Photos taken by Eva-Maria Bergdolt and Amina Kussainova
Edited by Ann Keefer
October has definitely been a mad month. Abruptly ending the summer-holiday sleaziness, returning to classes, being besieged by impending presentations in all fronts… Take your pick, but it feels good strangely enough. Probably it’s just a hardwired inability to really enjoy myself unless when under severe stress. 4 years of studying Modern Languages at Deusto will do that to you.
Anyway, today we had the chance to have a class at the San Sebastian campus of the University of Deusto. Plus the customary exploration of the old quarter, the walk in the promenade by the Concha beach (of which I had hazy memories from 12 years ago at best), having a drink and pintxos, and so on. Which, I must say, has been more enjoyable than a proud, born and bred “Bilbaino” such as myself should ordinarily concede (given the legendary rivalry between both provinces and cities). Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always have Bilbao as the ultimate paragon, and no place in the world is dearer, but this has been a special day, spending time with classmates, fooling around, laughing, explaining all the strange Basque stuff around… bonding, in short. That, I believe, is the idea behind this journey we’ve all embarked upon, and certainly the sensation I want to remember this month for. Life as a Euroculturer is good, so far, and I have the feeling it will get even better.
Daniele Carminati and Inés Bolaños Somoano
Photos taken by Inés Bolaños Somoano
Edited by Amina Kussainova
Greetings from Göttingen, fellow Euroculturers! Reporters Daniele and Ines, from Italy and Spain, are ready to update you on our October adventures! For sure, the first month in a new town can be complicated. Especially if you don’t have a place to sleep… This has been the case for many of our classmates. However, by the end of the month most of us have happily finished our flat-hunting rampages with positive results. For some of us this has been particularly challenging, since our German is either poor or, well, simply non-existent. Happily enough, staff at the University of Göttingen is always eager to help, by speaking either in English or in the universally unintelligible language of pointing and smiling. Another perk of studying here is your student card. It allows you to travel by train within the Niedersachsen region and we have not been hesitating to use it anywhere: from lovely small towns like Gosslar or Hammeln to the hustle & bustle of big cities like Hannover and Bremen. For those who are not big on traveling, there are simpler pleasures to enjoy in Göttingen. Almost every week we meet in the city centre for a beer and a chat, and we have already taken over one of the city’s loveliest, stickiest dives – Deja Vu! What can we say… Cheap drinks and a foosball table are enough for us!
Unluckily, this first month of semi-freedom is now over and we are starting to feel the pressure of a MA programme. Whether expected or not, one month has not been enough to solve our plentiful doubts about the concept of Euroculture. Surely, we come from an array of diverse academic fields and backgrounds, and sometimes we struggle to find a common ground. But do not despair – we will manage to balance studies and fun or, even better, to put some of the latter into the former. Euroculture is here. Euroculture is now. Euroculture is US. Let’s try to make the most of it all together!
Edited by Catlin Seibel-Kamél
This picture shows the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen´s Academy building. The Euroculture seminars are mostly in the Harmony building, which is just a few minutes from the Academy building away. In the beginning, it is difficult to find the rooms since their description is complicated, but the people are very friendly and will help you to find the place you are searching for. When you are in the right room and the class starts, you will recognize that it is different to what you are maybe used to. The teachers are highly interested in your opinion and there is a lot of group work to do. The atmosphere is very harmonic and soon you will befriend your fellow classmates. Despite the stressful moments, you won’t want the semester to end, knowing that everyone is moving to a different university and you will miss your new friends.
Edited by Catlin Seibel-Kamél
“Verse haring,” “stroopwafeln,” and “Hollandse kaas” is written above the stands. Three times a week (Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) the big square between the Korenboeurs, the former place for grain trade, and the Grote Markt transforms into a market. Although it is called the fish market, you do not only get fresh herring, served raw with onions and pickles, but you’ll also find warm syrup-filled waffles and a variety of Dutch cheeses. Of course, there is also fresh and cheap fruit and vegetables. When the stands close at around five p.m., the square belongs to the seagulls that compete for the leftovers. Some people, especially students, compete, too; some stands leave fruit and vegetable they didn’t sell.
As the Vismarkt is only about five minutes walking from university, I go there nearly every time. It is the perfect opportunity to get some fresh air between classes. For all students trying to learn Dutch, I can highly recommend practicing with the vendors. They usually speak English, but appreciate if you try some words in Dutch. So, it is time to practice: “Mag ik graag verse haring met uien?” Success!
Edited by Catlin Seibel-Kamél
Some of the most beautiful sceneries in Groningen can be found around the canals. Traditional Dutch houses, benches and lots of trees overlooking these peaceful waters can be very romantic or simply the best place to sit and relax after a long week of studying. Students generally get together around the canals during the summer, where there are various bars and a lot of entertainment, which make Groningen a very lively city. Either for a walk, a bike ride, a beer, or a cruise around the canal, something will definitely impress you. Throughout the year, there are different boat festivals, and breathtaking sunsets that you will never forget. What makes Groningen such a spectacular city for me is that it is very green. It also offers marvelous landscapes just 20 minutes away by bike from the city center, a ride in which you are never alone, because you will always have the canal by your side – your first and favourite friend from the minute you arrive!
