Over the past two days, French at Stirling has been playing host to around 200 school pupils and their teachers from across the Central Belt (and beyond). It’s been a packed couple of days with pupils who are just starting their French Highers and Advanced Highers getting a chance to find out what studying a language at University is like.
The days started with a mini-lecture on contemporary French society before the pupils were split into smaller seminar groups for a written language class in the morning. After lunch, it was back into smaller groups for a culture class focusing on extracts from a series of auto-portraits written by school pupils from Clichy-sous-Bois. The final session of the day brought all the pupils back together again for a series of presentations from a group of this year’s finalists, all talking about the benefits of Study Abroad and time abroad more generally, and then an employability-focused talk from our Employability and Skills Officer and a group of graduates from the past few years, talking about where French has taken them.
And while the pupils were busy with seminars and learning about study abroad and the employability benefits of studying a language, their teachers were whisked off for two CPD sessions led by Stirling academics. The first, led by Elizabeth Ezra, focused on approaches to teaching film and the afternoon session, led by Fiona Barclay, centred on assessment and feedback of culture-based essays in the language classroom.
We’d like to say thank you to everyone who came along – to the teachers for taking the time to do this and to all the pupils for participating so well over the course of the days. Thanks also go to Stirling staff who have been involved, as well as to PhD student Fanny Lacôte for giving up her time to help us, and to all the finalists and graduates who gave up their afternoons to come and tell the pupils about their experiences.
Feedback from our visitors and from French at Stirling staff has been extremely positive with pupils commenting about how much they enjoyed seeing what studying French at University is like and that they particularly appreciated hearing from our finalists and graduates, and we look forward to organising future schools events in the future. In the meantime, if you’re reading this and want a chance to find out more about studying with us, we have a recruitment Open Day this Saturday (17 June) and would be delighted to get a chance to tell you more there!
French at Stirling has Study Abroad partnership agreements with a wide range of Universities and Business Schools across France but also in Switzerland, Quebec and Morocco. On the vast majority of our programmes, students spend a compulsory semester on Study Abroad (Semester 6) at one of these partners, attending classes covering a range of topics – French language, of course, but many of our students also choose to use the semester to try out new subject areas or to take courses related to another subject they might study at Stirling. Semester 6 Abroad is also a chance to travel, to meet new people (whether other exchange students or locals), to build networks for future career plans…
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be posting a few accounts of recent Study Abroad experiences, both from students who were away this time last year and from some currently off in foreign climes. We’re kicking off this series with Julian Osei-Bonsu who is in his final semester, studying French and Law, and who managed to combine a semester on one of the University-wide exchange programmes in Semester 5 with his Semester 6 component in at Sciences Po in Paris:
‘One of the reasons why I chose to study French at Stirling (along with my love for the language) was the fact that Stirling French students are required to study in a French speaking country for a semester in their third year. Stirling gives students a lot of opportunities when it comes to studying abroad, so I also decided to apply for an exchange in Canada for my fifth semester. I got into the program and soon enough I was in third year and living in Vancouver.
Having only just settled in Canada, I had to start applying for my compulsory Erasmus semester. Needing to fill out Erasmus documents and finding accommodation, all while trying to make most of my limited time in Canada – doing assignments, making new friends and trying to see as much of Canada as possible – seemed like a daunting prospect at first. However, the entire process was pretty straightforward, and I always received helpful feedback from my tutors in Stirling whenever I encountered difficulties.
My time in Canada ended too soon, and two weeks after leaving I landed in Paris. I found myself in my new flat that I had just managed to find two weeks earlier and that I hadn’t even been sure actually existed, and said hello to my new flatmate who had just arrived for his exchange and who seemed just as baffled as I was. Having been in a similar situation just five months earlier didn’t make anything less scary.
Although I felt extremely privileged to have the opportunity to study abroad twice in a row, I thought that moving to a different country after such a short period of time, starting studying at a new university and having to make new friends all over again would be a little exhausting. Also I thought my time in Canada couldn’t be topped. However, I don’t think I have ever been more wrong. I fell in love with Paris within a week of getting there. When you’re studying abroad, you’re bound to meet other exchange students who, like you, are desperate to make friends. It is incredible how many like-minded people I met, who shared my interests and my love for the city. To me, Paris is the place to have the ultimate study abroad experience. It is an incredibly beautiful city, you are constantly surrounded by places and landmarks that already seem familiar to you because you saw them in a film or read about them in a book. Soaking up the spring sun on the banks of the Canal St Martin, having to walk down the Boulevard St Germain to school every day, or frantically racing through the streets in order to see the midnight lightshow of the Eiffel Tower in time for your flatmate’s birthday is just the beginning. Studying there for a semester, I felt like I became a part of the city and its people – I now know the stops of my metro line by heart and I could show anyone the least touristy hide outs.
