The Definite Article Issue 3: June 2014

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Issue Three: June 2014

About Us The Definite Article is Durham University’s Modern Languages and Cultures magazine. It was established in 2013 and is written and edited by students from the Modern Languages Department.

Editorial Team: Ellie Stefiuk, Hannah McIntyre, Emma Bradding, Rebecca Kennaugh and Rachel White.

Front Cover Photography: Adam Dewhirst Title Graphic: Alex Bennett

We are always delighted to receive contributions which can be sent to: Any further queries should be sent to: Social media Facebook: /TDADurham Twitter: @TDADurham Spotify: thedefinitearticle


Editor’s Note It’s not goodbye, it’s just farewell… The end of the summer term means it’s time for the final issue of The Definite Article for this academic year. Once again it’s filled with a great mix of articles and I have to thank alumnae Jenni Weech and Sandy Millin for their contributions; Dr. Mike Thompson and Dr. Alex Harrington for their continued support and the editorial team for their tireless hard work. I’ll be heading off on my year abroad next academic year, spending 8 months in Tuscany (can’t really complain!) as an English Language Assistant and then heading to France, whilst Rebecca Kennaugh takes over as editor. I am so proud of what the team has managed to achieve in one year and I can’t wait to see how the magazine evolves under Rebecca’s leadership. I’ll stop waffling now and leave you with a farewell from our 2013/2014 editorial team. *** I can’t believe my first year at Durham is already over! The Definite Article has been such a great project to be involved with and has reinforced my love for languages. My challenge for this summer is to improve my Spanish - I only started it this year and need to start using it properly! I’ll be spending a month with a family in Spain and can’t wait to be immersed in the culture, which is what I think language-learning is all about. As the rest of the team are either off on their year abroad or leaving Durham for good, I’ll be encouraging those of you who are passionate about foreign languages and cultures to continue contributing even more fascinating articles to our future editions! I would like to wish the team an amazing year, and to thank them for making this experience so enjoyable. Rebecca Kennaugh. Music, Film and Books Editor

Without a doubt, a highlight of second year has been getting involved with The Definite Article. From our name suggestions to our launch party and Spotify playlist, we have seen Ellie’s idea of a languages magazine evolve into three fantastic editions, filled with interviews, debates, recipes, reviews and travel guides. I can’t believe that exams are finally over and next year I’ll be writing for the magazine as a yearabroader. I’m spending the first part of my year abroad working in Paris for a PR company. I’ve already got an excuse to sample as much French food as possible- I’m going to write a guide about the best places to spend le ticket restaurant. Then in February, I’m off to study at Cádiz University. My geography skills tell me it will be sunnier than Durham, so the most important box on my list has already been ticked! Emma Bradding, Travel Editor Writing and editing for The Definite Article this year has been so rewarding. Now that I’m actually on my year abroad and looking at second year through rose-tinted hindsight, the deadlines and stress seem to have melted away and I am so glad that I got involved with this amazing group of talented and dedicated students. For me now, it’s working all year in Italy and France, au-pairing and at a newspaper and then at a university. It’ll be hectic, but at least now I’m eating ALL the pasta - instead of just writing about it! Thanks to everyone involved, and thank you for reading. Hannah McIntyre, Cuisine Editor Eager to go abroad again ever since I touched back down in the UK last summer, I’ll be spending next year living somewhere in Austria teaching English as part of the British Council scheme. This isn’t my year abroad, I’m graduating this year in fact, but as I currently have no solid idea of what I would like to do, the chance to experience living in another country again was one I simply couldn’t pass up. I’ve had a brilliant time at Durham, and it has been an absolute pleasure to work with the rest of the team to produce this magazine – we certainly have a lot to be proud of! Best of luck to all of you going on your year abroad and, of course, congratulations and good luck to all the other graduands. Maybe in a few years some of you will be doing exciting things and can be featured in the alumni section – who knows?! Rachel White, Year Abroad Editor and Agony Aunt *** Thank you once again to everyone for reading and don’t forget that you can contribute articles to us at any time by sending your submissions to Have a fantastic summer break, The Definite Article team


Contents FEATURE: An interview with Jenni Weech p.5 FILM, MUSIC & BOOKS Spanish Language Films to While Away the Hours p.7

European Music Festivals 2014 p.8 Film Review: ‘Ochos apellidos vascos’ p.9 L’Exception Culturelle p.10 What We’re Reading p.11 LANGUAGES FEATURE: Routes into the Future: The Next Three Years p.12 World’s Languages At Risk p.13 YouTube: Procrastination Tool or Untapped Language Resource? p.14 FEATURE: Teaching English, Meeting the World p. 15 TRAVEL Which Beach is for You? p.17 POLITICS Technology Strikes Back at French Rail Unions p. 18

Immigration and Asylum in Germany p. 19 CUISINE La Pièce de la Résistance: Continental Party Food p. 20 Bruschetta p.22 YEAR ABROAD The Year Abroad Agony Aunt p. 23 Ways to Document Your Year Abroad p. 24 Studying in Galicia p.25 Chris’ Year Abroad Adventures p.26


INTERVIEW WITH AN ALUMNA: JENNI WEECH The Definite Article interview alumna Jenni Weech about how her experiences studying languages at

Durham prepared her for life beyond university and for her career in the translation industry.

1) Could you tell us a little about yourself? Why did you choose to study languages and what activities did you get involved with at Durham? Having always loved languages at school, continuing to study them at university was an obvious choice. In my first year, I studied French and Latin, moving to French and Italian by my second year, and finally concentrating solely on French in my fourth year. My year abroad took me to Madagascar where I volunteered as an English teacher, then Tours in the Loire Valley studying at the Université François-Rabelais, and finally to Paris where I completed a 6 month stage at EDF. In my final year at Durham, I became heavily involved in the French Society, organising a trip to Montpellier over Easter, and Photo: conversation evenings at the Gala Theatre. 2) What have you been up to since graduating from Durham? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do with your degree in Modern Languages? During my last year at Durham, I started applying for graduate roles. Not really knowing business terminology, I had no idea if the typical “sales and marketing” roles advertised for graduates would be right for me, so my applications were a bit haphazard. Having got through to a few final rounds of interview, I realised that I didn’t actually know a great deal about any of the jobs I was applying for! Deciding to concentrate on my studies, I left the applications for a few months. Once I had graduated from Durham, I felt a little bit hopeless – I moved back home and found myself not doing a lot for a few weeks. Whilst I loved studying it, you can’t get a job in French and the reality of being “just another graduate” soon hit home. I registered with recruitment agencies, completed a few applications and hoped for the best. The fact is that there is a huge chasm between leaving university and knowing which job you want or would be good at – and I was well and truly stuck in it! 3) When and how did you get involved in translation? Is this something you always wanted to do? Having had a few interviews with recruitment agencies, I started to recognise the sorts of terms they were looking for and this led to improved job matches. It was difficult to remember that recruitment agencies don’t look for personal statement-esque monologues, and very rarely are they interested in the books that you studied in your second year literature module or how many cheese and wine evenings you organised. Instead, they are looking for the transferable skills that you gained at university which they can sell to employers. Words like “dynamic”, “motivated” and “diplomatic” were ones that I was not used to saying, but which immediately saw an improved response. One recruitment agency suggested that I look into Project Management, a career which can be applied to most industries and which calls upon a love of organisation, good communication and diplomacy (skills which I felt I demonstrated). Teamed with my love of languages, it was suggested that I apply for a PM role in a translation agency – this would involve not necessarily performing translations (thank God, I was awful at that!), but rather liaising with the linguists and the clients to ensure that each translation project was completed on time, within budget and to a high standard. 4) What does your work consist of? What aspects do you enjoy and what kind of challenges do you face? It’s difficult to describe a typical day for a Project Manager since it varies so much. In a nutshell, the responsibility of a Project Manager is to ensure that the right translator is working on the right content, is delivering it at the right time and is paid a fair price. A PM liaises with all internal teams involved in the translation project, and is the point of contact for a client should they have any queries. They also liaise with the sales team, help the Vendor Management team, monitor linguists’ performance, deal with any issues raised by the client and help to build and maintain customer-specific Glossaries or Style Guides.


