Tag: interpreting

“Thanks to my French degree, I am lucky enough to have a world of possibilities in front of me”

Just before the blog takes a little break for a couple of weeks, two great articles for you. The first one here is by Alex Hill who just graduated with his BA Hons in French in June and has gone straight from graduation to internship, with career plans beyond that. The second article is by Jeanne Nozahic who has been away in Spain for her Semester Abroad and who has been reflecting on the experience generally but also in particular about what her success at obtaining a Stevenson Scholarship meant for her. Alex first…:

“A few days ago, I was lucky enough to receive an email from Cristina asking if I’d like to share a few thoughts on my time doing French at Stirling and my plans for the future, which I then realised I had accidently ignored for more than a week due to being so busy! This got me thinking to myself about how time has flown by since finishing my degree; as I write this it’s 28 days since my graduation (2.1, get in!) and 103 since the end of a coffee-fuelled, sleep-deprived few months spent balancing writing a dissertation on French politics whilst also trying to get my head round the art of translation.

2017 Alex Hill Dissertation Picture
Dissertation Hand-in


Since then it’s been all go, having started an internship with Oxford-based triathlon events company IRONMAN UK in the Operations team in early May; a job which saw me head over to France a few days in to get a taste of what to expect on the job. As I should have expected, I was designated the role of interpreter (read: food order-er), and, after ordering a few sandwiches and coffees for lunch, I was greeted with high fives and comments regarding how awesome it was that I was able to speak French. That’s one of the perks of being able to speak a foreign language – it’s a skill not many people have so it gives you the chance to show off and feel smug every once in a while!

Joking aside, studying a French degree really is one of the most useful and coolest things I have ever done. When I first decided to study French at university, it was a case of “it’ll be cool to say I’m fluent, plus I can probably get a job as a teacher or translator afterwards”. What I have discovered in the last four years is that it is worth so much more than that; you develop oral and written communication skills to an incredibly high standard, something highly regarded by employers and essential not only from a working perspective but also in life in general. As well as this, you strengthen your critical, analytical and research skills from studying French literature and get to put this to the test in engaging and interesting class discussions. These skills are crucial in almost every job market, which explains why French graduates not only get jobs as translators and teachers, but in business, journalism and diplomacy amongst other domains. Furthermore, French gives you an understanding of (political, social and economic) culture in a range of francophone countries. It’s not only francophone countries this will prove useful in; if you can learn French you can learn any language! This makes you employable not only in Great Britain, but across the world, which it doesn’t take a genius to work out significantly increases your chances of finding a job.

I really believe I made the right choice coming to Stirling to study French. The campus has to be one of the most beautiful in the world, which makes looking out the library on a sunny day that little bit easier. The people are all friendly, and at the end of the day it’s good fun and everything you need is nearby. The French course itself is run by a dedicated team of lecturers, who put in a great deal of time to make every last module exciting and appealing, resulting in a varied course that not once did I find boring. As well as this, the lecturers are always more than willing to help and provide useful answers to queries and feedback. If you are thinking of, or about to start, studying French at Stirling, I would recommend the Quebec cinema module, run by Bill Marshall, or the Francophone Detective fiction module, run by Cristina (hopefully these will still be around!).

2017 Alex Hill Perpignan Skiing

Without doubt, however, the highlight of my time at Stirling was going on my semester abroad; it’s just such a different academic experience and results in your language skills coming on more than you thought possible. It improves your ability to adapt and improves your confidence, both as a French speaker and in general. You make lifelong friends and at the end of your time away, you feel a genuine sense of pride in yourself for coping with what at one point felt like a goliath-sized task.

2017 Alex Hill USAP rugby

As for me, once I finish my internship, I will be moving back up to Stirling to start a job on the Enterprise Rent a Car Graduate Scheme as a Management Trainee. After finishing that I plan to return to Stirling to do a Master’s, followed by hopefully finding work in the investment industry. Having said that, there are a number of jobs in a variety of industries I find interesting and would like to do, and I wouldn’t mind running my own business one day. Thanks to my French degree, I am lucky enough to have a world of possibilities in front of me and I’m very excited about what the future holds. In the words of my favourite film La Haine, “Le monde est à nous” (the world is ours). Just in case you were worried that I’m not getting much chance to celebrate graduating by entering the big bad world of work straight away, I get two weeks between my internship and full-time job, during which I plan to escape somewhere sunny!

