Tag: Language Ambassadors

‘Talking to and learning from as many people as possible’

And finally, in today’s flurry of blog posts, Amy, another member of this year’s graduating cohort has sent this article looking back over what her degree has allowed her to do but also where it might take her in the years ahead:

‘I studied BA Hons Politics and French and going to University was the best decision of my life. University has provided a wealth of opportunities that would not have been afforded to me had I not gone. During my undergrad, I travelled to Tanzania to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world – Mt Kilimanjaro. I then spent a year teaching in Blois, Loire Valley; a semester in Paris studying at Sciences Po and two summers managing staff and kids in a French campsite in the Ardèche, Rhône Valley. The experience and the cultural awareness that these opportunities provided were invaluable and they sparked within me an immense curiosity about people, the world and myself.

University is a melting pot of people from all over the world and a fantastic opportunity like no other to learn from people who have had different experiences from you. If you are like me and want to travel and see the world, then University is a great place to start. Gaining cultural awareness is far more than bag-packing in every country that your summer job can afford, it’s about talking to and learning from as many people as possible, wherever you are.

2018 Amy McIntyre Bill's last class May18My advice to future Stirling students: talk to your tutors and your lecturers. They’re people and there’s not the same hierarchy that may have existed between you and your teachers at school. University is a collective learning environment and both you and your lecturers have something to learn from one another.

Go to the cinema screenings that the French department want you to attend. Go to their mixers and free wine events. Go and talk to the local school kids about your study abroad experience. Sign up to be a Module Representative and, of course, offer to write a piece for Cristina’s blog. These actions of engagement are understandably daunting as a first year, but push yourself to do it.

University is more than studying; It’s more than reading books. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advise attempting your degree without doing the aforementioned, but I can’t emphasize the importance of other factors at University enough. My advice to future students of Stirling: Get involved. Take advantage of every opportunity that interests you. Join a club or 5, hold weekly stalls in the Atrium and meet like-minded people and people who challenge your views alike.

2018 Amy McIntyre Logie Protest May18During my time at Stirling University I was Co-Convenor of the Socialist Society, Secretary for Stirling Students for Scottish Independence and I co-led Stirling Students in Support of the UCU Pension Strike protest movement which led to a 14-day Occupation of Logie Lecture Theatre.

My time in France

I took a gap year to participate in the British Council English Language Assistantship (ELA) Scheme in the Loire Valley, France. On reflection, I can honestly say I learned just as much from my kids as they learned from me. The simplicity, honesty and innocence of young people’s minds is interesting, inspiring and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, prepare yourself for insults that are not intended as insults: “Amy, your nose is cool, it reminds me of a witch”. Thanks Pierre, you’ll have to excuse me as I’ve made plans to cry in the toilet…

2018 Amy McIntyre Pic May18

Tip to future language assistants: Get to know your ELA friends but don’t spend too much time with them. They are a great comfort to you when you are abroad but are inevitably a hindrance to your French language progression if you spend too much time alone with English-speakers.

In my third year, I studied at Sciences Po, Paris. I found that Politics in France is very different to the UK in terms of grassroots movements, protests and youth engagement with politics. Manifestations are as common as croissants in Paris and I was amazed at the crowds of youngsters who were politically active.

2018 Amy McIntyre Eiffel Tower May18

What motivates people to act the way they do? How do political institutions and societal factors impact their behaviour? And ultimately, how can we unite people, despite their perceived differences to come together and form a better society? These are questions that are ever-evolving and I suspect they will occupy my mind for the rest of my life, whatever avenue I choose to go down.

For the moment, I am fascinated by examining policies in different countries and finding out what works and what doesn’t. To change society for the better, I believe we need better policies at the heart of it. I hope to do a Msc in Public Policy and Management this year at the University of Glasgow. Ultimately, I want to make a positive contribution to the world, no matter how big or small that will be.’

