Tag: Study Abroad

Study Abroad: ‘Just do it!’

One last blog post for the moment and this time it’s one from Sofie, who is about to enter the final year of her BA Hons in French and Journalism, and has just spent her Semester Abroad at the University of Tours:

‘Studying in another country can be a daunting experience and it makes most people nervous but these feelings change to excitement once you’re in your country of exchange. You’ll meet a lot of different people from different countries and make a lot of new friends so there’s really nothing to be afraid of. I speak of my own experience of going abroad twice and I’ve had the most amazing adventures both times of which one is still ongoing. I first went abroad when I moved to Scotland to study as a full-time student in 2015 and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice of country. My second time was quite recently when I studied one semester abroad in France as an exchange student and it went better than I expected, again.

2018 Sofie Karlsson old town ToursI went to Tours in France where I studied literature at Université François Rabelais. I knew I wanted to be close to Paris but I also wanted to live in a smaller city so Tours was perfect for me and it’s only 1 hour away from Paris by TGV. Tours also reminded me a lot of Stirling with its blend of old and new so it was easy to feel at home. It was also very easy to find friends thanks to the ESN community for exchange students. This did mean all students who joined were students from other countries except for France so it wasn’t as easy to befriend French students but ESN arranged many fun events where we got to learn a lot about French culture and food. They also organised trips almost every weekend to visit places like Saint Malo and Saint Michel but also amusement parks like ZooParc de Beauval and Parc du Futuroscope and of course many castles since Tours is located in Val-de-Loire which is famous for its beautiful castles. The trips weren’t expensive either so we saved a lot of money traveling France this way and everything was arranged for us which was really helpful. We just payed and tagged along.

2018 Sofie Karlsson Saint-Malo

Studying at a French university was interesting and a bit difficult since it was all in French but if I could manage to do it, then anyone can do it, trust me! I missed studying at university of Stirling a little bit though because I know how things work there but everything made more sense with time. I chose to study five courses which were comparative literature, French literature, two French language courses (CUEFFE) and translation from French to English. It was a challenge but I learned a lot of French and it was a fun way to learn the language. Studying wasn’t the most fun thing out of the experience though, for me, it was to meet so many amazing people from all over the world. I made friends from USA, Canada and other various countries in Europe and it’s nice to know I’ll always have connections there. There were also opportunities to meet locals who were interested in other cultures but I had to look for these places myself. In Tours, there’s a nice café/restaurant called NewLita aka “the language café”. I went there a few times and it was a great way to practise my French and meet new people.

2018 Sofie Karlsson Gare de Tours

But how did I end up studying abroad? Well, I had one mandatory semester abroad in a French speaking country during my 3rd year since I’m studying French as part of my degree. Being me, loving to travel, I didn’t hesitate one second when I found out I was expected to study in France. However, I had a lot of thoughts the summer before the start of my 3rd year because I didn’t know anything, at the time, of what needed to be done before going but things got clearer once we got more information during the autumn semester. There was of course a lot of paperwork but it got easier with time so it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed at first and I didn’t have any issues with anything. I was also eligible to receive the Erasmus grant, since I studied in Europe, and I got it in time so I had an easy experience overall with the application process. Besides, all the preparations during the autumn semester made everything more real which was exciting at the same time as it was stressful. The whole study abroad experience had its ups and downs but I’m so happy I did it. I would recommend anyone who’s thinking about it to just do it because you won’t regret it. It was definitely worth it!’

Many thanks to Sofie for this great post (and pictures!) and we look forward to hearing more about your time in Tours when you’re back in Stirling in September. In the meantime, bonnes vacances!

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Research at Stirling: Exhibitions, Conferences and Interactive Maps

A Summer of changes for French at Stirling, not only with new cohorts of students coming to join us and our ELAs and Study Abroad students returning, but also on the staffing front. As we’ve mentioned here before, Bill Marshall retires at the end of next month and we are currently advertising for two new lecturers so there’ll be new faces in the teaching team over the months ahead. And, as we’ve also spoken about on the blog, Fiona Barclay – who has been on research leave this past semester – was awarded an AHRC Early Career Researcher Leadership Fellowship so we’re also appointing a fixed-term lecturer to replace Fiona for the next two years. We’re looking forward to introducing you to these yet-to-be-appointed colleagues very soon but, first, we thought it’d be good to get Fiona to tell us a bit about what she’s been up to over these past few months and what lies ahead. And that also gives us an excellent excuse to introduce Dr Beatrice Ivey who was recently appointed to work as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant with Fiona and who we’re very excited to welcome to Stirling!

