Tag: Quebec

Semester in Quebec: Ice fishing, underground tunnels and independence

Last Thursday’s get-together for our Year 3 and 4 students and our HNU Translation and Interpreting class was a chance for them to exchange thoughts and tips on Study Abroad as our finalists (across all degree programmes) settle back in here and our 3rd years get ready for their own departures next semester. With that in mind, it seemed like a good time to get an account of Semester Abroad from one of our students who has returned from furthest afield. Rachel Talbot – who is just starting her final year in French and Journalism – spent her Spring semester at our partner Laval University in Quebec, partly thanks to funding from Santander which is vital to our students who opt for non-EU (so non-Erasmus) locations. As you’ll see in the account that follows, there’s much more to Study Abroad than just an opportunity to see what another University system is like:

‘From 5th January until 1st May 2017 I had the opportunity to study at Laval University in Quebec City. I had never been to the Americas before and flying from Scotland to Iceland onto Toronto and then Quebec was a huge journey in itself. I had heard Quebec City described as s a ‘Piece of Europe in North America’. Unlike the grid like road maps and blocked buildings of most North American cities, Quebec has an ‘Old Town’ and small, winding cobbled streets and architecture which makes it a gem in the North.

2017 Rachel Talbot Château Montmorency pic
Château Montmorency

I attended the FLE Language School at Laval University which meant I had 16 hours a week. I enjoyed having that much contact time and the course, especially my public speaking class, boosted my confidence greatly speaking French and aided my advancement in the language massively.

At Laval University there is a huge international community (I didn’t meet a single fellow British citizen while I was there!) and it was incredible to meet students from all round the world. Everyone was so open and friendly on their Study Abroad experience that I was lucky enough to have a good group of friends from the very first day!

2017 Rachel Talbot Ice Hotel
Ice Hotel

Not only did the Language school organise my classes but they organised activities at least three times a week, every week. With FLE I was lucky enough to visit the Quebec Parliament, the “Cabane de sucre”, (a traditional French-Canadian restaurant where everything was smothered in Maple Syrup!), the incredible Ice Hotel and many other brilliant landmarks.

 

Living in Quebec is definitely not for the faint-hearted, with the temps reaching -25c! At first we found it bizarre to have to leave for a night out with full snow boots and a ski jacket. However, our university was connected by tunnels so you could go to the gym, class, even the pub without stepping a foot outside. This took some getting used to but added to the experience. Despite the cold, to see everything blanketed in snow was a beautiful sight.

2017 Rachel Talbot Underground Tunnels
Inside the underground tunnels
2017 Rachel Talbot Falls of Montmorency
Montmorency Falls

With the amount of snow there were lots of opportunities to try out new winter activities such as skiing, dog sledding, ice skating and ice fishing. We managed to do all these activities at discounted prices through the university – you could basically try a new sport weekly. We also became massive Ice Hockey fans and had the chance to watch the local team play many times – a massive highlight for us all! I did try my hand at skiing in Vermont and despite thinking I was a natural, I managed to break my collar bone on the second day. Having to be tobogganed down the hill and treated in an American Hospital has become a good story to tell – but definitely sabotaged my budding Ice Hockey Career!

 

I lived in Quebec for 4 months and during that time my friends and I managed to do a lot of travelling. As Quebec is positioned very well in North America we took the chance to visit to New York, Boston and Vermont. This was something I had always dreamed of doing and I couldn’t have achieved if I had chosen to stay in Europe. Buses were cheap and we had a week off for Spring Break so it was fantastic to see some of the States as well as Canada.

2017 Rachel Talbot Spring Break
Spring Break in New York and Boston

We found the Quebec people warm and friendly. The history of Quebec and how it was founded and formed interested me hugely and I decided to do a comparison project for my coursework examining how Scotland and Quebec have both bid for independence in the past. I managed to gain a huge insight into Quebec and its culture through this research. It was definitely an amazing experience which came at the right time during my four years of University as it has only motivated me to master this fascinating language even more. I would never have had such a perfect chance to visit North America either while still studying towards my degree. For this I am so thankful to the University and I look forward to visiting Quebec again soon!’

2017 Rachel Talbot Skating

Many thanks to Rachel for taking the time to send us this great post and we look forward to more tales from Quebec from future Study Abroad students!

2017 Rachel Talbot Quebec Ice Carnival
The Quebec Ice Festival

 

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European Day of Languages: Student Ambassadors at Wallace High

As part of our activities to celebrate the European Day of Languages, three of our current final year students (Ellen Ingram, Charlotte Cavanagh and David Vescio) went along to local secondary school Wallace High to talk to pupils and teachers there about studying languages at University. Here’s their account of the day:

“To commemorate European Languages Day 2016, we went along to Wallace High School to promote the benefits of language learning to the pupils. Having all had a ball working and studying abroad, we were keen to talk to the pupils and encourage them to stick in with their modern language studies.

