Interview conducted by Ivana Putri
Nienke Schrover (2017-2019) is from the Netherlands. She has a Bachelor degree in Human Geography at Utrecht University and a minor in International Relations at the University of Amsterdam. She decided to apply for the Euroculture programme because she absolutely loved the experience of studying abroad with other international students, and after participating in an exchange semester at Newcastle University, England, for her Bachelor’s, she wanted to experience it again.
For her, the Euroculture programme meets her broader interests as it focuses not only on European politics, but also culture/identity, international relations, and so on. Nienke’s Euroculture life started at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and continued at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She is currently doing an internship at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels, Belgium.
Thank you Nienke, 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?
Oddly enough, the thing I found most difficult to adjust to after starting the program was the fact that people come from such diverse backgrounds. It was quite new for me to see that people had such different levels of knowledge and different perspectives. Since I had lived in the same house for the first 20 years of my life, it was also very new to me to learn about identity and how many of my classmates have family from so many different places. I definitely learned a lot about identities and how to be more open and sensitive to different perspectives.
2. What were your expectations of the curriculum and how does it match with the reality at the moment?
I expected to study with a very international group of people. The first semester [in Groningen], however, over 10 of us were from the Netherlands. That was a bit disappointing, but overall, I still met lots of people from different countries. I am also glad that now the Consortium have set a maximum number for the amount of people from one country that can study at one university (or so I heard…). I expected to learn a lot about the European Union, politics and EU foreign policy. I definitely did, and on top of that, I learned a lot about identity. Last, I was really looking forward to studying in another country at a new university again. I was worried that going abroad a second time would be disappointing, but it absolutely was not!
3. Could you describe an experience that you had in your Euroculture life, which you would not otherwise have before starting the programme?
If someone had told me five years ago, that I would now be doing an internship in Brussels in the EU policy field, I would have probably laughed. I am really glad I am doing an internship in Brussels now though; I still don’t think it’s where I would I want to work later in life (never say “never”, I guess!)… but it is so useful to see what actually happens in this EU/Brussels Bubble, and to see how policies are discussed. I am glad I decided to come here now.
4. Are you happy with the Euroculture experience thus far? And/or are there things you do not like about the programme?
Yes, absolutely! The only thing I may not have liked as much was that the introduction to certain topics and research methods were sometimes very long and extensive. I understand that it is necessary to get everyone on the same level, but personally, I feel it would be nice if in the future some of these classes were voluntary. That is my only feedback for the Consortium.
5. Do you have any tips or things you want to tell to prospective students?
I would definitely advise [prospective and newly admitted students] to get in touch with former students. It can be a bit overwhelming having to decide what university to go to for the first/second semester, or where to start looking for internships, how to find housing in a new city, etc. The talks I had with second year students and former Euroculture students definitely helped me to make a decision.
I would say that we are all very open to helping others and/or talking about our experiences. For example, after talking to second-year students when I had to choose my second semester university, I decided to go to another university than I had originally planned… and I am so glad I changed my mind! So, join the Euroculture Facebook group or send a message to The Euroculturer if you need advice.