There’s no teaching this week at Stirling but that doesn’t mean everything stops and our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, along with his Spanish counter-part Jose Ferreira-Cayuela, Fiona Buckland from our International Office and a few of our students have been at Holyrood to represent the University at a celebration of 30 years of the Erasmus programme. Dozens of our students – across French and Spanish – benefit from our involvement in the Erasmus programme every year, spending a semester at one of our extensive range of Erasmus partners that stretches from Caen in Northern France to Granada in Southern Spain.
As Fiona Buckland explains, ‘the Higher Education Institutes of Scotland held a joint celebration at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 24 October to celebrate 30 years of the Erasmus Programme. Students from the University of Stirling were invited to attend and contribute an article to a brochure for the event and be filmed for a video explaining what Erasmus means to them.
Erin Cawley who is doing a BA in International Management with European Languages and Society (and spent a semester at the Universidad de Santander), Suzanne Buiter, who is in the final year of her BA in International Management with European Languages and Society (and spent her Semester Abroad at the Universidad de Navarra) and Alex Sorlei, who has just started the final year of a BA International Politics and Languages (with a Semester Abroad at Sciences Po, Paris) attended the event with Jean-Michel DesJacques and Jose Ferreira-Cayuela. Speakers included the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Alan Smith Director (Erasmus Bureau of the European Commission [1987-92]) and student participants.’
For Jose and Jean-Michel, the event was an important way to mark the role that Erasmus plays within languages degrees both for staff and students. As Jose puts it, ‘the event was a reflection of what Erasmus+ is all about: meeting people from all over Europe, exchanging ideas and experiences and a great opportunity to taste food/drink from different places. The setting was also great and the presence of very important figures of the Scottish Government proved that exchanges with Europe are a priority for Scotland in the future. Whether we still call it Erasmus+ or something else, is a different issue.’ Similarly, for Jean-Michel, the sense of community that Erasmus creates is crucial: ‘It was great to be amongst friends for the 30-year anniversary of the launch of the Erasmus programme. I felt a bit jealous at the wealth of opportunities young students – in fact young people in general – have to go abroad. For a short while, we managed to forget the uncertainty of it all and decided to celebrate one of the greatest schemes to come out of the European institutions.’
Thanks to Fiona, Jean-Michel and Jose for their contributions (and photos!) and to Erasmus+ for helping our students over the years. Many, many tales of Erasmus+ experiences to be found among the pages of this blog!
A few weeks ago, we posted news that 4 of our undergraduate students had submitted applications for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarships… Fantastic news on all four fronts as each of the students was successful in their application and will be making the most of the scholarship in the coming academic year to work on a range of fascinating projects. And now that fingers can be uncrossed, we can also name those involved so congratulations to: Jana Mladkova, Megan Davis, Bethany Lambert and Jeanne Nozahic. Updates on their projects and plans will be posted over the coming months but, in the meantime, with thanks to our colleague in Spanish, Ann Davies, a little more information about what the students will be up to:
Second-year student Jeanne Nozahic has just completed the 2nd year of our Integrated Masters programme in International Management and Intercultural Studies and plans to use the scholarship to pursue archival work while on Study Abroad in Spain next year for her research on the Franco dictatorship. For Jeanne, ‘receiving the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship, as a French student at Stirling, makes me extremely proud as it implies that I have been trusted to become a ‘Scottish Ambassador’ to represent Scotland during my semester abroad.’ Bethany Lambie, who has also just completed her 2nd year, will be taking courses in folklore next year at the University of Seville in order to work on her research exploring north-south cultural differences and how stereotypes can be challenged. She is making the most of the opportunity offered her by the Scholarship to develop her passion for understanding and exploring how far cultural differences in different Spanish regions are artificial constructs and how they depict the vibrancy of local cultures.
Final-year student Megan Davis, who is about to graduate in French and Spanish, plans to carry out research on whether Canary Islanders feel a desire to become independent from Spain while she works as an English Language Assistant following graduation. Of the challenges of applying for the Scholarship, Megan observed: ‘The first challenge was thinking of a viable, interesting question with I felt I could answer during my year abroad. I then had to write a report explaining my idea and the means I will use to answer it. And last, but most certainly not least, an interview at Glasgow University to determine whether or not I would receive the Scholarship. All of the different stages have had their own difficulties and consequent triumphs, but I was definitely most nervous about the interview, which just made it all the more satisfying when I received the good news!’
Jana Mladkova will carry out her Scholarship at the École de Management in Strasbourg, where she will be completing the final year of her Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies. She will be examining the level of accessibility of tourist attractions across Alsace for blind and visually impaired visitors. For Jana, ‘the Stevenson scholarship is the cherry on top. Not only it will enrich my academic knowledge via valuable hands-on experience while assessing how accessible “Accessible Tourism” really is with regard to the specific needs of visually impaired people in Alsace, but also this experience will allow me to flourish personally, as I will have the chance to explore exciting opportunities, embrace the culture and way of life.’
Congratulations again to all four of our Stevenson scholars and to our Language Coordinators, Jean-Michel DesJacques and José-Maria Ferreira-Cayuela, who helped shape the research projects the students will undertake.
Our Language Coordinators (Jean-Michel DesJacques for French and Jose-Maria Ferreira-Cayuela for Spanish) regularly attend meetings, conferences and workshops on a wide range of topics related to new developments in the field of language teaching and learning. For Jean-Michel, the first such event of 2016 has just taken place with a trip to Southampton last week:
‘I recently attended the now yearly e-learning symposium at the University of Southampton organised by LLAS, the Centre for Languages, Linguistics & Area Studies. Definitely the place to be if you want to sample the latest innovations and trends in e-learning. As a language teacher and pedagogue, it is always very interesting to see how other practitioners deal with challenges very similar to the ones you face. But I’ll come back to this later.
This year’s central theme was ‘Humans and the machine’. Is the algorithm the answer to everything? I know what you are thinking, I wish Jules Verne had been there too to pinch some ideas about his next roman d’anticipation. (Incidentally, according to UNESCO’s own Translationum, Verne is the second most translated author behind Agatha Christie in first place and, believe it or not, ahead of Shakespeare…)
Anyway, over the two-day event, I certainly wished that speech recognition technology had been fitted to my email box. In fact, there was a paper on marking using this very technique and some impressive attempts at tweeting relying on the same principle. So it is not too far-fetched to think that sooner rather than later, the most basic queries made to you by email will be dealt with by some avatar of yours, giving you more time for 121 feedback with some of your students or perhaps a well-deserved coffee break.
I mentioned challenges earlier on… It was obvious from the various workshops offered that we, as professionals, share similar issues such as Facebook vs VLE when it is obvious which platform students prefer; how to best prepare students for their time abroad (there were some particularly interesting ideas about role plays); on-line courses and whether they represent student empowerment or an economic imperative; the use of VLE for lexical retention; and finally the use of MOOCs and the delicate balance between an altruistic ideal as the world is your classroom and a marketing tool.
In the end, the symposium was about the love of languages. It was comforting to see so many dedicated and passionate people ready to share their digital experiences with others and offer an insight into what they are trying to achieve to improve their teaching.’