Tag: Study Abroad

‘Parlez-vous franglais?’: Starting a Semester Abroad in Tours

Much sooner than I anticipated, following on from the promise last week that we’d be posting some articles by students embarking on their semester of Study Abroad, I’m delighted to be able to start that particular series with this great post from Mairi:

‘I have been in Tours for almost a week now and it has been a very overwhelming and exhausting week. I arrived on Thursday evening, 12 hours after leaving my home in Scotland. I travelled with my friend and course mate Rhiannon who is also studying in Tours with me this semester. Both of us were tired, exhausted and nervous to start our new life in France. We checked in to our hotel and went to McDonalds which is somewhat ironic when you are in one of the best places for food in the world and you choose to go to a fast food chain, but we were starving and it was just around the corner from our hotel.

2019 edwards tours pic ii jan19

The next day we went to collect our keys for our accommodation in student halls of residence which required using buses, trams and taxis. Not an easy task when you’ve never visited Tours before, and you’ve overestimated your level of French. Nevertheless, after numerous conversations in franglais (a made-up combination of French and English) we moved in and unpacked our suitcases that we had spent so long packing. After that we explored the city and tried to get our bearings, again not simple but we’re slowly getting there.

2019 edwards tours cathedral pic jan19On Saturday we did some more exploring and visited Tours Cathedral, one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever seen – similar to Notre Dame with its gothic architecture, high ceilings and stained-glass windows. It was simply breath-taking and provided myself and Rhiannon with a few moments of welcome peace after what had been a very stressful and emotional few days. Later in the evening we went to meet with some students from the International Society, we got chatting with a few girls (Sam, Emily and Marie) and then went for pizza with them afterwards. Emily and Marie were here last semester so they knew their way around the city very well and were able to recommend places to eat as well as directing us on our way home.

In the last few days I’ve done lots of exploring, shopping and tasting delicious French cuisine (there is a reason France is known for its bread and cakes). It has not been easy, what with adapting to a new culture, trying to understand and speak French, as well as becoming familiar with an unfamiliar city. It takes time but as the days go on it gets easier to understand the city around me. Next week I start classes which will be a welcome routine to get into and I’m looking forward to all the trips and travelling that I have lined up. More coming soon.  A bientôt.’

2019 edwards tours pic i jan19

Many thanks to Mairi for this great article! We hope the semester continues to go well and look forward to updates over the weeks ahead.

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Language Assistantships and Semesters Abroad

At the moment, we have 8 French at Stirling students off on British Council English Language Assistantships, mainly dotted across metropolitan France but with one student in Quebec for the year and another in Belgium. Paige is one of those in France for the year and she is also participating in the ‘Language Linking Global Thinking’ programme, organised through SCILT, so we’re very happy to be able to post a link here to her latest blog post for LLGT all about festive traditions in France. Quite literally ‘food for thought’ for our Year 2 and final year students currently applying for ELAs for next year…

And while we’re on the topic of time abroad, best wishes to the 18 students embarking on their Semester Abroad at the moment at our partner institutions at the UCO in Angers, at the EGE in Rabat, at Aix-Marseille, at the Université de Lorraine in Nancy, and at the Universities of Tours, Limoges, Geneva and Clermont. We’re looking forward to being able to post some articles and pictures from them as they settle into their new Universities and towns for the semester… and hopefully some articles by students from our partner institutions spending their semester with us in Stirling, too.

Erasmus+ Teaching Exchange in Limoges

As we mentioned in the previous blog post, this year’s French at Stirling Study Abroad cohort are just starting their semester at one of our many partner institutions across France and the wider Francophone world. Most of them will be doing so as part of an Erasmus+ exchange so, as they start that particular chapter, we wanted to post an article by Aedín ní Loingsigh who also benefitted from the Erasmus+ programme just before Christmas but, in her case, in order to undertake a teaching exchange with one of our partners:

“In December, I spent a week teaching at the Université de Limoges as part of the Erasmus + staff mobility programme. The location of Limoges in west-central France meant I was able to fly to Bordeaux and spend some time there before beginning my teaching. I had lived in Bordeaux as a student many years ago (I won’t say how many…). Although the city has changed a lot since my time there, it was wonderful to stroll around and recall the thrill of discovering the possibilities that France seemed to offer as I was coming to the end of my undergraduate studies.

