Interview conducted by Ivana Putri
Fangjia Chen is from China and has a background in Business English. She has always wanted to study European cultures and live in Europe. After a recommendation from her supervisor, she decided to apply for Euroculture. Fangjia spent her first and second semesters at Strasbourg and Göttingen before following the research track at the Department of International Relations and International Development, University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
Thanks Fangjia for taking the time to share your experience!
1. Why did you decide to do research for your third Euroculture semester?
I decided to do a research semester mainly because of the content of the research track. In Groningen, the research semester is composed of a research internship and research seminars. You can choose a field that you want to work with. I’m really into China-EU relations, and the university found a really great internship job for me at the International Relations (IR) department.
2. What were you doing in your research semester?
For the research internship, I worked with two professors from the International Relations department where I helped organize an academic conference about economic diplomacy, specifically between China and the EU. During the internship, I have to code official speeches, statements, and so on, which were delivered by both Chinese and EU parties.
For the research seminar, I took the courses “Dimensions of Citizenship” and methodology lectures. Previously, I didn’t know a lot about citizenship, but the “Dimensions of Citizenship” course inspired me a lot with knowledge of the legal, social, and political perspectives in citizenship studies. The methodology lectures really helped me a lot in preparation for the thesis portfolio and the general development of my thesis.
3. What were your expectations of the research track and how did it match with the reality?
After I told everyone at the IP that I chose Groningen as my third semester [research track] university, everybody was like, “Well, you’re going to study a lot.” I was literally terrified. So, during the IP, I almost asked everyone, “Oh my gosh, should I quit [from doing a research track]? Should I go [to Groningen]?”
However, people also told me that I’m going to learn a lot and receive a lot of knowledge during the third semester in Groningen. And that was the reality. I did suffer a bit when I first started, because I was not used to the academic culture in the Netherlands… but now, the UB [Universiteitsbibliotheek/the university library] has become my “living room”. In the end, I really learned a lot — like, in ways that are incomparable to any previous semesters.
4. What are the major differences between your first and second semesters vis-à-vis your research semester?
The major difference is the difficulty in finding a room and the bureaucracy of the immigration process. Finding a room in Groningen almost killed me. Imagine — it even took longer than finding a room in Strasbourg. [It was already very difficult to find a room in Strasbourg, where I did my first semester.] Also, since I’m not an EU citizen, the visa is another problem for me.
5. Please describe the social and working environment in the research institution you did your placement at.
Compared to France and Germany [where I did my first and second semesters], I found that the Dutch academic culture has less hierarchy. You can call the professors by their first names, and if you have questions you can just knock their doors and ask for help. My supervisor is super nice — the fact that I was given very useful feedback weekly really helped my research.
6. What have you learned so far about yourself in the course of this research semester?
To cope with anxiety and procrastination (not completely, but at least, almost!).
7. Any tips for fellow Euroculture students who might want to do research in this field and/or at this university?
Start finding a room as soon as possible. That is the most important thing in Groningen.