Tag: Universite de Geneve

A Year in Geneva: Translation, Football and Alpine Road Trips

As regular followers of the blog will know, most French at Stirling students will either spend a year working as an English Language Assistantship at some point over their degree (usually between Year 2 and 3, sometimes immediately after graduation) or a semester on Study Abroad at one of our range of partners across the French-speaking world. Every now and then, though, we have a student who manages to spend a full year on Study Abroad and that’s the situation Tom finds himself in at the moment, in the 3rd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish:

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 3 Mar19‘This year I have had the opportunity to study French and Spanish in the Translation and Interpretation Faculty at the University of Geneva. Having recently completed a year of teaching in Colombia with the British Council, I headed to Switzerland back in the hot seat as a student again.

Having never previously visited, my initial thoughts of Geneva were a pleasant surprise – everything worked, things ran on time and the locals were kind, welcoming and accepting of my rusty French. I had a week to settle in before university started, giving me time to explore the city and the surrounding areas, as well as to find a regular game of football. After a few meet ups with ESN I met some great people from all over and I went from there.

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 2 Mar19University life here has been great, learning translation in both Spanish and French has given me great opportunities to test out a potential career path and what’s more is that the other modules on offer at the university also help me further my other interests such as history and reading. The best part, however, are the people you meet at the university and around the city – be they other ERASMUS students or students from other walks of life.

Geneva can be difficult for immersive language learning, as individuals come from a variety of countries to study, live and work there, making English the de facto language at times. Nevertheless, I found a variety of local cafés and bars that provided me with opportunities to improve my French and after a couple of weeks it had improved to the point where I could hold conversations.

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 5 Mar19

Geneva is famous for plenty of things but, after a year in a small Colombian town, the most notable for me is the high cost of living. It can be extortionate at times, but this has just encouraged me to explore a wider variety of places. My friends and I often get buses, cheap flights or rent a minibus to do weekend trips, ticking off places such as Milan, Lake Garda, Interlaken, Bern, Paris, and Berlin. That has been one of the best things about Geneva, its central location in Europe has given me the opportunity to get around everywhere. I can highly recommend taking road trips through the Swiss alpine countryside, you can see the whole landscape and get a real feel for the culture of each place.

2019 Lock Geneva Photo 1 Mar19Living in a different country has its positives and negatives, the comforts of home can be sorely missed, I’ve realised however that being proactive, doing activities and exploring your new home is the best antidote.

Overall, my experience has been a great one and my language skills have improved immeasurably (even if I sometimes forget how to speak English!). Although tough at times, these have been the situations where I’ve learned the most and I consider myself very lucky to have had this opportunity to meet new people, live in a new country and experience a different university.’

Many thanks to Tom for the great blog post and pictures – we’re delighted this year has worked out so well and look forward to welcoming you back to Stirling in the Autumn!

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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!

Study Abroad in Geneva: Picnics and Translation

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a blog piece by our recent graduate, Ruth Mahlstedt, about her life since graduating and we’re delighted to follow-up with another article by Ruth, this time about her experiences on Study Abroad at our partner institution, the Ecole de Traduction at the Université de Genève in Switzerland.

“Studying languages and learning more about different countries and their culture was always an interest of mine. I was therefore stoked to get accepted to study a BA (Hons) in French and Spanish at Stirling. During my four year degree, I learned a lot about a huge variety of subjects that I already spoke about in an earlier blog post. However, I only mentioned my semester abroad in a few sentences, and those six months as Study Abroad students definitely deserve a lot more attention than that.

One great aspect of the BA programme was that we were required to spend a semester abroad; something other students had to apply and go through a lengthy process for was a compulsory part of our degree. We started our selection process during the first half of third year and went on exchange in the second half. In 2012-13, Stirling offered an exchange program with the University of Geneva for the first time and I was drawn to it straight away, partly because I wanted to study somewhere I hadn’t been to before, but also because I had a big interest in translation and interpreting. Stirling University had a partner program with the École de Traduction et Interprétation at the Université de Genève, a school renowned for its in-depth studies of translating and interpreting.

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva XIII

Since it was the first time students from Stirling had gone on exchange to Geneva, my fellow student Silje and I relied a lot on the support of our tutors in Stirling in order to get some handy tips and help to find housing, get prepared for the cost of living, etc. Both Jean-Michel and Cristina were great help before and during my time there.

