Tag: Morocco

An eventful semester in France

A few weeks back, we posted a great article by Stefano about his Semester Abroad spent studying at Sciences Po in Paris. Not only did Stefano make fantastic use of his time in Paris, he also managed to spend some of his holiday time accompanying a French high school trip to Lourdes to add to the experiences of his Semester Abroad:’

‘Spending a semester abroad, in France, has by far been one of the most eventful adventures of my academic life. When students have to choose a country for their foreign study experiences they usually, and rightly, focus on a number of factors to help them decide, from the linguistic region to the quality of teaching, from the costs of living to the different courses offered at the host institutions and so on and so forth. If I were to give any piece of advice to students considering any experience abroad, I would recommend you to keep a very open-minded approach to all the elements you may want to consider throughout your decisional process. Why? The reason is pretty straightforward and I hope not to fall into too much of a cliché: the best part of setting off to a new destination is not knowing where your path is going to lead you. In other words, there is nothing better than starting a journey keeping eyes and mind open to all the different adventures you might find along the way.

In my case, I had to choose among partner-institutions in France, Switzerland, Morocco and Canada and I eventually decided to apply for SciencesPo, in Paris. In a previous article on this blog I have already described what a semester in the Ville Lumière looks like, but spending those months abroad entailed so much more than just experiencing a new, thrilling, student life. Living and studying in France, especially in Paris, offers a wide range of opportunities for everyone, such as museums, parks, exhibitions, great food and a lovely culture to discover more and more.

But I did not imagine how eventful and powerful this semester could be.

Leaving aside all the marvellous opportunities I enjoyed while studying at SciencesPo, I would like to share another experience that made my time in France even more remarkable (and I did not even think that could be possible, to be honest).

It is a story of travels, of journeys within this journey and of how incredible life can be sometimes. I really wish to thank the Stirling’s French Department for having given me both the opportunity to study in Paris and the skills to get the most out my adventures there.

2018 Intropido Lourdes Pic V Oct18It all started one evening as I was walking back to my flat right outside Paris with my French friend and host when he asked me whether I was interested in working for his former High School in Meudon, since he knew of my previous working experiences with pupils and youth groups abroad. From that moment in time, so many things happened that it is not even that easy to recall them all on paper.

So, let us proceed step by step.

 

Shortly after that conversation, I went to a meeting with the High School’s Principal in order to get to know each other and, most importantly, to present me the project they were looking for help with. Following on from this initial presentation and other meetings, I eventually managed to get hired as Group Leader and Pastoral Animator in my friend’s former Catholic High School. It sounds like a job like many others; it has been a mission. Yes, a mission: something in between an apostolic journey and a potential new Mission Impossible movie, for two main reasons. The first is of a religious nature: when I accepted to embark on this new adventure I joined a cheerful and lively team of six leaders whose duty was to take a group of 50 French pupils to Lourdes, for a week-long pilgrimage, within a huge event (the so called FRATERNEL) organised by the Catholic Dioceses of the Ile-de-France which gathered more than 10000 French young people to sing, pray, have fun and reflect upon the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome; Pope Francis himself sent us a letter and a video-message to thank us for this great opportunity!

The second reason I would describe this journey as like an imaginary new Tom Cruise movie relates to the challenges of bringing 50 French teenagers to Lourdes (by night bus and then by night train), being totally immersed in the language (as well as the more colloquial slang young people would use), 24/7 on duty and still having enough energy to sing, jump, dance, shout out all our joy on the wave of enthusiasm with the other 10000+ jeun.es français.es.

2018 Intropido Lourdes Pic I Oct18

After a not-so-comfortable night bus journey, we thus got to Lourdes where we spent a fully packed week of events, activities, Masses and exploring excursions that left us all exhausted but happy as we have never felt before. Words and pictures will hardly describe how thrilling and energetic the atmosphere was. It was all new for me: I had never been to Lourdes, neither to that part of France, I had never worked alongside French colleagues nor with French pupils, I had never heard of the Hopen and Glorious rock-pop bands and I had never been surrounded by such an enthusiastic crowd. For the first time in my life, I was also in charge of small pastoral groups of 10 pupils each…and they were understandably all French; I have enjoyed this experience so much, trust me! We managed to carry out interesting projects (before, during and after Lourdes) with all groups, despite accents and Verlan. So it must be true, after all: communication is the key and knowing different languages can really bridge people and communities.

