Tag: Paris

A Year Abroad: ‘Full of new experiences, new friends, new places’

And following on from Andrea’s experiences in Spain, another great post – this time from Paige who has spent the past year working as an English Language Assistant and will be coming back into her 3rd year in a few weeks. Some excellent tips and advice here for students about to go away on assistantships this coming year or thinking about them further down the line:

‘By the time I come back to Scotland for my studies in September I will have lived in France for a year! This was something I had always wanted to do but I didn’t realise that University was an avenue to do it, especially in the middle of working towards your degree.

This year has been amazing! It has been such a quick year and I’m still not ready for it to end! To be honest it’s difficult to write about my year because it has been such a busy, full year. Full of new experiences, new friends, new places. I feel like I have spent the entire year out of my comfort zone, but it has been amazing! I have done so many things I never would have done before and it really helps you to grow as a person. That may sound clichéd but when you have to do so many things you perceive as scary – in a short space of time – eventually the scary things seem less scary, almost normal! And if nothing else, when facing another scary thing (like a job interview or starting a new job) you can look back, think of all the things you did that you never thought you could do and know that you can do this too.

I was assigned to the Académie de Créteil. I had never heard of Créteil but after a Google search I learned that it was very close to Paris and to be honest I was initially a little disappointed. I knew a lot of people wanted to be close to Paris, but I wasn’t one of them – I had already visited Paris on holiday and loved it but I really wanted to experience “real France” away from the touristy capital. The idea of being in a small town in France really appealed. However, as soon as you’re back in Paris it’s hard not to fall in love with the city all over again! I’ve really enjoyed discovering less well-known attractions and the non-touristy parts of Paris this year, but I also loved going up the towers of Notre Dame and I’m so glad I took every visitor up there before the tragic fire. I’m sure it will be repaired soon and I recommend that everyone go up the Notre Dame towers – it’s my favourite thing to do in Paris! Lots of attractions in Paris are free for under 26s (including the Notre Dame towers) so it’s a great excuse to see and do so much!

The two collèges I was assigned to were in two different suburbs outside Paris. I decided to look for accommodation in both towns rather than in Paris – accommodation in Paris is very expensive, as are the suburbs around Paris, although they are slightly less so. I found shared accommodation (colocation) in one of the towns close to both of my collèges and I highly recommend considering this – it can be really nice living with people when you’re in a new country and don’t know anyone. It’s also a great way to practice your French. Wherever you are assigned to in France I recommend using the appartager site to search for accommodation.

I really enjoyed working as an English Language Assistant in my two collèges. Working as an English Language Assistant sometimes involves working in class with the teacher, working with small groups or taking half the class (up to 12 students). It was such a great experience and has made me realise that I would like to pursue the possibility of teaching English as a foreign language in France. I had always wanted to be an English teacher (I began University studying English and Education) but I wasn’t sure if teaching English as a foreign language appealed or if I would rather teach English literature in Scotland. I think working as an English Language Assistant can give you a taste of what teaching is like and help you decide if it’s something you would like to do. Thankfully I still want to go into teaching – working in the collèges didn’t put me off! Of course, it could be challenging at times, especially at the start when you were trying to get to grips with the job, and it felt as though I was just getting the hang of it near the end!

I also embraced the opportunity to take part in the SCILT programme ‘Language Linking, Global Thinking’ which links a high school in Scotland with a Language Assistant. The main purpose is to encourage students to continue studying a language. As an assistant this involves sharing your experiences of living abroad through blogs, postcards, photos etc., as well as anything you learn about such as National holidays and answering any questions the class have for you. I loved responding to the student’s questions, and I enjoyed writing the blog posts as it forces you to research and learn things you otherwise would not.

I remember just before I left for France, one of the SCILT course leaders gave us the following advice: to say yes to every invitation we received unless we thought it would put us in any danger. I decided to follow this advice because although I’m a naturally shy person, I wanted to make the most of this amazing opportunity to spend a year abroad. As a result, I made so many friends of mixed ages and had so many fantastic days out and great experiences.

I found that people really make an effort to invite you to spend time with them when they find out you’re on a year abroad but there are also lots of things you can do too to meet people! My mentor teacher at one of the collèges was great – she really looked after me and invited me to so many soirées where I met other people who also invited me to spend time with them! It was a great way to meet people and spend an evening speaking French. There is also the option to go to Meetups, Franglish (a conversation exchange programme, where Native French speakers are paired with Native English speakers to converse and improve their target language), French classes and there are so many other options too! I went to Franglish and met some lovely French people that I later met up with outside of Franglish. They also introduced me to their friends, so I met even more people! I also went for some evening French lessons while I was in Paris which can be another good way to meet people and make friends.

Before I came out to France, I wasn’t able to speak much French at all, but my French has improved over the year! I always feel so proud of myself after I spend a day or an evening communicating in French with French-speakers even though my accent still makes me cringe – I need to work on that!