I left Bordeaux early on the day that a large Gilets jaunes protest was planned. Driving inland to visit some friends in Agen, I encountered a small number of protesters at various roundabouts. These were all cheerful encounters and did nothing to prepare me for accounts I later heard of the violence that had broken out in Bordeaux after I had left. Chatting with people later, I noticed that the Gilets jaunes was an ‘event’ that people wanted to explain to me just as they wanted me to explain the story of Brexit dominating the news in the UK.

These topics of conversation did not disappear when I got to Limoges. If anything, Gilets jaunes/Brexit became the ‘must-be-acknowledged’ issue to broach, however briefly, each time I encountered somebody new. Some of the most interesting conversations were with the students I taught. They were particularly keen to learn how the Gilets jaunes movement was being interpreted in the UK and what I had understood was happening since my arrival in France. In my responses, I noticed how they ‘corrected’ what they thought was ‘inaccurate’ and how they sometimes disagreed amongst themselves as they tried to ‘explain’ the reasons behind the actions of the French protesters. In my own attempts to ‘explain’ Brexit, I became highly aware that my own views on the subject invariably coloured the version of events I was providing for my French listeners.

2017 oct dodds downey limogesIn the end, I saw that this was a really interesting way into some of the key principles of translation theory that I had been asked to teach during my visit. The key point I had prepared for discussion with the postgraduate Translation Studies students in Limoges was the question of ‘translator stance’, i.e. the idea that translators/interpreters are not neutral figures who simply transform the ‘same’ story into another language. As translators translate, they are also trying to explain. But it is inaccurate to imagine that as translators do this, they somehow remove themselves from the reality of the world they live in and become neutral figures. In other words, it is wrong to think that bias becomes lost in translation. Discussing this idea with the students in Limoges was really rewarding, especially once we had established how our own ‘stance’ can influence our explanation of events across different languages and cultures. As well as thinking about how we translate ourselves, we looked at different examples of translators/interpreters in the colonial era and tried to find evidence of their ‘stance’ in things like footnotes, 2017 quentin hotel-ville-mairie-limoges marchprefaces, diaries and personal correspondence.

The seminars I taught were longer than I am used to in Stirling (two of the seminars I taught were 3 hours long) and the students weren’t quite as used to working in groups as students in Stirling are. But they were enthusiastic to work in new ways, they were well prepared, and they had lots of ideas they wanted to share. They were also happy to be active translators in the classroom and willingly helped me to find equivalents for any terms and concepts I couldn’t find in French. In the end, the length of seminars went unnoticed. Moreover, with my teaching largely timetabled for the morning (8.30am starts are quite common), I had plenty of time to go to the university restaurant for a delicious three-course CROUS lunch for less than 7€ — students pay even less. In some respects, the university buildings and teaching facilities in Limoges were less well maintained than in Stirling but the emphasis on healthy, affordable food and communal eating was really inspiring and made me wish it was done so effortlessly in our own university.

My time in Limoges was too brief. I only managed to see a little of the city centre and had no time to explore the beautiful countryside I had seen on my long train journey from Agen. But I saw enough to want to go back and make teaching in France something I try to do more often. Learning from the students in Limoges, translating at the same time as I was teaching about translation, and being confronted in real time with the complexity of communicating ideas back and forth between English and French was deeply enriching. I had many wonderful experiences in Limoges but what it reminded me above all else was the importance of exchange: of engaging with other ways of doing things, of learning about/from differences of culture and opinion, and of striving to be open at all times to new experiences.

Finally, two discoveries from my week in France might be useful to students in Stirling reading this blog as they prepare for discussion of topical matters related to France this Spring:

  1. This podcast from France Culture called L’esprit public. It comes out every Sunday and is a really clear and accessible discussion of the big political events of the previous week.
  2. This short text from Édouard Louis, Qui a tué mon père. It is a very moving, personal account of this young author’s relationship with his father crossed with a more detached, sociological attempt to understand the cultural and economic factors shaping working class life in North East France. Although it doesn’t directly address the ongoing political upheaval in France and the significance of the Gilets jaunes, it was the best ‘translation’ I came across of the deep frustration and anger that is underpinning this movement.”

Many thanks to Aedín for the great blog post and to our partners at Limoges for their hospitality!

New Semester: Welcome Back!

First day of teaching for the Spring semester and French at Stirling is back!

