My Third Semester: Research Track at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma of Mexico (UNAM)

Interview conducted by Hannah Bieber

Joyce Pepe (2018-2020) is a Dutch-Italian Euroculture student. She did a BA in European Languages and Cultures before applying for the MA, and decided to embark on the Euroculture adventure mainly because of the interdisciplinarity of the programme. She spent her first semester at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and her second semester at the University of Udine, Italy. For her third semester, she chose to do a research track outside Europe, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico. 

Euroculturer Magazine: Why did you choose the research track? And why did you choose to study at UNAM?

Joyce Pepe: I have to be honest and say that my decision to apply for a research track was quite sudden and improvised. If you had asked the version of me that just started attending classes in Göttingen, I would have told you that I would apply for an internship position. And here I am now, one year later, living in Mexico City. When we received the booklet with all of the information regarding the research track, I initially disregarded it, convinced about my decision to continue with the other path, but when I started looking into the different courses offered at UNAM, I grew more and more interested. For one, I believed it would have offered me the opportunity to improve my spanish, which was already a B2 level. Second, I deemed the possibility to move and study in a university across the ocean a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thirdly, while I liked the idea of starting putting into practice what I had been learning for the past four years, it saddened me to know that if I had opted for an internship it would have meant the end of my life as a university student, as I would have no longer have attended classes, other than those regarding my thesis. Finally, I was extremely interested in the classes at UNAM, which link my interest in Europe with that in Latin America.

EM: What is the research track like at UNAM? 

JP: The research track in Mexico City is pretty much like a normal semester in any of the eight universities making up the Euroculture consortium. Generally, we attended five classes a week, from Monday to Wednesday, with one “class” on Thursday which involved visiting a museum in Mexico City. This schedule was perfect because it allowed us to learn while having enough free time to travel around in Mexico. The assessment system differed from class to class, meaning that while for some we had to write one or multiple papers, others asked us to write a report or prepare a class presentation.

EM: Do you intend to work in the field of research after the Master? Why? 

JP: While I have enjoyed this research semester and I could see myself continuing in this field, I am more prone to work in another field which might involve some research, but for which I would also need to be in touch with people and respond to their needs. Still, I think that my experience here has helped me grow a lot, both in academic terms, as it has introduced me to a whole new field of research regarding Latin America, as well as in personal terms, since it has brought me here in Mexico. I fell in love with the city and even decided to extend my stay of three months.

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

JP: Weirdly enough, if I think about my experience as a Euroculture student, I would compare it to a puzzle. I believe that every country I have lived in, Germany, Italy, and then Mexico, has enabled me to find and gain another piece of the puzzle, another part of me that I was unaware of until I found it, among others. Especially during my experience in Mexico, I have learned how strong and brave I am, not only to face day-to-day challenges, but to actually decide to move again, and not just to another European country, but across the ocean, to a place that lots of people, because of their stereotypes, warned me against. Thanks to Euroculture I have learned to be brave and to be proud of it.

EM: Are there things you have been or are struggling with related to the program?

JP: If I had to find one word to describe Euroculture MA I would use the word: interdisciplinarity. In a certain way, it is this word that is making me struggle now that I am looking for future job openings and opportunities. I don’t know what I should be looking for on LinkedIn: everything and nothing at the same time. While I have always appreciated this variety, in a work context, not being able to tell your future employer what you have specialized in is quite hard.

EM: Is there something you wish you would have known before starting the program or living in a specific country?

JP: As weird as it sounds, as a prospective student, I wish someone had told me earlier about how amazing Mexico is. There is a tendency of depicting Mexico as a dangerous country. Many people warn you against it, because of the ideas they drew from the news or movies. I am not saying that it’s exceptionally safe or that negative experiences won’t ever happen, because they might, but I wish that someone would have told me earlier about its incredible people, its culture and landscapes and its many traditions.

Thank you Joyce for your participation!

Joyce also answered our questions for the student profiles section of the blog. Click here to check it out!

Picture Credits: Personal file

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