It felt like a lot of plate spinning to begin with, but was a really great introduction to the translation industry, allowing me to start with a smaller pool of projects to manage and build this pool up as I improved. What was even better was that it allowed me to speak some French to clients and colleagues, which is something I was really keen on doing. Since starting in the translation industry four years ago, I have moved from Project Management to Senior Project Management and finally to Account Management at Capita Translation & Interpreting. My current role is much more client-focused and has allowed me to develop a commercial awareness that goes beyond the operational side of Project Management, involving communication between both client and the entire internal team involved in a translation. Keeping up to date with a constantly evolving translation industry is at times challenging since it is very competitive, but enjoyable. I have been given the opportunity to visit the clients that I now look after and this has meant an element of travel in the job which I really enjoy. Whilst the responsibility of an account lies on my shoulders, it’s a good feeling to know that the client looks to you as an industry expert. Liaising with all teams involved can sometimes be stressful, particularly ensuring that everyone is up to date with client expectations, and being the face of the company for clients does have its challenges! 5) How do you feel that your experiences at Durham, and in particular on your year abroad, have prepared you for your work and the ‘real world’? Coming back from my year abroad I realised that I was more “real world- ready” than I was before I left, having managed to find a job, somewhere to live, set up bank accounts (the grown-up stuff!). Indeed, returning to student life a year later highlighted that I was more prepared than I thought for leaving Durham. From a commercial point of view, I think the best place to learn is on the job, and so it did feel like a very steep learning curve for me at the beginning. The gruelling last few months of the degree at Durham had prepared me for this anyway, so it didn’t feel like a huge struggle. The company I work for has been particularly supportive in terms of training and generally if I find a course I am interested in taking, and it would be of benefit to the business, there are options to take them. This has meant that I am constantly learning and has been of real benefit to me (and hopefully to Capita TI as well!). 6) Is there any advice that you would give to Modern Languages students at Durham? I now look back at the time I spent at university with fondness, particularly my year abroad. The one thing I wish I had avoided, is feeling that I couldn’t wait to go home – really I should have wished I never wanted to leave and forgot about the home sickness! I didn’t think I was ready for leaving university and joining the world of work. In terms of advice for a Modern Languages student, I would say that the job hunt will be a difficult one, but to remember the “transferable skills” that you undoubtedly learnt on your year abroad – a lot of people don’t recognise how malleable language students can be, so you will have to sell yourself a bit more than the English/ History students! In addition, don’t assume that you won’t find a job where you can use your language skills. I had resigned myself to the fact that, because I wasn’t a very good translator, I wouldn’t be able to work in the language sector. Jobs are out there, but you might not know they exist (like Project Management, Account Photo: Management etc.). I would recommend getting in touch with alumni and finding out what sorts of jobs they got into – not everyone manages to find a graduate scheme! I was very lucky to be introduced to the translation industry and Capita TI has been a great place to develop and would happily offer further advice to those who are interested in getting into the world of translation. For more information about working in the translation industry visit:


Spanish Language Films to While Away the Hours... With the long summer holiday approaching, I've put together three of my favourite Spanish language films as suggestions to fill the time...

María llena eres de gracia (Maria Full of Grace)

2004, Joshua Marston, jointly Colombia and U.S. If you are looking for a tense, gripping and topical film to watch this summer, I cannot recommend this film highly enough. Made in 2004, María tells the story of the seventeen-year-old María Álvarez who works in a Colombian rose processing plant, and who, after unfair treatment, quits her job and becomes embroiled in a drugs operation that will take her from the crowded streets of Bogotá to New York City. On her journey, the viewer goes through every stage of the process with her, from watching her practise swallowing packets of drugs to the high security anti-drugs operation of the United States as María lands in New York. The story tells of the perils faced by drug mules on a daily basis, and, although dramatising the situation somewhat, one cannot help but wonder whether the reality is indeed far more gruesome than the film portrays. This Photo: film is poignant and current, with the continuing problems faced by many hundreds of impoverished South American women who become entrapped in the brutal world of drug trafficking.

La lengua de las mariposas (Butterfly's Tongue)

1999, José Luis Cuerda, Spain This film focuses on the tensions between the opposing sides in Galicia just before the Spanish Civil War, and examines how they tore communities and families apart through the eyes of a young boy- Moncho. As much a coming-of-age story as a political analysis, by allowing the viewer to see the growing friendship between Moncho and his teacher and mentor, and his betrayal of him, we are left with a clear impression of the pressure of family beliefs, and how even the youngest of Spaniards were drawn into such a bitter conflict. Where this film excels is the intertwining of multiple plot threads; there is something for everyone. Not only is Moncho's story explored, but we also see the love story of his elder brother, the growing rift between their parents and the developing background of the conflict of the Civil War. As eduPhoto: cational as it is enjoyable, this film is a must-see.

Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)

1988, Pedro Almódovar, Spain


One of Pedro Almódovar's classic films, his incredibly successful story charts the troubled relationships of the lead, Pepa, and the other women. It focuses on examining their crossed paths and driving them all to the edge in a hilarious crescendo. Full of laughs, black humour and wit, this movie offers something lighter than my previous suggestions, but does not scrimp on class. With Almódovar's distinct style oozing from every frame, the melodrama and squabbles we witness over 48 hours become relatable even if fantastic as the film becomes more ridiculous, and we are left with a satisfied feeling at the end when Pepa's secret is finally revealed in a moment of intimate tranquillity. Frothy and fun, this film feels like summer delirium and is a joyous and hilarious romp. Ryan West



European Music Festivals 2014 hy not combine your love of music and travel and head to a music festival abroad this summer? It’s a great way to brush up on your language skills, explore the surrounding area of your chosen destination, and, of course, soak up more sun than you will on English soil! Here is a small selection of some of the best festivals abroad this year...

Rock en Seine Where? Domaine Nationale de Saint Cloud, Paris, France When? 22-24 August 2014 Rock en Seine takes place in a huge park on the outskirts of Paris, over three days in August. It’s one of the biggest music festivals in France and, as its name suggests, mainly appeals to fans of rock music, attracting over over 100,000 festival-goers each year. This year’s confirmed acts include Blondie, The Arctic Monkeys, Die Antwoord, and Lana del Rey, and the French artists Étienne de Crécy, Emilie Simon and François & The Atlas Mountains. Day tickets are priced at 49 €, and a three-day pass (excluding camping) Photo: costs 119 €.

