Tag: Language learning

Happy European Day of Languages!

Once again, the annual European Day of Languages has given us a fantastic excuse to paint a picture of the multilingual student community we have across our modules in French at Stirling, from Semester 1 (Beginners and Advanced) all the way through to final year. Our students come from many, many different places and it’s always fascinating to get a sense of just how many languages they speak. This year, as well as French (obviously), we also have speakers of: Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic, Spanish, German, Russian, Catalan, Basque, Arabic, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Finnish, Swedish, Japanese, (modern) Greek, Latin, Romanian, Croatian, Polish, Portuguese, Farsi…

Tapadh Leat, Go raibh maith agat, gracias, merci, Danke, Спасибо большое, gràcies, eskerrikasko, شكرا, Dank je wel, grazie, 谢谢,kiitos, tack, ありがとう, Ευχαριστώ, Gratias ago, mulțumesc, hvala, dziękuję, obrigado, مرسی… to all those who got in touch to let me know which languages they speak and a very Happy European Day of Languages to everyone!

(And, of course, if you’re reading this as a French at Stirling student and your language isn’t yet on the list, get in touch…)

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Strasbourg: un mélange charmant de deux cultures

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

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

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

Capitale de Noël

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

La dimension franco-allemande

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

2018 Natalie La Petite France

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

2018 Natalie Colmar food markets

Grande ville étudiante

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

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

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

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

A Semester in Paris: An impossible adventure that really happened

In just under a fortnight, our Autumn semester begins and we’ll once again be welcoming a new intake of Year 1 students and welcoming back all our returning students. Among the latter will be our 2018-19 finalists most of whom have just spent a semester on Study Abroad, like Stefano who studies International Politics and French and who has sent us this blog post about his semester in Paris:

2018 Intropido Pic I‘Looking back at the last six months feels already like waking up from an incredible, fast-paced, marvellous dream, recalling all the things that happened, hanging onto each moment, not to forget a single memory of what still seems like an impossible adventure.

Yet it has been possible. And yes, it did really happen!

I remember the excitement of getting accepted into SciencesPo Paris, one of the world’s leading universities for political science and international relations, as well as the thrill of living for one semester in the Ville Lumière. When I left for Paris I could not expect how great this period abroad would be. So, let me now tell you some of the highlights of studying at this institution at the very heart of France.

First things first. Whenever going to a new study destination, collecting as much information as possible represents a vital part of process, especially in terms of housing and living arrangements; luckily for language students at Stirling, the French and Spanish Departments organise an informal get-together each year for all those past-present-and-future cohorts of students involved in the compulsory semester in a French- or Spanish-speaking country with the aim of making new friends and connections with those who are going, or have just been, to the same foreign university; my personal advice to all interested language students out there? Just GO along!

In my experience, that was literally the moment when I first met a nice group of Parisian students who I later befriended. Spoiler alert: as well as new remarkable international friendships, I ended up renting a studio at one of my Parisian friends’ place without whom I would have had a totally different French experience.

Another point which is worth mentioning, I guess, is the money side of the story to be considered well before applying for unis abroad. In case you were wondering… yes, Paris is hugely expensive. It is nonetheless fair to say that going to a renowned, private  Grande Ecole as part of a language Stirling degree can be a once in a lifetime experience not to miss.

All sorted then: we are ready to fly to Paris.

2018 Intropido Pic IIIInternational students like me had the chance to attend a week-long orientation programme of activities, classes and socials to familiarise ourselves with SciencesPo’s environment and, most importantly, methodology. Once again, I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of going to SciencesPo for one semester; leaving aside the scavenger hunt around Paris (where you can have lots of fun and get lost in the capital at the same time), the extra 250€ fee is totally worth it. Among other things, this initial programme allowed me and my international course-mates to enjoy some of most remarkable highlights of Paris, to gain some useful tips and skills for the semester ahead and to deliver our very first diplomatic presentations in French surrounded by the beautiful paintings of the Sorbonne’s lecture theatres.

If you are an art lover, then Paris is the city for you! A part from the fact that most of French museums and galleries are totally free of charge for European students under the age of 25, studying at SciencesPo can make your art-addiction even more irresistible; conveniently located in the heart of Paris, SciencesPo is just 5 minutes walk away from the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries and 10 minutes away from the Jardin de Luxembourg where you can easily go to enjoy the sun, read a book or just take a break with your friends in between classes.

