It’s not long now until we meet at the airport to start our journey to Strasbourg. Students often have a number of questions before a visit, and I thought it would be useful to provide some answers here on the blog.
1. How can I best prepare for the visit?
Read the information and materials you’ve been sent by Gerry, and give the topics some thought. One thing that you’ll find useful when you get there is if you already have an opinion about some of the things you’ll be talking about, so think through some of the topics and see if you can work out in you mind what your opinion is on certain things. Maybe you already have a very strong opinion on something. That’s great – but don’t worry if you’re not sure where you stand. Remember that you’re going to be talking about these things in English – and in French – so it’s really helpful if you know what you want to say. If you need some help forming your opinions in French, we’ll be there to assist you in our preparation sessions.
2. What kind of clothes should I pack?
Warm ones! It can be extremely cold in Strasbourg: as I write this it’s -3°! The forecast for the next few days is pretty cold – snow and temperatures between -5° and 5°C. If it doesn’t snow then it could be very wet. We will be spending a lot of time outside on our activities and we’ll be walking most places, so you really do need to bring warm clothes and some kind of waterproof jacket, ideally. And an umbrella. For the Euroscola day we’d like everyone to try to be a bit “Scottish”. If anyone (boys or girls!) has a kilt, then we’d strongly suggest you wear it to the Parliament. Failing that a tartan ribbon of some kind is nice, or even a wee sprig of heather! You should also remember that we’ll be having our ceilidh on the Friday night so you can “Scottishify” yourself for that too if you like! No See-You-Jimmy hats/wigs though!
3. Is there anything else I should remember to bring?
Remember that you’re going to Strasbourg to work and learn, so pens/pencils/pad/folder etc. is absolutely necessary. You should also remember that it’s very useful to have a clipboard or equivalent for the street survey. You may want to bring a small dictionary too. Obviously you need to bring all toiletries and medication that you may need. Remember that finding a particular brand of headache tablets or stomach remedies which work for you may not be as easy in a French pharmacie, so we’d basically suggest that you bring anything you may need. Remember too that different foods, different mealtimes and travelling can have their effect on your body, so be prepared!
4. How much spending money should I bring?
It depends on what you intend to be buying! You will have some free time (though not much!) so you will probably have the chance to go shopping. Remember that you’ll have to pay for a couple of lunches, for any food or snacks during the journey and obviously any drinks or snacks in the evening or during the day when you’re on your own. If you bring around £100 (in euros, please) then you’ll be absolutely fine. Please don’t bring too much more than this: you’re responsible for your own money and there aren’t safes in your rooms. One thing that often happens on the trips is that students feel that they ought to treat other students to coffees, being friendly and all that. Being friendly is nice, of course, but it fair eats into your own spending money. Best to get your own coffees etc. and don’t feel obliged to get coffees for other people! [Sorry if that sounds stingy!]
5. How do we know who we’re sharing rooms with?
We’ll sort that out at some point on the journey. We’ll ask you to get yourselves into groups of probably 3 or 4, although some rooms can be for 6 or 8. It all depends on what rooms the Ciarus allocates to us. Please note that our rooms will only be for our group: you won’t be sharing with people from any other groups.
6. What will be doing each day?
See the programme which Gerry has sent you! We’ll be pretty much sticking to this throughout the visit.
7. What will be doing in the evenings?
On Friday evening when we arrive in Strasbourg we’ll take a quick walk into the town to allow you to get your bearings. On Saturday evening we’ll be eating in a restaurant alsacien, where you’ll get the chance to try the famous tarte flambée, a delicacy of Alsace (and vegetarians will, of course, be catered for). Sunday evening is preparation for Euroscola, and on Monday we’ll be having the ceilidh in the Ciarus.
8. Will we have to speak in French all the time?
Mais oui! Well, actually, probably not! We’ll be encouraging you to speak lots of French and we’ll be talking to you in French a fair bit. You’ll be expected to use French whenever you’re out and about in Strasbourg, and French is one of the two official languages of the Euroscola day. You’ll probably find that you’ll naturally begin to use French more and more among yourselves as the week goes on. Equally if you have other languages then please feel free to put them to use too.
9. How can I get maximum benefit for my French from being in France?
[OK, so no-one actually asked this question, but we want you to read this answer!] Remember that being in France means you’ll literally be surrounded by French – both in terms of people speaking it and being surrounded by posters, street names, adverts, leaflets, etc. You MUST take advantage of this. Don’t walk along the road ignoring everything around you – look at the street signs and the adverts in shop windows and think about how words or names are pronounced, about what the signs mean, about “why there’s an extra -e on that word” or “which tense is that”, etc. You’ll probably think this sounds a bit sad, but you don’t get the opportunity to do this every day, so take full advantage while you’re there! Listen in to people’s conversations. If people walk past you in mid conversation, try to recognise two or three words from their conversations. If you’re sitting behind someone in the tram, listen in to what they’re talking about. Not too obviously though
10. My question isn’t answered here. Can you help me?
If you have any more questions, please post a comment and we’ll answer them as soon as possible! There are also a number of discussions taking place on the Facebook group.