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:
‘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.
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.
Overall, 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.
The start of a new week in Stirling and, as we’ve already mentioned, we’re looking forward to welcoming Joëlle Popineau on her Erasmus staff mobility from Tours tomorrow, but we thought we’d start this week with the thoughts of Ulvi who is also in Stirling as part of the Erasmus programme but as a student:
‘Hi everyone, my name is Ulvi, and I’m a student in Master 1 at EM Strasbourg BS and currently on my Erasmus exchange year at Stirling!
At the beginning of my exchange I was a little bit scared because this is the first time I have ventured so far, alone! Nevertheless, it is a great experience that I will never forget. Indeed, the welcome at the University of Stirling is very warm. We are immediately supported by the administration which allowed me to know what I was doing.
The university and the campus suit me perfectly. We’re right in the middle of nature and I take full advantage of the University’s sports complexes which offer me a feeling of well-being every day. Moreover, it is a very international place where I have been able to meet many new cultures and share mine with my new friends.
Finally, since September, I have had the chance to lead informal conversation sessions with students taking French as part of their degree. During these sessions I work with groups of students who come from all over the world to enjoy a moment of discussion on any topic, all in French! These are very enjoyable sessions that we share with new friends, very well managed by Dr Johnston and her team. Personally, I have integrated myself well within this programme and it have helped strengthen my own speaking, confidence and openness in groups with many different nationalities. If you’re a potential (French-speaking) Erasmus student reading this, I would strongly advise you to get in touch with the French team about these great sessions if you get the change: they have already given me some great memories!!’
Many, many thanks Ulvi for the lovely blog post, as well as for all his much-appreciated hard work on our informal conversation sessions, and we hope you enjoy the remaining few months of your time in Stirling.
As this year’s Year 3 students think about where they might be going for their Semester 6 Abroad (destinations will be confirmed next week…), time for another student blog post looking back over Study Abroad. Natalie, who is studying International Management with European Languages and Society, was at the heart of Europe in the Spring and has sent us the following reflections:
‘I started my Erasmus exchange in the charming city of Strasbourg in January of this year. Although I was apprehensive at the prospective of moving to another country, I was excited to discover a new culture in a city which I had heard so much about.
Strasbourg’s location in the heart of Alsace was one of the biggest factors when choosing my university for semester six. The beautiful town is situated on the French-German border and therefore, it is ideal for travelling and discovering new cities! Strasbourg is also home to various European institutions such as le Parlement européen, la Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme and le Conseil de l’Europe. I would certainly recommend visiting these institutions – we visited the European Parliament for free! We were able to enjoy the panoramic views of Strasbourg and we visited the Hemicycle which is used for the most important debates!
Capitale de Noël
I arrived in Strasbourg on the 5th of January and fortunately, the Christmas spirit was still alive in the town which claims to be the ‘Capital of Christmas’. Strasbourg boasts one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe. I was able to try local delicacies and discover the wonderful Alsatian Christmas decorations. It was a truly magical start to the semester which made me feel at home!
La dimension franco-allemande
Situated close to the German border, Strasbourg’s culture is a wonderful mixture of German and French influences. As a multicultural town, its historical city centre has been granted the title of World Heritage Site by UNESCO. One of the biggest attractions in this fairy-tale town is ‘La Petite France’ which is a historical and quaint part of Strasbourg. You can walk through the narrow streets, discover the Gothic architecture and enjoy a tarte flambée (speciality of the region) at one of the local restaurants. I would also recommend visiting la cathédrale de Strasbourg to climb up to the rooftops and enjoy a breath-taking view of the town and the Black Forest in Germany. There is also free entry on the first Sunday of each month to take all of your family and friends!
Strasbourg’s location is perfect for students who want to travel throughout their semester abroad. During my exchange, I visited Germany on a daily basis to go shopping. There is an excellent tram service which connects Strasbourg and Germany, I could not believe that I could travel across a border in only ten minutes! I also visited Zurich in Switzerland, Paris in Spring and carnival with my Erasmus friends in Cologne, Germany. As well as visiting other countries, I travelled to some beautiful towns within the Alsace region and I would recommend visiting Colmar, a small town accessible by bus from Strasbourg. The multi-coloured buildings, cobblestone streets and canals are incredible. We also visited the food markets to try some local delicacies!
Grande ville étudiante
During my Erasmus exchange, I studied at L’EM Strasbourg business school. I was able to choose from a wide variety of modules including subjects that are not available at Stirling University. One of my most fascinating subjects was ‘Introduction to Grape and Wine knowledge’ which included a trip to the vineyards in a small town called Ribeauvillé. This was an excellent trip to learn about the production of wine in Alsace, the grape varieties and to show off our knowledge about wine and food pairings. We even had the opportunity to put the theory we had learned in class into practice by participating in a wine tasting afternoon!