2018 Intropido Pic IV

Needless to say, art and culture are not the only attractions for those who study at SciencesPo Paris. This Grande Ecole offers an incredible and almost overwhelming number of opportunities to foster one’s interests in political sciences, law and economics, both from an academic and social perspective. It might sound commonplace, but studying abroad is really all about challenging yourself to get the most out of this unique experience and SciencesPo does give students the instruments and possibilities to do so. If being immersed in a new culture, as well as language, is not enough for you, then I would strongly advise you to consider taking some (if not all) courses in French to live a first-hand experience of the Parisian style of teaching. Moreover, I found the equivalent of our clubs and societies extremely fascinating and engaging. Let me give you some example; from the very first weeks of uni I managed to get involved in associations like SciencesPo Nations Unies, Junior Diplomatic Initiative France, SciencesPo Refugee Help, etc. Just to give you an idea of why I got so excited about these societies, I had the amazing opportunity to attend workshops and classes on the functioning of the UN to prepare ourselves as delegates to the Model United Nations and, most importantly, to participate into meetings and round-tables on current issues with Diplomats at the Embassies of Norway, Belgium, Greece and Canada.

If diplomacy is not your cup of tea, don’t worry; SciencesPo offers a wide range of other societies and they periodically organise socials and events for all sorts of interests, from the Trial of Lord Voldemort to the Drinking Mate Society.

To conclude, my semester at SciencesPo has been one of the highlights of my degree for so many reasons that it is almost difficult to list them all in a single blog post. The friends I met there from, quite literally, all over the world and the memories I made there will be something I will cherish forever and I am deeply grateful to Stirling for having made this semester abroad possible. It has really been an adventure, from learning how to get your head around the Parisian transportation system to the challenging and yet amazingly fascinating courses at SciencesPo. I have come back from Paris with a better awareness of myself, my academic and research interests and of the world we all inhabit; to all the students out there who might consider whether SciencesPo is the destination for you, trust me, it is all going to be worthy if you feel ready to get the most out of it.’

Many, many thanks to Stefano for the great post and we look forward to hearing Semester Abroad tales from all our returning students in a couple of weeks.

‘A couple of paragraphs about Paris, Parisians and how to (not) be like them’

In a month and a half or so, our new academic year starts and among those coming (back) to Stirling will be the 20-odd students returning after their compulsory Semester Abroad in France or another French-speaking country. We have a very wide range of partners across France, as well as in Morocco, Switzerland and Quebec, and we’re always very pleased to be able to post reports on the Semester Abroad from those about to embark on their final year with us. From the Spring 2018 French Semester Abroad group, we’re starting things off with this post from Nicolas who spent his semester at Sciences Po in Paris, as part of his degree in International Management and Intercultural Studies: 

My semester abroad in Paris was amazing. It is a beautiful, vibrant and unique city. I don’t know another place like it.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic IBeing in Paris for four full months gave me the opportunity to not just run through the standard tourist programme, but to dive in head first and learn to appreciate one of the original big cities. To me, Paris has become special. Wherever you go, the city feels alive and it will to you, too. It is a mix of past glory, current main stage French cultural and political theatre and future opportunities and struggles. When you take your time, and go to visit the historically-relevant sights, you gain an understanding of the grandeur and the heavy historical significance, and not only because every second building seems to have solid gold ornaments on it. For better or for worse, Paris is the centre of most of the francophone world’s current affairs: Government, parliament, media, high-society, low(-er) society, music and much more besides. It is a city that has seen much change in the past and, in my opinion, will see even more in the future. Paris is so much deeper than what you can see on the surface. Dig a bit and even those of you with the highest of expectations will never be disappointed.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic V

Having been to Paris several times before on holiday, I felt like I had seen most of what the city had to offer. I was mistaken. Badly. My tip: there is nothing like going for a two-hour walk through a city, even if it is because you forgot to take change for your metro ticket back home. And get lost. Walk, sit and take your time. On holiday, you do the sightseeing. You sit in a ‘Parisian’ café and drink a cappuccino to feel more ‘Parisian’ while you look at (and possibly offer your kind thoughts on) passers-by. Maybe you try to become more like the locals yourself. I don’t feel any more ‘Parisian’ now than I did when I got there in January, despite trying, a little. I saw Paris for four months like the outsider I am now and always will be.

It’s a bit like when you feel like you’ve found your new all-time favourite song while, in the same moment, you realise you’ll probably never be able to sing it like the artist does yourself (at least not in front of other people). I learnt to enjoy and appreciate Paris despite not feeling like I’d ever be a Parisian myself.