‘Greetings from the sunny south of France, where I’ve just finished my semester of research leave! Stirling seems very far away but as the semester comes to a close it’s a good time to look back on the last few months and reflect on plans, progress, and the inevitable changes that happen…

I came to France in January with the plan of writing a couple of chapters of the book that I’m working on, using local libraries, and accessing some archives. The book is on the European settlers who came to Algeria following its conquest by the French in 1830. Almost all of them – 900,000 – were forced to leave for France when Algeria became independent in 1962 in one of the biggest population movements since 1945. Since then, a proportion of them have been very vocal in French politics, whilst others have produced a large corpus of literature which records their memories of their homeland and works through their feelings of loss and nostalgia. My project looks at these narratives and representations, and the ways in which the community’s identity is being passed on to the younger generations born in France since 1962.

Plans are often subject to change, and so it was on this occasion. My idea of using the local university library ran into trouble straightaway, when I discovered that, due to a combination of a local strike against university mergers, and the subsequent national blockade of universities, it was closed until further notice. In the end ‘until further notice’ meant nearly 5 months, giving me a new perspective on the UK’s UCU strike action, and a lot of sympathy for local students who were still expected to sit exams. Thankfully Stirling’s electronic library holdings and lending provision has developed a lot in the last few years, so I was able to access most of the texts needed.

2018 Fiona Barclay Research Leave Blog Pic
Le Voyageur

The second change to my plans came in February, when I received news that my application to the AHRC’s Leadership Fellows scheme had been successful. The award is £250,000 for a two-year project starting next month and, in addition to the completion of the book, it has a substantial set of public engagement activities, some of which will start early in the project. Consequently, I’ve spent much of the last few months working with colleagues in museums and archives in Paris, Perpignan and Port-Vendres to organise access to images, video testimonies, artefacts and so on. These will feature in a year-long exhibition opening in September at the Pathfoot Gallery in Stirling. I’m also working with colleagues at Stirling to build a new project website, which will feature an interactive map giving access to many of the images, videos and sound-files, as well as links to a free access online course (MOOC) and film season taking place as part of the UK French Film Festival in November 2018.

The project will also have another team member, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant who will work on the project for 15 months. I’m delighted that Dr Beatrice Ivey, who recently completed her PhD at the University of Leeds, will be starting at Stirling on 1 September. She will be leading on many of the digital and online parts of the project, and also co-organising an international conference on forced migration which will take place at Stirling next May. We look forward to welcoming her to Stirling!’

Many thanks to Fiona for this update – news of the exhibition and other events will follow in due course! – and over to Beatrice:

‘I’m joining the ‘From Colonisers to Refugees’ project at the University of Stirling as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant and, in this role, I’ll be assisting Dr Fiona Barclay with the management of the project website, the organisation of an international conference at Stirling in 2019, research and publication as part of a planned special issue. I will also interview people who have settled in Scotland having fled Syria as refugees for the project’s Digital Cartographies and Storytelling Soundscapes components.

I completed my PhD at the University of Leeds in 2018, examining the gender performativity of cultural memory in writings by Assia Djebar, Hélène Cixous, Ahmed Kalouaz, Malika Mokeddem, and Nina Bouraoui. My thesis, entitled ‘Performing Gender, Performing the Past’ argued that acts of cultural memory also reiterate, and possibly subvert, the gendered imaginaries associated with French colonialism in Algeria. I examined specific cases of gendered memory which produced connections between the memory of French Algeria and other disparate histories of extreme violence, such as the Holocaust, Partition, Slavery in the Caribbean, and the ongoing ‘Border Crisis’ (Daniel Trilling 2017) in the Mediterranean. I have published a chapter ‘Hélène Cixous’s L’Indiade ou l’Inde de leurs rêves: Gendering Memories of Colonialism in Algeria and India’ in the volume French Feminisms 1975 and After (Atack, Fell, Holmes, Long 2018) and an article ‘Affect, Gender, and Postmemory in Nina Bouraoui’s Representations of the 1970s’ in the International Journal of Francophone Studies. 

