Mary MacKenty |

When I began Euroculture, I was very determined to learn languages and integrate myself into the host country. Not to say I didn’t achieve this to some extent, but the reality is that due to our short semesters, we ended up hanging out with people from Euroculture instead of the country we live in, creating a bubble for ourselves as we float around Europe. Perhaps it is all part of the grand scheme for creating “European Identity”; however, I’ve yet to meet a “European” that would define themselves as such. We are supposed to learn to be inter-culturally competent, yet since we all live in this international bubble of culturally “open-minded” people, are we really adapting or just observers from our Euroculture bubble?

As my time in Euroculture nears its end, I have begun to reflect on some these unintended consequences of living in the Euroculture bubble. At first, it seemed like a great idea; the opportunity to live, study, work and/or travel in a different country every four months. The perfect way to learn new languages and gain knowledge about other cultures, but now I think it’s too much. We are human after all and need to feel at home with our group of friends, our shared history and inside jokes. It’s as if you don’t completely fit in anywhere. Sure you can get along and everyone will be impressed with your “interesting” life, but making true local friends is another story. It seems almost as if you can only relate to people with the same nomadic lifestyle as your own, but then just as you feel comfortable everyone leaves to start over again.

“At first, it seemed like a great idea…but now I think it’s too much.”

Most of us probably chose this master program due to the mobility aspect. We are an eager and ambitious group, with an itch to discover new places and cultures. Euroculture offers us the opportunity to exploit this in a seemly productive way (i.e. getting a master’s) sedating our restless nature which is always wondering if another place would provide a more exciting life; always afraid to be missing out on an opportunity. Euroculture allows us to feed this craving by having many experiences and due to the limited time it even encourages you to take full advantage before the real world comes along to pop your Euroculture bubble and force you to settle down.

The problem is that the Euroculture experience makes normal life seem boring. As much as it may tire you out, there is the excitement of moving, traveling, meeting new people and learning new things that keeps you going. It makes going home feel strange. It distances you from your old friends as you can no longer relate to each other. It’s almost as if you need to live in some type of international community to feel normal. You get lost as you come out of this world wind ride; not sure where to go next. Unfortunately, your Euroculture friends that understand you are also on their own uncertain trajectories, which most often do not cross your own. To keep these doubts at bay, you keep going forward, starting again and again but when does it stop?

“Each new culture causes you to lose a part of yourself and then gain a new part…”

You adapt again, a new language, a new culture. Each new culture causes you to lose a part of yourself and then gain a new part. You can no longer remember what you were like before this all began or why you chose this to begin with. Were you just another normal person living in one place perfectly content? What was this ignorant bliss like or can you no longer remember it? Now, you know too much which makes you realize you didn’t actually know anything and still have much more to learn. So, you keep plunging full speed ahead, determined to learn something new, to find a more interesting life, and impede your life from becoming normal; heaven forbid. But after two years, (or more in cases such as mine) one needs a level of stability. You start missing having a your apartment with decorations beyond white walls, more cloths than what fits in a suitcase, not to mention a solid group of friends in a culture and atmosphere that suits you.

So the question becomes how do you stop? How do you go back to the “normal” life without feeling like an outsider? How do you return to typical conversations based on gossip, sports, work and movies? How do you relate to people with one culture and one worldview when you have too many to count? How do you suppress the desire to pick up and move again, to have more insane adventures, and the adrenaline and energy which comes from taking off into the unknown. How do you enter this “real world” when you realize there are so many “real worlds” out there.

“So the question is…how do I become a ‘real person’?

But Euroculture is ending, that bubble will burst and we will be faced with reality. When we started Euroculture it seemed so easy, the chance to live a dream life for two years while improve the CV before settling down. Honestly it was a dream life, but it didn’t come without its consequences. I didn’t realize that through chaotic, independent travel filled life that I’d get isolated and lost at some point along the way. Isolated from my old friends and family since I’ve changed while they haven’t; isolated from my new Euroculture friends as we part ways; and isolated in these new communities without the same crazy background as me. Lost in the sense that although through this I’ve discovered what I want in life, I doubt my dream place exists. Lost because it’s almost easier to keep moving since I have the skills for jobs which require it and I see many once a lifetime opportunities that could keep my life “interesting”, unique, crazy, call it what you like; but I also realize that Euroculture has taught me to value having a home. So the question becomes how do I avoid the exciting options and stop, settle down and be a “real person”. And, if I achieve this, if I escape my Euroculture spiral of constant migration, will I be happy or give into my desire to set off on yet another adventure?

maryMary MacKenty, Contributing writer

Mary has spent the last five years living in South America and Southern Europe. She is currently doing a 3rd semester internship in EU Lifelong Learning projects in Sicily and will be going to Bilbao to finish her thesis next semester. Her interests lie in improving the quality of international education and expanding it to countries with fewer opportunities. She loves the beach, drinking mate, sports and being free to roam the world.

3 thoughts on “The Euroculture Bubble

  1. Fantastic article! The problem with Euroculture is that it draws its ‘spirit’ from that of the EU, and by extension, from Globalization. It’s a spirit that seeks to disintegrate the nation State and create highly mobile individuals. Look at it this way: if everyone lived a highly mobile lifestyle, then you would not be experiencing these feelings of rootlessness and marginalization. Going “home” is hard, very very very hard, but what I learned through this programme is in fact the exact opposite of what I feel I was supposed to: that having a home is important, we need to feel we belong somewhere, we need our bearings, and until the world becomes one big Euroculture program, we will continue needing it! I am happily back to what I now have accepted and proudly consider to be my home, and I have no intentions of changing that! Bless you Mary for your courage and honesty in this article!

  2. I disagree with the article a bit. Me, and most of the people I met during Euroculture, lived in a bubble similar to the Euroculture bubble (be it just through ‘ordinary’ erasmus semesters, be it by doing degrees abroad), and most of them continue a lifestyle like that now that euroculture is done. What’s more, a lot of my ‘old’ friends from before I went to study abroad are slowly starting to do the same, after they finished their degrees. I don’t think euroculture is that special in that regard, actually.

  3. Thanks for the article! I really enjoyed reading it. My experience was not 100% the same as I lived with locals in all the countries and thus did get insights into the daily life and ways of being of the locals (at least to a limited extend). And I think many of your points are true for many other academic nomads, not only Euroculture.
    But the good news for me is: Many of us continue having such a life style and it is priceless to meet up for a coffee in Rome, lunch in Frankfurt Airport or a small get together in Bangkok. On top of that, you find lots of alike nomands in all major European towns (not only capitals), you recognise each other straight away and you become friends (even if sometime only until the next moving:))

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