2016-blog-edl-wallace-pic

The school organised many different workshops, speakers and activities throughout the building across different departments, including a French cuisine sample session arranged by the Home Economics department. Our workshop was designed to work with small groups of students and tell them about the opportunities that learning a language have opened for us. Working in small groups allowed the students to ask us questions and also tell us their ideas about their future and if learning a language would be part of their plan.

For Ellen, it was particularly good to “hear the thoughts of the different pupils and it was interesting to hear how many of them felt that language learning might enhance their job opportunities in the future. Many pupils told me that they would like to be able to speak another language but they find their language classes very difficult. Having studied French since high school, I have been through (and I am still going through) the struggle of language classes and the difficulty in grasping certain concepts, so I hope that I encouraged them to be tenacious and power through. In my opinion, the biggest piece of encouragement that I gave the students was that language allows you to travel. I told them about my experience working as a language assistant in France and my study abroad semester in Quebec and how I would not have been able to do those things without studying French. We talked about all the places that you can go if you have a basic understanding or even a few words of French and Spanish to show that there is more to learning these languages than just visiting France and Spain.

I really hope that I have inspired some of the pupils to continue learning a modern language and that they can see the benefits that I have gotten out of learning French and the experiences that I have had. To this day I still find learning French very difficult but it is my love for the language and my interest in experiencing other cultures that make it worthwhile.”

For Charlotte, “as a subject that means a lot to me, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the pupils of Wallace High School to promote the study of languages. What struck me the most was that although many pupils liked the idea of learning another language, they were put off by the idea that it takes a lot of time and effort to master and that they found learning languages extremely challenging. I really enjoyed discussing these thoughts and concerns with pupils, and I hope that by sharing my own stories I have reassured them that although learning a language is not easy, there are so many advantages to studying languages and that it can provide them with so many opportunities.”

David is planning a career in secondary teaching when he graduates so, for him, “it was fascinating both to talk with individual teachers and prospective language students, as well as to try to engage with pupils with no interest in languages whatsoever. Although they were quiet at first, some eventually started asking questions and I could see that they knew there was something to gain. I loved trying to explain to the pupils how languages gave me the opportunity to travel as well as meet new people. Although I thought that speaking of my own experience would not captivate the pupils’ attentions at first, I eventually noticed a spark of interest and one question led to many more. I think what it really showed me was that the pupils see a language only as an academic subject rather than a way to communicate. This truly opened my eyes as to how teachers not only have to teach a language but also have to engage the students. I left the school more determined than ever to become a teacher!”

Thanks to Ellen, Charlotte and David for having given up their afternoon to meet with the Wallace High pupils and staff and for this blog post. We’re hoping to continue to develop our connections with schools in the local area and beyond over the weeks and months ahead so, if you happen to be reading this as a secondary or primary Languages teacher, do feel free to get in touch!

“Fast-paced and challenging”: Working in the Travel Industry

Lelde Benke graduated with a BA Hons in French and Journalism in 2011. After a while living and working in Scotland, Lelde is now in Latvia, working for the Latvian tourist board and she’s sent us an account of her life since graduation:

2016 Benke Photo

“In my final year of high school I was sure of one thing – I wanted to study in the UK. However, I was torn between studying Tourism Management, Media Studies and French. Stirling Uni made the decision easier because it allowed me to combine the latter two.

Soon after starting my studies, I switched Media Studies for Journalism which highlights another great thing about the uni – its flexible approach. And now I find myself working in the travel industry so I’m a winner all round!

The presentation, language and translation skills that I developed during my time at uni and my year abroad as a language assistant in Belgium get put to use on a daily basis. My studies, year abroad and exchange semester in Quebec have also made me very open to working with international business partners as I have an understanding of and sensitivity towards cultural differences. These characteristics and skills are greatly appreciated in the travel industry.

Like many recent graduates, after completing my degree I felt a bit lost for a while and wasn’t sure of the next steps to take. I spent a while working as a waitress and applying for jobs in marketing. Six months after graduating, I landed a position with a digital marketing agency in Edinburgh and gained experience in SEO and copywriting for the web but after a while I became homesick so, when a suitable position appeared at the national airline back home in Latvia, I applied and got it which was my first move into the travel industry.

After a year working on the digital side of things for the airline, I realised how much I missed active communication with people. I yearned for a job in which my phone would ring more often, where I’d have more face-to-face meetings and the chance to give presentations.

I’ve now been with the national tourist board for just over two years and love it. My key tasks include organising press trips for international journalists and bloggers, and representing Latvia at B2B travel events. There is a lot of travelling involved. The travel industry is fast-paced and challenging, and I really feel it’s the right fit for a language graduate.”

If you want to learn more about life and travel in Latvia, you can read Lelde’s brilliant blog here. Thanks to Lelde for this article and best wishes for the future!