Many, many thanks to Amy for this fantastic post and for the great tips for future students. We wish you all the very best for the MSc and the future beyond! And, of course, we would encourage as many as possible of our current (and former) students who might be reading this to take Amy’s advice and get in touch about future blog posts…

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From Summer Schools to Shoe Selling: Languages are Everywhere

Another new week gets underway and another great batch of articles by some of our students (and soon-to-be graduates!), starting off with this post by Mairi who has just finished off Year 2 of her degree:

‘It is very bizarre to think that I am now half-way through my undergraduate degree at Stirling. Since my last blog post, back in 2016, I have changed my degree to French and Spanish and have been using my newly acquired language skills in various jobs.

Last summer I worked at an English Language School based here at the University of Stirling. I worked with young people aged 11-17 as an Activity Leader. In this job I often spoke Spanish as many of the students were from Santander and Valencia. I hadn’t realised just how good it felt when I was able to successfully communicate in a language that was not my own. This is when my confidence in speaking French and Spanish really began to improve. I wasn’t scared to make mistakes and even just using a few foreign words here and there helped me to better understand Spanish pronunciation.

The summer school isn’t the only place I’ve been able to practice my language skills outwith Uni. In the last few months, I’ve started a job in a shoe store. I didn’t think I would be speaking much French or Spanish but about a month ago I had a French family come in and the grand-mother didn’t speak much English. I overheard her speaking in French and before I could overthink it, I answered her English question in French. She seemed delighted and I think relieved to not have to tip-toe her way around English (as we all do when speaking a language that is not our own). The same day I had a Venezuelan lady come in with her son and again I was able to speak to her in Spanish. Her son was just learning English and she said he was too shy to practice, I told him, in what was probably grammatically poor Spanish, that I understood how he felt because I too was learning another language. I think that whenever you have the opportunity to practice your languages, you should because when you get something right, it really helps to boost your confidence. And, in my experience, people warm to you more when they see you are trying to communicate with them in their mother tongue.

In February I visited my old high school to discuss the importance of languages and my experiences studying them at Stirling. I spoke to students in their 4th and 5th years and answered questions they had about languages, student life and just generally gave them tips with applying to university. I met with my French teachers who had taught me since I was 12 and it was interesting to hear what they had to say about their experiences at Uni, it all felt quite grown up. All in all, it was good to share my experiences of learning French and Spanish with people who were just beginning to consider a career in it.

2018 Mairi Edwards Pic 1I think all French students would agree with me in saying that the teaching in the department is fantastic. Staff are more than happy to help and really to go the extra mile for their students. I have especially enjoyed parlé classes with Mathilde and Brigitte this year as well as matière seminars with Cristina. That’s not to say that it’s been an easy year what with the industrial action affecting teaching and just naturally the course being more difficult. It really has been an enjoyable year but I’m looking forward to some time-off!

2018 Mairi Edwards Pic 2One of the aspects that has really made my time at Uni wonderful is my friends in the French module. Because the module is quite small, everyone knows everyone which for me, makes classes a lot less daunting. I’ve been lucky to have met such lovely and like-minded people and I’m really looking forward to another year with them. Although it will likely be a difficult year for us, it’ll be exciting to spend a semester abroad in France (or Spain). That’s all from me for now, thanks for reading. À bientôt.’

Many thanks to Mairi for the great update – enjoy the Summer break and we look forward to seeing you again in the Autumn, and to finding out where Semester 6 will take you!

Language Ambassadors: ‘A great experience I’d love to do again!’

Time for a mid-semester blog catch-up… As was mentioned in an earlier blog post, a number of our students have been out in local schools acting as Language Ambassadors again this semester. Rhiannon Quinn who is in the 2nd year of a BA Hons in French was part of a small group of students who spent an afternoon at a local high school at the end of September and she has sent us this great account of the day.

