Aug. 25, 2020

From Besançon to Madrid

E. Catherine Barclay scholarship winner, Valentina Fajardo shares her experiences abroad in France
Valentina Fajardo in Besancon
Valentina Fajardo in Besancon

Dear friends of the E. Catherine Barclay Scholarship,

What a truly unique year this has turned out to be! On the evening of Thursday March 12, President Emmanuel Macron announced that schools and universities would be closed starting the following Monday. Having just come out of a movie theatre, I quickly checked my UCalgary email and was devastated to see that students abroad were being called home. The next morning, I grabbed my bike and rode down Le Canal de Bourgogne, a beautiful ride, for one last time. I left Dijon exactly one week later, having had time to get certain things in order, give away items I couldn’t take with me, see one last big band and swing show at Bistrot de la Scène, celebrate my birthday (one of a kind to say the least) and say goodbye to good friends, though not all, unfortunately. I created a video remembering the good friends from all over the world that I made this past year. I’m happy to share it with you below. Courses and exams had been moved online, which for me, meant doing everything by email from Canada. I officially finished all my University of Burgundy courses on June 10.

My second semester courses were mostly translation, my favorite being the translation of literature in French, English and Spanish. I also quite enjoyed an Erasmus course called “Civilisation Française”, which examined the fascinating history of 20th century France. One course in my first semester, however, will remain particularly special because of its nature: an exchange between cultures. “Interculturalité” was a program where I could take a free French class in exchange for being a “tutrice” for three hours a week at the Centre des Langues, helping anyone who wanted to learn or practice English or Spanish. From my understanding, the centre encourages language students to practice, but anyone at all can come. Every Monday afternoon without fail, an older retired gentleman would come. First, he’d practice Italian, then German, then Spanish with me, and sometimes English afterwards, an hour per language multiple times a week. He is a true polyglot and is definitely inspiring.

Valentina at Bilbao Beach

Valentina at Bilbao Beach

Fortunately, I was still able to do quite a bit of travelling before coming back to Calgary in March. I visited many places, from Besançon to Basel, Baden to Paris, Bilbao to Pamplona, Ávila and Madrid. I’d say I did quite well despite having a shortened second semester. In addition to seeing old friends, some of my favorite memories from these trips were the natural surroundings. In particular, when I was in Basel, Switzerland, I decided to walk over to Germany for fun (Basel is on the border with France and Germany). It took about 40 minutes or so from the city centre, and I found myself in a lovely and calm forest park. It was just what I needed right then. Being a big nature lover, I created a video of most of my natural encounters in France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain that I’m happy to share with you.  The forest park that you see about halfway through the video is right at the Swiss and German border. The stream is partially in Switzerland, and the far side is in Germany.

Though my year abroad in Dijon did not go as initially planned (granted, no one’s did), I am still very glad that I went and wouldn’t change it at all. The friends I made, the places I visited, the food I ate, the old friends I saw, the concerts I attended, the courses I took, and even the flights, trains and buses I journeyed on were all a part of the wonderful experience I am lucky to call my three quarters of a year abroad in Dijon, France.

Thank you to all of the supporters, volunteers and donors of the E. Catherine Barclay scholarship for making this possible.

Valentina Fajardo :) (2019)

Valentina Vaticano

The E.Catherine Barclay Scholarship Advisory Committee is happy for Valentina’s safe return home from Dijon in unfortunate circumstances. We truly missed our annual traditional homecoming/send-off celebration that unites the growing community of ECB alumni and supporters. Due to Covid 19, all travel abroad programs have been suspended for the 2020 fall semester. We expect to resume the annual programming for the scholarship in 2021. Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy Valentina’s videos.

We wish you a safe and healthy summer,

Silvia Rossi (1991)  Andrea Jung (1993)  Audrey Taylor Bereznicki (2009) Paola Velasquez (2016)

Did you know?

The E. Catherine Barclay Scholarship has benefited greatly from the generosity of many individuals. We wish to extend our deepest thanks to each of you for supporting this award and for supporting the University of Calgary students as they embark on an adventure around the world.

  • Silvia Rossi (1991)

  • Andrea Jung (1993)

  • Audrey Taylor Bereznicki (2009)

  • Paola Velasquez (2016)

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About the E. Catherine Barclay Scholarship

Offered annually to an undergraduate student registered in any faculty at the University of Calgary wishing to pursue studies in France through an official exchange program, for two semesters. Award holders must select courses in which the language of instruction is French.

Fall/Winter minimum GPA and units: 3.2; 24

Apply to the French Centre by March 30.

Donor: Friends of E.C. Barclay
Value: $ 7,500

More Information

Have a question?

Micheline Lee
Program Coordinator - French Centre
Tel: 403-220-7226