2018 Intropido Lourdes Pic III Oct18

Best satisfaction? The pupils’ joy and the mutual understanding to think bigger, all together; the feeling of having given a lot, to have grown as a person and not just linguistically. I think it is thus safe to say that we all taught something to each other. We shared a journey, not just through France, but in life and this is something I think we will all cherish forever.

The journey back to Meudon-Paris was not any more comfortable, but it was alright in the end: we had too many songs to sing to worry about our travel home.’

Many, many thanks to Stefano for sharing this with us and for taking the time to send us another great blog post!

 

New Semester

It’s already the end of our first week of the new semester here at Stirling so time for a quick round-up of our news. It’s been a busy little run up to the start of teaching here: new colleagues, great First Year numbers and those starting in our Advanced stream have been benefiting from our Bridging Materials, French at Stirling has been rated No.3 in Scotland and in the top 20 in the UK by the 2019 Complete University Guide… A period of great change and excitement!

Where to start? ‘New colleagues’ seems a good place. Beatrice Ivey, Research Assistant on Fiona Barclay’s AHRC Leadership project, is now in Stirling and settling into Divisional life. She and Fiona are working on the organisation of the exhibition that forms part of the project, more on which soon. We’ve also welcomed Emeline Morin who has joined us as a Lecturer in French for the next two years. Emeline’s research interests lie in comparative literature and fairytales and she’s teaching with us across a wide range of courses.

Alongside Emeline, two other new lecturers will be joining us over the months ahead. Aedín ní Loingsigh will be starting in October, with Hannah Grayson taking up her post in January. Hannah’s recent work has been on the Rwandan Stories of Change project at St Andrews. Much as we were sad to see Bill Marshall retire, it’s great to get a chance to welcome a fantastic group of new colleagues and we’re looking forward to working with them. We’ve also got some new faces among the Teaching Assistants who work as part of our Language team (with Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau and Brigitte Depret): Fanny Lacôte and Fraser McQueen who have taught with us before are joined by Aurélie Noël who has previously taught at the University of Glasgow.

2018 Hornberger VIIAs ever, the start of the new semester also means welcoming back our students. Our finalists are back from their Semester Abroad (in France, Quebec, Morocco, Switzerland… or Hispanophone destinations for those doing French and Spanish) and our Year 3 students are about to start the process to select their destination for their Semester Abroad. With that in mind, Jean-Michel DesJacques, Jose Ferreira-Cayuela and Cristina Johnston are organising their annual get-together at the end of September that gives all those students a chance to meet over wine and nibbles to talk about Study Abroad and to exchange questions and tips. All the University’s incoming exchange students from French or Spanish-speaking partner institutions are also invited and it’s a great chance for the different groups of students to get to know each other.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic I

Some of those incoming French-language exchange students are also currently being recruited to lead informal conversation sessions for students in a range of year groups, to offer a further opportunity for spoken language practice beyond the weekly tuition offered by our Language team.

And, of course, we have a great cohort of Year 2 students, many of whom will be applying for English Language Assistantships over the course of this year (welcome back to those who were ELAs last year!). For the first half of our second year, we run an Intermediate class for those who started as complete beginners with us in Year 1 and it’s great to see that numbers on that module are even higher than last year.

Finalists back from Semester Abroad, Year 3 students planning time abroad, students settling into Year 2 and good numbers of Year 1 students which is fantastic to see. Those on the Advanced stream – taking French with a wide range of other subjects – have been working their way through the Bridging Materials that we put together for incoming students each year, to help smooth the transition from secondary school language study to University-level language learning. And those on our Beginners’ stream are about to plunge into the intensive programme of language learning that will introduce them to French and build their confidence and ability as the weeks progress.

