Tag: Studying Languages

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.

 

 

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New Semester

It’s already the end of our first week of the new semester here at Stirling so time for a quick round-up of our news. It’s been a busy little run up to the start of teaching here: new colleagues, great First Year numbers and those starting in our Advanced stream have been benefiting from our Bridging Materials, French at Stirling has been rated No.3 in Scotland and in the top 20 in the UK by the 2019 Complete University Guide… A period of great change and excitement!

Where to start? ‘New colleagues’ seems a good place. Beatrice Ivey, Research Assistant on Fiona Barclay’s AHRC Leadership project, is now in Stirling and settling into Divisional life. She and Fiona are working on the organisation of the exhibition that forms part of the project, more on which soon. We’ve also welcomed Emeline Morin who has joined us as a Lecturer in French for the next two years. Emeline’s research interests lie in comparative literature and fairytales and she’s teaching with us across a wide range of courses.

Alongside Emeline, two other new lecturers will be joining us over the months ahead. Aedín ní Loingsigh will be starting in October, with Hannah Grayson taking up her post in January. Hannah’s recent work has been on the Rwandan Stories of Change project at St Andrews. Much as we were sad to see Bill Marshall retire, it’s great to get a chance to welcome a fantastic group of new colleagues and we’re looking forward to working with them. We’ve also got some new faces among the Teaching Assistants who work as part of our Language team (with Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau and Brigitte Depret): Fanny Lacôte and Fraser McQueen who have taught with us before are joined by Aurélie Noël who has previously taught at the University of Glasgow.

2018 Hornberger VIIAs ever, the start of the new semester also means welcoming back our students. Our finalists are back from their Semester Abroad (in France, Quebec, Morocco, Switzerland… or Hispanophone destinations for those doing French and Spanish) and our Year 3 students are about to start the process to select their destination for their Semester Abroad. With that in mind, Jean-Michel DesJacques, Jose Ferreira-Cayuela and Cristina Johnston are organising their annual get-together at the end of September that gives all those students a chance to meet over wine and nibbles to talk about Study Abroad and to exchange questions and tips. All the University’s incoming exchange students from French or Spanish-speaking partner institutions are also invited and it’s a great chance for the different groups of students to get to know each other.

2018 Nicolas Masdorp Pic I

Some of those incoming French-language exchange students are also currently being recruited to lead informal conversation sessions for students in a range of year groups, to offer a further opportunity for spoken language practice beyond the weekly tuition offered by our Language team.

And, of course, we have a great cohort of Year 2 students, many of whom will be applying for English Language Assistantships over the course of this year (welcome back to those who were ELAs last year!). For the first half of our second year, we run an Intermediate class for those who started as complete beginners with us in Year 1 and it’s great to see that numbers on that module are even higher than last year.

Finalists back from Semester Abroad, Year 3 students planning time abroad, students settling into Year 2 and good numbers of Year 1 students which is fantastic to see. Those on the Advanced stream – taking French with a wide range of other subjects – have been working their way through the Bridging Materials that we put together for incoming students each year, to help smooth the transition from secondary school language study to University-level language learning. And those on our Beginners’ stream are about to plunge into the intensive programme of language learning that will introduce them to French and build their confidence and ability as the weeks progress.

A great group of undergraduates and an enthusiastic intake of students on the French stream of our Translation and Translation with TESOL programmes who will work under the guidance of French at Stirling staff on their translation portfolios and, ultimately, on their dissertation projects. It’s been particularly nice to see some familiar faces on those programmes with recent graduates returning to undertake postgrad work with us (as well as across other TPG programmes at Stirling, of course).

As in previous years, we’ll be posting profiles of our students regularly, partly to catch up with those who’ve written for us before and to get a sense of how their studies are progressing, and partly to introduce you to some of our new Year 1 intake, so keep an eye on these pages!

