Euroculture Report

Second-semester Experience, 2015

Bilbao: Aupa!

Félicie Villeronce
Edited by Michelle Perry

On boring things:

Finding a place to live is probably going to be one of your biggest worries over the two years you will spend as a Euroculture student. You will soon be living out of one big fat suitcase, and you will master the art of bookings, security checking and visa applications.

What I recommend:

Use the university student accommodation system. It’s easy to use (Google Docs) and reliable.

Plus: avoid all the troubles of finding private accommodations while living and studying abroad and make new international friends. (Or not. No one forces you to.)

Minus: you most probably won’t get to live with locals, which could be a shame if you’re trying to learn or improve your Spanish! If this is the case, Facebook might be your best friend. Check out local groups for flatshare, or browse through some local websites. The process will take you longer, but it is worth it. (A friend of mine – an outsider to the Euroculture progamme – was living with three lovely Spanish guys, and it made his Erasmus experience unforgettable.)

Oh the weather! If you thought moving to Spain meant sea, sex and sun, well, it’s not exactly what you’re gonna get in Bilbao. The climate being oceanic on the Atlantic coast, I suggest you pack a pair of wellies. On the other hand, you should also get yourself a bathing suit and a pair of sunnies, because it does get better. (I started going for a swim around April in Bilbao. Not even lying!)

University life. I know that’s also one of the big question marks here. At the University of Deusto, typically, bachelor students have classes in the morning, and masters students in the afternoon. My schedule (you might not get the exact same one but something close to that) was roughly three hours of classes per day from Monday to Thursday, almost always in the afternoon (starting at 3pm). You might occasionally get a class on Friday morning, but you’ll get over it.

Grants. I don’t want to sound too much like any of your coordinators, but if you are eligible for it, apply for an Erasmus mobility grant or any grant you might be able to get. You’ll see it will be useful for you for the more exciting things!

On more exciting things:

Bilbao is small, so don’t always get the metro. Walk around, get wet (yes, it might be raining, but you’re not made of sugar), explore, and look up (and not down at your phone).

Travel as much as you can. You’re in Spain, so you better make the most of it, whether it’s short weekend getaways (totally doable with your regular Fridays off) or week-long travels to the South of Spain. If you can’t be bothered to organise it yourself, you can also go for one-day travels organised by the university around the Basque Country.

Go to an Art After Dark party at the Guggenheim. You can of course visit the Guggenheim regularly AND for free (thanks to the free tickets you can get at the University of Deusto). However, if you wanna kill one bird with two stones (the stones being partying and doing something cultural), the Art After Dark at the Guggenheim is a must-do. From 10pm till around 1am, you can enjoy a nocturnal visit of the Guggenheim while sipping on a glass of sangria. Dreamy, isn’t it?

Erasmus. If you’re looking to meet a lot of people outside of your Euroculture group, the fastest way would be to go to the events organised by the ESN Bilbao (pintxopote, nights out at Backstage or Fever, hiking trips or tandem nights among other things).

Enrol in a Spanish course. Yes, Bilbao is part of the Basque Country, but it doesn’t mean no one speaks Spanish there. It’s quite the opposite. And if you’re adventurous enough, you can also learn some Basque and show off once in a while.

The best of both worlds. Get high by the beach (only a few metro stops away), or get lost in the right direction climbing to the top of the mountain.

EAT. You thought Spain was all about tapas and paella? Well, let me break it to you, you’re wrong! Pintxos (pronounced ‘pintchos’) are THE food you’re gonna be dying for in Bilbao.

Lea (fellow Euroculturer) and I loved this bar that served only one type of pintxos, a spicy mushroom one or ‘txanpi a la plancha’. I know it sounds like nothing, but it is DA BEST! And just because you’re my fellow Euroculturers too, I’ll let you in on our favourite single-pintxo bar:

Bar Motrikes, Calle Somera*,41, 48005 Bilbao

*The party street. And hats off to Jelena and Miljana, fellow Bilbao Euroculturers for living on Bilbao’s busiest street for a year!

