Tag: Part-time employment

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!

 

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‘Learning French and making it my own’

Following on from Julian’s account of life two years on from graduation, it’s over to Andrea who is two years into her degree programme in International Management and Intercultural Studies and who has sent us this update:

‘The summer holidays seem like the perfect time for evaluating the last academic year. About a year ago I wrote my first blogpost looking at how I got along with the French modules at Stirling at the end of first year. It is only the end of my second year, and I have already said goodbye to some friends who recently graduated, including a French friend. Now seems as good a time as any to follow up on how my learning has progressed since my first year at university.

The classes progressed in the same style as last year with separate strands focusing on grammar and writing skills, reading and watching media in French, and speaking. The different books and films we have been exposed to this year have been more of a challenge than in first year. However, the stories have remained very interesting through the struggle of understanding and analysing them. Thanks to this structure of learning, I have had time to look at where my strengths and weaknesses lie in learning French and making it my own. The structures of the seminars and assessments have really helped to pinpoint what areas of language learning I still need to improve on and what areas have progressed more. Throughout the year there have also been more opportunities to speak the language in formal and informal environments through our guided speaking classes and the less formal conversation classes. Coupled with a job in tourism, this has really improved my speaking skills. Over the summer I’m hoping to stay exposed to the language and focus on reading and writing in French to improve my vocabulary and grammar.

As second year moved along I have also discovered a new challenge to my language learning. I started learning Spanish from scratch in first year, and now that my Spanish has improved a little too it’s been difficult to keep the two languages apart in my head. My French is still better, and my brain often seems to default to it when I struggle in Spanish. With third year coming up, I am close to a semester abroad in Spain. I feel the challenge of keeping the two languages apart in my head will remain and I am still looking for ways to hopefully be able to keep my French alive while my semester abroad takes me to Spain. For anyone else taking two languages, I recommend you take your time with both languages and make sure neither of them is neglected otherwise they might jumble up in your head. I do feel that immersing myself in both languages as equally as possible has helped me to separate the two languages a bit more but the untangling is still in progress.

Overall, I have really enjoyed my second year of French at university level and I look forward to the new challenges of the years ahead.’

Many thanks to Andrea for sending this great post – enjoy the Summer months and we look forward to welcoming you back in the Autumn.

Final year: ‘A mix of hard work, excitement and nostalgia’

The countdown to graduation (on Thursday for most of our students…) has started so it’s something of a scramble to get life-after-graduation posts up on the blog in time but a fun scramble! This time, it’s one of this year’s finalists, Alex who is about to graduate in International Politics and Modern Languages and who has sent a post reflecting, as he puts it, on the ‘past-future questions’ that arise as you reach the end of your studies:

2018 Alex Sorlei Pizza Maker June18‘What will you do next? That’s the million-dollar question that you get from friends, family and university professors. But for me the question to ask a student who has just finished his four years of study is a different one. My question for me would be: how were these four years for you?

Most of them would start by saying that the first year is the most exciting one because you meet lots of people from all around the world. A new world of opportunity and knowledge opens up for you and you learn things you would have never thought you would. Most of them will remember about “international dinners” where they would have twelve or more different nationalities who got together and each cooked a typical dish from their country. Some will remember signing up for all these sports clubs and societies and unfortunately not having time to attend activities for all of them. They will remember how hard it was to choose one over another.

Then they will remember how university life became something normal and how Freshers’ week was a time when the campus was off limits. Too crowded, too many Freshers. They will remember the dozen CVs they handed in and their first job as a waiter, cleaner or other roles.

After the first two years they will tell you that from the third year onwards studies will take over your social life. No more clubbing, limited sport, junk food and long nights in the library. Those who go on Erasmus will tell you that going abroad was their best ever experience. Some will say the contrary.

About the fourth year they will tell you that it’s a mix of hard work, excitement and nostalgia. All happening at the same time. You will reflect back to your first year and you will realise how much you have achieved and how mature you have become in so little time.

When you ask them what will they do next many will not know the answer straight away. For me the answer is that during my four years of university I managed to learn many things that will help me with my future plans. It’s not necessarily about the new language that I learned nor how international organisations work, but how to treat people, talk to people and, most importantly, to respect people. That will help me in my mission to bring Neapolitan pizza to as many people as I can and to change the view of those who consider pizza unhealthy and greasy.

