Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper

Celia Onsurbe Castellanos (2018-2020) is from Tomelloso, Spain. She started Euroculture in Göttingen and spent the second semester in Strasbourg.  She has a background in Translation and Interpreting, holding a bachelor’s degree from the Autonomous University of Madrid (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid). After graduating, she applied for Euroculture because she wanted to do a Master programme in European Studies where she could also live and experience Europe in different countries. During the third semester she went to Mexico for the Research Track (UNAM) and was able to do an internship afterwards at the EU-LAC Foundation in Hamburg, Germany, before starting her 4th semester.

Euroculture Magazine: What were your expectations when starting the Euroculture MA? Did they match the reality?

Celia Onsurber Castellanos: To be honest, I didn’t have specific expectations about Euroculture before starting. During the last months of my BA, I was looking into options for my Masters and I found out about Euroculture. Before applying, I thought that it would be a normal Master in European studies. To my surprise, it turned out to be something really different. For example, the classes touched upon a lot of different topics and disciplines. I remember that when I applied for Euroculture I was really thrilled by the prospect of moving back to Germany. I was also quite excited to meet all my new classmates, and a bit curious about what the classes would be like.
The first weeks after starting Euroculture were a mix between having to manage all my classes and assignments and deciding what to do with my life for the 2nd and 3rd semester. We did not really know where our Euroculture adventure would lead us. Now, when I look back on the past two years, I can say that I would never have thought that Euroculture could teach me so much, not only academically but also personally.

EM: Can you tell us more about your IP paper and the overall topic of the IP 2019? How did you find a suitable topic?
COC: The topic for the IP was “Inequality and Solidarity”. I think it was quite broad and it allowed us to research almost everything we were interested in. As for my IP Paper, I took inspiration from my Human Rights seminar in Strasbourg. We focused on the European Court of Human Rights and studied how to apply the articles of the convention to different cases. I liked the topic very much and decided to apply what I’d learnt in this class to my IP Paper. The title of my paper was: “LGBT community and their rights in the European Court of Human Rights:  when consensus bans the recognition of discriminatory treatment.”

EM: What was the most difficult thing you encountered during the preparation phase of the IP? How did your second semester university prepare you for the IP? What could be improved & what should be kept?
COC: I was working on a topic which I knew very little about, so I found it difficult to develop a good methodology and to source my literature review. In Strasbourg, we had a seminar at the beginning of the semester in which we talked about the IP and discussed how to find a suitable topic for our papers. After that, we talked about our papers among ourselves, but we did not have proper supervision. In my case, I was very lucky that a professor from one of our classes voluntarily offered to help me with my paper. She was essentially my supervisor, although it wasn’t official. I think that is something the university of Strasbourg could improve. Even though it is not a long paper, I believe it does require us to invest quite a lot of our time and it would be really useful for us to have someone to guide us through the research process.

EM: Can you tell us more about the evolution of your topic? When did you start writing and when did you finish?
COC: At the beginning, I spent a lot of time just reading about the topic and finding a suitable research question. It also took me  a while to select the cases I was going to analyze. I did not change topics, but I did change my research questions about a hundred times! My “supervisor” helped me throughout the writing process and there was a lot of proofreading before the deadline. I think I it took me around one and a half months to research and write my paper.

EM: How did you manage to organize yourself during the second semester ? What were your main struggles and challenges ? What would you recommend/not recommend to the new Euroculture students ?
COC: We did not have a fixed schedule for our classes and seminars in Strasbourg, and that made it definitely more difficult to organize my study time, assignments, Eurocompetence project, etc.. It was also a bit stressful at the end of the semester, since we had exams, projects, presentations and the IP Paper on top of that. I would recommend the new Euroculture students to try to organize themselves so they don’t get confused by so many deadlines and to not postpone the IP writing.

EM: Can you tell us more about your IP week in Olomouc? What kind of activities did you like? What could be improved in future IPs?
COC: I think the IP was the highlight of the whole Euroculture programme! The first days, we presented the papers in our peer review groups. In my opinion, they were badly organized and the papers’ topics didn’t really match. Also, the evaluation and the translation of the national grading systems was a bit strange. After the presentations, we had to work on our IP student project: an “instawalk” through Olomouc.  Even though it was fun, I think too much time was allocated towards it. It would have been nice to have two or three lectures on topics on inequality and solidarity alongside the panels with Euroculture alumni.
On one of the last days, we had a day trip to Brno. There, we visited a museum and had some free time to explore the city. That was also fun and it allowed us to discover a different Czech city.
I also have especially good memories from the Gala Night. I think it was the perfect ending to an amazing week. Even though it was a bit sad to say goodbye to my friends, I was really happy we got to spend some time together.

EM: How was the experience to meet Euroculture students from other universities? What kind of “fun” activities were organized?
It was quite fun to get to know everyone from the other universities and to meet  friends of friends. I had the feeling I already knew some of them, even though I hadn’t met them before! I also liked that we were able to go out in big groups and meet different people. We were all staying in a hostel close to the university and there was always something to do. When we were not busy with our IP activities, we went out for dinner and visited the karaoke a couple of times! We also enjoyed the warm weather in the park and played some funky ball. 

EM: Did you extend your IP topic to your master thesis topic?
No, I chose a totally different topic. I’m sure that if I had chosen the same topic, I would have already completed much  of the workload, particularly in regard to the literature review and the methodology. However, I wanted to do something different for my thesis and focus on a topic related to migration. Generally speaking, I think the IP was a good practice for the master thesis.

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

Picture Credits: Personal file

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