I haven’t posted about French in a while so I thought that now would be a good time to talk about Horizons. If you select the average biology second year and ask them their opinion on Horizons, you will most likely be met with a loud groan and possibly screams of horror. I’ll say off the bat that in the life sciences department and I think a few others as well, doing an extracurricular Horizons course becomes compulsory after first year and counts for credit, meaning that the marks you get go towards your overall degree. I don’t want to freak anyone out by saying this but what I will say is that as long as you choose your course carefully, you don’t have to be filled with terror at the mere mention of the word ‘extracurricular’ and I actually quite enjoy my course.
So what is Horizons? It’s a program of extracurricular courses offered by Imperial to supplement our degree programs. Read as: the powers that be at Imperial are worried that we will become reclusive and unemployable if we spend all our waking hours in the lab and so they want us to do some humanities courses to prevent this from happening. You have the option of picking one long course that will run over Autumn and Spring terms or two shorter ones that last a term each. The courses available are extremely diverse (click around here to check out the course lists) ranging from lanugages to creative writing to philosophy to politics to stuff like Engineers Without Borders. You’ll have one, two hour lesson once a week with coursework to complete as well. In my French class, we do about six pieces of coursework throughout the year, including in-class tests, but in other classes you’ll have maybe one big essay to turn in or a presentation or project to complete. The aim of Horizons is to equip you with transferable skills outside of the lab which are valuable in a myriad of different situations and if you choose something that you enjoy and can get really get stuck in to, you’ll have a great time!
Personally I am something of a linguaphile and I adore French. Having completed A Level French to a decent standard, I didn’t want to give up at uni and so I enrolled on a Year in Europe course. I think the name of this course has changed slightly but if you’re interested in spending time abroad, definitely think about applying to do a year abroad whilst you’re at Imperial! It’s an incredible opportunity and talking to people who either have done it or are currently doing it, you will have a fab time and won’t regret it. Due to some slightly unfortunate circumstances I’ve had to leave the Year Abroad program but I am carrying on with French for Horizons and loving it, so I guess I’ll try and give you my argument for doing a lanugage as your extracurricular
1. Employers love lanugages. The job market is tough as it is, having a second language under your belt can only benefit you, espeically if it’s a less widely spoken second language such as Mandarin, Japanese or Arabic, all of which you can learn in Horizons!
2. It gives you a break from the grind of science. Obviously I love biology or I wouldn’t be here but there’s something so great about being able to tap in to a completely different part of your brain to engage with languages. You get to look at real life issues in the country of the language you are studying and discuss current events and popular culture. It also sounds pretty cool when your friends ask you what’s going on in Horizons and you can tell them that you were discussing secularism in the French education system… in French.
3. Improves your confidence loads. I’ve found in my French classes that there is a lot of emphasis on conversation practice and debate where you are forced to have an opinion and talk in your chosen language. I definitely lacked confidence in speaking but the regular conversation practice has helped me to improve. Although one time we were discussing Facebook and I mistook ‘amis’ for ‘années’ and told my partner that I only had three Facebook friends when I thought I was saying that I’d been on Facebook for three years. Slightly awkward.
4. Opportunity for creativity and becoming more cultured. You just don’t get the opportunity to read French short stories and do translations in everyday life (and I really love translation because it feels like such a responsibility to preserve the meaning of a passage whilst converting it to comprehensible English and when you do it right you feel really great).
In conclusion, French is amazing and my Horizons is great. The only downside is that my teacher has a fondness for making us sing strange French songs in class. And when I say ‘making us’ I mean ‘making a condition of leaving class singing the song.’
Do Horizons but make sure you pick a good course that you’re really interested in and can get excited about!