“I recently went to Wallace High School, located right next to the university, to take part in their European Languages Day and to talk to them about my experiences in studying modern languages. When I was at school, European Languages Day was well celebrated with all different kinds of activities and fun things to do and I wanted the third-year kids to have the same experiences I did. As there was a few of us from the university we managed to split the classes into small groups of about five, so that each pupil could have the chance to be heard and have a real personal chat with us.

It was very interesting to see how many of the children were interested in studying languages and they seemed to be very relaxed when talking to us and were very confident in giving us their opinions. They seemed to be very intrigued when I told them that I would have the opportunity to go abroad and live in a foreign country as part of my degree to which I informed them that if they gave languages a chance, they could definitely have that experience too. A few of the children even knew people in their own families who did semesters abroad and they were able to tell me about it.

Even though there were kids who weren’t that keen on languages, they still gave their input and even told me what they wanted to be when they were older. One thing in particular I noticed was that every single one of the kids were able to tell me multiple French and Spanish films they had seen, which I told them was a good thing and doing things like that will help you improve and that you can have fun while learning languages and it’s not just all work and memorising.

Everyone at Wallace High School was really nice, teachers and pupils, and they made us feel extremely welcome. They even gave us a card and a box of chocolates at the end as a thank you gift. They were extremely complimentary and overall, it was a great experience which I would love to do again.”

Apologies to Rhiannon for the delay in getting this post online but thank you very much for taking the time to send it to us and for your work as a Language Ambassador.

Language Ambassadors at Cathkin High

2017 Oct Dodds Downey Limoges PicFollowing on from the general update on French news, a great, positive account of a Student Language Ambassadors’ visit to Cathkin High School by two of our final year students – Nicole Downey and Catherine Dodds, both of whom were at the Université de Limoges last semester on Erasmus Study Abroad – a couple of weeks ago. We’re looking forward to continuing to send our students out to act as ambassadors for language learning and I’m hoping to have a blog post about another visit to Wallace High in Stirling before the end of the week. In the meantime, though, over to Nicole and Catherine:

‘We believe that Student Language Ambassadors are a key factor in language learning. It is essential to encourage young people to continue learning languages and to inform them of their future prospects and opportunities. Recently, we visited Cathkin High School in Cambuslang during their modern languages week to give a presentation and discuss our experiences, both at Stirling and abroad.

2017 Oct Dodds Downey Limoges
Limoges

 

We found that the students appreciated the opportunity to speak to other young people, who aren’t a great deal older than them and in particular were inspired by our experiences abroad. Although not all of the students wanted to continue learning languages in higher education, it was still useful for them as they were able to speak to us about the university process and life at university.

It was satisfying for us to see that the pupils were very engaged by the evidence that learning languages does actually provide you with amazing experiences, which would otherwise not be possible without studying languages.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time as Student Ambassadors and would love to have this opportunity again.’

Many thanks to Catherine and Nicole for this blog post, and for having taken the time to go along to talk to the pupils at Cathkin High School. And thanks to pupils and staff there for their warm welcome.

2017 Oct Dodds Downey Eiffel Tower

French at Stirling student’s China trip

As you may recall, this year has seen the first cohort of students from our partners at Hebei Normal University in China here in Stirling for the final year of our new double degree programme in Translation and Interpreting. To help the incoming students adapt to life in Stirling and in Scotland, we set up an informal buddying scheme involving students from across the campus. As the year progressed, the Stirling buddies were invited to apply for the opportunity to travel to China to meet with the next cohort of HNU students and, following a very competitive selection process, French at Stirling student Elliot Knight was selected. He travelled to China at the end of March and, now that teaching and exams are over, we’ve finally had a chance to catch up with him to get tales from his trip:

2017 HNU Elliot Photo May“If I have learned anything from my trip to China as a student ambassador, it’s that walking around a Chinese university campus clad in a kilt attracts a fair amount of attention. Students and lecturers alike would come up to me and ask me where I was from and what I was doing there, and I told them that I was there as a student ambassador from the University of Stirling. It made me proud to represent my university, and indeed Scotland in China.