2018 FFF Logo

As for French at Stirling colleagues, lots of news to report there, too. Fiona Barclay, Beatrice Ivey and Cristina Johnston are in discussions with the MacRobert’s film programmer, Grahame Reid, to finalise a programme of French Film Festival screenings that will take place at the MacRobert later in the semester. Details to follow but expect some great new French-language films! (It’s not directly French-related but do also check out Grahame’s Central Scotland Documentary Festival at the MacRobert from 4-8 October – a fantastic programme of documentaries lies ahead!) And on another film-related note, David Murphy will be involved with the Africa in Motion festival in November – more on which soon…

2018 Cent Scot Docu Fest

2018 AiM Logo

 

 

 

 

Aedín ní Loingsigh will be participating in a workpshop on Interdisciplinarity at the Université de Limoges in December and Elizabeth Ezra gave a paper in June at the Contemporary Childhood Conference at the University of Strathclyde examining the witch-familiar relationships in Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. Elizabeth has also just signed a contract for a book, co-edited with Catherine Wheatley of KCL entitled Shoe Reels: The History and Philosophy of Footwear in Film, which will be published by EUP in 2020. And with her non-academic hat on, Elizabeth will be talking about her children’s book Ruby McCracken at the Wigtown Book Festival later this month.

2018 Ruby McCracken

This weekend, while staff and students from French and Spanish are talking to prospective students at Stirling University’s Open Day (15 September – come and see us!), Jean-Michel DesJacques is off to Dundee where he’ll be taking part in the 25th Anniversary Conference UCML Scotland​: Looking inward and outward. Jean-Michel will be meeting actors from all education sectors from Primary to higher education. The 1+2 language initiative will be high on the agenda but not exclusively since challenges and issues in languages are multiple and complex.

And our Phd student Fraser McQueen has been presenting his work across a range of conferences since the Spring, including the ASMCF Postgraduate Study Day at the IMLR (where he spoke about Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in France), the Society for French Studies Postgraduate Study day at UCL (with a paper on female radicalisation fiction), Stirling’s own annual Arts and Humanities Postgraduate Research Conference and the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies Postgraduate Study Day at Birmingham. Fraser also co-organised the SGSAH Second Year PG Symposium in Glasgow in June and presented his own work there, too.

There is much, much more that we could include here but that seems a good taste of what’s going on to start things off this semester. More to follow over the weeks ahead! In the meantime, many thanks to the students whose photos from last semester abroad have made their way into this post and bon weekend!

Strasbourg, mon amour

And hot on the heels of Stefano’s post about his semester in Paris, this article comes from Annika who will also be coming back to Stirling in September, having spent her Spring semester in Strasbourg:

2018 Hornberger I‘I have spent my Erasmus semester at the Ecole de Management in the beautiful city of Strasbourg, which was a fantastic opportunity and I would do it all over again. Strasbourg is a multicultural, historic city at the heart of Europe. I was in France and yet there were many aspects that made me feel like home in Germany, not only its location at the border, but also the half-timbered houses, the Alsatian street names, some traditional dishes and not least the carnival parade. I even had the direct comparison, because I invited six Erasmus friends to my hometown in Germany to celebrate Karneval in Bonn and Cologne.

To get a first orientation and some historic knowledge the boat tours around the city and the free guided tours of Strasbourg and the Petite France are great offers. You get a panoramic view of Strasbourg if you climb up the tower of its famous cathedral. In the evenings we enjoyed sitting at the River Ill watching the boats and eating tarte flambée at Au Brasseur. Another beautiful brasserie and restaurant is the Corde à Linge situated at the canal which surrounds the Petite France, a very picturesque historic quarter of Strasbourg. To buy groceries you can get great offers at the markets and my favourite bakery is called Au Pain de Mon Grand Père.

2018 Hornberger III

From Strasbourg you can easily go by bus to the idyllic, historic city Colmar where you can visit the famous Musée Unterlinden and feel like in New York when you see Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty from afar. We took part in an interesting tour around the city which you can book at the tourist information and had a great traditional lunch at the Brasserie des Tanneurs. Another place worth a visit is the historic Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg from where you have a splendid view when it is not foggy… Nearby is the lovely town of Ribeauvillé. A trip to Ribeauvillé was the highlight of our great Introductory grape and wine knowledge course, because we got to visit our teacher’s family owned vineyards and winery and got to taste some of their great wines.