Main Square Where? Arras, Pas-de-Calais, France

When? 3-6 July 2014 Head over to Main Square in the citadel of Arras this year for the tenth anniversary of the festival! This truly magnificent setting, a UNESCO world heritage site, will have two main stages, a camp site, and will host 40 artists. It’s smaller and less intimidating than most of the main festivals, but offers just as much in terms of music and atmosphere. Performers this year will include Iron Maiden, Skrillex, Disclosure, and, from the Francophone scene, Stromae, David Guetta and -M- (Matthieu Chedid).

Three and four-day passes are now sold out, however the remaining single-day tickets range from 49-59 €.

Benicassim (FIB) Where? Benicàssim, Costa del Azahar, Spain When? 17-20 July 2014 Benicassim is one of the biggest and most popular music festivals in Europe. Situated on the beautiful Costa del Azahar, the festival is the perfect mix of sun, sea and sound, with thousands camping by the beach. Fashion, art and film are also incorporated into the festival’s programme. This year, internationally-renowned acts will include Tinie Tempah, The Libertines, and M.I.A. You will also be able to discover some brilliant Spanish artists, such as the Galician band Triángulo de Amor Bizarro, and the catchy tunes of El Último Vecino, whose music has a distinctly 80s feel. Prices (including camping) range from 69 to 159 €.



Openair Frauenfeld Where? Frauenfeld, Switzerland When? 10-12 July 2014 Hip-hop and RnB lovers will be spoilt for choice at this Swiss open-air festival. Located in a 50 hectare meadow called Grosse Allmend, this year’s line-up includes Outkast, Nas, Wiz Khalifa, Iggy Azalea and the German artists Cro and Samy Deluxe. If you’re feeling daring, take part in the freestlyle convention, (in German if you can!), which forms part of a range of impressive side events. Tickets range from 99-199 Swiss Francs.


Sziget Where? Sziget, Budapest, Hungary When? 11-18 August 2014 Set on the impressive 108-hectare ‘Island of Freedom’, Sziget is a huge festival, attracting more than 400,000 people each year. With over 50 venues and 1000 music, theatre and circus performances, this year’s artists will include Deadmau5, Manic Street Preachers, CeeLo Green, Kelis, plus a European stage, a Blues and Irish stage, and a World Village stage. Highlights this year will include a campfire with singers voted for online by ‘Szitizens’, a ‘tarot labyrinth’, and the ‘Amococo Luminarium’, a spectacular 800 square metre inflatable Photo: sculpture ‘made up of labyrinthine tunnels and inspiring spacious domes’. A day ticket will set you back 50 €, whilst a weekly pass with camping costs 229 €. Rebecca Kennaugh

FILM REVIEW: ‘Ocho apellidos vascos’ (Eight Basque Surnames)


ne afternoon when studying in Spain, a group of friends and I decided to take advantage of the Orange Wednesday equivalent and took a trip to the local cinema. However, we couldn’t decide what to watch: eventually, more to avoid the Spanish obsession with badly dubbed English language films, we chose a film named ‘Ocho apellidos vascos’ (Eight Basque Surnames).

It’s a fairly standard romantic comedy, with a uniquely Spanish twist, and I have to say, not generally being a fan of these films, I really enjoyed it. It begins with a Sevillian lothario, Rafael, who meets a girl from the Basque country who apparently is the only girl not to have fallen for his Andalusian charms. When she leaves the next day, Rafa is so enthralled that he travels all the way up the country to San Se-


bastián to find her, on the admittedly flimsy pretext that she left her bag behind. Little does he know, Amaia has been recently engaged and does not want to disappoint her fisherman father. Rafa is roped in to pretend to be her Basque boyfriend, meaning he has to imitate the accent, give a list of his eight surnames (the inspiration for the title) and renounce all claims to Spain in favour of the Basque country. But as usual, everything gets out of hand. As a romantic film, it is fairly predictable. But as a film about Spain, it’s very, very funny. Watching Rafa the fish out of water flailing around in the company of traditionally ‘surly’ Basques compared to the flamboyant, open Andalusian stereotype brings out some of the best laughs, as does the moment where he gets caught up in a nationalist protest and has to try to avoid speaking Basque. He needs a makeover; his slicked-back haircut is cleaned of gel and ruffled, he’s forced to wear semi-punk clothes, and even his phone ringtone is changed from a popular Spanish song in case her father hears. Having studied in Northern Spain myself, it was amusing to see even someone of the same country bemused by the customs and dialect of the local people. Poor Rafa’s horrified reaction when he drives through a tunPhoto: nel and sees driving rain on the other side was reminiscent of mine when I first got to Galicia and realised that it wouldn’t be sunny every day. It was mainly interesting to watch the divisions within Spain from the inside, but as a source of amusement, not conflict. I would definitely recommend the film for Spanish students, as it’s just very funny. From the point where ETA was regarded with fear and terror to now, where people are able to joke about and laugh at Basque nationalists shows how far Spain has come. Although the accents can be tricky (the Andalusian more than the Basque, to be honest) it’s well worth a watch. Becky Wyde


L’exception culturelle: cultural protectionism or Big Brother? t was in 1993, during the tenure of the famed Minister for Culture, Jack Lang, that the concept of l’exception culturelle was introduced in France. Its aim was to differentiate between cultural commodities (art, music and film) and other commercial products, thus preventing the discrediting of their cultural value and preserving their unique status as vehicles of national identity.

According to this agreement, signatory countries can control the free market of culture to support and promote their own artists. For France, this has meant the implementation of quotas for radio stations, heavy fiscal incentives and subsidies for the film and television industry, the promotion of cultural festivals, and even the control of the price of books. But do these customs duties imposed upon imported cultural artefacts protect French industries from Hollywood and other such Americanised industries?


If the goal of l’exception culturelle in France was to primarily protect French culture against American cultural imperialism, it cannot be denied that this objective has been achieved in the film industry. Indeed, one could argue that France possesses the only film industry in Europe that is truly flourishing. For example, between 2005 and 2011, Americanproduced films accounted for a mere 40% of the French film market, compared with 60% to 90% in other European countries. In addition, a support system, subsidised by obligatory taxes paid by cinemas and television channels in exchange


for broadcasting rights, was also established to encourage artistic creation. Recent success stories of such grants include ‘L’artiste’ and ‘Un prophète’, which crossed the Atlantic and won prestigious prizes in the exclusive Hollywood scene. Moreover, when considering film festivals, a study led by l’Observatoire européen de l’audiovisuel in 1997 reveals that France is home to 166 festivals, the most in Europe, with Germany in second place with only 20. For example, Cannes film festival is world renowned and respected as synonymous with quality French cinema, attracting the best filmmakers and actors from Hollywood to the French shores every year. Nevertheless, the implementation of this legislation, despite becoming an integral part of society, has left many unhappy with the state of French culture today, and as a result is constantly debated by public figures and by those affected. Indeed, francophone quotas are a source of controversy amongst television channels and radio stations, whose independence concerning what they can broadcast is severely limited by the imposition of a quota which demands a minimum of 40% French language products to be broadcast. Such draconian legislative measures led to a January 2014 campaign, entitled “Que ma radio reste libre”, in which many national radio stations took part to express their discontent at their lack of independence. Furthermore, some critics believe that the democratisation of culture symbolises a real and present threat, which will have devastating consequences for the French artistic scene. For instance, Raymond Ruyer, a French philosopher, asserted that a subsidised culture is nothing but a false culture, while Tyler Cowen noted that the periods of French cinema that measured the greatest success occurred in periods where there was very little state intervention. Similarly, the cultural economist Françoise Benhamou affirms that the State cannot indiscriminately subsidise each and every creator with an idea. This is understandable considering the inordinate costs that l’exception culturelle incurs. Indeed, according to l’Institut français pour la re-

cherche sur les administrations et les politiques publiques, l’exception culturelle, with its excessive administration, costs the government over 11 billion euros every year. This raises an ethical question, do we really have any business in paying the salary of artists? To conclude, France has always believed in l’exception française; the idea that somehow the French spirit and Photo: way of life set them apart from other European countries and citizens. Clearly, the French artistic landscape is no different. But, is it worth subsidising a culture to the point that it becomes artificial? Is a work of art truly culturally significant, and does it really deserve praise when it is essentially a product of this intellectual slavery? Indeed, despite the threat posed by globalisation and the “coca-colanisation” of France, is the moment when we lower the customs barriers also the moment where culture stagnates at an international level? Aurélie Filippetti says no, yet the truth of the matter remains to be seen. Francesca Nunn

