Much sooner than I anticipated, following on from the promise last week that we’d be posting some articles by students embarking on their semester of Study Abroad, I’m delighted to be able to start that particular series with this great post from Mairi:
‘I have been in Tours for almost a week now and it has been a very overwhelming and exhausting week. I arrived on Thursday evening, 12 hours after leaving my home in Scotland. I travelled with my friend and course mate Rhiannon who is also studying in Tours with me this semester. Both of us were tired, exhausted and nervous to start our new life in France. We checked in to our hotel and went to McDonalds which is somewhat ironic when you are in one of the best places for food in the world and you choose to go to a fast food chain, but we were starving and it was just around the corner from our hotel.
The next day we went to collect our keys for our accommodation in student halls of residence which required using buses, trams and taxis. Not an easy task when you’ve never visited Tours before, and you’ve overestimated your level of French. Nevertheless, after numerous conversations in franglais (a made-up combination of French and English) we moved in and unpacked our suitcases that we had spent so long packing. After that we explored the city and tried to get our bearings, again not simple but we’re slowly getting there.
On Saturday we did some more exploring and visited Tours Cathedral, one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever seen – similar to Notre Dame with its gothic architecture, high ceilings and stained-glass windows. It was simply breath-taking and provided myself and Rhiannon with a few moments of welcome peace after what had been a very stressful and emotional few days. Later in the evening we went to meet with some students from the International Society, we got chatting with a few girls (Sam, Emily and Marie) and then went for pizza with them afterwards. Emily and Marie were here last semester so they knew their way around the city very well and were able to recommend places to eat as well as directing us on our way home.
In the last few days I’ve done lots of exploring, shopping and tasting delicious French cuisine (there is a reason France is known for its bread and cakes). It has not been easy, what with adapting to a new culture, trying to understand and speak French, as well as becoming familiar with an unfamiliar city. It takes time but as the days go on it gets easier to understand the city around me. Next week I start classes which will be a welcome routine to get into and I’m looking forward to all the trips and travelling that I have lined up. More coming soon. A bientôt.’
Many thanks to Mairi for this great article! We hope the semester continues to go well and look forward to updates over the weeks ahead.
At the moment, we have 8 French at Stirling students off on British Council English Language Assistantships, mainly dotted across metropolitan France but with one student in Quebec for the year and another in Belgium. Paige is one of those in France for the year and she is also participating in the ‘Language Linking Global Thinking’ programme, organised through SCILT, so we’re very happy to be able to post a link here to her latest blog post for LLGT all about festive traditions in France. Quite literally ‘food for thought’ for our Year 2 and final year students currently applying for ELAs for next year…
And while we’re on the topic of time abroad, best wishes to the 18 students embarking on their Semester Abroad at the moment at our partner institutions at the UCO in Angers, at the EGE in Rabat, at Aix-Marseille, at the Université de Lorraine in Nancy, and at the Universities of Tours, Limoges, Geneva and Clermont. We’re looking forward to being able to post some articles and pictures from them as they settle into their new Universities and towns for the semester… and hopefully some articles by students from our partner institutions spending their semester with us in Stirling, too.
One last blog post for the moment and this time it’s one from Sofie, who is about to enter the final year of her BA Hons in French and Journalism, and has just spent her Semester Abroad at the University of Tours:
‘Studying in another country can be a daunting experience and it makes most people nervous but these feelings change to excitement once you’re in your country of exchange. You’ll meet a lot of different people from different countries and make a lot of new friends so there’s really nothing to be afraid of. I speak of my own experience of going abroad twice and I’ve had the most amazing adventures both times of which one is still ongoing. I first went abroad when I moved to Scotland to study as a full-time student in 2015 and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice of country. My second time was quite recently when I studied one semester abroad in France as an exchange student and it went better than I expected, again.
I went to Tours in France where I studied literature at Université François Rabelais. I knew I wanted to be close to Paris but I also wanted to live in a smaller city so Tours was perfect for me and it’s only 1 hour away from Paris by TGV. Tours also reminded me a lot of Stirling with its blend of old and new so it was easy to feel at home. It was also very easy to find friends thanks to the ESN community for exchange students. This did mean all students who joined were students from other countries except for France so it wasn’t as easy to befriend French students but ESN arranged many fun events where we got to learn a lot about French culture and food. They also organised trips almost every weekend to visit places like Saint Malo and Saint Michel but also amusement parks like ZooParc de Beauval and Parc du Futuroscope and of course many castles since Tours is located in Val-de-Loire which is famous for its beautiful castles. The trips weren’t expensive either so we saved a lot of money traveling France this way and everything was arranged for us which was really helpful. We just payed and tagged along.
Studying at a French university was interesting and a bit difficult since it was all in French but if I could manage to do it, then anyone can do it, trust me! I missed studying at university of Stirling a little bit though because I know how things work there but everything made more sense with time. I chose to study five courses which were comparative literature, French literature, two French language courses (CUEFEE) and translation from French to English. It was a challenge but I learned a lot of French and it was a fun way to learn the language. Studying wasn’t the most fun thing out of the experience though, for me, it was to meet so many amazing people from all over the world. I made friends from USA, Canada and other various countries in Europe and it’s nice to know I’ll always have connections there. There were also opportunities to meet locals who were interested in other cultures but I had to look for these places myself. In Tours, there’s a nice café/restaurant called NewLita aka “the language café”. I went there a few times and it was a great way to practise my French and meet new people.