Student housing was very difficult to arrange before I left Scotland. The University of Geneva has several locations around town that are specifically designed to host their students. I missed out on renting a room through the university and opted for finding something privately. When I was doing my research on the accommodation offered by the university, I found it interesting that some were only housing females, others only males; others were very similar to the residences on Stirling campus with shared kitchens and bathrooms. I made friends with people who lived in said accommodation in Geneva; some were living in Cité, others in Bastion, and I had one friend who lived in one of the houses only for female students, an old, beautiful building right in the old centre of Geneva. With only a handful of rooms, it was very different to the large number of students the bigger facilities were hosting and the massive shared kitchens often used by hundreds of people.

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva VI

I found my accommodation through a rental website. It was a privately let room in a family home in Étrembières, just over the border in France. Every day I walked five minutes to get across the border and caught a bus that took me to uni in about 15 minutes. Even though I wasn’t living right in the centre of Geneva, my rent was still very high: At €800 per month (or was it Swiss Francs? I don’t remember in which currency I paid my rent because my landlady spent most of her time in Geneva as well, but did her shopping on France), some of my friends were shocked when they compared it to their rent. I was living in the basement of the family home, though “basement” doesn’t do it justice: The family fully renovated the downstairs area, I had a brand new bathroom, well-equipped kitchen, and a very large room, sunlight… Looking at the size and taking into account that I was only sharing the kitchen and bathroom with one other girl, who occupied the second room in the “downstairs flat”, it does make sense it was more expensive than the rent prices for accommodation through the university.

I consider myself very lucky to have found the family I lived with. My house mate Maelle and I were always left in peace, had our own keys to enter through a different part of the house, we didn’t disturb the family and they never came downstairs besides to do the laundry. We had wifi, were able to use the washing machine, plates, cutlery, everything was provided; we each had a TV in our room, and we had a good relationship with our landlady who often took us to a large supermarket in France with her to do our groceries at a cheaper cost than what we would have paid at, for example, Migros in Geneva. Privately renting can also go wrong and I have heard very different accounts from other people. Some of my fellow students hadn’t even sorted out their accommodation until they got to Geneva.

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva II

Before uni stated, I had a lot of time to familiarise myself with Geneva, which busses and trams to catch to get to places, time to organise my public transport card, find and compare supermarkets, suss out good cafés. They are all things that don’t require much effort in your home country. But when you stand in the public transport office trying to understand what the gentleman behind the counter is saying to you in French and all you want is a bus pass, it does take a little bit longer. I’d recommend to get to your exchange location a bit before your course starts. I had almost three weeks which was probably a bit too much. But because I rented privately and my land lady wanted to room rented as soon as possible, I decided to head over early.

The first few weeks at uni were very stressful: finding my way around, signing up for classes, trying out classes… I was very glad to see that we had a couple of weeks to try classes to see whether we’d like to properly sign up for them which saved me a few times as I had originally taken classes that were above my abilities. Some translating classes were solely aimed at native speakers; I signed up for a class of translating from French into Spanish, but it was the wrong one and meant for Spanish natives. When signing up for classes, it’s worth enquiring first towards whom they are aimed.

The number of classes on offer at the École de Traduction et Interprétation was incredible. However, if you aren’t a fan of translating, most of them will not take your fancy. But besides translation, I also signed up for a class called La Civilisation Française, a class taught in French focussing on French history, literature, politics and culture. I also did a class on French writing for foreigners with people from many different nationalities around me.

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva XV

We were encouraged to also join the Facebook group of the Erasmus program at Geneva University for that year. In the group, they organised trips, walking tours around town, parties, all organised through the Erasmus team at the university. With them, I went for a trip to Neuchâtel, took a train ride on the Panoramic Train to Lucerne, visited an Absinth distillery, all at discounted prices. Other trips they organised took people to cheese and chocolate factories and other towns and villages nearby. It was great to have the Erasmus Team as a go-to network and to meet so many other Erasmus students right away. The students running the team were all Erasmus students themselves at some stage and know how overwhelming it can be to arrive in a new country and organised events according to what they would have liked to get shown or told about when they first arrived in their Erasmus country. The walking tour they organised at the very beginning was a great way to meet people and familiarise ourselves with Geneva, learn a bit about the history of the city, which bars and clubs were worth visiting…

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva XVIII

Through the university and as Erasmus students, we were also entitled to take free evening French classes once or twice a week, something other students had to pay quite a lot for. Those classes were organised by level of French as well as competencies; grammar, debating, writing, whichever you felt like you needed to get better at. Mine was excellent and I found it very helpful to have a course like this amongst all the other classes in which I was expected to be great at French. This one was more like our classes back in Stirling, aimed at non-natives, going over grammar etc. I’d encourage anyone to take advantage of being able to take those courses for free. They are also held in a very beautiful older building belonging to the university in Park Bastion, architecturally a very different building to the modern construction I had all my other classes in.