Osaka: Dutch directness versus Osaka
Edited by Elizabeth White
I am a blond, blue-eyed young man from the Netherlands. I can be loud and direct. Direct to the extent you might not believe your ears. Or at least, so I have heard. Like a true Dutchman, what others might perceive as bluntness, I might pass off as mere honesty. A description like this almost makes the stereotypes about the Dutch seem true. Indeed, some of the more persistent stereotypes are hard to disagree with. This goes for every country: Dutch are direct, Japanese quite indirect. You go to the Netherlands, you notice how someone states outright that the shirt you are wearing does not suit you. You go to Japan, a clerk needs sentence after sentence to imply your request is impossible. Well, that is the image at least.
I am currently living in Japan, studying at Osaka University for the third semester of MA Euroculture. I have lived in the country before, so I supposed there would be little to get used to. That means not entering a Japanese house with my shoes on, washing myself neatly before stepping into a public hot spring, and not putting my chopsticks into a bowl of rice – unless at a funeral. Those mistakes have already been experienced, including the accompanying feeling of shame. What this Dutchman expected to still encounter difficulties with however, is that difference in directness.
When it comes to friends, directly teasing them in the Netherlands is usually met with a laugh, while in Japan I receive a smile, but it is often accompanied with the uttering of ijiwaru, translatable as unkind. Interestingly, this has not occurred yet in Osaka. Instead, this time direct jokes or comments were directed towards me. When you tell a superficial story, Osakans might simply show their disinterest by replying with a straight “so what?”. In Osaka, keeping up appearances sometimes does not seem to be a thing at all.
Are Osakans the exception in Japan? They might believe that. I have been told directness in Osaka is connected to the heritage of manzai, a traditional style of stand-up comedy popular in the Osaka region. Usually conducted in pairs, the two performers have their own role: one plays the straight man (tsukkomi); the other is the funny one (boke). The silliness of the boke, who usually acts as if his absurdness is no big deal, is corrected and put into perspective by the tsukkomi. Apparently, in daily conversations, it is possible to get put into the position of a boke or tsukkomi, so the other can make fun of you.
Whether Osaka is a special case or not, at least I have been more surprised by the frankness of its inhabitants already. I think I am going to get along just fine here.
Wester Wagenaar has a BA in Japan Studies and is currently doing his third Euroculture semester in Osaka.
Pune: My Places in Pune
Edited by Catherine Burkinshaw
My first experiences in India and Pune were quite overwhelming. Especially when I arrived, I felt a bit lost in this chaotic metropolis. I did not really know how to get around, where to buy the things I needed or where to work. It was the hardest city for me to settle in so far, but after a while I felt at home. In other words, I found all the places I needed. I discovered that this is especially important here. Having certain places where you can always go to for the things you need and build a comfortable and trusting relationship with the people working there.
This is why I’ve chosen to describe my life in Pune by sharing my places here. On the map you will find markers of these places with a description of what they mean to me. I’ve only included the ones I visit regularly. Have a look and hopefully you get an idea of my life here in Pune!
Strasbourg: Eulogy to Strasbourg
Edited by Chelsea King
I won’t write about my day-to-day experience, this kind of information can be provided on a different platform. What I will try to do is to shape an image to a place I came to appreciate during my time spent here so far.
I never thought of Strasbourg before, as I see it now, in fact I never thought about it much at all. Very provincial yet at the core of European democracy, French yet very German, old yet very modern, the city stands as a cradle of a new Europe. The name of Strasbourg etymologically means “the town at crossing roads”, today it means bind, unity and diversity at the same time; it sticks to the principles on which postwar Europe was built on. It is still a place at crossing roads, but the roads of today are the ideas that circulate here, the cultural enrichens brought by French and German culture, and by many other citizens of the world who chose Strasbourg as their new home. In terms of population Strasbourg may not be a largest city in Europe, nor even France, but sometimes it’s not the number of one community that matters, what it matters is the energy of its citizens, and here the city is vibrant.
As you walk out of the city there is a bridge that crosses the Rhine. The bridge links two states, while a few hundred meters away, Strasbourg links two cultures, two political forces and even two geographical Europe’s. The offspring of these links is a united, single splendid body, which can be seen and tasted as you walk on the streets of the city. We must understand that this unification doesn’t mean anymore the replacement of one cultural identity with the other, but an organic coexistence with many contributors, highly valued by Strasbourgeoises.
The University of Strasbourg has an important place in the mind of the citizens. Its long history of almost five centuries shaped the evolution of the city in many ways. It’s not my purpose to enumerate all the great alumni that enriched this city life as their contribution and their spirit lays now in books and monuments. The university lives through current intellectuals, academics and students, not the past ones. Of course we praise the past, but we live for the present and we study for the future, our future. We do that so others can have the same opportunity to build their lives on strong foundations. Great men from the past like Goethe, von Metternich or Pasteur or more recently Jean Claude Junker, brought their contribution to the life of the university, today in the same spirit, the students from Strasbourg continue this path. We ask ourselves in the same spirit, who is going to be the next Marc Bloch, Robert Schumann or Jean Claude Junker?