Tag: Politics

‘Talking to and learning from as many people as possible’

And finally, in today’s flurry of blog posts, Amy, another member of this year’s graduating cohort has sent this article looking back over what her degree has allowed her to do but also where it might take her in the years ahead:

‘I studied BA Hons Politics and French and going to University was the best decision of my life. University has provided a wealth of opportunities that would not have been afforded to me had I not gone. During my undergrad, I travelled to Tanzania to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world – Mt Kilimanjaro. I then spent a year teaching in Blois, Loire Valley; a semester in Paris studying at Sciences Po and two summers managing staff and kids in a French campsite in the Ardèche, Rhône Valley. The experience and the cultural awareness that these opportunities provided were invaluable and they sparked within me an immense curiosity about people, the world and myself.

University is a melting pot of people from all over the world and a fantastic opportunity like no other to learn from people who have had different experiences from you. If you are like me and want to travel and see the world, then University is a great place to start. Gaining cultural awareness is far more than bag-packing in every country that your summer job can afford, it’s about talking to and learning from as many people as possible, wherever you are.

2018 Amy McIntyre Bill's last class May18My advice to future Stirling students: talk to your tutors and your lecturers. They’re people and there’s not the same hierarchy that may have existed between you and your teachers at school. University is a collective learning environment and both you and your lecturers have something to learn from one another.

Go to the cinema screenings that the French department want you to attend. Go to their mixers and free wine events. Go and talk to the local school kids about your study abroad experience. Sign up to be a Module Representative and, of course, offer to write a piece for Cristina’s blog. These actions of engagement are understandably daunting as a first year, but push yourself to do it.

University is more than studying; It’s more than reading books. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advise attempting your degree without doing the aforementioned, but I can’t emphasize the importance of other factors at University enough. My advice to future students of Stirling: Get involved. Take advantage of every opportunity that interests you. Join a club or 5, hold weekly stalls in the Atrium and meet like-minded people and people who challenge your views alike.

2018 Amy McIntyre Logie Protest May18During my time at Stirling University I was Co-Convenor of the Socialist Society, Secretary for Stirling Students for Scottish Independence and I co-led Stirling Students in Support of the UCU Pension Strike protest movement which led to a 14-day Occupation of Logie Lecture Theatre.

My time in France

I took a gap year to participate in the British Council English Language Assistantship (ELA) Scheme in the Loire Valley, France. On reflection, I can honestly say I learned just as much from my kids as they learned from me. The simplicity, honesty and innocence of young people’s minds is interesting, inspiring and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, prepare yourself for insults that are not intended as insults: “Amy, your nose is cool, it reminds me of a witch”. Thanks Pierre, you’ll have to excuse me as I’ve made plans to cry in the toilet…

2018 Amy McIntyre Pic May18

Tip to future language assistants: Get to know your ELA friends but don’t spend too much time with them. They are a great comfort to you when you are abroad but are inevitably a hindrance to your French language progression if you spend too much time alone with English-speakers.

In my third year, I studied at Sciences Po, Paris. I found that Politics in France is very different to the UK in terms of grassroots movements, protests and youth engagement with politics. Manifestations are as common as croissants in Paris and I was amazed at the crowds of youngsters who were politically active.

2018 Amy McIntyre Eiffel Tower May18

What motivates people to act the way they do? How do political institutions and societal factors impact their behaviour? And ultimately, how can we unite people, despite their perceived differences to come together and form a better society? These are questions that are ever-evolving and I suspect they will occupy my mind for the rest of my life, whatever avenue I choose to go down.

For the moment, I am fascinated by examining policies in different countries and finding out what works and what doesn’t. To change society for the better, I believe we need better policies at the heart of it. I hope to do a Msc in Public Policy and Management this year at the University of Glasgow. Ultimately, I want to make a positive contribution to the world, no matter how big or small that will be.’

Many, many thanks to Amy for this fantastic post and for the great tips for future students. We wish you all the very best for the MSc and the future beyond! And, of course, we would encourage as many as possible of our current (and former) students who might be reading this to take Amy’s advice and get in touch about future blog posts…

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

 

International Politics and French: ‘I couldn’t be happier with it!’