EM Strasbourg business school focuses on welcoming international students to ensure that all of its students feel accepted and included in university life. The student associations organise activities, buddy systems to meet French students and cultural trips throughout the semester. The buddy system allowed me to meet French friends that I would not have been able to meet otherwise. Also, the university promotes the local language cafes or ‘Café des langues’ in Strasbourg to practice your French. There are several language cafés across Strasbourg which allow students and locals to meet up, share experiences, meet new friends and learn French in a relaxing atmosphere!
On the whole, I really enjoyed my experience in Strasbourg and I even decided to dedicate my independent research project on the city itself in order to explore the French-German relationship. I would definitely recommend Strasbourg to all students who are looking for an enriching experience in a vibrant and dynamic town with the opportunity of travelling easily across borders. Upon reflecting on my experience, I would not change a thing and I cannot wait to return to Strasbourg!’
Many thanks, firstly, to Natalie for this great post (and pictures!). As it happens, Natalie is also one of a group of Year 3 and 4 students who are heading to Wallace High School in Stirling tomorrow as Student Language Ambassadors to lead a series of workshops as part of their annual Languages Day so good luck with that and we look forward to hearing all about it.
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:
‘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.
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.
I would also advise every Erasmus student who goes to France to buy the Carte culturewhich 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.
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!
As ever, the blog is a little quieter over the Summer months but I’m determined to post a few articles, as and when they make their way to me so today it’s a chance to catch up with Chris who graduated a few years back now and whose career has taken him in rather unexpected directions since then:
‘It is hard to believe that it is seven years since I graduated from the French Department with the degree in International Management and Intercultural Studies. This programme was what drew me to Stirling – it was unusual in that it offered the chance to go to Strasbourg and get a Masters from a top French Business School.
Following my time in Strasbourg, the opportunity came up to do a funded PhD which, although I had never been sure about what direction I would take following my Masters, felt like the right path for me. I came back to Stirling, because I really wanted to work with a lecturer who had taught me during my undergraduate time. My PhD looked at energy policies and green entrepreneurship in Britain, France and Germany, so I still used my French skills and conducted research in France as well as in the two other countries. During my PhD studies, I also did a stint teaching French at Stirling which I really enjoyed but I found very challenging, especially teaching things like direct and indirect objects to students fresh from school. It was fascinating to see it from the other side.
For the past two years, my life has taken a different direction. I have moved to Germany and started working in a research institution called Forschungszentrum Jülich, near Cologne, and I currently do research on the economic aspects of Germany’s energy policy. Although I already spoke German quite well, I have loved improving my German and becoming familiar with a new country. The skills I learned during my programme in the French department, involving a lot of time abroad, helped enormously with adapting to the new country and new language.
I still get to use my French quite regularly. The city in which I now live, Aachen, is on the Belgian border and close to Paris (two hours by train), so I am in the French-speaking world quite often. I also organise the French “Stammtisch” at work – it is a table of French speakers who meet once a week to have lunch, so that helps me to “keep my hand in” with the French.
When I reflect back on my time at Stirling, I have fond memories of the French Department. It was through the support of the department that I had the opportunity to do the Carnegie and Stevenson mini research scholarships which were very useful to my growth. I found studying contemporary Francophone culture broadened my awareness of different identities in the French speaking world. What I am doing now is quite different to what I did before and that is exciting – I would say that a key thing is to be adaptable and able to learn new skills and I felt that my degree at Stirling was a very good background for this.’
Many thanks (merci, vielen Dank!) to Chris for the update – it’s great to think there’s a Stirling-influenced Stammtisch meeting every week in Jülich! We look forward to finding out where the next few years will take you…
Back in June, a small group of our students were lucky enough to be able to attend the annual Summer School organised by our partners at the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg, an opportunity that gave them a chance to spend time in a beautiful city but also to benefit from fantastic classes and visits to European institutions and much else besides. Nick, Paloma and Stefano are now all back in Stirling and they’ve each sent their own take on the experiences in Strasbourg.
For Stefano, ‘one of the most thrilling aspects of our Summer School was the possibility to go on business trips to the European Institutions that are located in Strasbourg. Within our first ten days there, our group was invited to visit the Council of Europe, the continent’s oldest political organisation, founded in 1949. It was exciting to experience such an institutional and international atmosphere! Once we got there through the beautiful surroundings of Strasbourg’s diplomatic area, we managed to explore the building with its famous Hemicycle and we also got the chance to attend a conference on “The role of the Council of Europe in the European Political Architecture”. It is perhaps worth mentioning some key facts about this vital institution in Europe. The Council itself groups together 47 countries, including 21 countries from Central Eastern Europe and it currently has one more application from Monaco. Moreover, the Council has granted “observer status” to 5 external countries (US, Canada, the Holy See, Mexico and Japan). Broadly speaking, the Council is distinct from the European Union, but no member state has ever been part of the Union without joining the Council of Europe in the first place.’