From the moment that the plane landed in Beijing, everything about my environment felt different to anything that I had experienced before. The constant noise of car horns, the smog, the architecture, the food, the colours, the language and most of all the sheer number of people. From Beijing, I took a high-speed train to Shijiazhuang, where Hebei Normal University is located.

Whilst I was there, I was tasked with making a presentation to future generations of Hebei Normal University students that will be spending the final year of their degree at the University of Stirling. I told them, of course, about the buddying programme for HNU students in Stirling, and how a buddy can help to enhance their experience whilst they are at Stirling. I explained that a buddy can help them with some basic aspects of adjusting to living here, from restaurant etiquette to the benefits of creating a Facebook profile. However, the focus of my presentation was how the buddying system could help them to better experience all that Stirling and Scotland have to offer. That, whilst their academic studies at Stirling would be important, that experiencing the culture and seeing a different part of the world were also of great value. Furthermore, I emphasised to them that, not only are there many fantastic cultural opportunities for them in Stirling and in Scotland, there are many aspects of Chinese culture that they are able to contribute to university life as well.

In addition to presentations, I was also given the opportunity to meet and have a formal dinner with senior members of the languages faculty at Hebei Normal University, where I was able to explain to them how the buddy programme has been working for the students currently studying in Stirling. In addition to this, I was able to spend some time with HNU students in an informal capacity, going out for dinner with them, and then going to a games arcade; quite an unusual experience as they are rarely seen in Scotland now.

Throughout my trip, I was struck by the level of friendliness and courtesy that was shown to me by my Chinese hosts. I was truly made to feel welcome. What struck me most of all, however, was the openness of the students with whom I spoke. They asked many questions about life in Scotland and in Europe, and were delighted to answer any questions that I had about their lives in China.

It is through seeing the differences in culture and environment between Scotland and China that I can truly appreciate the challenges faced by Chinese students coming to study in Scotland for the first time; it is truly a daunting prospect. The buddying scheme has been great for widening my own perspective. It has allowed me to see the environment around me from the perspective of someone to whom everything that I find familiar is unfamiliar, and in turn I have been able to have the same experience and see things from their perspective. What my role as student ambassador has demonstrated to me is the value of forging international links between universities: being able to interact with people with different perspectives and from different backgrounds truly enriches one’s experience as a student. So, in the same way that interacting with Chinese students at Stirling and visiting their home university has broadened my perspective, I hope that I have been able to encourage Chinese students at Hebei Normal University to broaden theirs.”

Thanks, first and foremost, to Elliot for sending this blog post but also to our Faculty of Arts and Humanities for supporting his visit to HNU, and to our partners at HNU for extending their welcome to him for what sounds like it was a great visit. And we’re looking forward to welcoming next year’s HNU students in the Autumn and to seeing the buddying scheme running again from September.

Student Language Ambassadors

A few weeks ago, three of our students (Stefano, David and Ross) were invited to McLaren High to act as Student Language Ambassadors and to talk to a wide range of pupils about their own experiences of studying Languages at University. The visit was a great success and I’m delighted to be able to pass on Stefano and David’s accounts of their day:

Stefano: “Why did you choose to study Languages at the University?… What does it mean to be a Language Student?… Is it true that you can then travel a lot?… These are just few examples among the several questions we were asked at McClaren High School in Callander by crowds of enthusiastic and curious pupils of different ages during our visit as Language Ambassadors on 9 February.

This semester I have been asked by the French Department to represent Stirling, together with my colleagues and friends David and Ross, in an ambassadorial role for the promotion of the languages at University level and I am glad to have the possibility to share here some of the highlights of our visit. In two words: great experience!

One of the language teachers from McClaren High School, Mr Alistair Brown, picked us up early to give us the chance to deliver a brief presentation at the pupils’ general assembly in the morning. More than 150 students attended and it was really good to get a chance to talk to them about our own experiences and the many opportunities that languages (and Stirling University) can offer.