But how did I end up studying abroad? Well, I had one mandatory semester abroad in a French speaking country during my 3rd year since I’m studying French as part of my degree. Being me, loving to travel, I didn’t hesitate one second when I found out I was expected to study in France. However, I had a lot of thoughts the summer before the start of my 3rd year because I didn’t know anything, at the time, of what needed to be done before going but things got clearer once we got more information during the autumn semester. There was of course a lot of paperwork but it got easier with time so it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed at first and I didn’t have any issues with anything. I was also eligible to receive the Erasmus grant, since I studied in Europe, and I got it in time so I had an easy experience overall with the application process. Besides, all the preparations during the autumn semester made everything more real which was exciting at the same time as it was stressful. The whole study abroad experience had its ups and downs but I’m so happy I did it. I would recommend anyone who’s thinking about it to just do it because you won’t regret it. It was definitely worth it!’
Many thanks to Sofie for this great post (and pictures!) and we look forward to hearing more about your time in Tours when you’re back in Stirling in September. In the meantime, bonnes vacances!
Among all these updates on students past and present, time for a couple of staff-related blog posts, the first of which comes from our Language Coordinator and Study Abroad Advisor, Jean-Michel DesJacques:
‘I am very grateful to the International Office to have funded my trip to Tours in order to pay a long overdue visit to one of our partners in the Loire Valley. I was lucky enough to be able to meet with Solène Loiseau from their Bureau International, and then with the Co-Director of the LEA programme, Joëlle Popineau. I would like to thank them both for having taken the time to speak to me as Study Abroad Advisor here at the University of Stirling.
It is self-evident but somewhat understated that meeting people de visu and spending some time with them is what helps create a strong and lasting bond between institutions. We don’t have many opportunities for spontaneous exchanges and it was very refreshing to be able to go beyond the usual email niceties and urgent queries.
Inevitably, in spite of all the positive things we had to say about our exchange of students (and hopefully staff soon), the conversation had to revolve around Brexit. I was surprised to hear that there seems to be a lot more anxiety on the French side that there was on ours. I was also very sorry to hear that some programmes had their compulsory semester abroad component in the UK cancelled due to the financial uncertainties that Brexit has created: Erasmus grants are vital to students and the risk, a financial one, was deemed too big to take a leap of faith into the unknown. Interestingly enough, new English-speaking destinations were being sought, rather successfully it seems: the Netherlands in particular and Scandinavia to a lesser extent.
As for Tours itself, well, I am not sure where to start: if you are a bit of a gourmet, you are more likely to find happiness wandering on the old Place Plumereau rather than the Pathfoot building. Without necessarily going for a Gargantuan feast (yes, François Rabelais is from nearby Chinon), you could find yourself in a nice bistro for a delightful plat du jour.
There is certainly plenty to do and see and it would be best to let you discover it for yourselves.’
Thanks to Jean-Michel for making the visit and finding time to send us the blog post (and for the great pics!). And we look forward to continuing our exchange with Tours over the years ahead.
We’re on a bit of a roll with blog posts from recent graduates this week thanks to Emma’s tips on Alpine ski seasons yesterday and, today, tales of life beyond French at Stirling that both involve teaching but in rather different forms and contexts. Tales of Megan Davis’s life as a Language Assistant in the Canary Islands will follow shortly but, first, Jonny Terrell’s first steps in the world of secondary education. Jonny graduated in 2012 with a BA Hons in French and Global Cinema and Culture and is now about halfway through his first year as a French secondary school teacher:
“Since graduating from Stirling University in French and Global Cinema and Cultures, I have gone on to further use my language skills by training to become a French teacher at a Scottish secondary school. This started in 2015, when after three years working for a fundraising company in Glasgow, I learned about the PGDE programme (post-graduate diploma in education) from a friend. This turned out to be a very intensive and tough year training to become a teacher. However it was incredibly rewarding and I am now a good few months into my probationary year working as a full time French teacher in East Dunbartonshire.
My French degree has helped me get started in what I hope to be a long teaching career, and additionally it has been great fun to reactivate my language skills and get a chance to speak and teach French on a daily basis. To help improve my future job prospects I will be looking to add a second language (most likely German!) and I definitely feel that the grounding in language learning that Stirling University gave me will greatly help in this regard.
Outside of employment, my language degree has turned me into a much more confident and ambitious person than I was at the start of my degree. I especially feel that the six months of Erasmus in Tours had a huge impact on this – if only it could have been a full year! I would certainly not be in the exciting position in life that I’m in today had it not been for my four years studying French at Stirling University.”
Many thanks to Jonny for this blog post. We hope the probationary year continues to go well and wish you all the best for your new career – keep us posted!