(james benedict brown) on the road

The next stop is…

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 16 August, 2006


When news of a big trip or an exciting event happens in my life, this blog is usually the first place I brag and get excited about it. I have realised that I am a natural blogger because, well, to be honest, I’m a shameless attention seeker. However, over the past week I’ve been keeping quiet about some news I received by e-mail last Thursday. It required a lot of thinking, soul searching and talking about over long distance phone calls, because it completely changes a lot of the plans I have been making for the next year. After this uncharacteristic period of introspectiveness, I can now reveal all. I have received confirmation that for five months in the spring of 2007, I’m moving to Strasbourg.

Last year I noticed that the University of Sheffield has an Erasmus agreement with the Technical University in Delft, home to a school of architecture I have admired for some time. At the time, I didn’t check the list of other insitutions that closely, and fired off an e-mail asking for more information about spending an Erasmus semester there. The responce was negative, due to changes in the teaching programme in Delft that meant incoming Erasmus students were being temporarily turned down. Instead, I was offered similar agreements with schools of architecture in Bucharest or Strasbourg. Most of my friends leapt to their feet when they heard, and immediately shouted ‘Bucharest’. It was certainly tempting: a brilliant city of contrasts in a beautiful country on the emerging side of Europe, half way between the west and the east. But after two years away from home, I began to veer away from the obviously exotic choice. Besides, it really would have been quite some distance from home.

After almost a year living and working in a predominantly French city, I surprised even myself and asked to be considered for Strasbourg. I certainly would not have considered it without this last year. When I began working for my current employers in Montréal, my standard of French was significantly lower than it is now. Turned off by all those incomprehensible and abstract lessons in grammar, I found myself learning French much more solidly in a real world environment, with colleagues who corrected me and inspired me with turns of phrases that I previously did not understand.

A month or so after asking about Strasbourg, I sent a quick e-mail to my Erasmus co-ordinator. I had assumed that it too had been unsuccessful, having received no confirmation, I accepted that I would be remaining in Sheffield next year.

It seems that I jumped the gun on that one. The application was successful, and I will be spending the spring semester (mid-February to June 2007) of my first Masters year at the École National Supérieure d’Architecture de Strasbourg. Sitting right on the border with Germany in the scenic Alsace region of France, I’ll be spending five months in the thick of it: a highly regarded school of architecture that (of course) teaches in French. I am both excited and petrified. Stay with me, and I’ll tell you more as the plans come together…

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