So, welcome back, firstly, to the over- 250 students registered across our various French modules, from Year 1 Advanced and Beginners’ streams all the way through to final year Core Language and dissertations. And to those of you reading this as French at Stirling students embarking on your integral Semester Abroad or entering the second half of your year as an English Language Assistant, we hope you have a great time and look forward to tales of your studies, work  and travels as the semester progresses.

On the staffing front, following Bill Marshall’s retirement at the end of last Summer, we were sorry to say goodbye to our colleague David Murphy who left to take up a new role at the University of Strathclyde at the start of January. We wish him all the very best in the new job. As regular blog readers will know, we’ve made a series of great new appointments to French at Stirling and we’re delighted that Hannah Grayson has now joined us as a Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies, working alongside Aedín ní Loingsigh and Emeline Morin who both started last semester, and the rest of the French at Stirling team.

As ever, there’ll be plenty of blog posts over the days and weeks ahead with details of what our students and staff have been up to over the past few months and plans for the months ahead so watch this space but, in the meantime, welcome back to the new semester and welcome back to French at Stirling!

An eventful semester in France

A few weeks back, we posted a great article by Stefano about his Semester Abroad spent studying at Sciences Po in Paris. Not only did Stefano make fantastic use of his time in Paris, he also managed to spend some of his holiday time accompanying a French high school trip to Lourdes to add to the experiences of his Semester Abroad:’

‘Spending a semester abroad, in France, has by far been one of the most eventful adventures of my academic life. When students have to choose a country for their foreign study experiences they usually, and rightly, focus on a number of factors to help them decide, from the linguistic region to the quality of teaching, from the costs of living to the different courses offered at the host institutions and so on and so forth. If I were to give any piece of advice to students considering any experience abroad, I would recommend you to keep a very open-minded approach to all the elements you may want to consider throughout your decisional process. Why? The reason is pretty straightforward and I hope not to fall into too much of a cliché: the best part of setting off to a new destination is not knowing where your path is going to lead you. In other words, there is nothing better than starting a journey keeping eyes and mind open to all the different adventures you might find along the way.

In my case, I had to choose among partner-institutions in France, Switzerland, Morocco and Canada and I eventually decided to apply for SciencesPo, in Paris. In a previous article on this blog I have already described what a semester in the Ville Lumière looks like, but spending those months abroad entailed so much more than just experiencing a new, thrilling, student life. Living and studying in France, especially in Paris, offers a wide range of opportunities for everyone, such as museums, parks, exhibitions, great food and a lovely culture to discover more and more.

But I did not imagine how eventful and powerful this semester could be.

Leaving aside all the marvellous opportunities I enjoyed while studying at SciencesPo, I would like to share another experience that made my time in France even more remarkable (and I did not even think that could be possible, to be honest).

It is a story of travels, of journeys within this journey and of how incredible life can be sometimes. I really wish to thank the Stirling’s French Department for having given me both the opportunity to study in Paris and the skills to get the most out my adventures there.

2018 Intropido Lourdes Pic V Oct18It all started one evening as I was walking back to my flat right outside Paris with my French friend and host when he asked me whether I was interested in working for his former High School in Meudon, since he knew of my previous working experiences with pupils and youth groups abroad. From that moment in time, so many things happened that it is not even that easy to recall them all on paper.

So, let us proceed step by step.

 

Shortly after that conversation, I went to a meeting with the High School’s Principal in order to get to know each other and, most importantly, to present me the project they were looking for help with. Following on from this initial presentation and other meetings, I eventually managed to get hired as Group Leader and Pastoral Animator in my friend’s former Catholic High School. It sounds like a job like many others; it has been a mission. Yes, a mission: something in between an apostolic journey and a potential new Mission Impossible movie, for two main reasons. The first is of a religious nature: when I accepted to embark on this new adventure I joined a cheerful and lively team of six leaders whose duty was to take a group of 50 French pupils to Lourdes, for a week-long pilgrimage, within a huge event (the so called FRATERNEL) organised by the Catholic Dioceses of the Ile-de-France which gathered more than 10000 French young people to sing, pray, have fun and reflect upon the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome; Pope Francis himself sent us a letter and a video-message to thank us for this great opportunity!

The second reason I would describe this journey as like an imaginary new Tom Cruise movie relates to the challenges of bringing 50 French teenagers to Lourdes (by night bus and then by night train), being totally immersed in the language (as well as the more colloquial slang young people would use), 24/7 on duty and still having enough energy to sing, jump, dance, shout out all our joy on the wave of enthusiasm with the other 10000+ jeun.es français.es.