I also loved my classes. I wasn’t required by Stirling to take any specific modules so I decided to take courses in sociology, politics and international relations, which I feel gave me a basic understanding in fields I would never have been able to venture into had I not studied there. The fact that my grades were not transferred back to Stirling was also very refreshing. I appreciated being part of the Sciences Po student body for a semester. Sciences Po is a highly esteemed school in France and it is located in the heart of Paris. During my time there, world leaders such as Kofi Annan, Al Gore and Ban Ki Moon stopped by to give talks.
I can only recommend studying abroad in Paris. I had the best time of my life there; I made incredible friends, most of whom I am still in contact with; and I feel honoured to have been able to study at one of France’s best institutions. The only regret of studying in Paris would be that now, literally nothing can top my Paris experiences.’
Thanks to Julian for this blog post and for the pictures!
We’re always delighted when former students get back in touch to let us know where their degree has taken them. Few of our former students have ended up collecting quite as many airmiles as Susan Peattie! It’s great to see how a degree in French can open so many doors, going way beyond the limits of the Francophone world…
“My name is Susan Peattie and I graduated in 2011 with a BA Hons in French and Spanish. I really enjoyed my time at University of Stirling. At 38, I was a mature student and before starting my course I had worked in the Jobcentre for fifteen years.
Prior to starting my studies, I went to Mombasa in Kenya to teach in a primary school for a few months. During my time there, I helped at Calvary Zion Children’s Home. On my return from Kenya, my friends and I founded a charity in Scotland and we raise funds to help with the education costs for the 44 children at the home.
In my first year, I found the challenge of doing advanced French tough at times, as I had done the Higher in just six months, and I realised I did not have a good grounding of the basics like the younger students who had studied French for several years at school. Also, I had never written an academic essay before in my life, but with the help of the staff and a few good books, my confidence grew!
I loved having the opportunity to spend a year abroad. I went to Guatemala, where I taught in a school run by a UK based charity, Education for the Children . The children have very tough lives living in poor conditions and very often with serious family problems to cope with too. I lived with a local family, and as I was teaching in Spanish, by the end of my time there, I was dreaming in Spanish! I then travelled to Costa Rica and I lived in a hut near to the beach on the Osa Peninsula. Here I helped at a conservation project and we monitored sea turtle activity. The aim of the project being to protect the nesting sites in order to increase sea turtle numbers.
I then spent six months in France studying at three private language schools in Bordeaux, Montpellier and Chambery. Up until this time, my degree included Professional Education, so on my return to university life I had to complete a placement. I went to the placement, but I felt really unsettled. The teachers were obviously under pressure to achieve results, complete endless paper work and my impression was that teaching the kids was something that just got “fitted in” if time allowed! I am not sure if my year out in the wider world was at the root of this or the fact that I did not want to join another rat race, but I made the decision to change my degree to French and Spanish only.
I graduated in 2011 in absentia because I had taken up the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro in order to raise funds for the children’s home in Mombasa. After the climb, I travelled by bus up to Mombasa to spend the rest of the summer with the children. When my friends there discovered that I had missed my graduation, they decided to give me a graduation party. Seventy people attended, two goats were slaughtered and they had even found me a gown to wear! They sang a beautiful Swahili song for me and it was a fantastic afternoon I will always remember. Here I am being fed cake – another tradition in Kenya!
As I still wanted to teach, I completed a TEFL course with the intention of working in a French or Spanish speaking country. However, I saw a vacancy for a Kindergarten Teacher in Almaty, Kazakhstan and I applied as I felt it would be a great life experience. I was delighted to get the job, started in August 2011 and worked there for two years. It truly was an amazing experience. The kids were fantastic, as were the people I met there, the culture and architecture was great to see too. The minus 25 winter temperatures took a bit of getting used to though!
Today, I am in Vsetín, a sleepy town in the south east of the Czech Republic close to the Slovak border. We are surrounded by hills and there are endless hiking and cycling trails to enjoy. Here, I work for a private language school teaching English to children, teens and adults. The Czech people are very welcoming and hospitable, often inviting us to their villages for local festivals or their house for dinner!
Teaching English as a second language is a great job, and for me the best part of moving to a new country is meeting new people and discovering the culture and customs of the country. In the future, I definitely plan to work in French and Spanish speaking countries. Although I have not really used my languages to any great extent since graduating, there is no doubt that having a language degree has given me an in depth knowledge of grammar and an insight into how it is for the students learning a foreign language. Also, most language schools require a degree in order to apply.
I have no idea where my journey will take me in the future, but I think that is all part of the excitement!”
We wish Susan all the best for the future and look forward to hearing more about her travels and experiences across the globe.