In which I graduate from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

I’m lying of course.  Even I can’t do a degree in three weeks.  But ….. I have been a distance learner at this seat of learning, and I’ve loved it.  I’ve exchanged my 1970s student life, putting the world to rights in the refectory or the students’ union bar for on-line discussions with Anglophones with the hugest variety of life experience.  I’ve exchanged echoing lecture theatres for my own study, where the lecturer delivers his or her piece at exactly the hour that suits me, and repeats it on demand.  I’ve exchanged official reading lists for comments and suggestions from fellow students, based on newly discovered shared interests.

All this is thanks to FutureLearn.  They publicise courses on every subject you can think of, and lots that you can’t.  Some are paid-for courses right through to professional qualification or degree level.  But many of them are not. Universities in every continent run short free courses and they want us to be their students.  If only I’d seen Hanyang University’s Introduction to Korean before we went two years ago!

No matter.  What I saw a few weeks ago was this – Getting to know Catalonia: An introduction to the Catalan language , culture and society.  What timing!  Emily and Miquel are buying their first home together and Emily’s had promotion in her job in Barcelona.  Catalonia’s going to be part of our lives.

It didn’t begin well, and I whinged to Emily that I’d signed up to a piece of propaganda from the Catalan Independence movement (‘What did you expect’?).  In fact however, we’ve had an overview of economics, history, literature and the arts and popular culture and it’s a solid grounding for further study.

What’s made it has been the fellow-students.  I’m sure some people do what’s set in front of them and are happy to leave it at that. It’s probably all they have the time or inclination for.  For a hard core of us though, it’s our colleagues that have made the difference.  The civil servant in the Welsh office at the time when their bilingual policies were being developed; the Catalan who observed that there is no ‘standard’ Catalan, so in the media, do you use the language of the Balearics, the North West or the Central provinces, or even (who knew?) the Catalan spoken in Alghero, Sardinia ?  The Irish chipped in, and Swiss Germans, and other linguistic minority groups.  All this provoked lively discussions about language, and languages that have been suppressed (as Catalan was, unsuccessfully, and as Occitan was in France, largely successfully).  Every topic has had us helping each other out.  Most of us are woefully badly read in Catalan history and literature, so we share ideas about more accessible material.  Away from the lectures, the tutors barely show their faces, and that’s fine.  It is a free course after all, and we have proved that self-help works.  In just three weeks we’ve established a learning community where we have given something, and taken a lot, and are the richer for it.

I’ll be on the look out for my next free course from FutureLearn soon.

Every time I open the coursework, this is the image I see. An ariel view of a human tower in the making: Catalan cooperation at its finest.

21 thoughts on “In which I graduate from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona”

  1. I started to do a Spanish course with them a while ago and didn’t join in any discussions. I dropped out quite quickly. But I do think languages are different. There aren’t many opinions and life experiences to generate a discussion if all you’re trying to do is learn the imperfect tense!

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  2. I love FutureLearn too, though it’s been a while I must admit. You clearly got the most from this experience, Margaret. Ben fet! (And no, I have no idea which particular Catalan dialect that might be! I expect Google does though 😉 )

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  3. This is great! And to have found such a good community to engage with–it sounds like the blogging community! But will you keep in touch with your fellow learners? Is there any way of doing so, built into the system?

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    1. I don’t think so. On the other hand, I’ve picked up that some people go on ‘meeting’ on other like-minded courses. I suspect that these kind of communities are great while they last, but probably aren’t the basis for life-long friendship. It’s been fun – and there were some Americans on the course too: it was a real melting pot pf cultures.

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    1. Do. There really are all sorts of things. And as for me ….. for the first time in 16 days I’ve stayed up … all day! Off to bed now though (9.00 p.m.). Hope your break is going well. x

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  4. You are an inspiration Margaret, your lifetime of learning leaves me shamed. I too am going to check out FutureLearn. Glad you’re feeling a little better, are you going to be able to support your daughter on Sunday?

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    1. I think you’re too busy to study just now Sharon! And yes, off to London at the weekend where unfortunately for once it’s going to be hot. Thank you for your support!

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  5. Never heard of FutureLearn – shall most definitely check this out, sounds fantastic and right up my (learning) street. Once we no longer feel like learning something now or learn more about something we love, we will be dead!
    I’m not surprised to read you had a Swiss German person in your group. We are EVERYWHERE there is something interesting going on…. 😉 😉

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  6. btw, it should be a German spoken Swiss, as we are SWISS first and THEN only ‘divided’ by our language 😉 I am a German spoken CH, Hero Husband is a French spoken Suisse Romand…. (or what we Swiss call ‘French spoken’ – the French obviously don’t think we know their language!)

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  7. Margaret, you amaze me with your energy for learning! I hadn’t heard of Futurelearn – I will check them out as Richard and I have been saying we need to improve our French and German and there are no foreign language courses near here. Good luck to Ellie for tomorrow and best wishes for Emily and Miquel.

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