Many thanks to Alexia, Claire and Pedro from our current final year cohort, and to Céline who is spending a semester on Erasmus exchange at Stirling, for having given up their time last week to meet with local school pupil Kimberley and to talk to her about studying Languages at University. Kimberley is currently in her final year at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk where she is working on her Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages Interdisciplinary Project comparing undergraduate degrees in Languages at Scottish Universities with those offered by Spanish Universities. The meeting gave Kimberley a chance to ask questions about our students’ experiences of Study Abroad, their thoughts on Languages and employability and their own sense of how their language level has progressed over the course of their studies, all of which will feed into the overall project. Thanks to all for their time and good luck to Kimberley with the project!
Tag: Study Abroad
The blog has been a little silent of late – busy Autumn semester, hectic start to the new Spring semester, Christmas break in between – but we’re back now, with plenty of news and updates on life in French at Stirling. And given that we’re resurfacing on a rather grey and cold Scottish Tuesday, it’s particular pleasing to be able to kick off our 2018 with a post about far sunnier climes thanks to current final year student Fergus who, this time last year, was starting his Semester Abroad in Morocco:
“When it came around to choosing where to go for my semester abroad there wasn’t really much of a choice for me. Both academically and personally I felt in somewhat of a rut and needed a big change. Somehow, I misconstrued how the applications went, wrongly assuming that the choices were ranked on merit or academic performance, so when I saw I was (the only one) going to Morocco I was a wee bit surprised, albeit elated.
I filled out all the application forms with an equal degree of anxiety, excitement, and haste. It took a while to hear back from EGE Rabat, which as I quickly found was normal upon my arrival there, and I started to get organised to go. I went out almost month before the term actually started to try to get accustomed and it only dawned on me that I was going to Africa whilst I was sat on the plane. After arriving in Tanger via Malaga, I got a taxi to where I was staying, met the owner of the flat, then went out to look about sans phone, map etc which was fun. I bought a sim card and had some tea, got lost, then went home for an early night before the 4-hour train journey to Rabat in the morning.
Everything had happened pretty quickly up until this point where it all slowed down and I experienced ‘Moroccan time’ as I was to become very accustomed to during my time there. The train was almost empty on departure but 3 hours in we sat waiting until another train stopped next to us, all its passengers joined us and I found myself standing for the rest of the journey. Tall, blonde and impossibly pale, packed in like a sardine, and not understanding a word around me – I’d found the change I was looking for.
If I felt at a loss upon arriving, that feeling quickly disappeared as I started university and made friends. Everyone I met – teachers, international students, and especially Moroccan students – were extremely friendly and welcoming. The warm and welcoming nature of people in Morocco is one of the fondest memories that stays with me. Unlike the UK or large parts of Europe, where no-one has time for anyone else it seems these days, almost everyone I met, friends to be and strangers alike, had time to stop and chat. Whether that chat was helping with directions, proudly telling you of their country, or being eager to learn more about yours, there was always a smile and a ‘mharba’ [welcome] offered.
Although L’École de Gouvernance et d’Économie, is primarily focused on economics, politics, and international relations, I had the opportunity to follow some amazing courses such as Anthoplogie des Religions and Genre, Féminisme et Sexualité, which previously I hadn’t had the chance to take. As well as this, there was Classic Arabic and Moroccan Arabic [Darija] classes offered for everyone from absolute beginners like myself to experienced speaker. These classes were a wonderful help during my time there, as it was amazing to learn some Arabic as well as dialect specific to the country, but it also went a long way when out and about interacting with people.
We were able to get out and about every weekend, and with plenty free time from university, there was plenty opportunity to explore the country. Exploring Rabat itself, there is so much to do, whether wandering through the medina and trying the various foods being produced in the street, visiting the various historical sites, surfing, or just hanging out at a café, there is no shortage of things to do and see. Outside of the capital, Morocco has so much to offer! I was taken aback by how varied the country is. Every 100km the landscape changes, from beautiful beaches with huge waves to vast cityscapes, to the spectacular snow-capped Atlas mountains, or the western Sahara desert, it has it all. Most exchange students I met were always keen to get out and visited different parts of the country whenever possible, my first weekend I found myself visiting a snow-covered, European looking town in the North dubbed the ‘Switzerland of Morocco’!
Particular highlights for me where, trekking in the desert and staying overnight with the berber guys we were with, enjoying an amazing home cooked meal with me class at our French teacher’s house, surfing constantly for two weeks after term finished, and changing a flat tyre at 2500m above sea level in the Atlas mountains (believe it or not), and arranging an exchange of sorts with the guy that helped as way of a thank you, as well as a week-long solo trip around the North after everyone else had left. All these times and more, combined with the real and lasting friendships formed during my time there helped to make the experience unforgettable. I couldn’t recommend a semester abroad enough, or just visiting Morocco otherwise, in case you couldn’t tell already.”
Many, many thanks to Fergus for sending us this blog post and for patiently waiting for me to get round to adding it! With many of our Year 3 students currently off on their Semesters Abroad, we’re looking forward to being able to post more tales of travels and languages over the weeks ahead.