Hope you’ll all have a delightful time in Bilbao (I am actually convinced you will)!

Agur!

Göttingen

Maria Ananchenkova
Edited by Ann Keefer

You’ve been selected for your second semester in Göttingen – congratulations! A university with a worldwide reputation and great facilities is definitely a good choice. Here’s a few simple steps to make the best of your semester:

1. Manage your time. Start working on your IP paper topic and abstract in advance. You’ll be surprised by how quickly time flies when you start your second semester in April, and the IP is at end of June. Besides, coming to Göttingen at least somewhat prepared will give you the time to get to know the city and the university better.
2. Learn some German. Don’t be shy to learn some basics of the language before arrival. When you’re there, sign up for a free German course at the university, find a language tandem partner or just talk to people around. Deutschkentnisse will come in handy, trust me.
3. Socialize. The student life in Göttingen is probably the next best thing after its 44 Nobel Prize winners. There’s always something going on, so look out for events, sign up for trips, go to concerts, browse through flea markets – there’s a lot of special offers and free entrance tickets for students not to be missed. To start with, check out Foyer International for international students events.
4. Travel. Your Göttingen student card is also a free ticket for all regional trains in Lower Saxony so go ahead and explore this state. Hamburg and Bremen are also on the list of your free destinations. Berlin is only a bus ride away.
5. Manage your time. In Göttingen, you will have to juggle your IP paper writing, the project you’ll be managing for Eurocompetence II, Europe in the Wider World and Methodology seminars, and probably a language course (let’s be honest, you won’t resist a free language course from the university, will you?). It will be hard not to be tempted by all the traveling options, just as to turn down all the barbecue invitations. So, if you still don’t own a planner, it’s definitely time to get one.

Groningen: Bikes, beer and bitterballen

Elisabeth White
Edited by Chelsea King

Going to Groningen for your second semester? First of all, congratulations. Whether it was choice, luck, fate, an accident – or an irrepressible urge to gorge on the famed Dutch culinary delights for a few months (careful with those cultural stereotypes now, Euroculturer; Dutch cuisine has some sumptuous surprises in store for you) – you have landed on your feet. Or more probably, on a saddle – bikes are ubiquitous in Groningen, and my first tip would be to get yourself one. Not only is it extremely convenient, even though the city is small enough that two feet will get you almost everywhere, it really is something to experience a city seemingly made for bikes. A city where cars have to sheepishly crawl along, carefully maneuvering through the masses of environmentally friendly two wheelers, well aware of their position at the bottom of the road user hierarchy. It will soon become clear to you why Groningen has been hailed as the cycling city, the hidden gem of the bike world.

Groningen is a place that perfectly lends itself to the mantra ‘work hard, play hard’. So, second tip: do just that. The city, and at its heart the university, will enable, encourage and inspire it. The workload may seem daunting at times, but Groningen is an easy place to live and study, the wheels of bureaucracy efficiently turning so you’ll barely even be aware of their movement, the chain of support well-oiled and sturdy, so you’ll always know that there is someone to turn to for any problem, be it academic or personal. The ease of settling in and allowing your focus to turn swiftly to more exciting things is tempered only by the city’s accommodation challenges. If you are not willing to live in student accommodation – which, based on brief visits and second-hand reports, is far from idyllic – it can be hard to find a place. There are many Facebook groups and websites out there, but unless you happen to get lucky quickly (speaking of which, make sure you check out Groningen’s famed ‘bar street’ – I never did learn its real name I’m afraid), trawling through them does require determination and patience (the same might be said of the bars on a busy Friday night). I would suggest the earlier you start to think about this the better (accommodation, that is). Moreover, don’t rule out the idea of living further afield; a half hour bike ride is a pleasure on Groningen’s flat and easy cycle paths, and since spring and then summer will be approaching, you won’t have to worry for too long about the vagaries of the weather. Sorry, bad joke. In fact, you should never worry about the weather in Groningen because it will always outwit you; like an annoying younger sibling it will drive you mad at times, but should be tolerated and even loved. Relish turning up to class soaked through after an unexpected downpour! Laugh heartily at your inappropriate clothing in the face of a sudden and drastic temperature change! It is hard to be bitter in a place like Groningen. Which reminds me, back to those culinary delights: make sure you sample the bitterballen. The exact contents of these little fried balls is still a mystery to me, but I do know they go down extremely well with a beer or two. And go to the Vismarkt, get some kibbeling (look it up), wander the streets enjoying that blend of local and international characteristic of a small university city, and relish the fact that you have ended up in a very good place indeed. Veel plezier! (If you want some help working that one out, Dutch lessons are available to you for free through the university, and while most Dutch speak better English than the English themselves, it is nice to learn at least a few basics, as well as a good way of meeting people beyond Euroculture.)

