My Third Semester: Research track at the University of Strasbourg, France

Interview conducted by Hannah Bieber

Guillaume Hemmert (2018-2020) is French and has a BA in English Language, literature and culture from the University of Strasbourg, France.  He stayed there for his first Euroculture semester, and then moved to the University of Uppsala, Sweden, for the second one. He chose the MA because it was a good match between his academic background in languages and culture, and his ambition to open to new fields of study and acquire deeper knowledge in new disciplines, such as European politics, economics, or human rights, for instance. In the third semester, he did the research track at the University of Strasbourg.

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

Guillaume Hemmert: I actually didn’t have specific expectations when I started Euroculture, as this master was about something that was almost completely new to me. Maybe my only expectation was to find the European/International environment I had already encountered during my previous academic exchange, and with 16 nationalities represented over three semesters in Strasbourg and Uppsala, one can probably say that this expectation turned out to be a reality. This criterion really played a role when I chose to enroll in this program, as I always considered it a very favourable environment to study. It is especially the case of Euroculture, when we debate on subjects such as politics and society on a European and global level. On a more personal level, this is always a great opportunity to meet people from other countries and continents, and to have a chance to discover new languages, new cultures, great people and great food, of course!

EM: Why did you choose the research track? 

Going on a research track was actually not my first choice, and I have to admit that it was more of a backup plan for me, at first. My original plan was to do an internship in an embassy or in an international organization, to get a first professional experience in politics and diplomacy. That would also be relevant to the master’s disciplines. However, that plan didn’t go as easily as I had expected, and at the end of the summer of 2019, I had no concrete plan for September. 

EM: Why did you choose to go back to Strasbourg? 

GH: I eventually chose to go on a research track in Strasbourg since the course programme sounded interesting, but also – and mostly –  because it was my home university, and I was already familiar with the French university system. Despite this not being my initial choice, once the semester had started I soon appreciated the way the research track was organized. I felt that it was designed in a way that really helped students focusing on doing research: classes are quite small, so teachers engage better with students’ work, and schedules are not too heavy, leaving time for us to go to the library and work on our thesis. In my case, I was also able to select a few seminars in other faculties that were more closely related to my thesis topic, and which also proved to be really helpful. I felt that the research track made me feel more confident about doing research, and it definitely provided me with useful tools for writing my thesis.

EM: How is the research track like in Strasbourg? Do you intend to work in the field of research after the Master?

GH: In Strasbourg, the research track is mainly about learning methodology for doing research and having supervision over your work. The course schedule is well organized, as there are not too many class hours so to leave room for the actual research part. The classes we had were either focusing on a specific topic that was common to most of the students, or providing a solid methodology for conducting research and enhancing our academic writing skills. Overall, it is about introducing students to research on a more advanced level. However I’m still hesitating whether I would like to stay in this field. Doing a PhD might be a good option, but I think this will also depend on how I feel after finishing the master.

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

GH: The most difficult thing I encountered when starting the program was probably housing. Twice, I was lucky that I could crash on my friends’ couch since I had not found an accommodation yet. This is probably one negative aspect of moving every semester with Euroculture. However, this may also depend on the place where you will study, as some cities appear to be tougher than others when it comes to finding a room. Also, many universities propose solutions to exchange students, and the Euroculture staff is always doing its best to help students find accommodations.

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

GH: Overall, I have to say that I am happy with Euroculture. It is definitely a quality masters programme, well conceived, with an unquestionable teaching quality, and with a large range of disciplines that open up lots of perspectives in various fields for students. But sometimes this variety may be a bit too large, and it may give students the feeling that they are not really ‘experts’ in one (or more) specific area(s). This also makes it hard to describe what we exactly study in Euroculture: is it politics? is it culture? is it a mix of both? Of course, this is a very personal opinion, since each and everyone has his/her own personal aspirations and interests, and his/her own expectations for Euroculture. But in that sense, I think it may be a good thing to offer more ‘specialization’ to students who desire it, accordingly with their field(s) of interest.

Picture credits: personal file

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