My current research focuses on the transnational memory of forced migration in Francophone cultural production from and about the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean.’

Many thanks to Beatrice and Fiona for these posts, and good luck with the project!

‘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.

Sunshine and Successes

It has been a fantastically sunny day in Stirling today, ideal weather for this year’s finalists who have just become this year’s French at Stirling graduates. Everybody looked great in their finery and, despite the heat in the Gannochy, it was a morning of smiles all round. Congratulations once again to all our graduates!

And it’s not only our finalists who are to be lauded today – as I got ready to don my gown for the ceremony this morning, I was very pleased to find a blog post from Jack, one of our students who is halfway through his degree, waiting in my inbox. As we mentioned recently on the blog, Jack was recently awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship which he’ll use – as he explains here – to learn more about competition structures for tennis in France:

‘For language students, third year is a biggie. It’s the one we all look forward to – the one where we finally get to spend our semester abroad! We have all talked about it amongst ourselves endlessly, saying things like “I think I’ll go to Quebec’ or ‘Tours sounds nice!’, but this coming September myself and the rest of the French students at Stirling going into their third year of studies will have to make a final decision on which francophone university we would like to study at in January 2019. What seemed like a decision so far away is suddenly right around the corner!

2018 Jack Oswald Tennis Photo 1For me, it has been a decision that I have had to put much thought into. Being a tennis scholar at Stirling, I wanted to find a French-speaking city that I would find exciting and where I would have ample opportunities to improve my ability in the language, but also have the tennis facilities and travel links that would allow me to continue with my rigorous training and competition schedule. Luckily for me, France is one of (if not the) best tennis nations in the world! Having spent some time in Montpellier during my teenage years, I knew that South of France is where I wanted to be due to its fantastic climate, the amiable hospitality of its inhabitants and, of course, the many tennis clubs and academies that are dotted around the region!

February last year, I was informed by the French department of the opportunity to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship. This scholarship was developed in order to provide some funding for students who wished to undertake specific research projects during their time abroad, alongside their Erasmus studies or an English Language Assistantship. Due to my passion for tennis, I leapt at the chance! After deliberating on which aspect of tennis in France that I wanted to explore, I decided that the most interesting would be to research the structures for competition in France, and how they compare to that of the United Kingdom. In more simple terms, I wanted to try to figure out how why the level of tennis in France is so high, and how we might be able to better organise tournaments in Britain from beginners all the way up to the professional level in order produce the next generation of future stars.

2018 Jack Oswald Tennis Photo 2I decided that with the help of the grant I would travel to a few professional events around the country, including L’Open Sud de France in Montpellier that commences in February, and especially the French Open at the end of May. I would also visit a few of the popular tennis academies and clubs located in the south of France and interview some of their coaches about how they develop their players into champions. So, with the guidance of Cristina, I drafted my personal statement, which included my detailed proposal for my research alongside a bit about myself. I then sent this off, along with my application for the Scholarship and just hoped that I might be selected for an interview.

And as luck would have it, I was! Two months later, there I was on the train to Glasgow for my interview at the university. When I got there, I was greeted by a handful of other nervous language students. We all wished each other the best of luck as each of our turns came, not really knowing what to expect. Finally, my name was called. I found myself in a room with the heads of the French departments for five Scottish universities including Glasgow and St. Andrews. I had never really been good at interviews, but I took a deep breath and decided that I would simply try my best to answer their questions as honestly and thoughtfully as I could. Twenty minutes later I was out the door on my way back home, relieved that the toughest part was over, regardless of the outcome. Now the waiting game commenced!

Luckily, I did not need to wait too long. Just a couple of weeks later I received an email saying that I had been granted the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for my semester abroad next January! I honestly can’t wait for my semester abroad in France and to embark upon some research into my passion during my time there. I would like to thank Cristina for helping me organise my application and proof reading it several times over (!). I honestly couldn’t have done it without her, as well as Jean-Michel for providing references for the application. I strongly encourage all Language students going into their second year at Stirling to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for their semester abroad. It is more than worth the effort and will enrich your experience abroad whilst also allowing you to follow and develop your passion.’

