Interview conducted by Ivana Putri
Joyce Pepe (2018-2020) is half-Dutch and half-Italian. After studying European Languages and Cultures in the University of Groningen for her Bachelor’s degree, she embarked on the Euroculture adventure -one of the main reasons she chose to apply for Euroculture was the interdisciplinarity of the programme. Unlike other studies, it does not limit itself to study Europe from just a political point of view but rather allows you to broaden your perspective by giving space to social and cultural aspects too. She believes that this is of fundamental importance to function as an intermediary in a world increasingly characterized by different cultural groups and regional settings.
Joyce is close to finishing her first semester in Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany, and she will be going to the University of Udine in Italy next semester.
Thank you Joyce, for taking the time to answer these questions!
1. What was the most difficult thing that you had to adjust to when you started the programme?
I believe that my previous studies–which, like Euroculture, were quite interdisciplinary–have overall prepared me well to face difficulties that may arise when undertaking new subjects. So, from an educational point of view, I would say that I haven’t had to face a lot of hardships. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that compared to my Bachelor studies, my workload has increased. Considering that the semester in Göttingen only started in October, I have had and still have a lot of work to do in very little time.
I think that one of the hardest moments I have had to experience in the semester was when we received our destinations for the second semester. Ever since I applied for this Master programme, I initially thought that I would go to Göttingen in my first semester and Strasbourg in my second, but this turned out to be different. I will be going to Udine instead, which means that I’ll be going back home to Italy.
Even though in the beginning this felt like a big fail on my part (myself being a planner), I believe that it taught me a very valuable lesson. I can try to control every aspect of my life, but sometimes things will turn out differently than you had hoped for, and it’s okay. In the future, there will surely be a lot of times in my life where I will be rejected for a possible internship or job placement. This particular experience taught me to take things lighter [when things don’t go my way] and definitely prepared me for the upcoming round of internship applications in January.
2. What were your expectations of the curriculum and how does it match with the reality at the moment?
In general, the programme has exceeded my expectations. While I did expect my courses to resemble what we are doing now, I have been caught by surprise by how much more there is next to that. The number of experiences we get to live through is what makes me love this programme and what differentiates it so much from any other programme I have looked at so far.
We, students of Euroculture in Göttingen, have been able to participate in field trips to a museum in Friedland, a current transit camp for migrants, the Parliament of Lower Saxony and the city hall of Hannover, among others. We spent a weekend in Hamburg attending the FOTAR (The Future of Transatlantic Relations) conference which involved panelists and speakers such as the Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, and the German Federal Minister of Finance, Olaf Scholz. We attended a few lectures held by Michael Hindley, a former member of the European Parliament and even got to have dinner with him. As cheesy as it all sounds, this holds so much value to me.
Of course, these experiences wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t accompanied by a structured curriculum. I find that all the classes we follow contribute in a way to develop those aspects that I had mentioned earlier to be of fundamental importance for me prior to applying to Euroculture. I’ve managed to gain an outlook on Europe that isn’t limited to the political or legal sector but which includes a lot of other aspects that we tend to take for granted, such as culture and identity. Finally, I can say, that for once in my educational lifetime, I can actually feel like I have learned a few practical skills that will be of great help in a future work environment. Eurocompetence I has finally made tangible something that I had considered to be really distant from me.
3. Could you describe an experience that you had in your Euroculture life, which you would not otherwise have before starting the programme?
As much as I try to think of just one experience that I have had over the past few months which strikes as particularly significant, I cannot think of just one. It is rather the daily occurrence of several moments: having lunch in the university Mensa with people from three different continents, celebrating their traditions as if they were my own, making their habits mine, and vice-versa.
It may sound banal, but for me it is such a weird thought: how much others have come to affect my life, and how much mine has come to affect theirs. We have reached a flexibility that overcomes borders and seas. We have learned and continue to learn where our limitations lay, and how each one of us confronts them. Over the past few months, this constant encounter with other cultures has brought me to question my own and to indirectly try to improve certain aspects of myself that I previously wasn’t aware of, or things that I thought were even questionable. I think that’s marvelous and unique.
4. Do you have any tips or things you want to tell to prospective students?
To this I would just reply: enter these two upcoming Master years with maximum excitement! Sometimes it will be hard. You’ll have moments in which you won’t be able to see the end of the tunnel because you’ll be feeling so overwhelmed. You’ll have to deal with a great amount of room searches and paperwork in addition to preparing for finals and applying for internship placements, but it will be worth it, every step of the way. If you keep being excited about everything that you’re going through–and everything that is still to come–it will only go well.