Stefano also points out that the EU’s motto (United in diversity) fits very well with their entire programme of classes and visits: ‘ As a group of 30 students from, almost literally, all over the world, we had first-hand experience of how so many different countries can work within European Institutions. For instance, just one week after our visit to the Council of Europe we got the chance to explore the European Parliament, the only directed body of the EU. Most importantly, we were lucky enough to attend real sessions and debates of the Parliament over the following week; throughout these experiences we got a strong sense of how the Parliament elaborates community laws and how strongly its relations are intertwined with those of the European Commission and the Council of Ministers.’
From Paloma’s perspective, the cultural, geographical and linguistic aspects of the month in France were as important as the access to elements of the structures of the EU. ‘Strasbourg is a mixture of two cultures, French and German, perfectly balanced. Generally, the French were friendly and easy to talk to (as long as you were trying to speak in French…), however body language and gestures were required if our French wasn’t enough. Also, a large proportion of the older generations spoke German (or the alsacien dialect).
It is an adorable city, the perfect size, not too big, not too small. Sightseeing in Strasbourg was hence relatively easy: from the cathedral and la Petite France to the Parc de l’Orangerie (a mini zoo) a few blocks away from the school and the Place Kléber with the main shopping area. The first Sunday of the month gives you free access to some cultural spots, so we took advantage and visited a few museums, the cathedral tower and its astronomical clock.
As Strasbourg is located very centrally, we could easily travel around to Nancy, Colmar, Obernai, and even Zurich and Karlsruhe. However, its central location and its position as the seat of many EU institutions means that living expenses are quite high, so we took the tram line to Kehl in Germany to do our weekly groceries.
Local cuisine included tarte flambée (dough bread covered with cheese, crème fraiche, onion and bacon), baeckeoffe (casserole with vegetables, pork, beef and lamb cooked slowly in white wine), kouglof (bread-cake that is displayed in the window of every bakery in Strasbourg) and lots of white wine. Local farmers’ markets in the street parallel to our accommodation every Saturday had everything from yogurt, fruit and vegetables, bread, flowers, to second-hand clothes and pots and pans. The boulangerie was a few blocks away from the school; in the morning you could see the French queueing for the bread of the day.
On the 21st of June, we experienced La Fête de la Musique. Once a year, the city transforms into an “open concert” with music for all tastes. A different band plays in every corner downtown Strasbourg. For us (as Paloma is of Mexican origin), some of the highlights of the night were an Ecuadorian duo and a Brazilian party.’
And finally, from Nick’s point of view, it was the mix of classroom-based learning and extra-curricular activities that really stands out: ‘During my month in Strasbourg all students had a significant number of classes alongside the social activities most of us took part in outside of the curriculum. The classes were divided into several different subjects: European Integration, French Language and Business, which included Marketing, HRM and other topics.
Most classes were quite intense and well-structured. They were also very interesting and engaging (for the most part) with the only downside being the teaching rooms which did not have air conditioning or any real ventilation. It can get very hot in France during summer…
Some of the courses included some very cool field trips, such as a visit to the Europa Park, which was supposedly related to the business part of the course. It wasn’t really, as we spent most of the day on awesome rides (or queueing for them), but unsurprisingly nobody complained about that.
I feel it is maybe important to let future participants of summer school know that the amount of class in hours per week is significantly more than most of us will be used to from UK universities. This, however, is no issue at all, as self-study time is kept at a minimum and most classes are very informative and highly enjoyable, with lecturers from all over the world (Ireland, the US, Poland, France, etc.).
I can personally say that I genuinely learned a lot about the EU, European culture and French language during my stay in Strasbourg. I loved the outside activities and the group we were in was amazing and very international. The lecturers were entertaining, clever and left us all with an unexpectedly large amount of knowledge. I would recommend Strasbourg summer school to anyone at any educational level and from any background based on my experience this past summer.’
Many thanks, indeed, to Nick, Paloma and Stefano for sharing their experiences and their photos from the Summer School. Having also had the pleasure of visiting colleagues at EMS in September, it’s particularly nice to be able to confirm that it really is a great place to send time so thanks to the students and to colleagues at EMS for having made us all feel welcome!