Finally, one final big thank you to everyone at the French department at Stirling and all the other staff who work so tirelessly to provide every one of us with a fantastic student experience.”

Many, many thanks to Alex for this great post, all the best for the rest of the summer (internship and holidays!) and good luck with the next steps! And yes, the Detective Fiction option is back in the Autumn…


Studying Languages: ‘Seizing every opportunity offered by the world’

As well as running a wide range of degree programmes combining French with one other subject, we also run three programmes in International Management, all of which have a core language component (French and/or Spanish) alongside Management and one other subject area, depending on the specific pathway. These degrees enable students to develop high-level skills across three disciplines and all include integral periods of Study Abroad. Our latest student profile comes from Matteo, who has just completed the first year of one of these degree programmes:

2017 Matteo de Simone picture July“Hello, my name is Matteo De Simone and I am studying International Management with European Languages and Society at the University of Stirling. I come from Taranto, a Southern Italian city located in Puglia; the heel of the boot of Italy. There I attended liceo classico, the Italian equivalent of High School. I studied a wide range of different subjects, but we mainly focused on Latin, Ancient Greek and Italian literature. Once I earned my diploma, I realised that I wanted to broaden my mind by learning new languages, travelling, meeting people from different cultural backgrounds and experiencing the world first-hand. This was, and is, my fuel; and steers me towards the field of Economics as well as towards learning other languages. This is why I decided to attend a school for interpreters and translators; speaking other languages means seeing life from different perspectives, a skill that helps aid better understanding of culture-specific decisions and issues, both economic and social. Moreover, I had the opportunity to improve my use of English and also begin to study French, a language I completely fell in love with; the sound of its words, the concise and straightforward grammar, and its reputation as the language of diplomacy are just some of the reasons I wanted to expand on my studies.

After working as an English/Italian interpreter for Boeing, I was looking for a new challenge, and heard about the University of Stirling. I found a course which was tailored to my needs and my wants; one which combines management theories and languages and would allow me a better understanding of different cultural and economic systems. I decided to take the plunge and apply, and here I am!

My French tutor is very passionate about teaching and tries to instil such passion in every student. This creates an ideal learning environment; in every French seminar, each student has the opportunity to practice their grammar by speaking, reading and carrying out exercises to improve their use of language, as well as broadening their knowledge of French culture.

This is what I look forward to – improving my knowledge of French grammar, as well as broadening my mind and understanding our world through different cultures, mind sets and opinions; reaping the full benefits from different experiences by seizing every opportunity offered by the world.”

Many thanks to Matteo for taking the time to write this article and we wish him all the best for the years ahead.

“To Infinity and Beyond…”: 2017 Finalists’ Future Plans

For our students who will be graduating with degrees involving French in June this year, the exams and assessment for French are now over, the essays have all been submitted, and we wanted to get a chance to share the plans of those who’ll be in our 2017 graduating class. They don’t all know what they’re going to do once they graduate and their plans may well change over the months ahead but, just as a snapshot of the range of directions our languages graduates end up going in, here goes, in no particular order:

Emily, who’ll be graduating with Single Honours French, is “planning to go into firefighting and just waiting for the next recruitment drive, doing whatever else pays the rent in the meantime. I don’t know where I’ll end up doing this in the long run, but I’m very happy to be able to have Montreal and the south of France as strong contenders.” Mareike, who’ll be graduating in Psychology with a European Language, is off to Bournemouth where she’ll be embarking on an MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour (and hopefully finding ways to keep going with French). Sarah, who will be graduating with Single Honours French, has already relocated to Italy where she is working as an assistant park manager for a company on a French campsite. She worked as an employee for the company for the last two summers in France and since finishing university has moved up the ranks thanks to earning her degree, and having more experience. She says this is “a great way to work abroad and meet new people whilst also giving you the chance to live and experience French culture outside of university.”