Spending this year abroad has also made me realise that you can go abroad with very little money in the bank as long as you have a job to go to. It’s very encouraging to know that travelling or living abroad for a year is not limited to the wealthy. This year has also made the whole experience of living abroad seem less scary and unachievable. I have learned that people are the same everywhere, no matter what country they live in or language they speak. I would definitely love to live in France in the future, but after having this experience of living abroad for a year I am now very open to the option of spending 6 months to a year teaching English in Japan or China at the end of my degree.

I’ll be very sad to leave France when I have to come back for my studies but I’m so thankful to have had this amazing experience and I highly recommend it!’

Many, many thanks to Paige for a fantastic post and we’re looking forward to seeing you back in Stirling in a few weeks!

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‘I’ve had a great and rewarding time learning languages!’

As I’d hoped, thoughts and responses keep coming in from students and colleagues alike about their experiences with language learning so, as promised, as long as they keep coming in, I’ll very happily keep posting them, starting this week with Nick, a final year student on our International Management and Intercultural Studies programme:

2019 Masdorp Pic 2 Mar19‘Not counting English as my second language (because I started learning that alongside German as an infant) my ‘actual’ second language was Latin. I chose to take it in high school when I was 9 because I wanted to be an archaeologist at the time. Despite a change in my career aspirations, I decided to stick with Latin until the end of high school, until I was 17. While I was never too bad at Latin, I wouldn’t consider it as a hugely useful language these days, other than for learning other languages such as French, which I started studying in grade 8 when I was 12. I have stuck with French until now because I have always enjoyed it, despite dropping it for a term in high school due to a teacher with a more challenging personality. Having spent a semester studying in Paris, I have decided that I very much enjoy French language and culture and want to continue engaging with it as much as I can, especially during my upcoming Master’s degree in Strasbourg.

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Apart from Latin and French, I studied Italian in primary school for three years and spent three months living in Italy after high school. I sadly don’t speak much Italian anymore, although I definitely want to pick it up again because I go on holiday to Italy regularly and always enjoyed speaking the language when I was younger.

2019 Masdorp Pic 4 Mar19Overall, I have had a great and very rewarding time learning languages, not at all only for any career considerations but more so because it has enabled me to live in the respective countries for work and study and to speak to the locals and exchange students in Scotland in their own language which always makes them feel more comfortable and is a very rewarding feeling. Additionally, it makes me feel like I could live and work in way more places after Uni than I could have done before!’

Many, many thanks to Nick for this great blog post and we wish you all the best not only for the last few weeks of this semester here but also for the year ahead in Strasbourg.

Why study Languages?

I’m sure many of you will have seen or heard coverage this week of a BBC survey looking at the drop in the uptake of languages at secondary school level across the UK. If you didn’t, there’s plenty to read about it here and elsewhere.

This is, of course, a source of great concern for all of us working in Languages at whatever level within the education system and the reporting prompted us at Stirling to ask some questions, of ourselves and of our students, about our own experiences of language learning and what motivated us (or didn’t) to keep going with a particular language. Emails went out to all our students and to all colleagues, and the responses have been fascinating, as well as being funny, impassioned, thoughtful, concerned… and many other things besides. So, what better reason for a blog post? Or several!

What I’d like to do here, to start with, is to gather together the responses that have come in from colleagues, ie from those of us who teach French at Stirling, and there’ll then be a few blog posts from our students. The questions, though, are the same for all of us, as for the students namely: at what age did you start learning a language that wasn’t your native language? What language was it? What made you continue learning it (if you did)? And if that language wasn’t French, at what age did you start learning that and why and why did you decide to study it at University? And, finally, are there other languages you have previously studied but stopped studying and, if so, which ones and why?

And this time, if you’ll forgive the indulgence, I’ll start with my own experience… So, I’m Cristina Johnston and I’m currently Programme Director for French at Stirling and I started studying French at secondary school, in first year. However, before I started learning French, I was very lucky because I had already been exposed to Italian as my mother (and half my family) come from Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland. I spent school holidays in Switzerland, with my grandmother and family there, and many of them (most of them, at the time) didn’t speak any English but spoke either Italian or the dialect of Ticino, so if I wanted to communicate with them, I just had to speak Italian.

So, when I got to first year of secondary school and French classes started (there was no alternative to French for pupils in first year in my school), although it was a new language and a new accent and new words and new ideas, it somehow already felt familiar to me. I could understand bits and pieces from the first lesson when – as I still vividly recall – our fantastic teacher, Mr Prosser (with whom I’m still in touch every now and then so many years on), appeared and insisted on speaking French and on us speaking French, from the outset, for everything. Others who’ve been in touch about this have spoken about feeling that kind of familiarity and comfort within the new language and that was certainly my experience.