Before I went on my exchange and people said Switzerland was going to be expensive, I didn’t quite believe it was going to be all that bad. But in all honesty, it is a very expensive place to live. Going out wasn’t something I could afford to do very often. However, other students were in the same boat and we always ended up making our own fun. Instead of going to restaurants and spend a fortune on eating out, we’d buy groceries at the supermarket and went for picnics. I have never been on so many picnics in my life! It was wonderful. Often, we’d bring instruments or juggling gear as well, or we’d organise a huge cooking event at one of the student accommodations a few of us were staying in. I made some really great friends that way, and many of whom I still speak to now on a regular basis even though I live in Australia.

My exchange in Geneva was a wonderful experience. I absolutely adore Switzerland, I love their culture, the beautiful landscapes. I loved that Geneva was the melting pot of so many different people thanks to organisations like the Red Cross having their headquarter there, the UN, CERN… I met many incredible people and always think back to my time there very fondly. But besides all that, the one of the main reasons we went on exchange was to live in a French speaking country and to get more comfortable with the language. And luckily, I also managed to do that and came home with a level of French I was proud of. Even though my Swiss-French was of saying “70”, “80” and “90” was frowned upon back home, it was appreciated that I tried to adopt the local dialect as much as possible. I look forward to going back to Geneva in the future and revisit all the beautiful places I walked past every day and discover this stunning city all over again.”

2016 Mahlstedt Geneva IV

Our partnership with Geneva is still going strong. They’re no longer part of the Erasmus network but we continue to send students there every year. Thanks to Ruth for this account of what it was like to be part of the first pair of students to spend their Semester Abroad there.

Languages Open Doors…

Very pleased to be able to round off the week with another update from a recent graduate. Ruth Mahlstedt graduated from Stirling in 2013 with a BA Hons in French and Spanish and is now working in Canberra, enjoying slightly warmer weather than up in this hemisphere…

2016 Mahlstedt pic Mar

“Thinking back to my three years in Scotland, I have a lot of fond memories. I transferred to the University of Stirling after completing my first year of university at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Before my move, I did a lot of research in order to find the right university and course for me; amongst other places, I considered schools in England, Ireland, Wales, the Netherlands and Sweden. Yet, Stirling stood out to me as the course description for the BA Hons in French and Spanish sounded incredibly exciting and exactly what I was looking for. The variety of subjects and themes covered in the different modules available was what helped me made my final decision. And the very prospect of spending a compulsory semester abroad was, of course, very tempting as well.

Having come from a similar course at a different university, I was excited by the quality of teaching and level of knowledge of both my fellow students and my lecturers and tutors. I did not know what to expect, whether the teaching style and level of difficulty would be anything like what I was used to from Australia. It was challenging because even though the Bachelor I started in Canberra was similar, the content we covered in Stirling focussed more on politics, culture, history – all subjects I thoroughly enjoy. Even after my first semester, my knowledge and understanding of French and Francophone culture grew tremendously, and I would never have thought I’d be reading a novel written by Simone de Beauvoir in its original language in second year French.

If someone asked me to name my favourite part of my degree, spending a semester abroad at the École de Traduction et Interprétation at the Université de Genève is definitely very high up there. However, I think that the course itself was overall very well organised and structured. Grammar, conversational skills and culture were all considered as important as each other, and though taught separately, skills gained and themes covered in one merged into the others and it all came together in the end.

As mentioned above, what struck me most in the course outline was the big range of subjects covered in the different modules that were on offer. Ranging from Colonialism to the Vichy Regime, to Francophone Detective Stories, to discussing very recent matters like parental leave or marriage equality in our conversation classes, I ended up with a very good understanding of what makes France, France, and felt more informed about what was happening and was important to one of the strongest economies in Europe and our next-door neighbour. If I had to pick the class I enjoyed the most, Screening the City would be the one I’d recommend to anyone taking French as the works covered in that course are all wonderfully intertwined with past and present aspects of French culture.

Now, two and a half years after graduating and living in Canberra again, I still engage with French culture and politics, continue to converse in the language whenever I can, and have visited France on several occasions. I was accepted to study a Master Program at both the University of Amsterdam and the Queen’s University in Belfast in two very different areas: Master of Comparative Literature and Master of Translation. My Bachelor degree at Stirling did not limit me to only being able to pursue one area of study or another, but opened many doors. Even though French is not a part of my daily working life at an international technology firm, I strongly believe that having a degree in French and Spanish is what made me stand out amongst all the other candidates and will give me the competitive edge needed to take my career with the company to the next level and travel internationally.”

Thanks to Ruth for this update and best wishes for the future!