In sum, Groningen is more than the sum of its bikes – it really is a hidden gem. You certainly won’t tyre of it…

Krakow: The Coolest Experience Ever!

Eva Knuth
Edited by Ann Keefer

If you ask us Kraków students “How was your semester, did you like it?” You won’t for sure get an answer other than “It was GREAT!”

But, if you ask, “Okay, and what was the best?” it would be difficult – because it’s really hard to say, what exactly was the best – since we had such a blast and won’t know where to begin.

Apart from the high quality classes and the supervisors that made us feel like we were home in Kraków from the first day, who also provided us with a lot of insider information about how to rock the city. We were also super lucky to study in one of the most beautiful and sunny towns (and don’t listen to the Krakowians, who say that it rains all the time. We could count the rainy days on one hand, no joke). You will find cute little bookstores and cafés on every corner and will have “discussions” on which of these serve the best cappuccino and carrot cake.

We spent great weekends in the snowy Zakopanes, which are just around the corner, hiked in the forests near the town, swam in the lakes on the outskirts and studied in the beautiful castle Przegorzały (and even mastered to spell it after a few weeks).
Everybody, who has not been here yet, I can just tell you: Come to Kraków in the spring – you will not regret it!

Olomouc: The Hidden Euroculture Pearl

Marc Piena
Edited by Michelle Perry

One of the most unknown cities within the Euroculture consortium must be Olomouc. As a result of that, it also does not attract a lot of Euroculture students, and that is a shame in my opinion. All second year students already know what Olomouc has to offer from the last IP, and also this year the IP will be held there. I would like to briefly introduce Olomouc to all first year students who have not studied there yet and inform the ones who go there next semester. This is my experience.

First of all, Olomouc is a beautiful city with a rich history, many parks and monumental buildings. It is easy to move around thanks to the tram network, and everything in the centre is within walking distance. For me it was easy to settle in. On orientation day, the Euroculture staff arranged everything for us, from student cards to sim cards. With ‘Education’ and ‘Practical’ checked, it was time to check ‘Social’. Unfortunately my Euroculture group was not very big. It was just four of us at the beginning, as our entire group had not made it there yet. Luckily there were a lot of other Erasmus students, and ESN organised an orientation week for them. It was easy to join/crash this week and participate in many events such as a tram party, Czech dinner, treasure hunt and excursion. By the end of the week, I knew many people who also happened to live in the same dorm. (Tip: Be clear about your preference for a single or double room; otherwise, the reception lady decides, and you don’t want that.)

The great thing about Olomouc is the cost of living and the possibilities this creates. Food, drinks and services are not expensive. This means you can always eat in the canteen, have beers and food in the cosy Czech bars and play many games of laser tag (my favourite activity) without spending a lot of money. This creates a lot of opportunities for quality time! Don’t waste them in your dorm! Travelling is also very cheap, and since Olomouc is located in the centre of Europe, you can easily and comfortably travel to major European cities as Prague, Vienna and Krakow. (Tip: Book tickets with the Student Agency.)

In short, all the ingredients are there to have a great second semester (and IP) in Olomouc. This however requires some personal effort as with each new start. I haven’t really mentioned education yet, but I can assure you the educational experience there is well-organised with enough space to challenge yourself. If you want further information or recommendations, don’t hesitate to contact me. So, get out of your dorm and live the Czech life!

