My Third Semester: Research track at Uppsala University

Interview conducted by Felix Lengers

Clara Citra Mutiarasari (2019-2021) is Indonesian and studied Euroculture at Uppsala University in Sweden and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands. Before starting the Master, she studied German Studies at the University of Indonesia. She decided to apply for Euroculture because she felt she would gain more knowledge on the topic of migration and migrant integration. She would also like to work in this field in the future. Currently, she is doing the research track at Uppsala University for her third semester.

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

Clara Citra Mutiarasari: There are certainly some things that matched well with my expectation. I expected to meet many inspiring international friends and I did. I also had some fun cultural exchange moments and knowledge- enriching discussion with them. The program also fulfilled my expectation of studying Europe from a multidisciplinary perspective. As expected, I also had the opportunity to experience more independent and egalitarian studying culture in Sweden and the Netherlands; both are completely different from my country.What I like the most is the freedom of expression during the discussions in class. Sometimes I wish for more discussion session where the lecturer is present. However, some things did not go as what I thought before, for example the slow process and response regarding administration stuff. There is definitely a room for improvement in this matter. I am also really disappointed that I did not get the chance to visit Brussels during my second semester in Groningen because of Covid-19. It is just sad that you study European Studies in a programme with mobility and cannot visit the EU capital.

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

CCM: It was quite difficult for me to adapt to the studying culture in European universities, especially with reading so many research papers. I just did not get used to it during my previous studies. Also, it has been five years since I graduated from my bachelor studies. I also felt that I was not well-trained enough in writing a research paper in English, so it took me one semester to learn how to write a well-structured and concise article.

EM: Why did you choose the research track? Where are you doing your research track? Why did you choose to go there?

CCM: I wanted to avoid the complexity of applying for residence permits and I really like Nordic countries, so I decided to go back to Sweden for my second year. In Sweden, there is an opportunity to apply for job-seeking visa after graduation for international students. The requirement is that you must study in Sweden at least two semesters or 60 ECTS. Staying here for my second year will give me access to this opportunity as a starting point to build my international career. Initially, I wanted to do an internship with something related to migrant integration.
Thus, I have started researching potential organisations where I can apply to since the end of the first semester. Interestingly, I did not completely ditch the option of doing the research track at that time, so I also checked the university website for available research projects. When I started applying for internship, the corona pandemic started. No organisations that I contacted replied to my e-mail. It made me think about switching to the research track.
Then, I stumbled upon an exciting project called ‘Social Integration of Highly Skilled Refugees in Sweden’. The project is done by the Department of Social and Economic Geography at Uppsala University. It is very well connected to my interests and thesis idea, so I immediately applied. So far, I did not regret my decision at all, since finally, I got to learn how to do research properly, and it opened the door towards a possible future research career.

EM: Could you describe what you are you doing in the research track? 

CCM: The good thing about the research track in Uppsala is that you become part of an existing research project, so it feels like an internship as a research assistant in a way. In my project, I am responsible for finding and contacting interview participants, conducting and transcribing interviews in English, conducting a literature review and creating an annotated bibliography for the research. I also take part in building the research website and preparing manuscripts for publication.
Moreover, I had the chance to attend meetings with stakeholders in the research project, which included representatives of governmental bodies and NGOs which are responsible for the integration of refugees in Sweden. Besides assisting with the central project theme, I am allowed to develop my own research under that theme, which I plan to expand into my master thesis if possible. This research track gave me insight into the process behind a published research paper. I was relieved to see that it was not always well-structured and perfect as the final result that we usually see.
My supervisor is very kind and always motivates me with her constructive feedback on my work. She asked me about what I expect from the internship to make sure that I get what I want to learn. She often shared some interesting webinars or conferences that I can attend, which usually only accessible for PhD students and experienced researchers.

EM: Do you intend to work in the field of research after the Master? Why?
CCM: The research track has certainly made me think of the possibility to work as a researcher after graduation. I think it is exciting to delve deep into the topic you are really passionate about, especially when you are part of a good team.

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

CCM: One of the most important things I learned about myself is how biased and misinformed I was in seeing many issues before I started studying in this programme. Yes, even in the topic I am passionate about – migration and integration. Especially Euroculture’s research-related courses and the research track has taught me to see things more objectively, to approach problems more carefully, to use my brain first before my emotion when judging something, and most importantly how to think critically and scientifically. Furthermore, I also learned to focus more on development and the acquired knowledge rather than grades. Back in my home country, the education system put high values on grades and less on the process.

EM: Is there something you would like to add?

CCM: Since I am quite concerned about the polarisation in society and public debates in the world nowadays, I hope Euroculture will always be able to uphold the freedom of speech in class discussions. It is a valuable thing that not every student in the world can have, and I think universities should be the place where every opinion can be heard and debated openly. Looking at how diverse the educational and ethnic backgrounds of Euroculture students are, I think it is essential to make sure that no voice is dismissed or ignored.

EM: Thank you very much Clara for answering these questions! We value your contribution and believe it will be useful for prospective and current Euroculture students!

Picture Credits: Personal file.

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