Interview conducted by Hannah Bieber
Eduardo Eguiarte Ruelas (2018-2020) comes from Mexico and embarked on the Euroculture adventure after a BA in Latin American Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He spent his first semester at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and the second one at the University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain. He applied for Euroculture after having gone on exchange in Québec and Berlin, which convinced him that he wanted to study abroad. A lot focused on the political and cultural relations between Latin America and Europe in his BA, he saw the master as an opportunity to understand these relations from different perspectives. He was also swayed by the opportunity to get the Erasmus Mundus grant. For his third semester, Eduardo chose to do the research track at the University of Deusto.
Euroculturer Magazine: What were your expectations when you applied/started the MA Euroculture? And does it match the reality at the moment?
Eduardo Eguiarte Ruelas: Honestly, I did not have any particular expectation for the program. I imagined that it would be a great opportunity to get to know different people, speak different languages, and travel around Europe, and here the program has not failed me. Beyond that, I did not have any particular image of how it was going to be.
EM: What was the most difficult thing you encountered after starting the program?
EER: The last month of my first semester was a tough one. It was January 2019, I had a lot of pressure with the final papers and exams, I needed a new visa for my next semester in Spain, I was looking for a flat in Bilbao, I had to say goodbye to my friends in Krakow, and I had to deal with the Polish winter (it was very shocking for me to see the sun only around three days during that month). I remember I took my flight to Spain just one day after my last exam: I finished the exam and went to pack all my stuff. And I still had to hand in one last paper a week later. It was a very intense month and it took me some time to process all the experiences I was passing through.
EM: Why did you choose the research track and why did you choose the University of Deusto?
EER: I chose it because I enjoy research work. My previous work experiences had been in research institutes and universities, and I wanted to continue deepening my skills and broadening my intellectual perspectives. I chose the track offered by the University of Deusto because it is adapted to the individual interests of the students, and it has a focus on Latin America. Here, we are not obliged to take any mandatory course or seminar (although we have the option to do it), and there is a good combination of independent work and academic mentorship. This was attractive for me because I wanted to devote time to my work. I had some projects in mind, and when I suggested them to the director of studies at Deusto, he encouraged me and offered me all the institutional support to achieve them.
EM: What did you do in the research track? Do you intend to work in the field of research after the master? Why?
EER: A typical day was at the library or at my office, at the university. As part of my activities, I wrote a research paper for a journal (this was my main activity) and a chapter for the proceedings of a conference I participated in, I co-organised an international conference, I participated in the monthly seminars of a research group, I gave a lecture on my research topic to BA students, and I attended an international conference as speaker. From an academic point of view, the research track was very interesting because it provided me with experiences in the different areas of the academic world: it included aspects of teaching and writing, participation in and organisation of events, as well as academic teamwork. Maybe the most challenging aspect of the research track at Deusto is that it can be a very solitary experience. I did not have proper working hours or colleagues, and I was the only one responsible for getting the work done. However, it can be a very enriching experience for those who are interested in research and independent work. In my case, I was very motivated about my projects, so it was a pleasure to do it. Indeed, I would be glad to continue working in the field of research after my MA. A PhD does not seem like a bad idea.
EM: Are you happy with the Euroculture program? Are there things you would change or you would have liked to be different?
EER: Overall, I am very glad and grateful with the program. To begin with, the coordinators have always been supportive in every single thing I have needed. This concerns issues of studies, visas, and housing. I feel that they always keep track of what we are doing and take good care of us. Especially during the research track, they have provided me with the institutional support to develop all my projects. Moreover, during my Euroculture experience, I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the different regions of Europe; get to know people not only from all over Europe, but the world in a single classroom; and participate in academic events in different European universities. From an academic point of view, I think that since most of the students come from different backgrounds and disciplines, some of my courses were a bit general. In this sense, sometimes I would have liked to go deeper in some topics, but I also understand it might be complicated in such a diverse and interdisciplinary masters.
EM: If you had to describe Euroculture in one word, what would that be?
EER: Challenging. More than an academic program, Euroculture has been a life experience. I’ve had to deal with visas, housing, courses, work, trips, friendships, etc. I’ve also been constantly on the move, so I’ve had to adapt to new situations and people. In my case, even if I decided to stay in Bilbao for the last three semesters due to my academic interests and focus, I have been unable to avoid these situations. Every semester has been a new start and it feels like a new Bilbao every six months.
Picture: Personal file