A great group of undergraduates and an enthusiastic intake of students on the French stream of our Translation and Translation with TESOL programmes who will work under the guidance of French at Stirling staff on their translation portfolios and, ultimately, on their dissertation projects. It’s been particularly nice to see some familiar faces on those programmes with recent graduates returning to undertake postgrad work with us (as well as across other TPG programmes at Stirling, of course).

As in previous years, we’ll be posting profiles of our students regularly, partly to catch up with those who’ve written for us before and to get a sense of how their studies are progressing, and partly to introduce you to some of our new Year 1 intake, so keep an eye on these pages!

2018 FFF Logo

As for French at Stirling colleagues, lots of news to report there, too. Fiona Barclay, Beatrice Ivey and Cristina Johnston are in discussions with the MacRobert’s film programmer, Grahame Reid, to finalise a programme of French Film Festival screenings that will take place at the MacRobert later in the semester. Details to follow but expect some great new French-language films! (It’s not directly French-related but do also check out Grahame’s Central Scotland Documentary Festival at the MacRobert from 4-8 October – a fantastic programme of documentaries lies ahead!) And on another film-related note, David Murphy will be involved with the Africa in Motion festival in November – more on which soon…

2018 Cent Scot Docu Fest

2018 AiM Logo

 

 

 

 

Aedín ní Loingsigh will be participating in a workpshop on Interdisciplinarity at the Université de Limoges in December and Elizabeth Ezra gave a paper in June at the Contemporary Childhood Conference at the University of Strathclyde examining the witch-familiar relationships in Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. Elizabeth has also just signed a contract for a book, co-edited with Catherine Wheatley of KCL entitled Shoe Reels: The History and Philosophy of Footwear in Film, which will be published by EUP in 2020. And with her non-academic hat on, Elizabeth will be talking about her children’s book Ruby McCracken at the Wigtown Book Festival later this month.

2018 Ruby McCracken

This weekend, while staff and students from French and Spanish are talking to prospective students at Stirling University’s Open Day (15 September – come and see us!), Jean-Michel DesJacques is off to Dundee where he’ll be taking part in the 25th Anniversary Conference UCML Scotland​: Looking inward and outward. Jean-Michel will be meeting actors from all education sectors from Primary to higher education. The 1+2 language initiative will be high on the agenda but not exclusively since challenges and issues in languages are multiple and complex.

And our Phd student Fraser McQueen has been presenting his work across a range of conferences since the Spring, including the ASMCF Postgraduate Study Day at the IMLR (where he spoke about Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in France), the Society for French Studies Postgraduate Study day at UCL (with a paper on female radicalisation fiction), Stirling’s own annual Arts and Humanities Postgraduate Research Conference and the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies Postgraduate Study Day at Birmingham. Fraser also co-organised the SGSAH Second Year PG Symposium in Glasgow in June and presented his own work there, too.

There is much, much more that we could include here but that seems a good taste of what’s going on to start things off this semester. More to follow over the weeks ahead! In the meantime, many thanks to the students whose photos from last semester abroad have made their way into this post and bon weekend!

Strasbourg, mon amour

And hot on the heels of Stefano’s post about his semester in Paris, this article comes from Annika who will also be coming back to Stirling in September, having spent her Spring semester in Strasbourg:

2018 Hornberger I‘I have spent my Erasmus semester at the Ecole de Management in the beautiful city of Strasbourg, which was a fantastic opportunity and I would do it all over again. Strasbourg is a multicultural, historic city at the heart of Europe. I was in France and yet there were many aspects that made me feel like home in Germany, not only its location at the border, but also the half-timbered houses, the Alsatian street names, some traditional dishes and not least the carnival parade. I even had the direct comparison, because I invited six Erasmus friends to my hometown in Germany to celebrate Karneval in Bonn and Cologne.