Lysiane, whose degree is in French and Spanish, is planning on doing a postgraduate degree at Stirling in Strategic Communications and Public Relations. Her plan is to be able to apply for jobs in the future with skills in languages and in another field such as marketing or public relations because “most of the jobs I have been looking at are looking for people with language skills along with something else. I think this postgraduate degree will give me more experience and knowledge so that one day I might be able to become a PR in the hotel business or the airlines.” As for Kitti, who studied French and Global Cinema with us, a TEFL course beckons and she plans “to move to Grenoble for a year or two to teach English and in the meantime work on my French until it’s perfect. At the moment I’m doing an interpreting job and I love it, but I feel like with Hungarian there are not enough opportunities, so it would be good to add French to the list. Plus, I would love to try teaching so I think this would be a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.”

For Hannah, who’ll be graduating in French, teaching also lies ahead but in a different context: “After graduation, my plan is to complete a PGDE Primary course at UWS. My very rough business plan for this summer is to start up a French club for babies/toddlers and their parents/guardians where they will be able to learn some nursery rhymes and basic numbers, colours, and animals in preparation for starting French in primary school.” Alex, who’ll also be graduating in French, “will be working an internship in project management/operations for Ironman (the triathlon company, not Robert Downey Jr. sadly!) until October and then I will begin work as a Management Trainee at Enterprise Rent a Car on their graduate scheme. At some point in the next 5 years, having gained some business experience, I will seek to do a Masters or MBA (likely at Stirling) in order to improve my chances with larger employers.”

Julie, who started studying Japanese (informally) alongside her French and English Studies degree, is keen to get the opportunity to develop those language skills further so has applied to “Waseda University and the International Christian University in Japan for a postgraduate degree (Comparative Cultures at ICU and Culture and Communication at Waseda). In case I’m not accepted, I have also applied for a job at two different teaching companies that provide English teaching in Japan (Aeon and Gaba). I also plan to apply at Interac, which is a company that hires Assistant teachers to help with English teaching at Japanese High Schools and Junior High Schools. I am quite determined to get to Japan in one way or another, so I’m hoping…” We’ll keep our fingers firmly crossed! And Luise, a student of French and Spanish, has similarly potentially intercontinental travel on the horizon, having been accepted for an English teaching assistantship in Colombia. For administrative reasons, that might or might not work out, and, in the meantime, Luise has a summer job in Deanston Distillery (as a tour guide): “If Colombia does not work out, I might just stay in Scotland until October and work, then return to Germany and work there (helping families with new-born babies. My au pair experience will come in handy here.) In spring I will look for another opportunity to teach English in South America or Asia, something will eventually work out. I am hoping to get a certificate for teaching German later on – but first I need some experience. Should I feel that I am not a good teacher, I will go into translation (English and Spanish into German).”

Another of our Single Honours French students, Rebecca, is delighted to have just found out that she will be “heading to Canada for the British Council in August. It was a lengthy process and a nerve-racking wait but I now have a position in a secondary school as an English Language Assistant.” And Colm, who has been studying French and Spanish with us, is planning to spend the Summer and possibly the next year working to save some money to be able to undertake a Masters in Translation and Interpreting the following year. And if that doesn’t work out, he and Kitti have grand plans involving taking photos of students proudly holding dissertations on the banks of the beautiful campus lake

We’ll update this post as and when we hear back from other students among this year’s finalists and, most importantly, we wish them all the very best of luck for the future, wherever it might take them!

Interpreting Taster Sessions

We had mentioned, a few weeks back, that we were going to be running a series of Interpreting ‘taster sessions’ for our final year students to give them a chance to try out the technology in the University’s new interpreting suite. These sessions have now taken place – run by two of our Literature and Languages Teaching Assistants, Allan Rae and Fanny Lacôte – and they were a great success, offering, in the words of one student, an ‘excellent way to become familiar with the exercise of interpreting’ as well as a means of ‘exercising short-term memory and improving note-taking skills.’ We’re hoping to find a way to run more of these taster sessions next year so watch this space…

‘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!

