanted to learn a new language in order to set myself a personal challenge and widen my professional opportunities. I was appointed to a state secondary school in Sicily and I am loving it! It is sunny, the food is delicious and the people are very welcoming. From a professional point of view, I have gained invaluable experience in organising cross-cultural talks and have also added a new language to my CV!

At the end of this academic year, I will go to Glasgow to study for a PGDE in French and Spanish, do my probationary year somewhere in Scotland and then see what happens! Whatever you may be studying, as long as you enjoy it and believe in what you are doing, then you will be able to find a way in which to use what you’ve learned to your advantage. Everything you learn while at university, whether it be how to cook or how to write an essay, will come in handy one way or another!

So, to anyone who is struggling with exams and essays in their final year of uni, don’t worry, you are almost done! And to those of you who are just starting out, remember that Stirling is exceptionally flexible when it comes to your degree, so take your time deciding what you really want to study!”

Many thanks to David for another fantastic post and we hope you continue to enjoy your time in Sicily, and look forward to further updates over the months ahead!