From second year, I also did German and continued with both to the end of secondary school, with French remaining very much my favoured language but German really growing on me, particularly as we got the chance to read more in German (Kafka and Frisch and Dürrenmatt). I spent a year living in France between school and Uni (taking ‘French for foreigners’ classes at Lille III University which was brilliant) and then it was just obvious that French would be part of what I’d do at University, too, so I did. I also took up Czech in first and second year of University which was challenging, to put it mildly, but which I thoroughly enjoyed, not least because, if you wanted to take second year Czech, you had to spend a month at a Summer School in the Czech Republic during the Summer which seemed like an excellent way to spend my time.

In other words, for me, languages have always been there, in different contexts, at different levels, with different levels of enthusiasm, and if I think about what has motivated me to continue studying languages, it’s very often people – Mr Prosser at secondary school, excellent Czech tutors at University in the shape of Josef Fronek and Igor Hajek, but also friends from countries where the languages are spoken and from other countries where other languages are spoken, and, since starting work as a Lecturer in French, students, too. It’s about the books and the films and the plays and the museums and the travel and the food, too, of course, but it’s the people who are the primary motivation, from my perspective.

Our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, studied languages in secondary school because the system left him no choice in the matter. You simply had to do at least two languages, one in S1 (in his case, English) and another from S3 (German, for him) with the possibility of picking up a 3rd language in lycée. For him, that structure is relevant when we consider the practical timetabling issues in Scottish schools nowadays and the impact that has on language uptake. There were also special, geographical circumstances that came into play (Jean-Michel comes from the region on the border between France and Switzerland), meaning that tv was readily available in French, German and Italian. He had an older brother who lived in England, American relatives, American pupils visiting his college every year and, he assures us, ‘parents who grew up during the war who were convinced we needed to build a new Europe…’

Hannah Grayson spoke French for the first time in her first week of secondary school: ‘I was 11 years old and very shy, but I was quite pleased we all had to take French as a compulsory subject. It was like an immediate *click*, where I just loved it. I liked the sound of the words, the challenge of learning the names of things in another language, and the fun activities we got to do in class. After that, I chose to carry on with French because I found it really exciting to be able to express myself in another language. I met people from France and loved being able to understand them in their native language. As somebody who likes learning, I like French because there’s always more to learn – there’s always something else I could read, or words I haven’t yet come across.’

Elizabeth Ezra only really started learning French at University but says she wishes she’d been able to start it earlier and ‘learn it at a more relaxed pace!’ In her case, growing up in the States, ‘apart from a few Spanish words that everyone growing up in Southern California learns, that was my first exposure to a language other than English.

French wasn¹t initially my main subject – I just kind of took it on a whim – but I was given the chance in my first year of uni to spend ten weeks in France. I¹d never been out of California (let alone on an airplane) and thought I might never have another chance to go abroad, so I jumped at it.

Even though I was always good at grammar, I couldn¹t really understand a word people in France were saying for a *very* long time. I was actually convinced that this French thing was an elaborate practical joke, and that at some point people would burst out laughing and speak in perfect English about how gullible I was. I loved the south of France, where I was living and studying, but I hated feeling that people thought I was stupid because I could hardly speak. Of course I know now that’s not how it works, and that’s not how people think, but at 17, I didn’t realise that.

In my second year, I took more French because, frankly, I didn’t want all the (very) hard work I’d put in to learning the language in my first year to go to waste (which isn’t a very good reason to pursue something, but there you go). Fortunately, I soon fell in love with French literature. In my third year, I did my study abroad in Paris, which introduced me to the world of French literary theory and philosophy, which I also fell in love with. Once again, while I continued to be good at grammar, I was very bad at understanding spoken French, and they almost didn’t let me take classes at l’Université de Paris III. To remedy my weakness, I obviously read a lot in French, but I also bought a transistor radio (if only there had been podcasts back then) and forced myself to listen to French radio a
couple of hours each day. Eventually, I was able to pick out more and more words, until my comprehension was up to speed.

I came back from Paris with all guns blazing, keen to pursue the study of French literature and culture. After finishing my undergraduate studies, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.’

And finally, for the moment, Mathilde Mazau, started learning English at 11 (en 6e au college, en Martinique). It was her ‘langue vivante 1’ – she also did Latin, German and Spanish, but later. She says: ‘I fell in love with English through music when I was a little child and I think being able to understand and sing the songs I loved (rather than “chanter de la bouillie anglaise”) was my main motivation. I then continued English at uni and taught the language for many years in France before coming to Scotland.’

As other responses come in from colleagues, I’ll add them to the blog but this gives a pretty good starting point, at least from our perspective! Next, it’s the turn of our students to have their say (and maybe try to find some pictures to illustrate all of this!)…

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.

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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!

 

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.

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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 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.

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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.