And, following on from Stuart Close’s profile, another great article, this time by Margareta Roncevic who has just completed the first year of her BA Hons in International Politics and Languages:

“These things used to be so much easier to write. I used to have a blog until I was about 15 and then high school reputation smacked me in the face and I couldn’t afford to have a blog anymore. Shame really, I might have been one of those popular blog people who eat, and travel, and have nice Instagram profiles…

Well, now that I think about it, I do eat. I travel quite a lot. And I just opened an Instagram account – so, hey, I’m not that far off. But even better is that I am studying what I adore at this magnificent place called Stirling. I’m one of those students who are inexplicably happy with their choice of studies, and who try to be as engaged as possible in the student life. I have only finished a first year of my degree in International Politics and French, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

You hear students talking how they picked their universities: how they went for the open days and visited campuses, how their parents heard good things about a certain course, or they liked the fact that it is far away from their hometown. Well, none of that quite explains what happened to me…

Croatia, the wee country I’m from, only joined the European Union in 2013, when I was 17. Until then, the idea of studying somewhere else was foreign to me. I had my mind set on the University of Zadar, in my hometown. And then suddenly, Croatia signs some papers and voilà! Dozens of new things you can do!

We had people from the UK and other parts of the EU coming to give presentations at our school and explaining how we could enrol at the universities there. And all of a sudden, I wanted to go abroad. In my last year of high school, I worked with the agency that was helping students enrol in universities in England. I obtained my Cambridge certificate, wrote my personal statement, got my recommendations, translated my transcripts, prayed and more. On my prom night, I checked my e-mails, because that’s what you do when you are celebrating the end of your high school years and are having last few days with your class, and funnily enough I found out that said I had been accepted to all of the universities that I had applied to. I was good to go!

Or, not really. See, since we were the first generation of students from Croatia going to England with this programme, some mistakes were made. Long story short, they didn’t quite explain the financial aspects of studying there and a few of us realized we don’t have enough money to cover for… anything. We were just about to sign the papers for the loan for our tuition fees, but our accommodation would not be covered for the first year – as was initially promised.

What to do now? My ticket to London is already bought. I am packed. I have a new raincoat. I don’t want to stay in Zadar. But I also can’t go to study.

So, naturally, I took a gap year and spent the first two months of it volunteering on a farm in East Grinstead, next to London. The university was kind enough to save me the place for the next year, until I saved some money and came back to study. Life on the farm was reinvigorating. I was learning about beekeeping, sheep…; I was painting the shed and the cottage; I was pruning those little green bushes while being attacked by some bees because I put almond oil in my hair the night before and forgot about it…

2017 Margareta Roncevic Luxembourg Pic IIIt was time to find a job. I managed to find one, in the heart of the Europe – Luxembourg. I became an Au Pair and took care of one little girl who was 1.5 year old at the time. In Luxembourg everyone speaks at least 3 languages. And when I say at least, I mean the older generation of people who didn’t learn ‘any foreign languages’. German, Luxembourgish and French are the norm. And when you speak only 3 languages fluently and find yourself there, you don’t feel good about yourself. As the little girl was starting to talk more and more, so was I. We were learning French together, so for the first period of time, I used a lot of baby words like: dodo, lo-lo, pi-pi… I know, quite a vocabulary!

In the middle of my first gap year, I had an epiphany and realized I don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life. So, as I was lying in my bed at 1am, I decided to e-mail the university in England and say: hey, I’m not coming. As I was lying in my bed at 1.20am, I realized I had no Plan B, and thought: merde.

2017 Margareta Roncevic Campus Pic June17After an intensive session of googling and trying to find the perfect university, I stumbled upon the SAAS page. I checked out all the uni portals and pictures, and what not, I had my mind set on Stirling. First of all, the programme. Secondly, the campus. Also, Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn…

Here I have to mention my mother, who loved to wear tartan since I was a child and has two tartan suits, one red and one green. They both have matching hats and shoes. No, it is not a thing in Croatia and yes, my mom is a very creative person and has her own style. I think that she subconsciously led me to study in Scotland.