Languages as huge, intricate puzzles

Another account of life since graduating from Stirling. This time from Mira Waligora who, like Saara, also graduated in French in 2014 and who, since graduation, has gone on to develop a career as an interpreter but who was very pleased to get a chance to reflect on ‘the Stirling bubble’:

“This summer it will be two full years since my graduation, I can hardly believe it, and even less so the fact that it’s been nearly 6 years since I’ve started University, now that’s crazy!

2016 Waligora campus picI came to Stirling, having chosen the university because of the attractive language courses it offered and the absolutely magical campus it occupied. Say what you want about big cities but no University in Scotland beats our campus. For me, Stirling was the perfect choice. Glasgow and Edinburgh are only a short train ride away, which is one of the best ways to relax and clear your head: listen to some music and watch the picturesque landscapes of Scotland pass you by.

I loved studying at Stirling. All of our French lecturers were wonderful, so very different but all so passionate about what they teach. Their excitement seeped through into the students. I am very fond of languages. Speaking four fluently, I am fascinated by how they work, like huge intricate puzzles. All with such different parts that fit together in such different ways. So, naturally I thoroughly enjoyed the grammar and translation classes. Having lived in France for a short while when younger I was somewhat familiar with French culture. The course however broadened my understanding of francophone cultures, through courses that explored the different parts of the world and history when French was spoken.

I found everyone in the French department to be very approachable and ready to help. Our lecturers, with their oceans of knowledge, were always ready to share it with us and advise us on the ideas we were exploring. I find this important because to a certain extent, having a department that is not helpful and lecturers you don’t feel comfortable with hinders studies.

Stirling offers some pretty attractive exchange programs and when it came time to choose where to go for my semester abroad, I decided it had to be Paris. We were free to study pretty much anything we wanted while abroad and I loved my courses at Sciences Po. I took “Philosophy of Friendship”, “Utopia” and “The cultural history of Europe” all en français bien sûr! I still have all my notes and books from these and I have no doubt I will be re-reading them. The teaching differed quite a lot from Stirling, I think because the dynamic between the students and the lecturers just wasn’t the same.

2016 Waligora Shakespeare and Co AprilI must speak quickly about Paris. I didn’t know what to expect. My exchange took place from January until June, only six short months. Yet within these I built a whole new life. I made some amazing friends, whom I still see regularly now. My experience was bohemian and artistic, full of cheap wine and fresh baguettes, photographer friends who’d take beautiful pictures and bookshops with captivating events. Having studied much about France and French culture, it felt surreal to walk around Place de la République, or visit the Grand Palais and just stare in adoration at the beautiful architecture, and think how many people passed through these places through the century. Spending half a year somewhere lets you discover the “hidden” gems of the city, when first visiting Paris you will go to the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Tuileries but it’s places like Parc des Buttes Chaumont, that truly stole my heart.

I really enjoyed the final year of university, maybe because of the independence in study and writing that we had. Writing the dissertation meant you chose an area of interest personal to you and just plunged into it. Sure it was stressful, you had to be driven, organised and generally on top of things, but doing the research, analysing the information and creating a report was very satisfying and rewarding.

My friends and I always talk about the “Stirlng Bubble”, nothing is far away and after a year you pretty much know everyone and everything. Which makes you feel at home, safe and cosy, and that’s something big cities can’t offer. On top of it all Stirling has some really interesting young talents, community initiatives and creative events. The Filth and Aztec music gigs remain some of the best ones I’ve been to.

My time at the University of Stirling has provided me with skills and experiences that have led me to where I am today. I live in Scotland and work as a Polish interpreter. I currently work with: local schools, social work offices, health centres, the police and even the courts. In fourth year we went to a multilingual debate at Heriot-Watt University. The debaters all spoke different languages and their conversation was possible due to the final year students of an interpreting course. It was my first time witnessing the mechanics of interpreting in action and I was fascinated. Throughout our language classes I had amassed the skills to work with language. We worked thoroughly on each text we translated for practice, exchanging ideas and methods. We would discuss the intricacies of the language and the many connections that words create between each other. What meaning these connections of words convey and how to transfer that meaning into a different language. Realising that sometimes it is absolutely crucial to know where the words come from and how they are used in contemporary society in order to fully grasp the subtle differences in meaning between individual words. Learning that often you can only become truly fluent in a language if you understand the culture of the people that speak it. That is exactly what the French Degree at the University of Stirling equipped me with.”

