It has been a fantastically sunny day in Stirling today, ideal weather for this year’s finalists who have just become this year’s French at Stirling graduates. Everybody looked great in their finery and, despite the heat in the Gannochy, it was a morning of smiles all round. Congratulations once again to all our graduates!
And it’s not only our finalists who are to be lauded today – as I got ready to don my gown for the ceremony this morning, I was very pleased to find a blog post from Jack, one of our students who is halfway through his degree, waiting in my inbox. As we mentioned recently on the blog, Jack was recently awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship which he’ll use – as he explains here – to learn more about competition structures for tennis in France:
‘For language students, third year is a biggie. It’s the one we all look forward to – the one where we finally get to spend our semester abroad! We have all talked about it amongst ourselves endlessly, saying things like “I think I’ll go to Quebec’ or ‘Tours sounds nice!’, but this coming September myself and the rest of the French students at Stirling going into their third year of studies will have to make a final decision on which francophone university we would like to study at in January 2019. What seemed like a decision so far away is suddenly right around the corner!
For me, it has been a decision that I have had to put much thought into. Being a tennis scholar at Stirling, I wanted to find a French-speaking city that I would find exciting and where I would have ample opportunities to improve my ability in the language, but also have the tennis facilities and travel links that would allow me to continue with my rigorous training and competition schedule. Luckily for me, France is one of (if not the) best tennis nations in the world! Having spent some time in Montpellier during my teenage years, I knew that South of France is where I wanted to be due to its fantastic climate, the amiable hospitality of its inhabitants and, of course, the many tennis clubs and academies that are dotted around the region!
February last year, I was informed by the French department of the opportunity to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship. This scholarship was developed in order to provide some funding for students who wished to undertake specific research projects during their time abroad, alongside their Erasmus studies or an English Language Assistantship. Due to my passion for tennis, I leapt at the chance! After deliberating on which aspect of tennis in France that I wanted to explore, I decided that the most interesting would be to research the structures for competition in France, and how they compare to that of the United Kingdom. In more simple terms, I wanted to try to figure out how why the level of tennis in France is so high, and how we might be able to better organise tournaments in Britain from beginners all the way up to the professional level in order produce the next generation of future stars.
I decided that with the help of the grant I would travel to a few professional events around the country, including L’Open Sud de France in Montpellier that commences in February, and especially the French Open at the end of May. I would also visit a few of the popular tennis academies and clubs located in the south of France and interview some of their coaches about how they develop their players into champions. So, with the guidance of Cristina, I drafted my personal statement, which included my detailed proposal for my research alongside a bit about myself. I then sent this off, along with my application for the Scholarship and just hoped that I might be selected for an interview.
And as luck would have it, I was! Two months later, there I was on the train to Glasgow for my interview at the university. When I got there, I was greeted by a handful of other nervous language students. We all wished each other the best of luck as each of our turns came, not really knowing what to expect. Finally, my name was called. I found myself in a room with the heads of the French departments for five Scottish universities including Glasgow and St. Andrews. I had never really been good at interviews, but I took a deep breath and decided that I would simply try my best to answer their questions as honestly and thoughtfully as I could. Twenty minutes later I was out the door on my way back home, relieved that the toughest part was over, regardless of the outcome. Now the waiting game commenced!
Luckily, I did not need to wait too long. Just a couple of weeks later I received an email saying that I had been granted the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for my semester abroad next January! I honestly can’t wait for my semester abroad in France and to embark upon some research into my passion during my time there. I would like to thank Cristina for helping me organise my application and proof reading it several times over (!). I honestly couldn’t have done it without her, as well as Jean-Michel for providing references for the application. I strongly encourage all Language students going into their second year at Stirling to apply for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for their semester abroad. It is more than worth the effort and will enrich your experience abroad whilst also allowing you to follow and develop your passion.’
Many thanks to Jack for a great blog post and congratulations on your success in being awarded a Stevenson Scholarship. We look forward to hearing more about the project while you’re in France in the Spring.