Tag: Montpellier

Congratulations one and all!

Another very pleasant part of this whole blog catch-up thing is that it gives me a chance to pass on great news about successes for staff and students.

The University’s annual RATE teaching award ceremony took place at the end of last month so, firstly, congratulations to our Divisional colleague Bashir Saade who won this year’s prize for Excellence in Teaching in Arts and Humanities. It was fantastic to see a number of French at Stirling staff also being nominated for their hard work and commitment to teaching over this past academic year across a range of categories: Exceptional Student Support Award; Research Postgraduate Supervisor of the Year; Best Tutor; Fantastic Feedback and Excellence in Teaching in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities. And the feedback from the voters always makes us smile:

‘An inspirational teacher and one that I desire to be like myself’;

‘So passionate about her subject and creates an enjoyable atmosphere for learning. Where every student feels their opinion or interpretation is valid’;

‘Very constructive and friendly feedback that gave me the confidence to write essays with more ease’;

‘Most involved, best informed, best organised tutor and professor. Will always get back to you on time, will help with anything, always on time, always available for appointments.’

Thank you to all the students who voted for us – it really is very much appreciated by us all!

And congratulations, too, to Caitlin, Eszter and Eilidh, Stirling’s three successful applicants for this year’s Stevenson Exchange Scholarships, all of whom will be able to benefit from funding to undertake research projects while on Study Abroad or English Language Assistantships next year.

Eilidh – who is studying French with Spanish and Professional Education – will be working on a project exploring how a particular region balances its history and traditions against a desire to modernise and to exist within a changing world, with a particular focus on Lyon where she’ll be spending her year as a Language Assistant. Caitlin – who is on the same degree programme as Eilidh – is keen to explore the influence of Gothic art and architecture on the region around Montpellier where she’ll be working, also as a British Council Assistant. And Eszter – whose degree is in Spanish and Marketing – will be in Spain, on Semester Abroad, and examining feminism and the creative industries while studying at the University of Navarra-Pamplona. Congratulations to all three recipients of these competitive scholarships and we look forward to tales of your time abroad and the work you do with the Stevenson over the year ahead.

And thanks to Jean-Michel DesJacques and Jose-Maria Ferreira-Cayuela, Study Abroad Coordinators for French and Spanish respectively, for all their work in helping develop the applications.

Sunshine and Successes

It has been a fantastically sunny day in Stirling today, ideal weather for this year’s finalists who have just become this year’s French at Stirling graduates. Everybody looked great in their finery and, despite the heat in the Gannochy, it was a morning of smiles all round. Congratulations once again to all our graduates!

And it’s not only our finalists who are to be lauded today – as I got ready to don my gown for the ceremony this morning, I was very pleased to find a blog post from Jack, one of our students who is halfway through his degree, waiting in my inbox. As we mentioned recently on the blog, Jack was recently awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship which he’ll use – as he explains here – to learn more about competition structures for tennis in France:

‘For language students, third year is a biggie. It’s the one we all look forward to – the one where we finally get to spend our semester abroad! We have all talked about it amongst ourselves endlessly, saying things like “I think I’ll go to Quebec’ or ‘Tours sounds nice!’, but this coming September myself and the rest of the French students at Stirling going into their third year of studies will have to make a final decision on which francophone university we would like to study at in January 2019. What seemed like a decision so far away is suddenly right around the corner!

2018 Jack Oswald Tennis Photo 1For me, it has been a decision that I have had to put much thought into. Being a tennis scholar at Stirling, I wanted to find a French-speaking city that I would find exciting and where I would have ample opportunities to improve my ability in the language, but also have the tennis facilities and travel links that would allow me to continue with my rigorous training and competition schedule. Luckily for me, France is one of (if not the) best tennis nations in the world! Having spent some time in Montpellier during my teenage years, I knew that South of France is where I wanted to be due to its fantastic climate, the amiable hospitality of its inhabitants and, of course, the many tennis clubs and academies that are dotted around the region!

February last year, I was informed by the French department of the opportunity to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship. This scholarship was developed in order to provide some funding for students who wished to undertake specific research projects during their time abroad, alongside their Erasmus studies or an English Language Assistantship. Due to my passion for tennis, I leapt at the chance! After deliberating on which aspect of tennis in France that I wanted to explore, I decided that the most interesting would be to research the structures for competition in France, and how they compare to that of the United Kingdom. In more simple terms, I wanted to try to figure out how why the level of tennis in France is so high, and how we might be able to better organise tournaments in Britain from beginners all the way up to the professional level in order produce the next generation of future stars.