There’s no teaching this week at Stirling but that doesn’t mean everything stops and our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, along with his Spanish counter-part Jose Ferreira-Cayuela, Fiona Buckland from our International Office and a few of our students have been at Holyrood to represent the University at a celebration of 30 years of the Erasmus programme. Dozens of our students – across French and Spanish – benefit from our involvement in the Erasmus programme every year, spending a semester at one of our extensive range of Erasmus partners that stretches from Caen in Northern France to Granada in Southern Spain.
As Fiona Buckland explains, ‘the Higher Education Institutes of Scotland held a joint celebration at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 24 October to celebrate 30 years of the Erasmus Programme. Students from the University of Stirling were invited to attend and contribute an article to a brochure for the event and be filmed for a video explaining what Erasmus means to them.
Erin Cawley who is doing a BA in International Management with European Languages and Society (and spent a semester at the Universidad de Santander), Suzanne Buiter, who is in the final year of her BA in International Management with European Languages and Society (and spent her Semester Abroad at the Universidad de Navarra) and Alex Sorlei, who has just started the final year of a BA International Politics and Languages (with a Semester Abroad at Sciences Po, Paris) attended the event with Jean-Michel DesJacques and Jose Ferreira-Cayuela. Speakers included the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Alan Smith Director (Erasmus Bureau of the European Commission [1987-92]) and student participants.’
For Jose and Jean-Michel, the event was an important way to mark the role that Erasmus plays within languages degrees both for staff and students. As Jose puts it, ‘the event was a reflection of what Erasmus+ is all about: meeting people from all over Europe, exchanging ideas and experiences and a great opportunity to taste food/drink from different places. The setting was also great and the presence of very important figures of the Scottish Government proved that exchanges with Europe are a priority for Scotland in the future. Whether we still call it Erasmus+ or something else, is a different issue.’ Similarly, for Jean-Michel, the sense of community that Erasmus creates is crucial: ‘It was great to be amongst friends for the 30-year anniversary of the launch of the Erasmus programme. I felt a bit jealous at the wealth of opportunities young students – in fact young people in general – have to go abroad. For a short while, we managed to forget the uncertainty of it all and decided to celebrate one of the greatest schemes to come out of the European institutions.’
Thanks to Fiona, Jean-Michel and Jose for their contributions (and photos!) and to Erasmus+ for helping our students over the years. Many, many tales of Erasmus+ experiences to be found among the pages of this blog!
French (and Spanish) at Stirling students in their second year and in their final year were recently given the opportunity to attend a meeting with a representative of the British Council to find out about their English Language Assistantship scheme. We have a great success rate with ELA applications at Stirling and, every year, 20-30 of our students end up being offered contracts to teach English across a range of schools and universities in the wider Francophone and Hispanophone worlds. One of last year’s French at Stirling graduates, David Vescio, applied for an ELA during his final year and has just sent us this account of the start of his year teaching in Colombia, as well as plenty of pictures to brighten up a rather grey mid-semester break…
“Panicking about what you are going to do after university? Don’t worry; I have graduated and I am still not sure… and lo and behold, I am alive and well!
During my last year at university, I was trying to keep my options open so I applied for a PGDE in French and Spanish in Scotland as well as a teaching assistantship in Latin America through the British Council. I was lucky enough to be offered both and after careful consideration I decided to go with the latter and go to Colombia. Why opt for the less secure option when I could have studied for my postgrad in education, become a qualified teacher in a couple of years and found a stable job in Scotland? It’s simple: I just wasn’t ready.
Most of my fellow graduates still aren’t sure about what they want to do long-term and the secret to having a relatively stress-free last year as an undergrad is to keep your options open and have a back-up plan. Still stressing? Don’t worry, you have your dissertation to look forward to!
I would definitely encourage students to go away for a year after university with the British Council, especially if you are interested in travelling, teaching and languages. If you go off to teach for a year it doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up teaching for the rest of your life but it is an opportunity to gain experience doing a ¨real life¨ job in a relatively relaxed atmosphere while still having some freedom to travel as you will be working part-time.
I was appointed to the Catholic University of Pereira, a relatively small town located in the coffee region of Colombia. Before leaving for Pereira, I attended an induction session in Bogota with all the other language assistants in Colombia which was a lot of fun as we were provided with free food and accommodation for 3 days. This was a really nice opportunity to meet everyone taking part in the programme as well as the language assistants from other countries such as France, Germany, India, etc. Language assistants are posted all over Colombia so it is a great opportunity to go travelling with them and visit this wonderful country and beyond!
When I got to Pereira, my tutor helped me find accommodation and the university staff have been really helpful! Although I definitely stick out like a sore thumb, Colombians are always welcoming and curious to know where I come from as well as what I am doing here. Lots of people have invited me to their homes for dinner and despite the bad reputation Colombia has had in recent years, I would definitely recommend it as a memorable place to visit.