I was trying to find an analogy for this feeling for ages and yes, this is the best I could come up with. Sorry.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic III

I’m really not sure you can go to Paris and become a local. Maybe by living there for twenty years. Maybe not. To a certain degree, I believe the citizens of France’s capital are born, not made. I had four months to become totally French and city-slicker cool, but didn’t. The latter part was maybe more down to me than to the city. What I have learnt, in retrospect, was that I will not be like the people of Paris. I feel like I understand them and their home now, though. And both of them are exceedingly special and close to my heart. Weird and wonderful. In a good way, probably.

One thing I also learnt, though, was to not be one of the infamously obnoxious, selfie-posing, in-your-face tourists. I will try to take that with me, wherever I go next. And here’s an insider tip for my fellow German tourists: Please do not continue to actively reinforce the sandals with socks stereotype. You are not doing yourself and, crucially, the rest of us any favours.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic IVOverall I would recommend spending time in Paris to everybody, if they have the opportunity. In my mind, there is nothing like it. Paris can be incredibly rewarding, if you put in the time, energy and patience to understand it. It is the centre of most things French and will most likely remain to be so for the foreseeable future. Like I said before, I don’t think becoming a local, if that is what you want, will be your choice. My last tip: Don’t try. Be curious, inquisitive and energetic when you explore this great city. And don’t forget the sandals with socks thing, either.’

Many thanks to Nicolas for the great blog post and pictures. We hope you enjoy the rest of the Summer and look forward to seeing you back in Stirling in September.

Unexpected directions

As ever, the blog is a little quieter over the Summer months but I’m determined to post a few articles, as and when they make their way to me so today it’s a chance to catch up with Chris who graduated a few years back now and whose career has taken him in rather unexpected directions since then:

‘It is hard to believe that it is seven years since I graduated from the French Department with the degree in International Management and Intercultural Studies. This programme was what drew me to Stirling – it was unusual in that it offered the chance to go to Strasbourg and get a Masters from a top French Business School.

2018 Chris Ball Photo 1 Jul18Following my time in Strasbourg, the opportunity came up to do a funded PhD which, although I had never been sure about what direction I would take following my Masters, felt like the right path for me. I came back to Stirling, because I really wanted to work with a lecturer who had taught me during my undergraduate time. My PhD looked at energy policies and green entrepreneurship in Britain, France and Germany, so I still used my French skills and conducted research in France as well as in the two other countries. During my PhD studies, I also did a stint teaching French at Stirling which I really enjoyed but I found very challenging, especially teaching things like direct and indirect objects to students fresh from school. It was fascinating to see it from the other side.

For the past two years, my life has taken a different direction. I have moved to Germany and started working in a research institution called Forschungszentrum Jülich, near Cologne, and I currently do research on the economic aspects of Germany’s energy policy. Although I already spoke German quite well, I have loved improving my German and becoming familiar with a new country. The skills I learned during my programme in the French department, involving a lot of time abroad, helped enormously with adapting to the new country and new language.

2018 Chris Ball Photo 2 Jul18

I still get to use my French quite regularly. The city in which I now live, Aachen, is on the Belgian border and close to Paris (two hours by train), so I am in the French-speaking world quite often. I also organise the French “Stammtisch” at work – it is a table of French speakers who meet once a week to have lunch, so that helps me to “keep my hand in” with the French.

When I reflect back on my time at Stirling, I have fond memories of the French Department. It was through the support of the department that I had the opportunity to do the Carnegie and Stevenson mini research scholarships which were very useful to my growth. I found studying contemporary Francophone culture broadened my awareness of different identities in the French speaking world. What I am doing now is quite different to what I did before and that is exciting – I would say that a key thing is to be adaptable and able to learn new skills and I felt that my degree at Stirling was a very good background for this.’

Many thanks (merci, vielen Dank!) to Chris for the update – it’s great to think there’s a Stirling-influenced Stammtisch meeting every week in Jülich! We look forward to finding out where the next few years will take you…

Study Abroad: ‘Just do it!’

One last blog post for the moment and this time it’s one from Sofie, who is about to enter the final year of her BA Hons in French and Journalism, and has just spent her Semester Abroad at the University of Tours:

‘Studying in another country can be a daunting experience and it makes most people nervous but these feelings change to excitement once you’re in your country of exchange. You’ll meet a lot of different people from different countries and make a lot of new friends so there’s really nothing to be afraid of. I speak of my own experience of going abroad twice and I’ve had the most amazing adventures both times of which one is still ongoing. I first went abroad when I moved to Scotland to study as a full-time student in 2015 and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice of country. My second time was quite recently when I studied one semester abroad in France as an exchange student and it went better than I expected, again.