“I graduated from Stirling just over a year and a half ago now, with a degree in International Management with French and Spanish. That day feels like just yesterday, it’s only now that I have been asked to write about what I have done since that I have taken some time to think back and suddenly Stirling actually feels like it was a long time ago.
So, what do you do after graduating? This is the question that starts to become that little bit more daunting as the years at university progress. Suddenly you must start to put together a plan, a plan of how to step out of the comforts and familiarity of student life and into an unknown ‘adult’ world.
Today I am living in Liverpool, working as a Project Manager with Amey as part of their Management Graduate Programme. Here is what happened between university and now. So, let’s rewind…
Studying two languages with business provided me with what I can only explain as a well-rounded degree. I loved the language components of my course; this part of my degree was what I really felt passionate about. Ever since I was in primary school, from the moment French was first introduced to me, the thought of learning a new language excited me, and it still does. So, choosing to study French and Spanish at university was an easy decision. The business part of my degree allowed me to put concepts we had discussed in French or Spanish classes into real business examples. Due to this, I was really able to get a valuable insight into each of my courses, no matter how different they were from each other.
Due to studying two languages, I had the opportunity to live in both France and Spain. I chose to do the British Council Language Assistant programme in France, and subsequently carried out my Erasmus in Spain. Both of these were fantastic experiences that, as cheesy as it may sound, really changed me as a person: I gained more confidence, improved my language skills and became more aware of other cultures, to name a few! After spending a total of 18 months abroad during my degree, I knew for sure that the country hopping life was soon becoming my aspiration for when university finished. I returned each time with a new bout of the want to travel and I soon started to picture myself more and more living in France or Spain or any other European country. So, I returned after my Erasmus to complete my final year with a feeling of satisfaction that I now had an idea of what I wanted after graduating.
During 4th year we were made aware that applying for the British Council Language Assistant Programme was an option. I didn’t have to think twice, my way back to France was here. A relatively easy application was all it would take to potentially have another go at being a Language Assistant. I found out further into the year that I had been accepted, and been offered my first choice of Strasbourg. I was so relieved, relieved to have a plan, and to be able to fully focus on final year rather than looking for jobs. I just had to wait until after the summer!
When I arrived in Strasbourg I was overwhelmed with its beauty. The half-timbered houses, the little beer taverns, the canals and its bridges were like nowhere I had ever lived before. As I lived in Paris last time round, I really was looking forward to seeing a whole other side of France. And that is exactly what I saw! I found it to be a really interesting place, with its German influence and the Alsatian culture and language; at times it didn’t feel relatable to France at all! I actually lived in one of the traditional houses in the centre of town which added to the experience of understanding the culture and the way of life in this town.
I worked between two high schools, in the north of Strasbourg in a town called Haguenau. The teaching side of things honestly did not go how I planned it would. I always saw teaching as a way to travel and to live in other countries, and maybe I didn’t actually consider the job for what it really was and wanted the lifestyle that came with teaching rather than actually the job itself. I realised only a few weeks into my new role that I no longer saw myself as being a teacher in the long term. But it being so early on, I hoped that feeling would pass.
Christmas in Strasbourg was amazing, I have never seen so much effort put into lights, markets, food stalls, everything revolved around it. The city lit up and the crowds filled the streets.
Later on in the year, around February/March time I started to question whether I wanted to continue living away from home or not. As this was the third time trying to set up a life in a foreign country, the thought of home was, for the first time, seeming to be more and more attractive. I was tired of not really having any close friends around me or family, and the feeling of not being settled was now, ironically, giving me itchy feet. Maybe it was due to the fact that I had moved around for the last few years, or because the other times had always been for short periods of time, and this time was more of a potential permanent move away from Scotland, or maybe because I was not enjoying being a teacher any more. I missed the feeling of being challenged. Going from an intense final year at university, to a job that was no longer satisfying me made me realise that I missed that feeling. Whatever it was, it was unsettling, and I decided in the end that I wanted to be closer to home and to look for a job in the UK.
Only a couple of months passed at home before I was offered my position that I am in now with Amey. It is a two year programme which is rotational throughout the UK. My first placement, which I am on now, is in Liverpool as a Project Manager. I am honestly so pleased with my new job and with my decision to come back home. I was looking for a challenge and I definitely have found that in this role!
Having that time in France after graduating gave me the time I needed to realise what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. I can now understand that even though you may feel like you know yourself and know what you want from life, you never know when those feelings will change as experiences will always change us and make us learn more about ourselves.
I have to say a final word to Stirling. My time at university was everything I could have ever wished it to be. From the friends I have met there, the beautiful campus and the inspiring teachers; it will always be a home for me.”
Many thanks to Clare for this blog post and all good wishes for the future. We look forward to more updates in due course!