The Definite Article Team: What We’re Reading… With a long summer ahead of us all, we’ve decided to share with you what we’re reading at the moment; these are our summer reading recommendations...


I imagine most of us have had a moment in life where, feeling very profound, we’ve mulled over the meaning of life, donned the nearest black item of clothing and quickly reached for the existential works of Camus or Sartre – why not? They are of course great figures in French philosophy! However, I urge you, in the quest to find your inner philosopher, set aside their works for a moment and grab a French ‘children’s book’… Photo:


In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella of 1943, Le Petit Prince, we follow the eponymous hero on his philosophical journey on Earth. At just over 100 pages and unpretentiously written, it still pushes us to grapple with recurring questions of the meaning of our existence. As he encounters, amongst others, a fox and a snake, we share in his observations on human relationships and the behaviour of Mankind. Here it would be foolish for us to confuse simplicity of style for simplicity of thought when this ‘children’s book’ produces such observations as: ‘On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.’



I recently finished reading the German book Tschick by author Wolfgang Herrndorf. This coming-of-age novel tells the story of a socially-excluded boy called Malik and his rebellious friend Tschick, and describes what happens when they decide to go on a road trip to Romania in a stolen car. Unsurprisingly they encounter a number of obstacles along the way, which make for both the funniest and the most touching moments of friendship, romance and growing up. Both the light-hearted plot and the nature of the German written for teens make this novel an accessible and enjoyable book, and therefore a great summer read.


I am currently reading Giles Tremlett's Ghosts of Spain. You get the perspective of an 'outsider' Englishman who has lived in Spain for twenty years and adopted the country as his home. Travelling through the regions of Spain, he writes in a humorous and intriguing manner on modern Spanish history and culture. Recommended especially for us Spanish ab-initio students who would like an overview of the important events and aspects of the country's past, and how the country is constructed today, and is above all an entertaining read. I would also highly recommend Le Cas Sneijder, if you’re looking for something to read in French. Jean Paul-Dubois’ novel is dark, yet extremely funny. After an accident in a lift, in which he loses his daughter, our protagonist Paul Sneijder refuses to give up on life. He trades in his job at a wine company to work as a dog walker, much to the dismay of his deeply unsympathetic wife. Easy to read, touching and humorous, Le Cas Sneijder is brilliant French fiction. Photo:

Routes into the Future: The Next Three Years


he aptly named ‘Routes into the Future’ event at Newcastle University on Thursday 12th June brought together the full Routes into Languages North East consortium team, senior representatives of the partner universities, teachers, school pupils and the many and varied individuals across the region who have supported their work in recent years.

The Durham University strand of Routes into Languages, led by Dr Marcela Cazzoli-Goeta, is part of the North East consortium based at Newcastle University, which also brings together Northumbria University, the University of Sunderland and Teesside University. It forms part of the nationwide Routes into Languages initiative funded by HEFCE to tackle the current language-learning crisis in England and Wales. In all, nine regional consortia are currently working with young people to increase uptake of language study at GCSE level and beyond. Led by Dr Elizabeth Andersen, the North East consortium has established firm ties with key organisations regionally and nationally, including the British Council, Europe Direct and Théâtre Sans Frontières, as well as with local European consuls.


Following a stirring welcome from Newcastle University PVC Charles Harvey to the 100 guests in attendance, honoured speaker Baroness Joyce Quin - herself a former languages student of Newcastle University - shared her personal experiences of language learning and her hopes for the future of modern languages in the UK, drawing upon both her vast political experience and her strong ties to the region. Guests also heard from the inspirational team of Student Language Ambassadors at the very heart of the programme, who outlined the impressive scope of activity taking place throughout the region. The work of the consortium stretches far and wide, from schools in Berwick upon Tweed through to Yarm. Regular activities include Roadshows, Masterclasses and Film Days, whilst exciting online resources for young language learners are also offered in the form of Linguacast and Universed. Regional contests such as the Foreign Language Spelling Bee are proving increasingly popular whilst pupils come together in their hundreds at the annual Beat the Rat Race and Festival of International Culture events. All activities are supported by a team of Student Language Ambassadors from across the partner universities who serve as genuine role models for pupils while themselves developing new skills to enhance their employability as graduates. With over 300 schools and 35,000 pupils involved in 700 events since 2007 and all of the activities above set to continue and develop even further over the coming years, the Routes into the Future event now paves the way for an ever growing emphasis on language-learning for young people across the North East in a shining example of the collaborative power of the region’s universities.

For further details about the work of Routes into Languages North East or the Routes into the Future event, please contact Project Manager Sophie Stewart at

FACT: Over 40% of the World’s Languages are at Risk of Extinction


The Definite Article takes a closer look at some of the world’s endangered languages f the fruit-bowl-ification1 of the technological world were not a clear enough sign of the cultural homogenisation being brought about by globalisation, recent statistics revealing the unprecedented increase in the number of endangered languages certainly should open our eyes.

According to, a project run by the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity, over 40% of approximately 7,000 of the world’s languages are at risk of extinction. With schools across the U.K. predominantly teaching French, German and Spanish with ambitions to bring Arabic and Mandarin into the classroom, we may find ourselves asking: ‘So what? Why does the disappearance of languages spoken by fewer than 1,000 people matter?’ It matters because languages are, and will remain to be, more than just vocabulary lists and a collection of grammatical rules. They form a fundamental part of human communication and are key to unlocking and, more importantly, to understanding other cultures and human perspectives. Some of the languages categorised as ‘in danger of extinction’ and some of the cultures we run the risk of losing forever are: Hawu (100,000 speakers), Segeju (7,000 speakers) and Krymchak (1,000 speakers) to name just a few. So, what has caused so great a level of endangerment? According to UNESCO, the principal cause is the devaluation of native languages. This results from more prevalent languages being used in positions of authority in the globally competitive spheres of politics and commerce. Consequently the use of these more widely spoken languages becomes necessary for the success of a village, town or country. Yet, as this success grows, the ‘official’ language thrives to the detriment of native tongues, which are set aside in the need for utility, along with a part of the culture they represent. As we all know, the world is becoming increasingly connected via the Internet, which has led to a greater influence of English, Chinese and Spanish (the top three languages of the Internet). However, Endan-

13 has taken advantage of the popularity of social media to launch their online forum, which allows speakers of ‘at risk’ languages to share and promote their languages with others. Although the Internet has played an important role in globalisation and contributed to the ‘at risk’ status of many languages, it appears that it might now be the proverbial ‘kiss of life’ that these languages need.

