Serena Yang, a International ICCE student, completed a two-week French course at the Alliance Française of Toulouse in France. She was awarded funding by Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement.
How did you find your placement?
I discovered that I could receive funding to go abroad when I saw some information about the programme in the Goldsmiths app, where, at the team had been making a concerted effort to showcase global opportunities. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the programme is open to students from non-Eu countries, so I booked a meeting with the global opportunities team. It was during this meeting that I decided to apply for a place on a two week French course at the Alliance Française de Toulouse.
What were the highlights of your experience abroad?
My two-week French class at the Alliance Française Language School in Toulouse allowed me to learn not only the language but also the local culture. I was able to truly immerse myself in the language because I was consistently surrounded and influenced by the city’s linguistic practices. In addition, my classmates were made up of individuals from all over the world, which meant that I was able to gain an insight into the various linguistic approaches of people from other nations, as we were all grappling with French in our own unique way. Through this process, I created many close connections, especially with a fellow classmate from South Africa.
What was your daily routine?
I went to school every day from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and returned to my accommodation (a youth hostel close to the city centre) in the afternoon to do independent study. I lived in a dormitory with 6 people, an arrangement which was reminiscent of my college dormitory in China. During my spare time, I visited some of the historic buildings and churches in the city centre, as well as several local art galleries. I was particularly struck by a World War II exhibition, a stark reminder of the pain that war causes. It was a really interesting way of understanding how a country’s present is informed by it’s history.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced whilst abroad?
The most challenging part of the experience was that the course was taught in French. As a total beginner, it was very difficult for me to find my footing. I overcame this issue with the support of my course mates and lots of independent study!
What did you gain from your experience abroad?
Personally, this experience has confirmed my passion for French; this will provide me with a source of confidence and motivation for me to continue to develop my grasp of the language. From an academic perspective, I was able to establish a concrete understanding of basic French grammar and some everyday phrases, which I consider to by a solid effort for such a short period of time. In terms of my career, since my major is Luxury Brand Management, the development of my French is an important part of planning for my future as I intend to work in the fashion industry, where the skill of being able to communicate with international clients will be vital.
What is your advice for students who are about to go abroad?
My advice is to maintain an open mind throughout the journey and have the confidence to talk to different people. In addition, I feel that it is important to arrange your time reasonably. Set some goals before your departure, and then make a timetable so you can make sure they are achieved. Also, don’t bring too much luggage, the destination weather may not be the same as London and you’ll feel more comfortable if you can travel light.