Interview conducted by Hannah Bieber

Richard Blais (2018-2020) is a French Euroculture student who spent his first semester in Olomouc, Czech Republic and his second semester in Groningen, Netherlands. He did a double bachelor degree in History and English Civilisation, language and literature in Paris, France. Upon graduating, he did a one-year civic service at a house of Europe in Bordeaux, France. He applied for the Euroculture Master because of his interest in social sciences and the international aspect of the degree. For his third semester, he did an internship at the Alliance Française of Edmonton, Canada.

Euroculturer Magazine: What were your expectations when you started the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment?

Richard Blais: I imagined myself moving a lot. And I was not disappointed! Moving around Europe implied a lot of expectations of course, like meeting new people and discovering new cultures. And as cliché and corny as it sounds, it really widened my own horizons! Doing the Euroculture degree helped me to meet a wide variety of students who had the same tastes for discussions, political issues, international culture, arts, and so on. It helped me gaining a more international profile which is probably what I sought when I enrolled in the programme.

EM: What was the most difficult thing you encountered after starting the programme?

RB: Probably finding housing in Groningen! And it could have been worse. A friend of mine told me she had to stay in a sort of “student refugee camp” until she found a decent place to live in with her boyfriend. Also sometimes the programme goes into deep intellectual concepts that could be hard to grasp, no matter your level of English. I ended up struggling to understand some things for the first time in my life, but with work and good friends nothing is impossible.

EM: Why did you choose to do an internship? 

RB: I wanted to acquire a genuine work experience. So far, I could only put my civic-service experience in Bordeaux on my CV. During that year, I designed several events and participated in many activities, but it is something I cannot consider as an actual full-time job even if it was formative. It is ‘just’ volunteering at the end of the day. I lacked a concrete, more classic work-experience.

EM: Where did you do your internship? Why did you choose to go there?

RB: I wanted to delve into the field of cultural diplomacy by working in either a EUNIC-supported association or an Alliance Française. I found an internship in Edmonton, Canada, and I decided to go there as I could combine the discovery of a continent which was relatively unknown for me, and a valuable experience for my career. 

EM: What were you doing during your internship? 

RB: I worked on designing the cultural programme of the 2019-2020 season of the Alliance Française, both literally and in a concrete manner by producing a 40-pages programme. Most of the time, I managed or found partnerships between local cultural and commercial partners and the Alliance, planned upcoming events and took care of the communication and logistics. I also advertised for the Alliance. In the end, because I designed the visual identity for the Alliance for the whole year, and posted on social media, I ended up spending a lot of time on Photoshop and other graphic design softwares.

EM: Are you happy with the Euroculture programme? Are there things you would change or you would have liked to be different?

RB: I am very happy with the Euroculture programme, generally speaking It offered me opportunities and perspectives which I would never have obtained if I remained in my home country. However, I would have appreciated if learning a language was an actual part of the programme and not something optional that only few students do, and sometimes cannot keep on learning one semester after the other. 

EM: What have you learned about yourself during the programme so far?

RB: That will probably sound cliché or even like a joke we like to tell ourselves with friends of the programme, but I feel like it really fostered my feeling of being European more than anything. The more you travel, the more you realise that, generally speaking, Europeans are just the same in every country, it’s just the accent, the language, some daily habits (and the culinary tastes?) which may vary from one person to another. This feeling was especially stronger after a semester in Canada, where I found myself very different from the local culture.

Thank you very much Richard for answering our questions!

Picture credit: personal file

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