Tag: United Nations

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.

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‘I feel much more confident in my abilities for having studied at Stirling’

We’re at the end of our first week of teaching of the new semester here and, as those entering their final semester as undergrads start to think much more about what lies ahead, this seems a good point to post another account of life after Stirling from one of our recent graduates. Stewart Hogarth graduated in French and Spanish in 2015 and has plans for a career in translation with key world institutions:

‘It has been just over eighteen months since I graduated from the University of Stirling with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in French and Spanish. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, yet sometimes, I wonder where the time has gone.

I have a lot of fond memories of my time at Stirling. I come from the Isle of Bute in the West of Scotland which has a population of just under 7,000 people. At the time, I was not accustomed to life in the city and living and working in such a multicultural environment, so in that respect, Stirling felt like a good fit for me. It was neither too large nor too small. It must have one of the most spectacular campuses in the world. It sounds silly, but having grown up surrounded by water on Bute, I took comfort in the fact that I could walk to my classes and look down upon the Airthrey loch or see the Ochil hills in the distance. It was a home away from home.

I would never be so presumptuous to think that I have mastered the art of speaking French and Spanish, but it is undeniable that I feel a lot more confident in my ability to express myself for having sat through (most of the) classes and been encouraged to develop my communication skills by an EXTREMELY patient staff. Even now I miss the awkward silences that filled the air at the start of Bernadette’s Langage Parlé hour when everyone was either too nervous to start the conversation or looking at each other with bated breath hoping that they wouldn’t be asked first. It’s the little things.

2017-hogarth-jet-deau-jan17My undergraduate degree also afforded me the opportunity to spend a semester abroad at the Université de Genève in Switzerland where I studied French in the Faculté de traduction et d’interprétation. After overcoming the initial homesickness and litany of basic linguistic errors, I settled down and began to appreciate just how good I actually had it. Aside from studying in a top-class institution, I also managed to fit in a fair bit of sight-seeing and even got to see Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka limbering up for a Davis Cup tie. I would often go down and sit by Lac Leman with a “poulet curry” baguette in hand looking over at the Jet d’Eau. Ah, those were the days!

So, what have I been doing since? After graduating, I applied to do a Master’s degree in Translating at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. I enjoyed my undergraduate degree at Stirling, but felt I should attempt to specialise in a specific discipline and given the fact I somehow bagged an award for French translation in my Honours year, I thought that area might as well be Translating.

The course at Heriot-Watt was very much geared towards preparing students for life in the workplace with modules in a range of areas such as Interpreting (the less said about my performance in that subject, the better), Translation Technologies and Business Communication. The campus was strikingly similar to Stirling and also featured a loch running through it. The easy access to large expanses of water is not a pre-condition of whether or not I decide to attend a particular university by the way. Trust me!

2017-hogarth-graduation-jan17It has been a strange feeling since leaving Heriot-Watt. It is the first time since I was a toddler where I have had no school or university looming on the horizon to keep me busy, although I am not complaining about having some much needed time off. I have two interesting options to pursue in the near future. I have applied for a Translation Traineeship at the Directorate-General for Translation at the EU in Brussels. While the Brexit vote may limit job opportunities in the future, the UK has not left yet and as long as you are from a member state, you can still apply for such initiatives. You also get a bursary for each month which is pretty handy. I have been fortunate enough to be pre-selected for the block starting in March and ending in July. I think it would be an interesting and unique experience to be able to work in such a large institution albeit for a brief period. I am also in the process of applying to sit the English translator’s exam for the United Nations. In order to be eligible to apply for jobs within the UN, you must have sat the Language Competitive Examination (LCE) and know at least two of the UN’s official languages which are Arabic, Chinese, Russian, French, Spanish and English. While it will undoubtedly be an arduous process, I feel much more confident in my abilities for having studied at Stirling and learned from some of the best in the business. It would also be nice to secure a return to Geneva in a professional capacity as there happens to be a UN office based there. Applications are open until February 8th and I would encourage anyone interested to have a look at the UN careers website, although not at the expense of your studies. I know for a fact you will have plenty to be getting on with.’

Many thanks to Stewart for this article and for the good advice for students interested in translation as a career, and best of luck with the traineeship. We look forward to hearing about your progress over the months and years ahead!