2018 Intropido Lourdes Pic I Oct18

After a not-so-comfortable night bus journey, we thus got to Lourdes where we spent a fully packed week of events, activities, Masses and exploring excursions that left us all exhausted but happy as we have never felt before. Words and pictures will hardly describe how thrilling and energetic the atmosphere was. It was all new for me: I had never been to Lourdes, neither to that part of France, I had never worked alongside French colleagues nor with French pupils, I had never heard of the Hopen and Glorious rock-pop bands and I had never been surrounded by such an enthusiastic crowd. For the first time in my life, I was also in charge of small pastoral groups of 10 pupils each…and they were understandably all French; I have enjoyed this experience so much, trust me! We managed to carry out interesting projects (before, during and after Lourdes) with all groups, despite accents and Verlan. So it must be true, after all: communication is the key and knowing different languages can really bridge people and communities.

2018 Intropido Lourdes Pic III Oct18

Best satisfaction? The pupils’ joy and the mutual understanding to think bigger, all together; the feeling of having given a lot, to have grown as a person and not just linguistically. I think it is thus safe to say that we all taught something to each other. We shared a journey, not just through France, but in life and this is something I think we will all cherish forever.

The journey back to Meudon-Paris was not any more comfortable, but it was alright in the end: we had too many songs to sing to worry about our travel home.’

Many, many thanks to Stefano for sharing this with us and for taking the time to send us another great blog post!

 

French at Stirling Language Ambassadors at Wallace High

Every year, French at Stirling students are invited out into local schools to act as Language Ambassadors, to talk to school pupils about the benefits (and challenges) of studying languages at University and the opportunities it offers. This year is no different and a group of our Year 3 and 4 students (Stefano, Heatherlea, Natalie, Meg and Eilidh) were invited to Wallace High in September for their annual activities organised around the European Day of Languages. As ever, it was a fantastic experience for both our students and the pupils at Wallace High, as the students themselves can explain for better than I can. As Stefano says:

‘Studying languages is not only very useful nowadays, but it can also entail a lot of fun! This was certainly the main message we all tried (and perhaps even managed) to convey for this year’s Languages Day at Wallace High School, in Stirling. So, what was it exactly all about?

On Friday 21 September, a group of five students from our University, myself included, acted as Language Ambassadors at one of the key events organised by the Wallace High School in Stirling, not far at all from our beautiful campus; we were there to show, talk about and share our experiences in relation to the study of languages in order to encourage S3 pupils to undertake this amazing multilingual learning path. Our main role was indeed to promote how beautiful, rewarding and mind-opening studying one or two extra languages can be.

From the moment we arrived at the school, we could really feel the enthusiasm of teachers and pupils alike and the excitement for the activities to come over the afternoon. Before the main workshops started, we all had the chance to attend the welcome reception in the main hall where one former pupil has delighted the audience with his passionate stories of learning, travelling and teaching across most Asian countries thanks to his commitment to languages.

As Language Ambassadors, we were then asked to run a series of quick workshops with eight different groups of 18-20 pupils at a time, each lasting around 10 minutes. In this way we managed to talk to a significant number of S3 pupils, being able to both present our stories and answer any questions they might have. Since the five of us represented a cohort of university students who had either just come back from a semester abroad (to a French and/or Spanish-speaking country) or are preparing to go for next semester, we were all able to share our first-hand experiences on how empowering the study of languages can be; by covering topics from great perspective career options to exotic journey destinations, all the workshops gave us the possibility to encourage students to pursue a multilingual curriculum both at the secondary and university levels.

We all had something to share: a story to tell, an experience to present or even some fun-facts about the different idioms we could speak. And this resulted in a very pleasant afternoon for all the people involved.

So, it is true; studying languages does open doors in ways sometimes we are not even able to foresee. As I said during the workshops, being Italian myself and knowing different languages has made my presence and my contribution at Wallace High possible and I certainly had a lot of fun there; once you start studying a language, where is no limit to where you could end up being, trust me!’

Heatherlea adds: ‘For me, it was really enriching to share my experience of learning a language and all of its benefits with the future generation. To know that I, and my peers, may have had an impact on just one person is truly touching. It was also really great for me to learn about the fourth years’ various experiences whilst studying abroad as my own semester in France is fast approaching!’