2018 Hornberger VI would also advise every Erasmus student who goes to France to buy the Carte culture which gives you free entry and discounts for many museums, cinemas, theatres, operas and other events throughout France. Among other things, I went to see Werther at the Opéra de Strasbourg and visited the Musée historique de Strasbourg which displays Strasbourg’s eventful history. It is also definitely worth getting involved in the Café des Langues which is a weekly event where you can meet fellow international students and other people to make new friends and practice foreign languages. Not only did I improve my French there, but also my Spanish. It takes place at three different locations: The Café Berlin on the Place d’Austerlitz, the Taverne française and the District Bar & Club. This is where I got to know a woman who had migrated from Madagascar to France at the age of 10. Talking to her and to another woman from Kosovo who had immigrated aged 15 and interviewing them about their life stories inspired me to focus my research project on the integration of migrant women in French society. I continued my research at the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration in Paris and found a lot of good literature on the topic in the Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg.

2018 Hornberger VIII

From Strasbourg I could easily take the train to Paris to visit my fellow students from Stirling. In Paris we also visited the Musée du Louvre, the Panthéon and we climbed up the Arc de Triomphe at night to see the Eiffel tower sparkle, which was definitely the highlight of my trip to Paris.

Since April I have been working as an intern at GIZ (German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH) in Bonn in the Development Workers Section. During my internship I took part in a study trip to Paris together with other interns and we went to hear very interesting presentations from several organisations and engaged in enriching discussions with them. We went to visit the Economy Division and the REN21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century) of the UNEP, a think tank called I4CE (Institute for Climate Economics) and the IEA (International Energy Agency), where we heard a presentation on energy access topics with main focus on the SDGs. Furthermore, we visited a social project called Les Canaux, where we learned about the ESS (Économie sociale et solidaire) sector.

During the summer I also had the opportunity to visit two fellow students in Morocco who spent their semester abroad in Rabat. This trip was an enriching experience because it gave me the opportunity to see a country of origin of many immigrants in France.

Looking back on my semester abroad in France I am pleased to say that I am not done with Strasbourg yet, I am looking very forward to going back to do my master’s degree there.’

Many, many thanks to Annika for the great post and for all the tips for students planning to visit Strasbourg!

A Semester in Paris: An impossible adventure that really happened

In just under a fortnight, our Autumn semester begins and we’ll once again be welcoming a new intake of Year 1 students and welcoming back all our returning students. Among the latter will be our 2018-19 finalists most of whom have just spent a semester on Study Abroad, like Stefano who studies International Politics and French and who has sent us this blog post about his semester in Paris:

2018 Intropido Pic I‘Looking back at the last six months feels already like waking up from an incredible, fast-paced, marvellous dream, recalling all the things that happened, hanging onto each moment, not to forget a single memory of what still seems like an impossible adventure.

Yet it has been possible. And yes, it did really happen!

I remember the excitement of getting accepted into SciencesPo Paris, one of the world’s leading universities for political science and international relations, as well as the thrill of living for one semester in the Ville Lumière. When I left for Paris I could not expect how great this period abroad would be. So, let me now tell you some of the highlights of studying at this institution at the very heart of France.

First things first. Whenever going to a new study destination, collecting as much information as possible represents a vital part of process, especially in terms of housing and living arrangements; luckily for language students at Stirling, the French and Spanish Departments organise an informal get-together each year for all those past-present-and-future cohorts of students involved in the compulsory semester in a French- or Spanish-speaking country with the aim of making new friends and connections with those who are going, or have just been, to the same foreign university; my personal advice to all interested language students out there? Just GO along!

In my experience, that was literally the moment when I first met a nice group of Parisian students who I later befriended. Spoiler alert: as well as new remarkable international friendships, I ended up renting a studio at one of my Parisian friends’ place without whom I would have had a totally different French experience.

