Depending on the university you attend, you either have just started your Euroculture journey, or you are about to embark on it. Surely the coordinators of the programme have sent you some explanations and instructions already (and they will send you many, many more, so brace yourself for the next two years). But don’t you wish you had that older brother, that friend from the previous year who could tell you what it is really like to cram European Law at night at the library, to understand the culinary culture of your new host country, and to find a place that does not rip you off for printing your thesis? Here comes the good news. Your older siblings exist – if not biologically, then at least euroculturally – and we have asked them for their best pieces of advice.
Learn to pack light
When I spoke to Rumen (Euroculture 11-13), a Bulgarian who studied in Sweden and France, the first thing that came to his mind is the skill of packing light. (for more tips, go to http://euroculturer.eu/2012/10/14/miss-help-packing/) “It could happen that you spend three or even four semesters in different countries. Putting your whole life together in a 20-kg suitcase is an art,” he says. Radostina (Euroculture 11-13), who studied at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, recommends bringing formal attire. “Go to at least one gasque,” she advises future Uppsala students on the traditional dinners in the Swedish university town.
Get ready for the intercultural ride of your lives
With packing comes moving, and Rumen emphasizes that he regards this as the most enriching part of the MA Euroculture programme. Learning to adapt quickly and making the most of the new environment is vital, he believes: “Brace yourselves for the intercultural ride of your lives!” Rumen urges new students to make the most of the opportunities they are presented with, even though moving between countries is scary. Getting out and seizing every day of the short time you spend in your host countries is the thing to do. Alexandra (Euroculture 12-14), an American euroculturer in Germany and the Netherlands, agrees. “It is key to make sure you don’t spend all of your time on Skype with friends and family back home,” she remembers.
Large parts of your life will be spent in the library – acquaint yourself with it
With a programme as stressful and demanding as MA Euroculture, you will sooner or later need a social net to fall back on. Befriending the people around you is her advice. Having a coffee in one of the cozy cafés of Uppsala, Udine, or Göttingen might also spark good ideas for class projects and later lead to a relationship that lasts longer than your study time. Peter (Euroculture 11-13), a Dutch student who has been from Holland to Spain, and then to Costa Rica and back, even suggests securing a friend on the first day – a friend with library access: “Be sure to have all library services accessible to you, you are going to need them a lot!” As long as your administration with the university and library is not taken care of yet, you are bound to fall behind. Do not miss out on the library introductions, and learn how to use their resources, which probably are handled in different systems at all of the different MA Euroculture universities.
Make friends – also with professors
Alexandra has felt that professors are approachable and therefore emphasises the importance of keeping in touch with them. “It will also help alleviate a lot of the stress,” she adds. Networking is also important during your two years as an MA Euroculture student. “Taking every opportunity to meet with alumni, professors, fellow students, and anyone else expressing interest in the programme is beneficial to one’s success as a Euroculture graduate,” she suggests.
Learn your host country’s language
Try to learn the language of your host country. You might not become a fluent speaker in the short time you are there, but it is an excellent opportunity not to wander around in complete oblivion and accidentally get on the wrong bus because you cannot read the signs. Multilingualism is common among MA Euroculture students, and most of your classmates will speak three languages. Be part of the linguistic environment, and make sure you have that other language your future employer might be looking for. “Don’t tell yourself: ‘I’ll only be here for one semester.’ You never know where you’ll end up,” Rumen says. Once you establish a basis in Swedish, Basque, or Dutch, you can easily learn more of the language later on.
Radostina points to modern technology as a means of making your life easier. Get involved on Facebook and join the relevant groups for your university. You might be amazed what you can get from there: furniture and bikes, mentors and parties, study groups and job hunts. Join the student unions, and turn to them when in doubt. Often you can get things cheaper there, like print outs for those many theses that you will submit.
Take care of yourself
Noodles and toasts were fine when you were an undergraduate, but not so much now that most of us have passed the age of 21. Olga (Euroculture 11-13), a Russian Euroculturer, stresses the importance of living healthy to survive the programme. “Work out and eat healthy!” she says. Getting sick is not an option, Peter adds. “As long as you are not in a casket, drag yourself to university,” he says. Let go of your illusions, and try to prepare the social contacts you have had so far about how busy you will be, Peter warns with a twinkle in his eye: “You are a Euroculture student now. This means you will have very little time. Many relationships will not survive this test.” You will meet your friends at airports and feel like you are constantly speed-dating your partner.
Make the most of it
As frightening as this sounds, all Euroculturers unanimously declare that while you should work hard to stay on top of things, you should also make time to play: go out for drinks with your classmates, take part in university events, and enjoy the unique experiences your cities offer. You might never be able to come back – max out the opportunities.
If you liked Helen’s article, also read http://euroculturer.eu/2013/03/27/where-is-home/
Helen Hoffmann, Creative Editor
Helen is from Germany and studied BA History and Gender Studies. She studied Euroculture in the University of Göttingen and Uppsala University, and did an internship in the PR department of the German-Swedish Chamber of Commerce. Her passion is to dive deep into the Swedish-German relationship and deconstruct the German über-idyllic image of Sweden. This summer, she works with visitors coming to Stockholm. Her interests are film, literature, Liechtenstein, the Eurovision Song Contest (and not ashamed to admit it), and everything printed – even TV magazines. She’s also fascinated with communication, marketing and commercials, socio-cultural trends and psychological phenomena. And of course, her interests include the Swedish Royal Family (she will never forgive Jonas Bergström for what he did).