For more information regarding endangered languages, visit Ellie Stefiuk 1

The dominance of brands named after different items of fruit e.g. Apple and Blackberry


YouTube: Procrastination Tool or Untapped Languages Resource?


ith YouTube accessible from your web browser, the app on your smartphone and even from your TV, it’s possible to get a fix of everything from hairdressing tutorials to news reels, the latest viral music video to a clip of a cute animal saying ‘I love you’. This melting pot of the funny and the ridiculous doesn’t initially seem like the kind of tool that could be useful when it comes to learning a language. However, with millions of people from around the world getting together virtually to produce creative, funny and insightful material, YouTube proves to be a more valuable resource than expected when trying to wrap your head around another language or culture.

Fronted by a German man in his mid-twenties, the YouTube channel Get Germanized has uploaded dozens of videos aimed at English speakers who are struggling their way through learning German. But this isn’t the average, somewhat stilted method of learning vocabulary that you may be used to in classroom-based language learning, there’s one essential difference: it’s fun. With clips presented in easy formats like ‘10 Untranslatable German Words’, a series about German slang that makes its way through the alphabet and cultural titbits such as ‘How to Be German’ and ‘Top 5 Scary German Kids’ Stories’, Meis- Photo: terLehnsherr makes German accessible and interesting, in short segments of 2 to 10 minutes. These bite -sized chunks of vocabulary and cultural information that you can only really get from the mouth of a native are so easy to listen to, relatable and simple, that you barely even notice that you’re actually learning something new. Although not specifically aimed at language learners like the German channel, an ordinary vlogger can also provide a great wealth of new vocabulary and insights into a language’s culture. Cyprien, a young, Paris-based Frenchman, regularly uploads clips that focus on an aspect of popular culture – such as Twitter, the plague of having your parents on Facebook, and the current popularity of ‘geeks’, all topics to which your average twenty-something can relate. His sketches, which are occasionally nothing more than comical rants, are a simple way to pick up new vocabulary and hear a ‘real-life’ French speaker, whilst having a giggle about something a lot more up-to-date than the contents of a French history class. Norman Fait Des Vidéos is another channel with a similar style; and with almost 4 million subscribers from a whole variety of different countries, it is obviously an appealing and popular format. But what is it about YouTube that should appeal to language learners? Quite simply, it’s the variety of videos available. From Julia Engelmann, the German slam poet that recently went viral, to the humorous French singer-songwriter Max Boubil, as well as the hundreds of youtubers that are undoubtedly creating original material in their own languages, there’s something there to satisfy everyone. When



asked, Meister Lehnsherr summarised the exact reason why YouTube is a great language learning resource: ‘You can connect with native speakers, get their advice, practise by uploading your own videos and watch language lessons for grammar and pronunciation’, all whilst connecting with like-minded people around the world. Better still, you can fit all of this quite comfortably into those ten minutes whilst you’re hanging about Elvet Riverside or procrastinating in the Bill Bryson. And it won’t feel as much of a chore when it comes sandwiched between a Beyoncé music video and a clip of some pandas going down a slide.

Rachel White

Teaching English, meeting the world


’ve always loved languages. When I was 7 or 8 I started trying to teach myself French, without much success. At secondary school I studied French and German, and was lucky enough to have great teachers who shared their love of languages and culture. Originally I wanted to study business and languages at university, but then I discovered you could do three languages, including learning a new one, so I decided to add Spanish. I’m very grateful to my careers teacher for recommending Durham, as I immediately fell in love with the city and the university. Fortunately, I knew that I wanted to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) before I started at Durham. During my gap year, I spent two months teaching at a primary school in the jungle in Borneo. For my Year Abroad, I did a British Council assistantship in Asunción, Paraguay, where I was a full-time teacher, responsible for all of my own classes. This chance to test out my dream career was really valuable, and confirmed that I’d made the right choice. I, therefore, decided to do a part-time CELTA course at Durham Language Centre during my final year, alongside my degree. The CELTA, or ‘Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults’, is an internationally recognised qualification that trains you in the basics of how to teach EFL. It gives you a solid grounding in theory, as well as six hours of teaching practice in the classroom. Once you have a CELTA, you can work in language schools all over the world. Of course, you can teach without it too, but it will be much harder to find a good quality employer. If you plan to become an EFL teacher, try to find a certificate that includes time in the classroom, rather than just doing a certificate online. Employers are more likely to recognise them, so you won’t be wasting your money, and you’ll feel much more confident too. I started work the day after my graduation ceremony, teaching at a four-week summer school near Haywards Heath. The children were aged 9-14 and came from all over the world: Spain, Italy, Kazakhstan, Turkey, South Korea, and more. My colleagues were mostly seasoned pros, although there were a couple of other newly-qualified teachers too. Chatting to them about the places they’d been and the things they’d seen inspired me. My first full-time EFL job was in Brno, Czech Republic, working for International House (IH) Brno, where I mostly taught adults. I stayed there for three years, working at the same place in Haywards Heath each summer. International House is one of the most-


respected groups of English schools in the world. They have just celebrated their 60th birthday, and the 50th anniversary of their training courses, including the forerunner of the CELTA. After Brno, I worked at IH Newcastle, UK, for two years, and am now the Director of Studies at IH Sevastopol, Crimea. As Director of Studies I’m responsible for observing our teachers and organising the timetable, as well as planning courses. Because it’s a very small school, I also still do a lot of teaching, about 18-20 hours a week. Most of my students are adults or older teens. I’m training some of them to take international English exams, while others are coming to general classes. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, IH Sevastopol will be running two full-time CELTA training courses this summer, June 30th-July 25th and July 28th-August 23rd, on which I’ll be tutoring. They are only £1000 for the whole four-week course, which is much cheaper than most CELTA courses. Even with accommodation and travel costs, it will still be great value for money, as living costs are low here. Sevastopol is a fascinating city to visit, and is a beautiful place to be in the summer. CELTA trains you how to teach English without needing translation, but that doesn’t mean you’re not using your languages! It gives you the chance to work all over the world, so it’s very easy to practise your languages and learn new ones. Since leaving Durham I’ve learnt Czech to a level where I can function in day-to-day life (about A2/B1 if that means anything to you!), and studied bits of Mandarin and Greek. Now I’m learning Russian in my free time. The language-learning skills I picked up during my degree really help my teaching too. I can empathise with my students because I know what it feels like to be frustrated when you just can’t remember a word, or to feel on top of the world because you’ve managed to spend the whole evening chatting in a foreign language with ease! I love teaching so much that when I’m not at work, I’m part of a huge online community of teachers from all over the world. I have a blog (, where I reflect on my lessons, share activities and write about my experiences. Being part of the online EFL community inspires me to constantly improve my teaching. Through it, I have also had the opportunity to take part in international conferences and have written materials for well-known publishers, including Oxford University Press.

