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Our Warwick students helping French senior citizens beat loneliness in lockdown

Around fifty of our French language students from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures (SMLC) are helping the French elderly in lockdown by chatting to them virtually online, to help improve their language skills, increase self-confidence and prevent lockdown loneliness.

Our students have done this through volunteering to participate in the 'Share Ami' programme, launched by the French non-profit Oldyssey, with Warwick being the only university in the UK to take part in the scheme.

Every student has been paired with a French senior citizen to have regular conversations online through video chat. It has the great double benefit of helping our students to improve their French language proficiency and social skills as well as providing company to older people in these times of increased loneliness. The programme has found that it boosts the self-confidence of both partners.

The students and retirees are matched based on shared interests, so that they can form connections based on common experiences, despite their differences in age and cultural background. Hear from our students below to find out how they've been finding it.

Hear from some of our students participating in the 'Share Ami' programme

Second year student, Isabel Cartwright, studying her BA in Modern Languages in French with Chinese said:

"My first partner lives in Marseilles, and I can surely say that I was paired up perfectly. She is a delight to speak to, we have a number of mutual interests, from French culture to music and books to past life experiences. She has been very patient with me in improving my French. As someone who initially lacked confidence in their oral ability, my language competency has come on leaps and bounds due to her patience and pure kindness.

We have been speaking weekly for almost 12 months now and our relationship is continuing to bloom. I will be starting my year abroad in August, during which we are planning to meet up face to face in Marseilles. In addition to this, having had such a wonderful personal experience, I now volunteer for ‘Share Ami’ where I help to create new pairings between French learners of various nationalities and, of course, French seniors — the first connection is a very special moment that I have been able to facilitate.

I, along with many others, have certainly been able to create some life-long friendships.”

Third year student, Elliot Bellman, studying his BA in Modern Languages in French, Spanish and Japanese said:

“I saw this as an amazing chance to improve my French while at the same time helping someone who might be lonely during this tough time.

I thought it would be weird, but I felt at ease instantly. As she has travelled to a lot of places throughout her life; we talk about that and the years she spent in Africa. We talk about politics, the difference between our cultures, and normally fun things that we have done that we want to share.”

I have really been taught many lessons by her with all the experience that she has. It has been very heart-warming to have someone to talk to still in lockdown as well — being able to learn more about her culture and creating a new friend.”

Dr Cathy Hampton, Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, said:

“I count us very lucky to have the opportunity to work with this project and am very grateful to the former SMLC student who put us in touch with the ‘Share Ami’ team last April. It seemed a perfect, positive way to engage in international community building at a time when the pandemic had increased feelings of isolation, and so it has proven. We have lots of ideas about how to build on the excellent work being done by the charity and by our students and are keen to make this a long-term partnership.”

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