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IP Euroculture 2018: The “Backstage”!

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As the Intensive Programme 2018 is about to start, the Euroculturer Magazine decided to offer you a sneak peek into the most intense, challenging and exciting part of the programme’s 1st year. Senka Neuman Stanivukovic, from the Rijksuniversiteit in Groningen, and Karolina Czerska-Shaw, from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, accepted to answer a few questions for us…
Indeed, this year’s IP has been co-organised mainly by these two universities – though as you will discover in this article, an IP is never about just one or even two universities’ teams! So, what does the “backstage” look like?

Let’s first look back a few years ago… Can you tell us how and when the Euroculture adventure started in Krakow?
Karolina Czerska-Shaw: “Yes, I remember it well! It started in 2004, when I came to study at the Jagiellonian in the Euroculture programme. It was then a 1-year MA, and the IP was in February. Luckily that year it was in Udine, which was a relief after the very cold winter in Poland… Our Director of Studies (and now the Dean of our Faculty), Prof. Mach, was the man behind the JU’s ‘entrance’ into the Euroculture team, and the rest is history. Well, sort of.

What about the IP, how many times did Krakow and Groningen co-organised or hosted the event? Any funny stories to share with us?
Karolina: “I’m beginning to lose count… 2008, 2014, 2017, 2018. Am I missing one? As for funny anecdotes, funny during or in retrospect? Hmm, there are certainly some, but my mind is a blur. I’m sure the past students have many of their own. Check Facebook!
Senka Neuman Stanivukovic: “I think twice or even three times, I am not sure?! As for anecdotes and funny stories, the IP has nothing to do with fun or funny, it is only hard work, hard work, very hard hard work!

Just in case we were not panicking enough just yet, thank you for the reminder Senka!
But by the way, could you please introduce yourself and the team behind this year’s IP?
Senka: “Of course. Hi everyone, I am Senka and I am one of the organizers of the Euroculture IP this year. I will do my best to introduce the Groningen IP team, but I would also like to say that the IP was prepared by many people and while some of people involved in the IP preparations were/are in Groningen, others were/are in Krakow, Strasbourg, Olomouc, Mexico City, in the Alps, on the beach in Croatia, everywhere, and manywhere!
Most of the Groningen Euroculture staff was included in the preparation of the IP in addition to Karolina and Duszan from Krakow, and with the support of Valentin and others from Strasbourg. We have been meeting regularly every two weeks since May 2017 and each of us also had our own specific tasks. Janny, Margriet and Marek have organized the scholarly conference and I think they are also very committed to publishing the conference proceedings. James has organized the project sessions. Maria and Marloes took care of the Career Day. Ine and I have organized the Monday and Tuesday panels and the Sunday keynote. Janny, Marloes, Maria, Karolina and Duszan also took care of the excursion, the gala dinner and other issues related to accommodation and scheduling. Maria, Marloes and Janny have also coordinated the overall process and made sure that we all still like each other at the end of the year!
I can really say that the whole IP was/is a fully collective effort. We have worked very closely together and have considered everything jointly from the choice of the topic and the readings at the beginning to the very final and detailed issues such as the dinner menu and the composition of the goody bags. To give you a few examples, we have met at Janny’s house for a film evening before we have made a choice for the IP Tuesday film session. The IP theme and the subthemes are a direct result of our collective and ongoing discussions on the meaning of Europe today and ways how we can study it in relation to both our research and teaching practices. And the gala menu is an aggregate of specific food preferences of the whole IP team.
I would like to add that the IP is also a result of a very close (and regular) cooperation and contact between Groningen and Krakow. The knowledge, contacts and efforts of Karolina and Duszan were extremely valuable and I would dare to say that they are the bedrock of the whole IP (together with Juan whose artistic input and IT literacy is making the whole visual aspect of the IP possible). Karolina’s research interests are reflected in the topics and composition of panel 1 and panel 2 and Karolina will chair the Tuesday session. We have profited tremendously from the valuable experiences of the past IPs and above all from Constantin’s Google Sheets and impeccable planning, which is one of the main reasons why we have managed to stay organized till the very end. The work of the second semester supervisors, who help the students to prepare for the IP is also extremely valuable and should be mentioned here.
Maybe, final note, is the input of the students (past and present) who have kept us in “check”, reminding us that some elements are just not manageable or have inspired us with their work to push the format and content of the IP further and experiment with new kinds of projects, new forms of assessment, new ways of thinking about the IP as much more than a summer school. You will see that the success of the IP is defined by the student sessions (paper presentations and discussions), the quality of the panel discussions and the execution of the project. In the end, we can only provide a framework, the rest is up to the students and tutors and panellists!

And we, as students, are very grateful you put that much effort into this week’s preparations, thank you! (Even though it still looks like a weird form of torture for now, it will not feel like that, hopefully…!)
What about your side, Karolina?
Karolina: “The Jagiellonian University is the ‘hosting’ university, a role it fulfils on a rotating basis with Olomouc – we have a torch that we pass to our colleagues across the border every two years, who then carry it for two years and then with great sadness (or pain, or maybe relief) pass it back to us. It’s only a small 1-week stint, n’est-ce pas?! We are thus the ‘logistical’ team. Or maybe the ‘team on the ground’. We then buddy up with one of the remaining consortium partners and they take care of the ‘content’ of the IP. As for my role specifically, I juggle, put out fires, run, smile, and hop.

So, obviously, organising an IP is not the easiest thing ever. What was the main challenge, according to you?
Karolina: “What is? What was? What has been? Trying to find time out of our lives to do it, perhaps?
Senka: “There are many things that could potentially go wrong, but we are doing our best to keep our crisis management up to date. I think the worst-case scenario would be if the whole student population would decide to boycott the IP and take a vacation at the Caribbean instead and if the staff would decide to follow …. hm …. maybe this is not such a bad idea, maybe we should suggest to the Euroculture Management Board to host the next IP in Paramaribo or Key West???

The students would definitely support such an idea, that’s for sure! Even though Krakow is not such a bad location in summer time, to be honest…!
Anyway, do you have any final words, some advice, last minute tips to tell the students who are about to discover this mysterious and oh-so-anticipated week?
Karolina: “Yes. I would advise you to take a deep (come on, all of you!) breath, and enjoy. Listen. Smile. Absorb.
Senka: “We hope to keep you intellectually stimulated and learn new things from your peers and friends. Last minute advice? Pack lightly, take a rain coat, and be kind to others (this is life advice, applicable beyond the IP!).

An immense “thank you” to both of them for taking some time to answer all these questions despite being in the last phase before launching this IP week!

Now that you know a little more about the backstage, it is time to, as Karolina rightly said, take a deep breath and… dive into the IP!

See you all very soon in Krakow & good luck to all! Remember, surviving is the key!

Featured photo credit: smirf.

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