Strasbourg

Märthe-Maria Stamer
Edited by Chelsea King

Strasbourg is a great place to be for MA Euroculture students. Studying Euroculture there is a very hands-on experience. The city is located in the border triangle of Germany, France, and Switzerland and hosts many European institutions. Strasbourg calls itself “eurométropole“, the European capital city. Twenty percent of the student population in Strasbourg are international students from all over the world. Strasbourg has very active student networks and a vibrant cultural life, so there is plenty of things to do and lots of people to meet. Everything is within walking distance or bikeable, so no need to worry about public transportation.

The university is not far from the city centre. Beware of the French bureaucracy: It is a nightmare! If you don’t speak French: find a buddy who does. Seriously. Or ask the Euroculture staff, they are extremely helpful. You would like to learn French? Make sure the university offers beginners’ classes, they did not in our semester. You will be a student in the department of Languages and International Relations. Most classes are put together only for Euroculture students. So if you want to meet other students, you should join a student club and take part in activities outside of university. The Euroculture team in Strasbourg has a big network of experts at its disposal, classes are therefore taught by experts for the specific field. Classes on the European Court of Human Rights are mostly taught by judges from the European Court of Human Rights.

There are certain things you have to have in Strasbourg: a bike – Strasbourg has been voted the 4th most bicycle-friendly metropolitan city in 2014. You can rent a bike for 15 € for three months and you get a bike lock with it – and the “carte culture“ – getting it is an adventure! It allows you to enter several museums and art exhibitions for free and gives you a discount for other activities. Other things to do: Climb the Cathedral, you will have a marvellous view of Strasbourg and its surroundings from there. Or you go on a trip, e.g. to Colmar or the Black Forest, both are very close to Strasbourg. In terms of food, try “Flammkuchen”, a speciality from Alsace. Bienvenue à Strasbourg!

Udine

Hugo van Teslaar
Edited by Caroline Froelich

When I set out for Udine I expected it to be a nothing out of the ordinary Italian city, but it turned out to be a hidden pearl. Udine is a beautiful and interesting city where people are open and friendly. Out of the offer of the consortium, I believe Udine can be, if you make the most of it, one of the best cities to study and live.

The primary concern will be to find accommodation. First step is to contact outgoing first semester Euroculture students and find out whether it’s possible to rent their former room. Second step is to check out a Facebook page called Cerco & Offro Casa with apartment offers coming out on a regular basis. People posting here are generally leaving their rooms and trying to find a new tenant. Some will be fluent enough in English to communicate, others won’t. The third step for those having trouble to find a place is to contact a very helpful private broker who will find you a flat for a fee (1). One thing to take under consideration is that flats a bit further away might be bigger and more affordable than those closer to the city-centre.

In the first weeks after arrival, Italian bureaucracy may seem a bit daunting; especially when it comes to the ISS, international office, where you may encounter some difficulties concerning administrative issues. Best thing to do is to be patient and keep your cool. Once all the formalities are settled, of the dozen of documents received from the ISS, the most important one is the mensa or canteen card. It will give you access to the canteens distributed throughout the city and allow you to eat at a very affordable price, so hold on to it! The two main canteens that Euroculturers will be using are the one in viale Ungheria, 43 and that of the Renati institute in via Tomadini, 5. The first one is ideal because it is literally door-to-door from one of the student libraries (extremely convenient when working on assignments). In case you become bored with the food there, the Renati mensa, five minutes away by bicycle, offers a large variety of quality food. Be sure to check the opening hours and arrive early since it can get full very quickly.

A great thing about Udine is that everything is close by bicycle, and you will soon realize that riding its beautiful cobbled paved roads with the sun warming your face is one of many small pleasures. Others include seeing an exclusive European preview of an Asian film at the world-renowned Far East Film Festival (where it is possible to work as a volunteer), having a to die for cappuccino in a place called Grosmi, located in the heart of Udine (Piazza San Giacomo) or savouring one of the best ice-creams of your life in a nearby gelateria called Oggi Gelato (via Paolo Sarpi, 3). If a mouth-watering pizza is what you seek, Da Pippo restaurant and pizzeria Al Quadrifoglio are musts. When the warmer temperatures start settling in I recommend taking some readings and food and spending the afternoon in Parco Moretti. Weekend trips to neighbouring areas can also be very worthwhile. To finish I leave you an introductory video of Udine and its university. I hope you find this information useful and that you enjoy your stay as much as I did.