I am studying to become a professional pizza chef as I want to be able to have the knowledge to teach as many people as I can to make their own pizza at home. I want to learn more about the ingredients, nutrition and the food industry in general. I believe this will be a very interesting and important matter in the future as more and more people realise the importance of good alimentation. Food waste is also very interesting and something that needs more focus on.

2018 Alex Sorlei Pizza Maker II June18After the Stirling opening, I’ve attracted lots of interest from investors and I am now opening a second location in Edinburgh. After this new opening I would like to open other two locations (still investor interest) but not more than that. I want to keep Napizza at four and not more locations. I don’t want to become a “monster business” like the big chains. I believe you should work for a standard of life where you can fully enjoy it. If you work too much you will get older and older and all you time will fade away. We live now, and we need to enjoy our life now, not in ten or fifteen years when who knows if we will still be able to enjoy it or not.

I am also building a three-wheel van with an oven on the back in order to attend events, shows or just parties. Moreover, I want Napizza to become socially responsible and I am always looking for charities to support and create events that will help the community that Napizza is in. I am also planning to create some urban gardens and grow vegetables either for Napizza or personal use. Finally, I hope I will be able to find the time and do some consulting for pizzerias as this is something that I like doing more and more every day.

My philosophy at the moment is to work 20% of my time and 80% to plan and enjoy life. I am all about making mistakes and learning from them but the mistake that I am afraid to make is to work for something that will never come. I live now, therefore I try to enjoy these moments NOW and not later.

For the future I hope to live by the 20/80% rule and enjoy more my moments of life.’

Many thanks to Alex for the great blog post and we wish you all the best for the future, both in terms of your business plans and the 20/80 rule!

Explaining the mysteries of whisky in French

One of the topics that frequently comes up in conversation at Open Days and Applicant Days, as well as with our current students, revolves around the question of the jobs that Languages students go on to do. As many of the posts on this blog show, there are more answers to that question than you might expect, ranging from language teachers to commercial coordinators for major wine exporters, from translators to financial crime analysts with much, much else in between. For many of our students, the benefits of languages in terms of their employability become clear while they are still studying and find themselves taking on part-time or vacation jobs where their languages make them a real asset to a particular company or workplace. And, in return, that workplace-based experience of using language skills brings its own benefits to students in terms of their fluency, confidence, communication skills and all-round employability.

To give a sense of what this can actually mean in practice, we’re very pleased to get a chance to post the following article by Andrea Kolluder who is currently in her 4th semester and who has a part-time job working for a local distillery:

‘Learning French has had its many challenges. I have often found it difficult to improve my spoken French, simply because I had a great fear of speaking French words out loud. The fear of pronouncing things wrong, and making terrible mistakes with grammar would pull me back from speaking any of the French I knew. I would have never thought that it would be the subject of whisky that would eventually break my wall of fear of the spoken language. Yet, in May last year, when I started working for a whisky distillery, I gained some much-needed confidence in my spoken French.

When asked at my interview about whether I thought myself capable of doing guided tours around the distillery in French I said yes without hesitation. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. The concept of speaking French to native speakers – tourists with many questions no less – was terrifying at first. But like with many things, once you do it the first time, the next time becomes easier, and so after the first French conversation, the next one suddenly seemed a lot less frightening.

Thankfully my interactions have all been positive, which really helped. French-speaking visitors seem to always be glad to find a French speaker willing to explain the mystery of whisky to them in their native language. In return for a French tour, they were always patient and understanding even when it took me a lot longer to explain certain things to them. They would help me find words I couldn’t find off the top of my head or wait until I finally realised the words I was missing. The best part was that in the end, despite pronunciation or grammar mistakes, I could get meaning across. People were actually understanding my French. And of course, the best motivator of all, was that little praise that my French was very good, just as they were saying goodbye.

A job in tourism is a great one for making you realise how much you can communicate even without words. When you do know a few words though, the quality of the conversation grows for both sides. After many challenging language situations from disinterested teenagers to very curious families, I have built an interesting set of miscellaneous vocabulary about whisky in the French language. And now, I look forward to using it even more often.’

Many, many thanks to Andrea for taking the time to write this blog post and for patiently waiting for me to actually get it online!