Many thanks to Jack for a great blog post and congratulations on your success in being awarded a Stevenson Scholarship. We look forward to hearing more about the project while you’re in France in the Spring.

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!

Congratulations all round!

As well as congratulations to our students who are about to graduate next week, it’s also the time of the year for other prizes to be announced so the perfect time to congratulate a range of French at Stirling prize-winners:

First and foremost, many congratulations to Jack who has just finished his second year in French and Spanish with us at Stirling where he is part of our Tennis Scholarship Programme. Jack has recently discovered that he has been awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship which he will hold next Spring while he is on Study Abroad. The scholarship will enable him to study the internal structures of tennis development in France to understand how tennis within the United Kingdom might grow and what role he could play in that process. French at Stirling has a great success rate for these awards as you can see here and here! Posts from this year’s Stevenson scholars should appear on the blog over the next few weeks and we look forward to updates from Jack when he starts his Semester Abroad.

Congratulations, too, to the winners of this year’s Division of Literature and Languages prizes for French. Our annual Simone de Beauvoir prize which goes to the student who has achieved the Best Performance across their French Honours modules has been awarded to Jeanne who graduates in International Management with European Languages and Society next week. Our two other final year prizes with a French element go to Calum who graduates next week in French and Politics and has won our Translation prize for the Best Performance across the final year translation assessments and to Anne, one of the students on our Integrated Masters in International Management and Intercultural Studies, who has won our Languages, Cultures and Religions Research Prize for her dissertation. Strictly speaking, the dissertation is in Spanish but we’re happy to add to the congratulations here since Anne’s programme falls under the French remit!

And students at earlier stages of their degrees have also been receiving news of their prize successes… For the Best Performance by a student in our Year 1 Beginners’ stream, congratulations to Monika who is studying French and Spanish, while the Best Performance in Year 1 by a non-Beginner award goes to Yamina who is studying International Politics and Languages. The Year 2 prizes have gone to Jennifer Graham on our Primary Education and Modern Languages programme (for the Best Performance in our Advanced stream) and to Laura Castane Bassa who studies English and French (for the Best Performance in Year 2 by a former Beginner).

Extremely worthy winners all round and félicitations to you all!!

Welcome to Tourzzz! (pronunciation Ryanair-style)

Among all these updates on students past and present, time for a couple of staff-related blog posts, the first of which comes from our Language Coordinator and Study Abroad Advisor, Jean-Michel DesJacques:

2018 JMD la Loire‘I am very grateful to the International Office to have funded my trip to Tours in order to pay a long overdue visit to one of our partners in the Loire Valley. I was lucky enough to be able to meet with Solène Loiseau from their Bureau International, and then with the Co-Director of the LEA programme, Joëlle Popineau. I would like to thank them both for having taken the time to speak to me as Study Abroad Advisor here at the University of Stirling.

It is self-evident but somewhat understated that meeting people de visu and spending some time with them is what helps create a strong and lasting bond between institutions. We don’t have many opportunities for spontaneous exchanges and it was very refreshing to be able to go beyond the usual email niceties and urgent queries.

Inevitably, in spite of all the positive things we had to say about our exchange of students (and hopefully staff soon), the conversation had to revolve around Brexit. I was surprised to hear that there seems to be a lot more anxiety on the French side that there was on ours. I was also very sorry to hear that some programmes had their compulsory semester abroad component in the UK cancelled due to the financial uncertainties that Brexit has created: Erasmus grants are vital to students and the risk, a financial one, was deemed too big to take a leap of faith into the unknown. Interestingly enough, new English-speaking destinations were being sought, rather successfully it seems: the Netherlands in particular and Scandinavia to a lesser extent.

2018 JMD Place PlumereauAs for Tours itself, well, I am not sure where to start: if you are a bit of a gourmet, you are more likely to find happiness wandering on the old Place Plumereau rather than the Pathfoot building. Without necessarily going for a Gargantuan feast (yes, François Rabelais is from nearby Chinon), you could find yourself in a nice bistro for a delightful plat du jour.

There is certainly plenty to do and see and it would be best to let you discover it for yourselves.’

Thanks to Jean-Michel for making the visit and finding time to send us the blog post (and for the great pics!). And we look forward to continuing our exchange with Tours over the years ahead.