I ended up taking another gap year and worked in Denmark as well as Luxembourg. I applied again to the universities in Scotland, by myself. At this point, I could already speak a lot of French and understand it better. Me and the little one had proper conversations about the horses and snails, the usual nanny talks. But, Luxembourg being Luxembourg, it did not allow me to practice my French more. People there are so nice and helpful, and when they see you struggling with a word or explaining something, they immediately start speaking English to you. Mais non, je voudrais pratiquer!

Even before I lived in Luxembourg, I wanted to learn another language. French became my obsession after reading Les Misérables, so the goal is to read it again in its original language. After experiencing a bit of francophone culture, Scotland was a great addition to my story. To study at its heart, in the current political climate and with all the benefits of the multicultural environment – some of the many reasons I’m happy here!

I should probably mention that I had never even visited Scotland before coming here in September last year. But hey, it turned out fine.

Even though it took me a bit longer to get here, I am very content with what I managed to do in my first year of the university. I was a course representative for the Introductory French module and I became the new president of the Politics Society. I am happy that the university let us settle in and discover our interests before pushing us into strict academic mould.

Hopefully, in the future I will write all of this in French. Until then, I’ll stick to my comfort zone with horses and snails.”

Many thanks to Margareta for finding the time to write this post and we do, indeed, look forward to future blog posts (whether in English or French, or maybe even a bit of Croatian!) as your degree progresses.

French Presidential Election: Experiences of a ‘Primo Votant’

For David, one of our final year students, the end of teaching and assessment was particularly significant this year because it meant a return to his home in France in time to join the ranks of the primo votants (first-time voters) in the first round of the French presidential elections. We’ve asked him to share his thoughts on this experience and we’re delighted to be able to share this post:

2017 David Primo Votant April“I voted in a French presidential election last Sunday for the first time and it felt exhilarating. Voting in France has always been an essential element when it comes to being a citizen. It is not only regarded as a right but, first and foremost, as a civic duty. Elections are always held on a Sunday so, in my family, as in many others, we all go to the polling station, which is usually in a local school hall. As I cast my vote by placing my sealed envelope in the ballot box, the officer solemnly announced “a voté” (has voted) and I signed the register. I felt apprehensive, yet excited, at the prospect of voting as I was aware of the importance of my choice, especially nowadays with the current climate of political uncertainty.

On leaving the polling station, we bought croissants and pains au chocolat (ouh la la!) and discussed the possible outcome of the elections with the results due to be announced at 8 o’clock that night. People discuss politics quite openly in France and the French can be very vocal about their political views which can be a source of tension and heated debate during family meals. The situation was especially tense this year as several non-mainstream candidates were in the running for the Elysée. The atmosphere as we waited for the results on Sunday evening was one of excitement and impatience. And it was nerve-racking when the results were actually announced. I was in front of the telly with my family, glass of wine in hand (bien sûr !), watching David Pujadas, one of France’s most famous TV presenters, who already knew the results, commenting on the atmosphere in the headquarters of the various candidates, with the countdown to the results behind him.

After what seemed like an interminable wait, voici the results: Macron and Le Pen are through to the second round. A shockwave of disappointment, fear, joy, excitement is felt throughout France. For the first time in the history of the 5th Republic, politicians representing neither the traditional left nor right wing parties are through to the second round of the presidential elections. The next morning, the streets were empty; people were either at work or stayed at recovering from the shock of the results perhaps, or from the hangover from the wine the night before. Overall, this presidential race has created an increase in political awareness among French people, especially the younger generation, not unlike in the U.S. elections. It is however worth noting that more than 20% chose not to vote. The two remaining candidates now have a little more than a week to convince voters who did not vote for them in the first round that they should be the next French President. Whatever the result on Sunday 7th May, we can safely it will be a first for France! Vive la République et vive la France!”

Many thanks to David for this blog piece and we look forward to an update after the 2nd round!