Many thanks to Mira for sending this blog post and all the best for the years ahead!

Study Abroad in Geneva: Picnics and Translation

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a blog piece by our recent graduate, Ruth Mahlstedt, about her life since graduating and we’re delighted to follow-up with another article by Ruth, this time about her experiences on Study Abroad at our partner institution, the Ecole de Traduction at the Université de Genève in Switzerland.

“Studying languages and learning more about different countries and their culture was always an interest of mine. I was therefore stoked to get accepted to study a BA (Hons) in French and Spanish at Stirling. During my four year degree, I learned a lot about a huge variety of subjects that I already spoke about in an earlier blog post. However, I only mentioned my semester abroad in a few sentences, and those six months as Study Abroad students definitely deserve a lot more attention than that.

One great aspect of the BA programme was that we were required to spend a semester abroad; something other students had to apply and go through a lengthy process for was a compulsory part of our degree. We started our selection process during the first half of third year and went on exchange in the second half. In 2012-13, Stirling offered an exchange program with the University of Geneva for the first time and I was drawn to it straight away, partly because I wanted to study somewhere I hadn’t been to before, but also because I had a big interest in translation and interpreting. Stirling University had a partner program with the École de Traduction et Interprétation at the Université de Genève, a school renowned for its in-depth studies of translating and interpreting.

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva XIII

Since it was the first time students from Stirling had gone on exchange to Geneva, my fellow student Silje and I relied a lot on the support of our tutors in Stirling in order to get some handy tips and help to find housing, get prepared for the cost of living, etc. Both Jean-Michel and Cristina were great help before and during my time there.

Student housing was very difficult to arrange before I left Scotland. The University of Geneva has several locations around town that are specifically designed to host their students. I missed out on renting a room through the university and opted for finding something privately. When I was doing my research on the accommodation offered by the university, I found it interesting that some were only housing females, others only males; others were very similar to the residences on Stirling campus with shared kitchens and bathrooms. I made friends with people who lived in said accommodation in Geneva; some were living in Cité, others in Bastion, and I had one friend who lived in one of the houses only for female students, an old, beautiful building right in the old centre of Geneva. With only a handful of rooms, it was very different to the large number of students the bigger facilities were hosting and the massive shared kitchens often used by hundreds of people.

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva VI

I found my accommodation through a rental website. It was a privately let room in a family home in Étrembières, just over the border in France. Every day I walked five minutes to get across the border and caught a bus that took me to uni in about 15 minutes. Even though I wasn’t living right in the centre of Geneva, my rent was still very high: At €800 per month (or was it Swiss Francs? I don’t remember in which currency I paid my rent because my landlady spent most of her time in Geneva as well, but did her shopping on France), some of my friends were shocked when they compared it to their rent. I was living in the basement of the family home, though “basement” doesn’t do it justice: The family fully renovated the downstairs area, I had a brand new bathroom, well-equipped kitchen, and a very large room, sunlight… Looking at the size and taking into account that I was only sharing the kitchen and bathroom with one other girl, who occupied the second room in the “downstairs flat”, it does make sense it was more expensive than the rent prices for accommodation through the university.

I consider myself very lucky to have found the family I lived with. My house mate Maelle and I were always left in peace, had our own keys to enter through a different part of the house, we didn’t disturb the family and they never came downstairs besides to do the laundry. We had wifi, were able to use the washing machine, plates, cutlery, everything was provided; we each had a TV in our room, and we had a good relationship with our landlady who often took us to a large supermarket in France with her to do our groceries at a cheaper cost than what we would have paid at, for example, Migros in Geneva. Privately renting can also go wrong and I have heard very different accounts from other people. Some of my fellow students hadn’t even sorted out their accommodation until they got to Geneva.