Study Abroad in Quebec: Maple Taffy on Snow

While teaching is at an end for our undergraduates on the Stirling campus, our students currently on Study Abroad semesters in France, Quebec, Switzerland and Morocco are at different stages of their academic semesters. Some – as in the case of Emily Brown, who has sent us this blog post, and who is enjoying her Semester Abroad in Quebec – are just waiting for Spring to start and for the end of sub-zero temperatures…

2016 Brown Laval Ice Fishing April
Ice Fishing

“Proudly progressive politics; a cityscape packed with church spires; the drive to protect a traditional language from Anglophone influence; an extraordinarily narrow referendum for political independence… I am of course describing Québec, the seat of French Canada.

If any of the above sounds familiar to Scottish readers, studying abroad at Université Laval may not be the terrifying leap from Stirling that it seems. From the stunning local wilderness down to the university’s Olympic-standard swimming pool, I’ve found we have more in common with our Québécois cousins than I expected.

2016 Brown Laval campus April
Laval Campus

If, for example, you prefer to say ‘Scotland’ before ‘Britain’ when asked where you live, you may understand why a Quebecker bristles slightly at being called ‘Canadian’. The province’s cultural heritage is appreciably distinct from that of its Anglophone neighbours, and proudly so. Buy a cheeky poutine (chips, special gravy and cheese curds) or maple taffy on snow, and you’ll understand why.

2016 Brown Laval Tire D'Erable April

Both Scots and Québécois French are beautifully distinctive examples of dialectic variation, but nevertheless, it can be hard to distinguish between accents as a non-native speaker. My advice to my German friends in telling a Scottish accent from an English one was to pay attention to the choice of swear words and insults. This method has served me well in Québec, because if I hear any curses I immediately recognise, the speaker is probably from France. Quebeckers instead use sacres, terms derived from the Catholic Church, which would translate for us as words like ‘chalice’ or ‘tabernacle’. They are deliciously versatile, easy to learn and artful to master – much like Scotland’s home grown variety. In addition, it’s useful to know that there’s no tolerance for Anglicisms like ‘weekend’ or ‘parking’ (it’s ‘fin de semaine’ and ‘stationnement’); but you might hear a roar of ‘Let’s go!’ at a hockey match, or a friendly ‘bye bye’ from a cashier.

2016 Brown Laval Snowed In April
Snowed in…

One word of warning: we may make a cultural pastime of complaining about the weather, but winter in Québec is not to be sniffed at. Once you’ve walked home with your groceries through a snow storm of -30C or below, Scotland will feel like a temperate oasis. Fortunately, if you want to opt out of hypothermia on the way to class, there is a maze of toasty underground tunnels connecting every building on campus. No snow days here! (Britain, take notes.)

2016 Brown Laval Ice Hockey April

 

Alternatively, you could warm up with a spot of ice skating, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, or – of course – ice hockey. Or curling, why not? The largest ice slide park in North America is about a half hour’s drive away from Laval. And most of these activities, among dozens more, are available for free or at a student discount through the university’s outstanding immersion program. If you’ve ever got that itch for ice fishing or dog sledding, this is the place to scratch it. Far from complaining, the party never ends in Québec as long as there’s snow on the ground.

One semester is an awkward amount of time to move anywhere – it’s long enough that you’ll be forced to settle in and make friends, and short enough that your adieux will come too soon, but every second will be worth it. The crazy, offbeat humour and warm energy of the people I’ve met here means I haven’t regretted my destination for a second. If you have the same opportunity, grab Québec with both hands and attache ta tuque.”

Thanks to Emily for this blog post – enjoy the rest of your semester and make the most of the warmer weather!

More Stirling Research News

2016 Bill RDVCQ

Not content with the freezing temperatures of Stirling, Bill Marshall has headed somewhere even colder and is currently in Montreal for a trip funded by the British Association of Canadian Studies’ Prix du Québec. He’ll be attending the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois to help develop a projected edited book of essays Quebec Film: Texts and Contexts, and conducting research at the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec for a forthcoming article in Yale French Studies on representations of the first French Empire in contemporary bande dessinée.

2016 Bill SCMS Atlanta poster

Next month, Bill will be giving the annual Christianson lecture at Bristol University on ‘French Atlantic Cities in Translation’ and participating in a panel on Quebec cinema at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Atlanta. In April, he’ll be giving a talk on Saint-Pierre et Miquelon at New York University, as well as a seminar at Edinburgh University in their ‘Diasporic Trajectories’ series.

And as though all that weren’t enough, Bill’s latest publication – a chapter entitled ‘Buildering, Urban Interventions and Public Sculpture’ – is now out in Christoph Lindner and Shirley Jordan’s edited collection Cities Interrupted. Visual Culture and Urban Space.

We look forward to some postcards…

2016 Bill Cities Interrupted cover