After the initial gathering, David, Ross and I were asked to go to different classes with some of the teachers from the school in order to talk to smaller groups of pupils more broadly about what studying languages at the University really means.

My first class was French, Higher and Advanced Higher, with David. There, we told them our different experiences as language students at Stirling, focusing both on the possibilities in terms of jobs and travel and on the reasons that led us to undertake this path. It was great to share our passion for languages with interested pupils, hoping to make them realise how fascinating and convenient knowing more than a language can be! Most of the students in class immediately engaged in an interesting group-conversation, asking us questions and sharing with the rest of the class their thoughts and expectations about the possibility to further their knowledge of French.

During the class that followed, things got even more interesting; after another short talk about my experiences as an international language student, the teacher asked the class to put some good French into practice by practising “la conversation orale” together and by…asking me to teach them a bit of Italian in exchange! We all had great fun practicing our French and trying out some simple Italian sentences, because, after all, who knows? Maybe some of them will eventually end up studying Italian too in the future!

After a break, Ross and I attended a class together where we talked more specifically about the possible careers available with a Language degree. Once more, we did not miss the opportunity to have some fun with languages; knowing that we are respectively fluent in Italian and Spanish, the teacher asked me and Ross to try a “multilingual” conversation to see whether or not we could understand each other! Quite surprisingly, we managed to get through a short dialogue and we showed how knowing more languages can in fact lead also to great fun.

For my last class of the day, I went to another French class with David, where the pupils were especially interested in our experiences at the University of Stirling. We told them how and why we decided to come to Stirling to study Languages by sharing with them some of the amazing opportunities that our University can offer, from excellent quality in teaching and different and exciting experiences abroad to the numerous clubs and societies where it is possible to meet friends from all over the world and, once again, to engage and learn different languages.

To our great surprise and teachers’ astonishment, some of the pupils we met on that day immediately asked for the forms to pursue the study of languages at their Higher classes for the next year! Donc, ça a été une journée très spéciale!

It was a great honour and a pleasure to represent Stirling and Languages on this special occasion. I personally believe that, as language students, we have a huge opportunity (and responsibility) not only for ourselves, but for our future societies in terms of the capacity to understand and meet people from different cultures and it was amazing to share the beauties of this journey with the younger generations.”

David: “Taking part in the Student Ambassador initiative at McLaren High, near Callander, was a genuinely enriching and fun experience for me. I went with two other students, Stefano from Italy and Ross from Scotland. We thought that trying to convince students to pick languages as their Highers would be a difficult task but it turned out that the students were really interested in what we had to say. In fact, the pupils were extremely curious, interested and engaged, asking us many questions ranging from our favourite type of food to why we had chosen to study languages. It was quite tiring talking to different classes about the same topic but the questions were varied and we really enjoyed the pupils’ willingness to participate.

I think this initiative can have a very positive effect on high school pupils as, in the past few years, language teaching has been declining in Scotland. Many students don’t realise the importance of learning languages, especially nowadays in such a globalised society. Many told us they didn’t think it was necessary to learn another language as “everyone speaks English”. This mentality is exactly what we are trying to get rid of; they don’t realise that Spanish, for instance, will soon be the most widespread language around the world, in front of English and Chinese. I am hoping that after our discussions at the high school, we will hopefully have inspired the pupils to take an active interest in languages, even if they don’t choose it as one of their study options.

Being from a bilingual background myself, I have first-hand experience of the advantage of speaking more than one language and I hope to return to the high school as a language assistant and further encourage students to realise the potential of learning another language. Overall, it was a very eye-opening experience and I would love to take part in such an initiative again.”

Many thanks to Stefano and to David for sending these blog pieces, and to all three of our Student Language Ambassadors for having made the time to undertake this visit. We’re looking forward to continuing our visits in local schools – and schools beyond the local area – over the weeks and months ahead. And if any of this has made you curious about studying Languages at Stirling, come and meet us at one of our upcoming Applicant or Open Days.