2018 Jack Oswald Tennis Photo 2I decided that with the help of the grant I would travel to a few professional events around the country, including L’Open Sud de France in Montpellier that commences in February, and especially the French Open at the end of May. I would also visit a few of the popular tennis academies and clubs located in the south of France and interview some of their coaches about how they develop their players into champions. So, with the guidance of Cristina, I drafted my personal statement, which included my detailed proposal for my research alongside a bit about myself. I then sent this off, along with my application for the Scholarship and just hoped that I might be selected for an interview.

And as luck would have it, I was! Two months later, there I was on the train to Glasgow for my interview at the university. When I got there, I was greeted by a handful of other nervous language students. We all wished each other the best of luck as each of our turns came, not really knowing what to expect. Finally, my name was called. I found myself in a room with the heads of the French departments for five Scottish universities including Glasgow and St. Andrews. I had never really been good at interviews, but I took a deep breath and decided that I would simply try my best to answer their questions as honestly and thoughtfully as I could. Twenty minutes later I was out the door on my way back home, relieved that the toughest part was over, regardless of the outcome. Now the waiting game commenced!

Luckily, I did not need to wait too long. Just a couple of weeks later I received an email saying that I had been granted the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for my semester abroad next January! I honestly can’t wait for my semester abroad in France and to embark upon some research into my passion during my time there. I would like to thank Cristina for helping me organise my application and proof reading it several times over (!). I honestly couldn’t have done it without her, as well as Jean-Michel for providing references for the application. I strongly encourage all Language students going into their second year at Stirling to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for their semester abroad. It is more than worth the effort and will enrich your experience abroad whilst also allowing you to follow and develop your passion.’

Many thanks to Jack for a great blog post and congratulations on your success in being awarded a Stevenson Scholarship. We look forward to hearing more about the project while you’re in France in the Spring.

Experiences as an ELA (Part II)

The second of three accounts of a year spent in France under the British Council’s English Language Assistantship scheme, this time from Colm who spent his year near Montpellier:

‘Around this time last year I was on my way to the beach in the South of France. I was living over near Montpellier and working in a Lycée as an English Language Assistant. Truthfully, I chose to take a year out firstly to improve my French as it seemed like a great way to get immersed in the language and culture but mainly, who doesn’t want a yearlong holiday? However, professionally I have no idea what I want to do after I graduate and teaching has always been an option so spending a year – or 7 months – working in a school would be the perfect opportunity to try out working with kids.

2016 Harvey Marseillan Plage

When I first arrived a week or so before the classes started of course I was nervous but who wouldn’t be? Unfortunately the airport where I arrived wasn’t well connected to the village I was going to live in. Although I had been warned taxis in France are expensive, I thought they wouldn’t be much more than back home. I was wrong. About 90€ and 30 minutes later I arrived at my new home.

Fortunately, the school had helped me with accommodation and had given me the details of a woman who rented her spare rooms out to the assistants. So that’s how I came to live with Marianne – the most helpful French person I’ve ever met, and Maria – the Spanish assistant. This was great as straight away there was another person in the same position so we could complain about work, catch the wrong bus and travel. A lot.

This was probably my favourite part of the job; every 6 weeks we had 2 weeks holidays and even when we were “working” it was only for 12 hours a week. Basically, this means lots and lots of free time. Throughout the year I probably saw more of France than a lot of my new French friends – Paris, Nice, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse. French trains are a lot better and quicker than Scottish trains, I was only 3 hours from both Paris and Barcelona, and with a carte jeune (50€ to buy) the discount was amazing.

2016 Harvey Lyon


At the school the strangest thing I noticed was that if the teacher wasn’t there for whatever reason neither were the pupils, that resulted in me turning up to school to find I actually had no class. Again another benefit of living in the village and only 2 minutes from the school. However, when I did actually have to teach the work was quite enjoyable – depending on the class – and very varied. With one teacher I had to do a practice speaking exam with her pupils one by one while another teacher told me “They’re studying Australia right now so plan something on that.” Quite vague but at least it gave me the freedom to do more what I wanted.

2016 Harvey Night at Hospital
Night in the hospital


Unfortunately, it wasn’t all a blast. Last November I got mugged while in Montpellier. In hindsight I was just in the wrong place and not being that careful. Yet, every cloud has a silver lining; I got to spend a whole night in the hospital with my friends and experience first hand French bureaucracy which is extremely complicated. There are 2 types of police depending on the crime, everything has to be copied at least 20 times, and if you’re foreign it just gets even worse. This is the same for CAF (housing benefits), sécurité sociale and anything else you can think of. Do you want to eat at the school canteen? Paperwork. Register at the gym? More paperwork.

Despite all this I had the best time. I even found some jobs and stayed for an extra 4 months (I only came back because I had to start 3rd year again). Yes, the paperwork is tiring and soul crushingly tedious, and I got a black eye in the process but I wouldn’t change it for the world, as clichéd as that sounds.

Take me back!’