Another point which is worth mentioning, I guess, is the money side of the story to be considered well before applying for unis abroad. In case you were wondering… yes, Paris is hugely expensive. It is nonetheless fair to say that going to a renowned, private  Grande Ecole as part of a language Stirling degree can be a once in a lifetime experience not to miss.

All sorted then: we are ready to fly to Paris.

2018 Intropido Pic IIIInternational students like me had the chance to attend a week-long orientation programme of activities, classes and socials to familiarise ourselves with SciencesPo’s environment and, most importantly, methodology. Once again, I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of going to SciencesPo for one semester; leaving aside the scavenger hunt around Paris (where you can have lots of fun and get lost in the capital at the same time), the extra 250€ fee is totally worth it. Among other things, this initial programme allowed me and my international course-mates to enjoy some of most remarkable highlights of Paris, to gain some useful tips and skills for the semester ahead and to deliver our very first diplomatic presentations in French surrounded by the beautiful paintings of the Sorbonne’s lecture theatres.

If you are an art lover, then Paris is the city for you! A part from the fact that most of French museums and galleries are totally free of charge for European students under the age of 25, studying at SciencesPo can make your art-addiction even more irresistible; conveniently located in the heart of Paris, SciencesPo is just 5 minutes walk away from the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries and 10 minutes away from the Jardin de Luxembourg where you can easily go to enjoy the sun, read a book or just take a break with your friends in between classes.

2018 Intropido Pic IV

Needless to say, art and culture are not the only attractions for those who study at SciencesPo Paris. This Grande Ecole offers an incredible and almost overwhelming number of opportunities to foster one’s interests in political sciences, law and economics, both from an academic and social perspective. It might sound commonplace, but studying abroad is really all about challenging yourself to get the most out of this unique experience and SciencesPo does give students the instruments and possibilities to do so. If being immersed in a new culture, as well as language, is not enough for you, then I would strongly advise you to consider taking some (if not all) courses in French to live a first-hand experience of the Parisian style of teaching. Moreover, I found the equivalent of our clubs and societies extremely fascinating and engaging. Let me give you some example; from the very first weeks of uni I managed to get involved in associations like SciencesPo Nations Unies, Junior Diplomatic Initiative France, SciencesPo Refugee Help, etc. Just to give you an idea of why I got so excited about these societies, I had the amazing opportunity to attend workshops and classes on the functioning of the UN to prepare ourselves as delegates to the Model United Nations and, most importantly, to participate into meetings and round-tables on current issues with Diplomats at the Embassies of Norway, Belgium, Greece and Canada.

If diplomacy is not your cup of tea, don’t worry; SciencesPo offers a wide range of other societies and they periodically organise socials and events for all sorts of interests, from the Trial of Lord Voldemort to the Drinking Mate Society.

To conclude, my semester at SciencesPo has been one of the highlights of my degree for so many reasons that it is almost difficult to list them all in a single blog post. The friends I met there from, quite literally, all over the world and the memories I made there will be something I will cherish forever and I am deeply grateful to Stirling for having made this semester abroad possible. It has really been an adventure, from learning how to get your head around the Parisian transportation system to the challenging and yet amazingly fascinating courses at SciencesPo. I have come back from Paris with a better awareness of myself, my academic and research interests and of the world we all inhabit; to all the students out there who might consider whether SciencesPo is the destination for you, trust me, it is all going to be worthy if you feel ready to get the most out of it.’

Many, many thanks to Stefano for the great post and we look forward to hearing Semester Abroad tales from all our returning students in a couple of weeks.

‘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.

‘After all the hard work, my options are unlimited’

In just a couple of weeks, this year’s French finalists will become this year’s French graduates so, first and foremost, congratulations to all concerned! There are a few more posts to come over the next little while that will give you a sense of the many different directions our soon-to-be graduates are planning on taking over the months ahead, starting with this post by Lucy who is about to graduate in French and Spanish:

‘As I write this, Stirling has just confirmed degree classifications for its graduating students and, while the wait was nerve-wracking, it gave me an opportunity to reflect upon and appreciate where I started this whole journey compared to now, five years later with degree in hand and moving on to the next challenge.

