My Third Semester: Research Track at IUPUI, Indianapolis, USA

Interview conducted by Hannah Bieber

Gianluca Michieletto (2018-2020) is an Italian Euroculture student who spent his first semester at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and his second one at the University of Bilbao, Spain. Soon, he will return to Göttingen for his fourth and final semester. Before enrolling in the Euroculture programme, he did a BA in Languages, Civilisation and Science of the Language at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy. He applied for Euroculture because the degree matched his interests and previous studies, but also because of the international context of the master. For his third semester, Gianluca crossed the Atlantic to do a research track at Indiana University-Purdue University, in Indianapolis, United States.

Euroculturer Magazine: If you had to describe Euroculture MA in one word, what would that be?

GM: If I had to describe Euroculture in only one world, it would definitely be ‘growth’. Euroculture transformed me as a person, not only by the enhancement of my educational skills but also through my mental, social and emotional growth. I would definitely say that all the small things that I had to undergo during the past three semesters – living by myself, finding an accommodation every semester, taking care of everything, getting to know new people and new cities – have shaped me and helped me to become the person I am today.

EM: If you had to talk about two positive and two negative aspects of Euroculture, what would that be?

GM: This is a really tough question. A lot happened during these two years and I experienced so many different things, both positive and negative of course. The first positive aspect of Euroculture I could never avoid mentioning is friendship. It is true that Euroculture is a terrific programme, however, it would have not been the same without the people I have encountered along the way: teachers, classmates, other international students, I even found a girlfriend. All my friends are from everywhere around the world: Mexico, Belgium, Peru, Syria, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Spain, the US… And, when I am travelling, I cannot leave without thinking I may meet at least one of them. The second positive aspect of the programme is the possibility to experience new countries, new cultures, and new traditions. I have learnt for example that it is better not to refer to Basques as Spaniards, that in Germany it is better to shake hands rather than hugging or kissing, and that the United States are much bigger than what I was expecting. All these small things may become useful one day in the future. On the contrary, the first negative thing I would mention is related to the constant search of a new accommodation, in which students sometimes are left alone and are not helped at all. This does not happen in all the partner universities. However, it is something that could be improved at the consortium level. The second negative aspect is the fact that languages classes are not always available, and when they are, are not recognized as credits and included in the study plan. I believe the consortium should recognize these efforts made by people who are taking extra classes.

EM: Why did you choose the research track at Purdue University?

GM: I saw Purdue University as the best choice for my future career. I chose the United States because, since I was a kid, I always wanted to move and study on the ‘New Continent’, in the country that I have seen and read so much about in movies and books. Studying in one of the non-European universities represented one of the reasons why I applied for the Euroculture Master in the first place. I believe in fact that listing a non-European university – especially an American one – in your CV represents a smart move for your career. I also think newly-graduated students have plenty of other opportunities to do an internship or work in the near future. Moreover, the research tracks in the four non-European partner universities are partially funded by a generous scholarship, which could help dismiss students and their parents from some important economic burdens. Another important thing that Euroculture students that would like to apply for the research track must keep in mind is that they will be in an advantage position in the development of their thesis compared to their professional track-peers, since they could benefit from teachers’ suggestions and the attendance of thesis-related classes. However, not all the classes and the time spent in the research track is related to the development of your thesis. In my experience, this semester has been also helpful to develop and deepen new interests, passions and subjects that I was not aware of. 

EM: Which classes did you take during your research track?

GM: During my third semester in the United States, I attended four classes. There was a mandatory class for all the Euroculture students – there were four of us – and three other classes that we had to choose from a list that the Euroculture coordinator at IUPUI gave us. We could choose any classes as long as they belonged to the School of Liberal Arts. In my case, I was a bit frustrated by this, as I would have liked to choose classes from other schools as well, to link them to my thesis. However, the classes you attend during your third semester university do not necessarily have to match with the topic of your thesis.I attended three classes quite different from what I have been studying before: ‘Introduction to Museum Studies’, ‘Policy-making in the US’ and ‘Sport, Race and Media’. In the United States, participation is really important as you are graded not only on your exams but also for how often you speak and what you say in class, as well as weekly quizzes and papers. Finally, when I speak about my research track, I cannot avoid mentioning the Euroculture class, a group project for which we travelled in the Midwest – Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan – and researched how different immigrant groups maintain their customs and traditions. This experience was amazing and we did not have to pay anything since the university kindly refunded all the expenses.

EM: What were your expectations when you applied/started the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment?

GM: It is difficult to explain the Euroculture Master: everyone sees it in a different way according to their backgrounds and interests. Indeed, if you ask Euroculturers what this master represents to them, the answer would be very different from student to student. Before applying, I was expecting Euroculture to be a ‘typical’ political science or European studies course, which would have given me the opportunity to deepen several European Union-related topics. I also believed – and still do – that studying in different countries and receiving a Joint-Master Degree would be an asset for my future career. Today, almost two years later, I can say that my perception of the programme was narrow and simple. Firstly, the programme does not only focus on political matters and the European Union but it blends together different subjects and perspectives and gives us a complete understanding of what happened in the past and what will happen in the future of Europe and the world. Something I find particularly important too is the freedom that the programme gives us when it comes to choosing our classes. Besides the mandatory classes, we can deepen our interests through classes we personally pick.

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

GM: It is funny because one of the main problems I encountered and would highlight for future students is partially related to the reasons why I chose this master in the first place: experiencing different countries. Of course, changing location every semester means that we need to find new ‘homes’ to live in, which sometimes is not easy as it may seem. In this process, adaptability is absolutely required and it is the word to keep in mind during this two-year period. Adaptability of course comes to play when students choose their new accommodation: living in a student apartment entails sharing your space with a bunch of strangers, who usually come from different countries and different cultures than yours. Sometimes, this can lead to some frictions between people over issues like cleaning schedules, noises, smells… Yet, as far as I am concerned, I have experienced incredible moments. I was in fact lucky enough to share my homes with three Germans, a Mexican, a French, a Dutch and a Bangladeshi. Besides Euroculturers and other Erasmus Mundus Master students, how many people can say they have done the same?

EM: Thank you very much for answering our questions, Gianluca!

Picture Credits: Personal file

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