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva II

Before uni stated, I had a lot of time to familiarise myself with Geneva, which busses and trams to catch to get to places, time to organise my public transport card, find and compare supermarkets, suss out good cafés. They are all things that don’t require much effort in your home country. But when you stand in the public transport office trying to understand what the gentleman behind the counter is saying to you in French and all you want is a bus pass, it does take a little bit longer. I’d recommend to get to your exchange location a bit before your course starts. I had almost three weeks which was probably a bit too much. But because I rented privately and my land lady wanted to room rented as soon as possible, I decided to head over early.

The first few weeks at uni were very stressful: finding my way around, signing up for classes, trying out classes… I was very glad to see that we had a couple of weeks to try classes to see whether we’d like to properly sign up for them which saved me a few times as I had originally taken classes that were above my abilities. Some translating classes were solely aimed at native speakers; I signed up for a class of translating from French into Spanish, but it was the wrong one and meant for Spanish natives. When signing up for classes, it’s worth enquiring first towards whom they are aimed.

The number of classes on offer at the École de Traduction et Interprétation was incredible. However, if you aren’t a fan of translating, most of them will not take your fancy. But besides translation, I also signed up for a class called La Civilisation Française, a class taught in French focussing on French history, literature, politics and culture. I also did a class on French writing for foreigners with people from many different nationalities around me.

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva XV

We were encouraged to also join the Facebook group of the Erasmus program at Geneva University for that year. In the group, they organised trips, walking tours around town, parties, all organised through the Erasmus team at the university. With them, I went for a trip to Neuchâtel, took a train ride on the Panoramic Train to Lucerne, visited an Absinth distillery, all at discounted prices. Other trips they organised took people to cheese and chocolate factories and other towns and villages nearby. It was great to have the Erasmus Team as a go-to network and to meet so many other Erasmus students right away. The students running the team were all Erasmus students themselves at some stage and know how overwhelming it can be to arrive in a new country and organised events according to what they would have liked to get shown or told about when they first arrived in their Erasmus country. The walking tour they organised at the very beginning was a great way to meet people and familiarise ourselves with Geneva, learn a bit about the history of the city, which bars and clubs were worth visiting…

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva XVIII

Through the university and as Erasmus students, we were also entitled to take free evening French classes once or twice a week, something other students had to pay quite a lot for. Those classes were organised by level of French as well as competencies; grammar, debating, writing, whichever you felt like you needed to get better at. Mine was excellent and I found it very helpful to have a course like this amongst all the other classes in which I was expected to be great at French. This one was more like our classes back in Stirling, aimed at non-natives, going over grammar etc. I’d encourage anyone to take advantage of being able to take those courses for free. They are also held in a very beautiful older building belonging to the university in Park Bastion, architecturally a very different building to the modern construction I had all my other classes in.

Before I went on my exchange and people said Switzerland was going to be expensive, I didn’t quite believe it was going to be all that bad. But in all honesty, it is a very expensive place to live. Going out wasn’t something I could afford to do very often. However, other students were in the same boat and we always ended up making our own fun. Instead of going to restaurants and spend a fortune on eating out, we’d buy groceries at the supermarket and went for picnics. I have never been on so many picnics in my life! It was wonderful. Often, we’d bring instruments or juggling gear as well, or we’d organise a huge cooking event at one of the student accommodations a few of us were staying in. I made some really great friends that way, and many of whom I still speak to now on a regular basis even though I live in Australia.

My exchange in Geneva was a wonderful experience. I absolutely adore Switzerland, I love their culture, the beautiful landscapes. I loved that Geneva was the melting pot of so many different people thanks to organisations like the Red Cross having their headquarter there, the UN, CERN… I met many incredible people and always think back to my time there very fondly. But besides all that, the one of the main reasons we went on exchange was to live in a French speaking country and to get more comfortable with the language. And luckily, I also managed to do that and came home with a level of French I was proud of. Even though my Swiss-French was of saying “70”, “80” and “90” was frowned upon back home, it was appreciated that I tried to adopt the local dialect as much as possible. I look forward to going back to Geneva in the future and revisit all the beautiful places I walked past every day and discover this stunning city all over again.”

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva IV

Our partnership with Geneva is still going strong. They’re no longer part of the Erasmus network but we continue to send students there every year. Thanks to Ruth for this account of what it was like to be part of the first pair of students to spend their Semester Abroad there.