To get a first orientation and some historic knowledge the boat tours around the city and the free guided tours of Strasbourg and the Petite France are great offers. You get a panoramic view of Strasbourg if you climb up the tower of its famous cathedral. In the evenings we enjoyed sitting at the River Ill watching the boats and eating tarte flambée at Au Brasseur. Another beautiful brasserie and restaurant is the Corde à Linge situated at the canal which surrounds the Petite France, a very picturesque historic quarter of Strasbourg. To buy groceries you can get great offers at the markets and my favourite bakery is called Au Pain de Mon Grand Père.

2018 Hornberger III

From Strasbourg you can easily go by bus to the idyllic, historic city Colmar where you can visit the famous Musée Unterlinden and feel like in New York when you see Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty from afar. We took part in an interesting tour around the city which you can book at the tourist information and had a great traditional lunch at the Brasserie des Tanneurs. Another place worth a visit is the historic Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg from where you have a splendid view when it is not foggy… Nearby is the lovely town of Ribeauvillé. A trip to Ribeauvillé was the highlight of our great Introductory grape and wine knowledge course, because we got to visit our teacher’s family owned vineyards and winery and got to taste some of their great wines.

2018 Hornberger VI would also advise every Erasmus student who goes to France to buy the Carte culture which gives you free entry and discounts for many museums, cinemas, theatres, operas and other events throughout France. Among other things, I went to see Werther at the Opéra de Strasbourg and visited the Musée historique de Strasbourg which displays Strasbourg’s eventful history. It is also definitely worth getting involved in the Café des Langues which is a weekly event where you can meet fellow international students and other people to make new friends and practice foreign languages. Not only did I improve my French there, but also my Spanish. It takes place at three different locations: The Café Berlin on the Place d’Austerlitz, the Taverne française and the District Bar & Club. This is where I got to know a woman who had migrated from Madagascar to France at the age of 10. Talking to her and to another woman from Kosovo who had immigrated aged 15 and interviewing them about their life stories inspired me to focus my research project on the integration of migrant women in French society. I continued my research at the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration in Paris and found a lot of good literature on the topic in the Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg.

2018 Hornberger VIII

From Strasbourg I could easily take the train to Paris to visit my fellow students from Stirling. In Paris we also visited the Musée du Louvre, the Panthéon and we climbed up the Arc de Triomphe at night to see the Eiffel tower sparkle, which was definitely the highlight of my trip to Paris.

Since April I have been working as an intern at GIZ (German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH) in Bonn in the Development Workers Section. During my internship I took part in a study trip to Paris together with other interns and we went to hear very interesting presentations from several organisations and engaged in enriching discussions with them. We went to visit the Economy Division and the REN21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century) of the UNEP, a think tank called I4CE (Institute for Climate Economics) and the IEA (International Energy Agency), where we heard a presentation on energy access topics with main focus on the SDGs. Furthermore, we visited a social project called Les Canaux, where we learned about the ESS (Économie sociale et solidaire) sector.

During the summer I also had the opportunity to visit two fellow students in Morocco who spent their semester abroad in Rabat. This trip was an enriching experience because it gave me the opportunity to see a country of origin of many immigrants in France.

Looking back on my semester abroad in France I am pleased to say that I am not done with Strasbourg yet, I am looking very forward to going back to do my master’s degree there.’

Many, many thanks to Annika for the great post and for all the tips for students planning to visit Strasbourg!

‘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.

From Stirling to Rabat…: ‘I couldn’t recommend a semester abroad enough!’

The blog has been a little silent of late – busy Autumn semester, hectic start to the new Spring semester, Christmas break in between – but we’re back now, with plenty of news and updates on life in French at Stirling. And given that we’re resurfacing on a rather grey and cold Scottish Tuesday, it’s particular pleasing to be able to kick off our 2018 with a post about far sunnier climes thanks to current final year student Fergus who, this time last year, was starting his Semester Abroad in Morocco:

“When it came around to choosing where to go for my semester abroad there wasn’t really much of a choice for me. Both academically and personally I felt in somewhat of a rut and needed a big change. Somehow, I misconstrued how the applications went, wrongly assuming that the choices were ranked on merit or academic performance, so when I saw I was (the only one) going to Morocco I was a wee bit surprised, albeit elated.