Not everything about being an EFL teacher is easy though. When you’re working abroad, you have to teach when your students aren’t at work, meaning you’re often working early in the morning, late at night, and sometimes at weekends. If you’re working as a freelancer, rather than on a contract, it can be difficult to get regular teaching hours, so it’s important to be able to manage your money. On the other hand, people always want to learn English, so if you’re flexible and willing to go where the work is, you’re unlikely to ever be unemployed. Ultimately though, what I love about teaching English as a Foreign Language is the opportunity to immerse myself in other cultures, and to meet people from all over the world. I’ve taught waitresses, businessmen, photographers, housewives, engineers, a footballer’s wife, and even a government minister! The people I’ve met through my job have opened my eyes to the variety that exists in the world, but have shown me that deep down, we all want the same things from life: health, happiness and understanding. You can find me on Facebook (Sandy Millin) or Twitter (@sandymillin). I count myself very lucky to have


found a job that I love, and I am happy to offer advice and suggestions to anyone who is interested in going into EFL. I look forward to hearing from you! Sandy Millin

FRANCE: Which beach is for you? From Normandy to Paris (!) to the scorching south coast, France has a plage to suit every type of traveller! The historian: SWORD BEACH Located in the north of France in Normandy, Sword Beach gained its name in the Second World War. It was a landing area for French and British troops in the first assault phase of D-Day in 1944. Sword was used as a codename for the beaches of Colleville-Montgomery, Lion-sur-Mer and St-Aubin. The Sixth British Airborne parachuted onto the beach, in order to take bridges over the River Orne and the Canal de Caen à la Mer (Source: http:// History aside, this stretch of coastline with its vast sandy beaches is a great area to soak up some rays in the summer months. Photo:

The city dweller: PARIS PLAGES For one month over the summer, several spots along the Seine are transformed into beach paradises. So enjoy the best of both worlds in the summer: Take in the famous city sights and make the most of sun, sand and… er… river! There are lots of activities going on at Paris Plages, so don’t confine yourself to a deckchair. Why not go rollerblading, hire a dinghy or challenge your friends to a game of volleyball? The beaches are open from 8am to midnight; therefore, whether you are after an early morning paddle or an evening icecream on a sun lounger, Paris Plages is the place to go. Photo:

The water sports enthusiast: LA TRANCHE-SUR-MER If you want to faire du surf, or faire un tour en bateau , take a trip to La Tranche-Sur-Mer resort. Situated in the south of the Vendée, in the Pays de la Loire region, it is a favourite with water sports fans. While the Atlantic might not match the temperatures of the Med, it provides some powerful waves! There are numerous competitions taking place over the summer. In July, for instance, there are windsurfing and catamaran raids. If you venture from La Tranche-Sur Mer, you’ll be sure to find more aquatic activities to keep you entertained, since there are around 120 boat clubs and associations in the Vendée region.



The festival goer: PORT-BARCARÈS


The Electrobeach Music Festival (EMF) is an annual event, held in Les Jardins du Lydia du Barcarès, which is a stone’s throw from the beach at Port-Barcarès; the perfect place to relax after enjoying the music. EMF is taking place on 11th and 12th July this year and is featuring acts including, Calvin Harris, Fat Boy Slim and Example. The festival’s popularity is increasing year on year, last year attracting 56,000 people. What’s more, as PortBarcarès is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, you’ll certainly leave with a tan… or sunburn if you’re not careful! With 120,000 tourists arriving at the resort every summer, the beach does not lack in atmosphere.

The sun worshipper: SÉRIGNAN Also located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Sérignan, le cœur du sud, offers beaches to those who seek sun, sun and nothing but sun! The stretches of golden sand and crystal blue waters make the perfect postcard. With nearby campsites, such as Le Sérignan Plage, a stay in Sérignan can suit the student budget! If you fancy a break from the beach, why not take a trip to Montpellier? It’s well worth an hour’s drive to see this beautiPhoto: ful historic city. Emma Bradding

Technology Strikes Back at French Rail Unions


fter a week and a half in England, it was finally time to come back to Pau. Little did I know of the saga that lay in wait for me in Toulouse. For, as I had somehow missed over the previous week, the French railways are in the midst of one of their longest-running strikes in recent times. As the weekend dawns, the strike has entered its tenth day, with teenagers up and down the country beginning their ‘Bac’ exams amid the travel chaos. Imagine Tube strikes on the day of your first A-level exams. But every day. And with no sign of ending. This was unfortunately the reality facing any French teenagers reliant on trains to get to their exams, thanks to the brilliance of the French railway unions. Whereas in England the unions might bring London to a standstill to prove a point, here in France the unions have no intention of returning to work until their demands are met. They couldn’t possibly stand losing their right to retire at 50, after all. Photo:

And so there stood I, in despair on the concourse of Toulouse’s grand Matabiau station, faced with the


less-than-appealing prospect of a 6-hour coach journey back to Pau. Fortunately, there was a little saviour on my smartphone ready to rescue me from this 1970s nightmare. A quick search of the Covoiturage/BlaBlaCar app produced literally dozens upon dozens of drivers offering a lift to Pau that evening. Despite shamefully for a Londoner getting confused on a Metro system with only 2 lines, I hopped my way across town, reserved the car-share, and within half an hour was on the road home with the delightful company of a young French student. Instead of paying roughly 25 € for the train, I paid a measly 7 € to be driven in half the time. The wonderful irony of the train strikes is that the SNCF have literally Photo: driven away hundreds of their own customers who might otherwise have been wary of getting into the back of a stranger’s car. Just as the taxi strikes over Uber led to record downloads of the controversial app, so too Covoiturage has been inundated with business. Ordinary people coming together in times of need to help their fellow man? Sounds pretty union-y to me. So as I sit putting that extra 15 € to good use, I’ll raise a glass to the heroes of the train strike: this round’s on them. Tom Chance

Immigration and Asylum in Germany


n May of this year, Germany celebrated the 65th anniversary of its constitution, an event which drew in sharp criticism on the handling of the German asylum process. Speaking at the celebrations of the constitution’s anniversary was Navid Kermani, a German-Iranian scholar and author, who criticised Germany’s asylum policy. He stated that although Germany has become a more free country, the 1990 constitutional amendments to Article 16 have effectively abolished the right to asylum. The German Parliament is currently debating classing the countries of Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina as “safe” countries, therefore no longer granting them the right to asylum Photo: as per Article 16a Paragraph 2 of the German Basic Law. These discussions have arisen as a result of the growing number of immigrants from the western Balkans; a quarter of asylum applications are from members of these three countries, yet only 60 out of 22,000 of these people were granted asylum. There appears to be a policy of deterrence towards asylum seekers, perhaps to keep out financial burdens to the German social welfare system. Despite this, Germany has a “welcoming culture” – something which has never clashed with its financial protection aims due to the previously low number of asylum seekers. But the numbers have risen to over 100,000 per year and there is now a contradiction between the two issues.