(1) Fulvio Fiorentin, Via San Francesco 34, San Giacomo. +39/335/6398007
This is also the person to contact for a second hand bicycle.

Uppsala

Anika Braun-Klöpper
Edited by Caroline Froelich

Hi everybody!
If I understand it correctly, all the first semester students who are reading this now have already made their choice of where to spend their second semester. So there is really nothing I can say to influence your choice anymore. Too bad. Everybody who didn’t pick Uppsala might not want to continue reading then, it’s just going to feel like I am rubbing salt into your wounds. No, kidding, you might still want to inform yourself when the best week is to visit is (Valborg week around the 1st of May!).
Okay, lets see what I can tell you in this one page that is going to become useful during your stay in Sweden. First things first: the Euroculture semester in Uppsala starts at the beginning of February. If you come from some universities, like Göttingen, you don’t really have the option of going earlier. If you can you should try to though. The regular semester in Uppsala starts mid January already. I would recommend you to spend that time there already, make friends with all the other exchange students who just moved in and go to all the first semester fairs. Also, if you get there a bit early, that gives you more time to plan a little Lappland trip. It’s not the cheapest thing to do (but let’s be honest, nothing is cheap in Sweden), nevertheless everybody loves it. There are loads of guided student trips from Uppsala you can join. If you are ever looking for new ways to procrastinate, you might as well start looking them up now. Lappland is just the start of it, there are also trips to Russia, Latvia, Estonia … (these ones actually ARE cheap).

Before you plan where you are going to spend your weekend trips though, you should probably have a look at housing in Uppsala. Finding housing in Uppsala isn’t easy, but the university is great with international students and will find an accommodation for you, so don’t forget to fill in the online request form early enough! There are different places you can choose between and you might want to read up on all of them before making your choice, as they are all a bit different. I stayed in Flogsta, the biggest and most known one. It is located a bit out of town, but it’s easy enough to reach by bike (a must-buy in Uppsala) and bus. If you like your place to be quiet and clean, don’t pick Flogsta. You can end up in a really clean corridor, but you might also live with 11 messy, loud and loving exchange students who forget to clean the kitchen after a food fight (shootout to 4:7, I miss you guys!). Still, Flogsta is great for meeting people, but some others, like Kantorsgatan are as well. It all depends on who end up living with really.
There is nothing much I can tell you about classes. You don’t have any electives, so it’s not like I can give you any valuable tips here. Only thing I can recommend are Swedish classes if you don’t speak the language yet. They are also a great way to meet people and to pick up a few Swedish words. Then again, you should know that life in Sweden is really easy for people who don’t speak Swedish. People, old and young, are exited to switch to English as soon as they realise you are from somewhere else.
I want to give you one more advice (and this is not really a secret everybody is going to tell you this): join a student-nation! You have to in order to get a student card anyways, but you’ll love to be in one. Within the nations you can go to bars, restaurants, brunches, waffle buffets, libraries and parties. You can’t really go wrong with any nation here, as long as you are part of one you can access all. There is a little student calendar online where you can see what happens each day, so you never miss a social event. The only thing that is going to be very stressful and hard to organise is going to be Valborg week. I can’t even tell you where to go and what to do in that week, but it will be a lot of fun (and a looooot of queuing). I think it changes every year where most people go, but just do as much as possible in that week and make sure you have no deadline during the Valborg days, cause I can tell you already now: you won’t be able to stick to it.

So let me leave it at this: Enjoy! Enjoy the cold winter with the exuberant amount of snow, the nation life and the parties and traditions that come along with it, enjoy the amazing town of Uppsala and the crazy long summer days that await you at the end of the semester. And keep your eyes open for Northern Lights, if you’re lucky they are visible in Uppsala.

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