Mid-Semester Catch-Up

Halfway through the mid-semester break seems a good point to catch up on various bits of news from Stirling staff and students. More to follow on some of these in the weeks ahead but, in the meantime…

This year is Stirling University’s 50th birthday and, as part of the year-long celebrations, the University is holding an Open Doors Day on Saturday 18 March. Lots of different activities are planned for the day – and all are welcome! – including a series of talks by academics from the School of Arts and Humanities with a French at Stirling contribution in the shape of a talk by Elizabeth Ezra on ‘Androids and Globalization, or How Cinema Makes Us Human.’ The talks will be chaired by French at Stirling’s Cristina Johnston.

In this anniversary year, we’re also welcoming to Stirling our first cohort of students on our new BA Hons Translation and Interpreting degree, in partnership with HNU in China. As a means of strengthening the ties between existing Stirling students and their HNU counterparts, a buddying scheme has been running since September 2016 with around a dozen Stirling students helping HNU students to get to know the University, the campus and the town, and generally helping them get used to life in Scotland. We thought it would be a great idea for one of the buddies to get a chance to travel to China to meet with next year’s HNU cohort this Spring so, after a very competitive selection process and with Faculty support, we’re pleased to announce that Elliot Knight (currently in the 2nd year of his degree in French) will be travelling to China to represent the University and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in a few weeks. More tales to follow on that front!

Closer to home, we’ve also been able to send another group of Student Language Ambassadors into a local secondary school – McLaren High in Callander – to talk to pupils there about life as a Languages student and the opportunities that opens up in terms of Study Abroad, employability, travel, and so on. Stefano Intropido, David Vescio and Ross Brown took on this role as Language Ambassadors, in a visit jointly organized by Jean-Michel DesJacques, Cristina Johnston and McLaren High teacher Alastair Brown. Alastair was very impressed by our students’ performance, commenting that ‘they spoke very well in all classes, and at the assembly, where they got a spontaneous round of applause from the pupils. They gave very motivating accounts of their language-learning journey and responded very well to the pupils’ questions.’ We hope to continue sending our students out into schools as ambassadors over the weeks and months ahead.

As well as looking forward to receiving our copy of our former PhD student Stefanie van de Peer’s edited collection Animation in the Middle East, we’re also excited to learn that another former French at Stirling PhD student, Lizelle Bisschoff has a new AHRC-funded project on ‘Africa’s Lost Classics in Context’ with David Murphy as co-investigator. The project aims to bring a number of screenings of ‘lost African film classics’ to UK audiences, complemented by public and educational events and activities to contextualise the films for audiences, in collaboration with the five UK African film festivals, including Africa in Motion which was founded by Lizelle while she was doing her PhD. The project started in January 2017 and will run for a year.

Alongside all the usual work, assessments and other commitments our students have for the second half of the semester, we also have a number of teaching and research-related events coming up, involving both staff and students. Our Year 4 French students, for example, will get the opportunity to try out Interpreting Taster Sessions in late-February, early-March, taking full advantage of Stirling’s new interpreting suite. A number of our students will also be attending the Language Show Live at the SECC in Glasgow in a few weeks and 3 of our current Year 2 students will be attending a Summer School run by our partners at the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg in June. Mid-March, we’ll be welcoming Lucie Herbreteau of UCO Angers to Stirling on an Erasmus teaching exchange and she’ll be taking classes involving not only our final year French students but also our postgraduate Translation programme and Years 1 and 2 of our undergraduate French programme. And, finally, at the end of March, Cristina Johnston has been invited to introduce a screening of Claude Chabrol’s Une Affaire de femmes at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema with Hugh McDonnell of Edinburgh University, as part of Mihaela Mihai’s project on Greyzones.

Busy, busy times and more news to follow, I’ve no doubt, over the coming weeks!