As well as financial issues, there is also a dislike of immigration on a social level. One can see German ambivalence towards Muslim asylum seekers and immigrants, an issue which has grown in exceeding proportions after the Al-Qaeda terror attacks in September 2001. There is a widespread fear of Islamic


fundamentalism in Germany, leading towards a distrust of Muslim immigrants. According to the University of Bielefield’s 10-year study, only 19% of Germans believe that Islam is compatible with German culture, as seen by both the banning of teachers wearing headscarves in eight federal states, and additionally the large-scale outrage at the 2007 attempt to construct the largest mosque ever to be built in Cologne. Tied with asylum is the issue of immigration, which has been of importance in Germany since the mid-1950s. A shortage of labourers due to the Wirtschaftswunder (“economic miracle”) demanded a larger labour force, leading to heightened immigration. West-German governmental agreements with Italy, Greece, and Turkey in particular led to the large-scale influx of Gastarbeiter (“migrant workers”) residing in Germany. Children of Gastarbeiter received the right to reside in Germany ensuring that a large portion of Germany has a foreign background; around onefifth of Germans have foreign roots. Photo:

Yet despite the long history of German immigration there is still growing discrimination towards foreigners; 37% of the population would prohibit immigration to Muslims, and 47.1% believe that the eastern-European Roma and Sinti peoples should not be allowed into city centres. A grand total of 55.3% of the German population maintain that asylum seekers are “faking” their reasons for immigration and are not fleeing from persecution. Hatred of foreigners in Germany is commonplace, yet there is still hope for those seeking a better life. Recent promises by the German government include granting asylum to over 10,000 Syrian immigrants who are seeking an escape from the Syrian crisis. There is still a long way to go however, according to Günter Burkhardt, Managing Director of the ‘Pro Asyl’ refugee organisation. He is of the opinion that integration is a successful process when the families of immigrants come to Germany as well, something which the governmental scheme does not satisfy at this moment. Although there would be a large cost in supporting some 80,000 family members, Burkhardt states that there would also be an economic benefit from the skilled immigrant workforce. It is clear that immigration and asylum is a controversial topic in Germany, and whilst there are some positive changes which will be implemented in the future, there still needs to be a process to further support those in need, and to make asylum more accessible for them.

Ollie Bains Sources:,,,

La Pièce de Résistance…


xams are over, the sun is (sometimes) out, and it is time to relax. Whether you’re off on your year abroad, contemplating graduation, or wondering where the first year of your degree went, celebrate the impending holidays with some party food, continental style.

Macaroons (Makes 20) Macaroons are tricky and time-consuming, but this recipe requires no specialist equipment so if you’re feeling all Mary Berry give it a go one afternoon. The end result looks seriously impressive. You will need:


For the Macaroons: 140g Icing Sugar 140g Ground Almonds 3 Large Eggs 2 ½ tbsp. Water 120g Caster Sugar Food Colouring (red photographed, but you could use any colour) 1 tsp Almond Extract For the Filling: Either: 140g Unsalted Butter 280g Icing Sugar Food Colouring/ Cocoa Powder Or: 175ml whipped double cream

Method: 1)

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Grease and line 3 baking sheets with greaseproof paper.


Mix the icing sugar and ground almonds together.


In a pan, gently heat the caster sugar and water until the sugar melts. Bring to the boil and wait until the mixture thickens to a syrup, it should be the consistency of pouring cream. Leave to cool slightly but only for a few minutes.


Separate the eggs and discard the yolks. Whisk the egg whites (with an electric whisk or by hand!) until they form stiff peaks.


Gradually add the sugar syrup to the whisked egg whites, constantly stirring the mixture as you do so. Combine thoroughly, the meringue mixture should be glossy.


Add the almond extract and food colouring to the almond mixture, combine until you have a thick paste.


Using a metal spoon, carefully fold in one spoonful of the meringue mixture into the almond paste until fully combined. Then pour in the rest of the meringue and combine. Be careful not to overmix at this stage or the mixture will be too sloppy.


Use a piping bag to make disks of the mixture on your baking trays, alternatively, if you don’t have a piping bag use two teaspoons. The macaroons can be any size you like, but try to get them uniform so you can easily match up halves.


Leave the macaroons to dry out for an hour. In this time they should develop a skin.

10) Bake for 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to burn, they should not brown on the top.

11) Turn off the oven and leave them to cool inside for an hour. 12) Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. When completely cool fill with buttercream icing or whipped cream. You can also add extra flavours at this stage, like a touch of strawberry jam or Nutella, anything goes. 13) Store in the fridge.


Celebrate Good Times…. Why not celebrate the holidays with a travel-inspired cake? With a little fondant icing and some imagination the sky’s the limit. Ours was achieved with a basic chocolate sponge base, buttercream filling and fondant icing. The buckle and gold detailing is painted on in edible glitter and the badges made from fondant and writing icing.

Bon voyage à tous les étudiants qui vont à l’étranger cet été ! Hannah McIntyre

Bruschetta A taste of the Italian summer! Bruschetta is the perfect canapé at a summer party. This recipe uses fresh tomatoes for an authentic Italian flavour! Ingredients (makes 30): 1 baguette 325g baby plum tomatoes 5 tablespoons olive oil 3 cloves of garlic Dried basil 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar Salt

Pepper Method: 1)

Boil the cherry tomatoes in a saucepan for a few minutes until the skins soften.


Drain and wait for them to cool. Then peel off the skins.


Cut off the stem area of each tomato, slice in half and remove all the seeds.


Finely cut up the tomatoes and crush the garlic cloves.


Mix together with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a generous sprinkle of basil and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Once satisfied with the taste, refrigerate.


To make the bruschetta, cut up the baguette diagonally into roughly 1 ½ centimetre long slices.


Use a pastry brush to coat one side of the slices in olive oil. Place the slices olive oil side down on a grill and toast them until golden brown. Be careful they don’t burn!


They can be served warm or cool with the fresh tomato topping.

Buon appetito!


The Year Abroad Agony Aunt Real year–abroad fears as expressed by those about to embark on their Year Abroad

Q: I’m packing my suitcase in preparation for my year abroad, and it’s proving to be quite difficult. There simply doesn’t seem to be enough room in my suitcase for 20 pairs of shoes, my extensive collection of Topshop clothing and my big poofy dress from this year’s summer ball. What should I do? All of my clothes are indispensable! – Floundering Fashionista


A: Brace yourself, because I’m about to be as unforgiving as RyanAir’s baggage limits. The simple fact of the matter is that the answer to your question is pretty much just ‘tough luck’, and you really have no choice but to leave some of your stuff behind. I know you want to look good in all of your year abroad Instagram pics, but you’re just going to have to limit your resources a bit. There are advantages to leaving your beloved clothes behind, though. Not only will you get used to having less stuff (and even grow to feel quite pleased about this) but you will also have more excuses to buy new clothes in exciting European shops with your hard-earned Erasmus grant. Every cloud, no?

Q: We have an adorable black and white cat at home called Penny, and she has been around for as long as I can remember. I miss her loads when I’m at uni, but I think it’s going to be unbearable whilst I’m abroad. I think I might even miss her more than I’ll miss my friends and family. What can I do? – Cat Lover

A: Whilst it does worry me somewhat that you’ll miss your cat more than you’ll miss your loved ones, I do somewhat understand your predicament. At the risk of seeming like a crazy cat lady to your new foreign friends, maybe take a picture of it and keep it in your purse? Failing that, there are still those awkward Skype moments to look forward to, when your dad waves the cat in front of the Photo: computer screen and it accidentally turns it off by stomping on the keyboard. If none of these are enough, there are still endless streams of cat videos on YouTube to comfort you on your darkest nights…

Q: I am literally clueless about my year abroad. Any last words of advice would be appreciated. – Absolutely No Idea

A: Firstly, don’t get drawn in by what you see on Facebook. People don’t tend to share pictures of themselves crying for their mum on social media, so it might seem like everyone else is having a perfect time when you’re feeling kind of rubbish. They probably aren’t, everyone faces year abroad difficulties. However, this is probably the best chance you’ll ever get. Accept every offer you’re given (within reason), dance all night as often as you can, eat all of the authentic pastries/pasta/ice cream, talk to a thousand new people and broaden your mind a bit, take pictures and write about everything you do. But remember to talk to your friends and family, miss home a little bit (proper cups of tea! Buses that run on time! Politeness!) and prepare yourself to talk endlessly about your experiences when you get back. Photo:


Ways to Document Your Year Abroad


he Year Abroad is greatly anticipated by all language students alike. Not only is it an excellent way to improve language skills, but also a fantastic opportunity for exploring new cultures and having adventures. The Definite Article set out to discover interesting ways for students heading off on their year abroad to document their experiences. Here are some of our favourites:

THE BLOG OR VLOG - a popular choice as it’s easy to create and is a great way to share your experiences with your friends and family whilst you are away. It can also act as a diary for you to look back on when you return. Free blogging platforms include and If you do set up a YA blog, let us know and we can feature it on our website. SCRAPBOOK - a classic way of documenting your year abroad allowing you to creatively compile photos, tickets, postcards and diary entries. On your return to Durham flicking through your scrapbook can provide an effective cure to your post-year abroad blues. PLAYLIST –music can transport you back to a time and a place, so creating a playlist for your year abroad is a Photo: great way to record those year abroad memories. Those really passionate about music might even think about writing their own song, check out the song about being a language assistant here: DRAWING-A-DAY – some people choose to set themselves challenges for their year abroad, for the artists amongst you this maybe creating a sketch or doodle a day. This allows you to capture a moment of everyday of your year abroad, which you could share via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You could also add these sketches to a year abroad scrapbook… FILM – this is a great way to encompass all of the ideas mentioned above. Take music, photos, video footage and doodles and put them together to create your very own year abroad film. There are some great examples online to give you inspiration to make your video unique, such as this epic selfie: Your Year abroad will, no doubt, fly by so make sure you find a way to record the highs and lows of your time away, not just to show off to your friends and family, but to remember the opportunities you take and the people you meet. Photo:

Don’t forget to let us know what you are up to while away by writing for The Definite Article or by sharing your photos and thoughts with us @TDADurham.

Bon voyage! Ellie Stefiuk


Studying in Galicia


s a student of Catalan, I had visions of my year abroad in Barcelona. I would stroll through Parc Guell, go on crazy nights out in the city’s vibrant club district, and relax on the beach between lectures. However, as it turned out, I didn’t get either my first or second choice of Erasmus placements and had to then choose between Vigo and Lugo, both in Galicia, a region which wasn’t just not on my radar, but completely buried under it. In a panic, I chose Lugo, and spent the first part of my year abroad in France alternately avoiding the issue or dreading it. But when I got to Santiago de Compostela airport, the strangest thing happened. I actually fell in love with Galicia! While not stereotypically ‘Spanish’ in terms of flamenco dancing and searing heat, Galicia has some of the most beautiful country- Photo: side you’ll see in Europe. With misty forests, snowy mountaintops and stunning beaches, in terms of natural beauty there’s a bit of everything: Playa de las catedrales off the coast of Vigo, was recently voted the most beautiful beach in the world. And yes, although the weather is appalling, the rare days where it isn’t raining make you savour not having to take your umbrella out that much more.


Equally, while ‘small-town’ life isn’t for everyone- my Mexican flatmates are among those who are struggling a bit at the moment- it makes that much difference to your Spanish. In lectures, the teachers actually know you, and in small classes of 10-15 it’s much easier to make friends with native speakers. And because there aren’t many international students here, the Erasmus scene is very tightknit. I’ve found it’s been much easier to make friends than on my placement in France simply because there isn’t a wide variety of people- you have to make friends with the people who are there, or hide in your flat.

The reality of living in a smaller town is that you get a much more authentic ‘Spanish’ experience: this is somewhere where people live, not visit and then go home again. And the fact is, Galicia is insanely cheap. I worked out I’m paying exactly half of what I paid in France. So, the combination of cheapness and free time leads to another crucial part of the year abroad: travelling anywhere and everywhere. With the whole of Spain on your doorstep, a fascinating autonomous region and lots of spare money, Galicia is well worth a second look for Spanish students. Becky Wyde



Chris’ Year Abroad Adventures


s most students who go on a year abroad, I had dreamt of having the perfect year ever since I knew I was going to embark on one. My time away from the UK has been an incredible experience for a variety of reasons. However, it has not always been the dream I longed for.

I started my journey by going to Madagascar to teach English for five weeks. Madagascar really was the place I was most intrigued to experience, as I’m a keen environmentalist and around 80% of the flora and fauna is endemic to the island. I was fortunate enough to witness lemurs and chameleons in abundance, as well as wonderful waterfalls and bewildering rainforests. Nevertheless, the experience that has stayed with me the most, was the joy I felt in seeing how much my Malagasy students enjoyed learning English – cheesy, I know. My work placement and weekend trips on the île Rouge were extraordinary, but I was most looking forward to my time after I’d finished volunteering, as I had organised a week on a white sand beach. However, fate had other plans and I fell violently ill and had to return to the UK, going via incompetence in its highest form in a Parisian airport. My next placement was in a bank in Milan. While recovering in bed, I started to actively search for potential flat shares. I was initially petrified about not finding a place to live for such a short period (around 3 months). However, my efforts in researching the ideal flat share were vindicated as my flatmates have become friends for life. In my first night at the flat - in a very Italian way - they hosted a dinner party introducing me to their friends, who instantly became mine too. My time in Milan was the best time of my life, mainly for the people I met and how immersed I got in the culture. For that experience alone, I cannot but recommend anyone going on a year abroad to put in the extra mile when looking for accommodation.

After spending Christmas at home, I went to Brussels to work in a hotel. I was greatly looking forward to this stint of my year, (who wouldn’t look forward to going to the capital of beer, waffles and chips?). Despite the greasy gastronomy and being closer to home than Durham, I could not have been further away from comfort. After six weeks of working in an overwhelmingly racist and homophobic office, I agreed with the university to move to France, where I had an agreeable time soaking up the croissant culture. I’m currently completing the final part of my year abroad, teaching in a school in Arequipa, Peru. When I first arrived I had a few culture shocks. Most notably, the country being many times more developed than I had envisaged, along with a mild struggle adapting to South American Spanish. That said, Peru is a great country and I have really enjoyed experiencing it by living with a family as I have been introduced to many things that most tourists would bypass. Additionally, I have time to do all the touristy stuff too. In the past few weeks I have been to Lake Titikaka and gone sandboarding in the desert. In the


coming weeks, once my work placement has finished, I will travel from the Inca Trail to Buenos Aires going via Bolivia and Chile as well. Finally, although my year abroad hasn’t been as perfect as I had hoped, it’s still been incredible. I learnt a lot from working in the bank in Milan, as well as having gained countless experiences in teaching. Not to mention that I have seen places in ways only locals could. Once my money runs out somewhere in Italy this summer, I’ll be brought back down to Earth (and Elvet Riverside), ready to fight for the degree classification I desire, all the while longing for those Italian coffees, French croissants and Peruvian Pisco Sours. Chris Jackson


Thanks from The Definite Article team Dear readers,

Thank you so much for reading the third edition of The Definite Article! We hope you have enjoyed our diverse range of articles. If you have been inspired to write something yourself, whether it’s on politics, music, cuisine, travel or anything in between, get in touch with us!

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Enjoy the summer break! The Definite Article team :)

Next issue: December 2014