2018 Voigt Kasbah des Oudayas RabatI filled out all the application forms with an equal degree of anxiety, excitement, and haste. It took a while to hear back from EGE Rabat, which as I quickly found was normal upon my arrival there, and I started to get organised to go. I went out almost month before the term actually started to try to get accustomed and it only dawned on me that I was going to Africa whilst I was sat on the plane. After arriving in Tanger via Malaga, I got a taxi to where I was staying, met the owner of the flat, then went out to look about sans phone, map etc which was fun. I bought a sim card and had some tea, got lost, then went home for an early night before the 4-hour train journey to Rabat in the morning.

Everything had happened pretty quickly up until this point where it all slowed down and I experienced ‘Moroccan time’ as I was to become very accustomed to during my time there. The train was almost empty on departure but 3 hours in we sat waiting until another train stopped next to us, all its passengers joined us and I found myself standing for the rest of the journey. Tall, blonde and impossibly pale, packed in like a sardine, and not understanding a word around me – I’d found the change I was looking for. 2018 Voigt Place du 9 avril 1947 Tanger

If I felt at a loss upon arriving, that feeling quickly disappeared as I started university and made friends. Everyone I met – teachers, international students, and especially Moroccan students – were extremely friendly and welcoming. The warm and welcoming nature of people in Morocco is one of the fondest memories that stays with me. Unlike the UK or large parts of Europe, where no-one has time for anyone else it seems these days, almost everyone I met, friends to be and strangers alike, had time to stop and chat. Whether that chat was helping with directions, proudly telling you of their country, or being eager to learn more about yours, there was always a smile and a ‘mharba’ [welcome] offered.

2018 Voigt Sunset during Ramadan RabatAlthough L’École de Gouvernance et d’Économie, is primarily focused on economics, politics, and international relations, I had the opportunity to follow some amazing courses such as Anthoplogie des Religions and Genre, Féminisme et Sexualité, which previously I hadn’t had the chance to take. As well as this, there was Classic Arabic and Moroccan Arabic [Darija] classes offered for everyone from absolute beginners like myself to experienced speaker. These classes were a wonderful help during my time there, as it was amazing to learn some Arabic as well as dialect specific to the country, but it also went a long way when out and about interacting with people.

We were able to get out and about every weekend, and with plenty free time from university, there was plenty opportunity to explore the country. Exploring Rabat itself, there is so much to do, whether wandering through the medina and trying the various foods being produced in the street, visiting the various historical sites, surfing, or just hanging out at a café, there is no shortage of things to do and see. Outside of the capital, Morocco has so much to offer! I was taken aback by how varied the country is. Every 100km the landscape changes, from beautiful beaches with huge waves to vast cityscapes, to the spectacular snow-capped Atlas mountains, or the western Sahara desert, it has it all. Most exchange students I met were always keen to get out and visited different parts of the country whenever possible, my first weekend I found myself visiting a snow-covered, European looking town in the North dubbed the ‘Switzerland of Morocco’!

2018 Voigt Outskirts of ChefchauoenParticular highlights for me where, trekking in the desert and staying overnight with the berber guys we were with, enjoying an amazing home cooked meal with me class at our French teacher’s house, surfing constantly for two weeks after term finished, and changing a flat tyre at 2500m above sea level in the Atlas mountains (believe it or not), and arranging an exchange of sorts with the guy that helped as way of a thank you, as well as a week-long solo trip around the North after everyone else had left. All these times and more, combined with the real and lasting friendships formed during my time there helped to make the experience unforgettable. I couldn’t recommend a semester abroad enough, or just visiting Morocco otherwise, in case you couldn’t tell already.”

Many, many thanks to Fergus for sending us this blog post and for patiently waiting for me to get round to adding it! With many of our Year 3 students currently off on their Semesters Abroad, we’re looking forward to being able to post more tales of travels and languages over the weeks ahead.