Before starting a B.A. (Hons) in French and Spanish, languages were something I was always good at in school (and more importantly something I really enjoyed) so naturally I drifted down the course of modern languages at uni. I say “drifted” because I never really knew where it would lead me or what to expect, both of the course and of myself.

2018 Lucy ODonnell San Vicente de la Barquera IISoon enough, after two years at Stirling, I was applying for a position as an English Language Assistant via the British Council which took me to a primary school in the north of Spain for ten months. Being absolutely honest here, it was the most difficult thing I have ever done (not least because the average age of my town was 86!). However, it was without a doubt the most rewarding and beneficial experience that I could ever have hoped for and I truly wouldn’t have changed a thing. It toughened me up (kids are apparently brutally honest about pointing out your acne), my self-confidence sky-rocketed, I could converse easily in Spanish and, most importantly, I learned the right way to make a perfect sangria!

In all seriousness, I was mentally and emotionally challenged throughout the whole experience but I know for certain that I would not be at the proficiency and confidence level I am now had I had a different experience. A quick word of advice for future Stirling students undertaking an assistantship in Spain: don’t even try to contend with Spanish bureaucracy – becoming its victim is part and parcel of the experience! Keep calm and have a vino.

2018 Lucy ODonnell Tours IIMy next challenge was Erasmus which I would eventually do in Tours, France. I spent five months at the Université François-Rabelais where I mostly studied translation classes and French language classes. I lived in noisy student halls and exclusively ate pasta and toasties and, speaking as someone who has always lived at home during term-time, I appreciated the opportunity to experience authentic student life!

Tours and its university was a great place for students and I highly recommend it. The teachers were extremely supportive and helpful for Erasmus students and their classes were genuinely very useful and engaging. There was also ample opportunity to meet and socialise with French students, several of whom I still keep in contact with today. They were all so friendly and really interested in us as people and in the Scottish culture (I encourage anyone to explain to a French person why a Highland cow looks the way it does, it really challenges your language skills!).

2018 Lucy ODonnell Tours IAside from discussing our weird and wonderful creatures, I really enjoyed living in France and I truly gained invaluable experience in learning how to improvise and think on your feet linguistically. Studying French/Spanish as a fourth year student at Stirling is challenging and really encourages you to push yourself and your skills (as I’m sure is the case with any uni) so my advice is to get a head start and do as much of this as possible while you’re studying on Erasmus and say yes to every opportunity while you’re surrounded by the language. You’ll really feel the benefit on your return to uni, which leads me to my final nugget of wisdom for all language students that I only really started to understand in fourth year: having confidence and believing in yourself is half the battle to becoming fluent. The rest will come with hard work and perseverance.

As for my next step, I’ll be moving on to the University of Strathclyde to study an MSc in Business Translation and Interpreting. I was impressed by how flexible and broad their course structure is in terms of the areas of translation you can study and I’m looking forward to putting all my skills into practice in something I really enjoy doing. I’d eventually like to be an interpreter for the justice system, whether in Scotland or further afield, but it’s a good feeling to know that after all the hard work, my options are unlimited.

I don’t think it has really sunk in yet that my time here has come to an end. I have been given opportunities like no other by Stirling and I really feel that I personally have completely changed for the better. I’ve learned an incredible amount thanks to the excellent teaching staff in the French and Spanish departments so, finally, I’ll take this as my opportunity to thank them for all their support over the years. Merci/gracias!’

Many, many thanks to Lucy for the great blog post and we wish you all the very best for the MSc and life beyond!

From Stirling to Rabat…: ‘I couldn’t recommend a semester abroad enough!’

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.

2018 Voigt Kasbah des Oudayas RabatI 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. 2018 Voigt Place du 9 avril 1947 Tanger

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.

2018 Voigt Sunset during Ramadan RabatAlthough 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’!

2018 Voigt Outskirts of ChefchauoenParticular 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.