And Natalie explains: ‘As a Student Language Ambassador, I recently had the opportunity to participate in the S3 Languages Day at Wallace High School. The event which takes place every year aims to promote both the importance and fun of language learning. Throughout the afternoon, we conducted a series of short workshops aimed at third year pupils to discuss the advantages of learning a new language, our personal experiences of living abroad and we even had the opportunity to test their language skills! Furthermore, we were also able to learn about their own experiences abroad and their hopes for the future after high school.

We found that the pupils were extremely interested to hear about language learning from a different perspective that included real life experiences. In addition, they asked many questions and they were also surprised to find out that learning a language has allowed us to travel to a wide range of places. Moreover, I was thrilled to hear that so many pupils at Wallace High School are already thinking about studying another language beyond high school and for those who had not yet considered it, we hope that our presentative has given them some food for thought.

Overall, the European Languages Day at Wallace High School was an excellent afternoon and I would love to take part in this experience again!’

Many thanks to Stefano, Natalie, Heatherlea, Meg and Eilidh for their help with this and to Mrs Bell and her pupils at Wallace High for the warm welcome.

 

 

‘Studying at Stirling inspired me to do translation’

It has been a hectic first half of semester so there’s been a bit of a lull on the blog but we’re now halfway through our mid-semester break and there’s a little bit more time to catch up with the backlog so, with apologies to the very kind and patient contributors, let’s go! First up, we have a post by Laura, who graduated in French and Spanish in 2015 and who has just completed a Masters at Glasgow, focusing on Translation Studies:

‘Well, it’s been an intense and really quick year, and I think studying for a Masters in Translation Studies has had something to do with it. As I have the chance to stop and look back at everything that’s just happened, I realise I wouldn’t have been doing all this if it wasn’t for the amazing experiences I had during my undergraduate course at Stirling. After all, it was thanks to my time there that I was encouraged to keep learning and practising languages. Here are the different things that inspired me…

2018 MacFarlane Masters Translation Pic II

Classes

The speaking practice I had in Langage Parlé encouraged me to want to keep practising. And if grammar hadn’t been made so interesting in classes, I would probably remember a lot less today. In the final year, we did a fair bit of translating, including newspaper articles – I always did quite well at it, so it made me realise I could take this area of language study further. Then, after having positive experiences of learning French and Spanish, I thought I would try my hand at something new for my postgraduate, and ended up doing Beginners Chinese as an option module. Tricky, but definitely worth it!

2018 MacFarlane Masters Translation Pic IAdventures

My semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France and year as a language assistant at a primary school in Spain also played a huge part in my decisions. This was where I really got to put language skills to use beyond the classroom (despite often being in classrooms), and have the chance to live everyday life in other countries. I met lovely people from all over the world and had lots of fun visiting new places, and going to many a cultural event. How could I not want to keep using different languages?

Friends

I have lots of great memories with friends I made while studying at Stirling, and it’s always nice to catch up and reminisce with those I still keep in touch with. We’re all doing different things, ranging from teaching to working with animals, but our studies and time spent at Stirling led us to the paths we’re on, whether the influence is obvious or not. Two of my friends at Glasgow had actually studied at Stirling as well, but had been in a different year from me before, so that was a nice surprise and something extra in common.

2018 MacFarlane Masters Translation Pic IVFrench at Stirling

I previously wrote a review on a Celtic Connections concert for French at Stirling. Then after graduating, I ended up e-mailing the festival to see if there were any opportunities to use language skills. As a result, I volunteered there and got to do Spanish speaking for a band from Galicia. Also, as part of my Masters dissertation (which I was delighted to hand in!) I translated articles from a Spanish music magazine, so was able to use my passion for music when translating. I think writing the review made me think a bit more about how I could combine languages with music, and I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to achieve that.

It’s been an amazing and worthwhile experience doing a Masters at Glasgow, providing me with an ideal mix of theory and practice. But my time at Stirling will always be special to me, from the scenery and the loch, to the super language department. Now, enough nostalgia – it’s time to look to the future and see what lies ahead … I would love to keep translating, and I am considering working freelance as well as part-time in a wonderful library. My dream would be to keep mixing languages with music, and do translation for events or media. I’ve helped out with Havana/Glasgow Film Festival for a few years, so I know that I enjoy working with festivals. And finally, even though I focussed on Spanish to English translation, I’d love to keep up my French (bien sûr!) and translate out of that too.

Merci beaucoup!’

And merci to Laura, too, for this great post and all our good wishes for the future – keep us posted!