2018 Sofie Karlsson old town ToursI went to Tours in France where I studied literature at Université François Rabelais. I knew I wanted to be close to Paris but I also wanted to live in a smaller city so Tours was perfect for me and it’s only 1 hour away from Paris by TGV. Tours also reminded me a lot of Stirling with its blend of old and new so it was easy to feel at home. It was also very easy to find friends thanks to the ESN community for exchange students. This did mean all students who joined were students from other countries except for France so it wasn’t as easy to befriend French students but ESN arranged many fun events where we got to learn a lot about French culture and food. They also organised trips almost every weekend to visit places like Saint Malo and Saint Michel but also amusement parks like ZooParc de Beauval and Parc du Futuroscope and of course many castles since Tours is located in Val-de-Loire which is famous for its beautiful castles. The trips weren’t expensive either so we saved a lot of money traveling France this way and everything was arranged for us which was really helpful. We just payed and tagged along.

2018 Sofie Karlsson Saint-Malo

Studying at a French university was interesting and a bit difficult since it was all in French but if I could manage to do it, then anyone can do it, trust me! I missed studying at university of Stirling a little bit though because I know how things work there but everything made more sense with time. I chose to study five courses which were comparative literature, French literature, two French language courses (CUEFEE) and translation from French to English. It was a challenge but I learned a lot of French and it was a fun way to learn the language. Studying wasn’t the most fun thing out of the experience though, for me, it was to meet so many amazing people from all over the world. I made friends from USA, Canada and other various countries in Europe and it’s nice to know I’ll always have connections there. There were also opportunities to meet locals who were interested in other cultures but I had to look for these places myself. In Tours, there’s a nice café/restaurant called NewLita aka “the language café”. I went there a few times and it was a great way to practise my French and meet new people.

2018 Sofie Karlsson Gare de Tours

But how did I end up studying abroad? Well, I had one mandatory semester abroad in a French speaking country during my 3rd year since I’m studying French as part of my degree. Being me, loving to travel, I didn’t hesitate one second when I found out I was expected to study in France. However, I had a lot of thoughts the summer before the start of my 3rd year because I didn’t know anything, at the time, of what needed to be done before going but things got clearer once we got more information during the autumn semester. There was of course a lot of paperwork but it got easier with time so it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed at first and I didn’t have any issues with anything. I was also eligible to receive the Erasmus grant, since I studied in Europe, and I got it in time so I had an easy experience overall with the application process. Besides, all the preparations during the autumn semester made everything more real which was exciting at the same time as it was stressful. The whole study abroad experience had its ups and downs but I’m so happy I did it. I would recommend anyone who’s thinking about it to just do it because you won’t regret it. It was definitely worth it!’

Many thanks to Sofie for this great post (and pictures!) and we look forward to hearing more about your time in Tours when you’re back in Stirling in September. In the meantime, bonnes vacances!

From teaching English in France to teaching French in Scotland

From one Fiona (our colleague, Fiona Barclay) to another… Fiona Mears, who graduated a few years back, and who has kept us posted on her travels and teaching career at regular intervals (here and here and here!). Fiona is now back in the UK and about to embark on a new stage in that teaching career:

‘Back in April 2017, my contract at the Université de Franche-Comté where I’d been teaching English for the previous two years came to an end. Since graduating in 2012, I’d been living year by year, predominantly seeking out work which would allow me, first, to stay in France and, second, continue building on my teaching experience. Having lived in France for four years in total, though, I felt it was time to head back to Scotland and, to the great joy of my parents, give the whole ‘settling down’ thing I’d been determinedly avoiding a go!

2018 Fiona Mears Awards ceremony Jul18I’d decided to swap teaching English in France for teaching French in Scotland and had been accepted onto the PGDE Modern Languages course at the University of Glasgow. And what a year it’s been! When people say the PGDE is full-on, they’re not exaggerating. Attending classes at university turned out to be the most relaxing part of the whole course. It came as no surprise that placements were tough: you have to hit the ground running, learn fast and develop a thick skin pretty swiftly. Fortunately, I was very lucky with the mentors and other colleagues I worked with, all of whom were welcoming, supportive and, most importantly, human. We all had our good and bad days, not just me. What I hadn’t expected was that holidays would largely be devoted to writing assignments, which was a shock to the system after the holidays I got in France! At the end of the day though, the hard work and effort everyone put in just made qualifying in June all the more rewarding.

2018 Fiona Mears Grad ball PGDE Picture Jul18

I haven’t ruled out moving back to France or indeed trying out life in another country, but for now I’m enjoying being back in Scotland and can’t wait to start my probation year in August.’

Many thanks to Fiona for this update, congratulations on the PGDE and good luck with the probation year! We look forward to more tales!