I have only been here for about 2 months and I don’t think I have ever travelled so much! Since I only work 18 hours a week, this leaves me plenty of time to explore the region and I have been to some pretty incredible places as you can see in the pictures. I have been to Bogota, Medellin, Salento, Guatape, Manizales, Cali and Bucaramanga so just imagine all the places I will have been to after spending a whole year here! People ask me if I miss my family and friends and of course I do, but there are so many new places to go, things to do and people to meet! So the good things definitely outweigh the bad. I am still, however, struggling with Irn Bru withdrawal symptoms…
I think being a language assistant has really helped me become more adaptable. For example, I never expected to be asked to be teaching technical terms in industrial design classes, but I have managed to do so and I have even learnt a wee bit about industrial design in the process! I have had the opportunity to take part in an International Relations class every week where I talk to students about the differences between the U.K. and Great Britain and the different nations within the former as well as explaining to them the concepts of Scottish Independence and Brexit, but also the topics of multiculturalism and freedom of religion as well as less cheerful subjects such as terrorism and the Grenfell tower fire.
I have started up a conversation club for students and another for teachers where we discuss current local and global affairs and have also been recording a weekly radio show where I talk about my experience here in Pereira and compare it to life in Scotland. Believe it or not, quite a few people don’t know where or what Scotland is! But let’s be honest, how many people reading this right now actually know where Colombia is? One of my students even asked me last week what ¨I dinnae ken¨ meant because apparently they were watching a Scottish YouTuber… the joys of teaching!
With all of that, plus the hot weather (and despite the accompanying Scottish ¨tan¨) as well as the incredible variety of exotic fruits, I am really glad I decided to take a break from studying as, let’s face it, travelling is a form of education in itself.
So, to all fourth year students who may be reading this blog piece, remember to enjoy your last year at university and to keep your options open.”
Many, many thanks to David for finding the time to send us this post and we’d echo his advice – of course – about keeping open all the options a languages degree offers!!
Time for a mid-semester blog catch-up… As was mentioned in an earlier blog post, a number of our students have been out in local schools acting as Language Ambassadors again this semester. Rhiannon Quinn who is in the 2nd year of a BA Hons in French was part of a small group of students who spent an afternoon at a local high school at the end of September and she has sent us this great account of the day.
“I recently went to Wallace High School, located right next to the university, to take part in their European Languages Day and to talk to them about my experiences in studying modern languages. When I was at school, European Languages Day was well celebrated with all different kinds of activities and fun things to do and I wanted the third-year kids to have the same experiences I did. As there was a few of us from the university we managed to split the classes into small groups of about five, so that each pupil could have the chance to be heard and have a real personal chat with us.
It was very interesting to see how many of the children were interested in studying languages and they seemed to be very relaxed when talking to us and were very confident in giving us their opinions. They seemed to be very intrigued when I told them that I would have the opportunity to go abroad and live in a foreign country as part of my degree to which I informed them that if they gave languages a chance, they could definitely have that experience too. A few of the children even knew people in their own families who did semesters abroad and they were able to tell me about it.
Even though there were kids who weren’t that keen on languages, they still gave their input and even told me what they wanted to be when they were older. One thing in particular I noticed was that every single one of the kids were able to tell me multiple French and Spanish films they had seen, which I told them was a good thing and doing things like that will help you improve and that you can have fun while learning languages and it’s not just all work and memorising.
Everyone at Wallace High School was really nice, teachers and pupils, and they made us feel extremely welcome. They even gave us a card and a box of chocolates at the end as a thank you gift. They were extremely complimentary and overall, it was a great experience which I would love to do again.”
Apologies to Rhiannon for the delay in getting this post online but thank you very much for taking the time to send it to us and for your work as a Language Ambassador.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!’
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!
Following on from the general update on French news, a great, positive account of a Student Language Ambassadors’ visit to Cathkin High School by two of our final year students – Nicole Downey and Catherine Dodds, both of whom were at the Université de Limoges last semester on Erasmus Study Abroad – a couple of weeks ago. We’re looking forward to continuing to send our students out to act as ambassadors for language learning and I’m hoping to have a blog post about another visit to Wallace High in Stirling before the end of the week. In the meantime, though, over to Nicole and Catherine:
‘We believe that Student Language Ambassadors are a key factor in language learning. It is essential to encourage young people to continue learning languages and to inform them of their future prospects and opportunities. Recently, we visited Cathkin High School in Cambuslang during their modern languages week to give a presentation and discuss our experiences, both at Stirling and abroad.
We found that the students appreciated the opportunity to speak to other young people, who aren’t a great deal older than them and in particular were inspired by our experiences abroad. Although not all of the students wanted to continue learning languages in higher education, it was still useful for them as they were able to speak to us about the university process and life at university.
It was satisfying for us to see that the pupils were very engaged by the evidence that learning languages does actually provide you with amazing experiences, which would otherwise not be possible without studying languages.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time as Student Ambassadors and would love to have this opportunity again.’
Many thanks to Catherine and Nicole for this blog post, and for having taken the time to go along to talk to the pupils at Cathkin High School. And thanks to pupils and staff there for their warm welcome.