Interview conducted by Katarina Jarc
Valentina Musso is Italian and was part of the Euroculture 2018-2020 cohort, studying at the Universities of Krakow and Strasbourg. Before starting Euroculture, she successfully completed a Bachelor in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Pavia in Italy. She applied for Euroculture mainly because she wanted to gain a cultural and social perspective on Europe but also thanks to the Euroculture curriculum which enables students to choose a professional track in their third semester. Namely, she was eager to undertake the professional track, her first professional experience. Currently, she lives in Brussels and works as a Project Assistant at the European Commission, more precisely at the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).
Euroculturer Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you started the Euroculture M.A. and do they match the reality at the moment?
Valentina Musso (VM): When I applied for the Euroculture M.A. Programme I expected to gain an outright European experience that would offer me academic enrichment and contribute to my personal growth. From a personal point of view, the M.A. definitely enhanced my intercultural skills by building long-lasting relationships with people coming from all over Europe and beyond. However, from an academic perspective, the M.A. did not fully match my expectations, since I believe certain classes would have been more suitable for a Bachelor’s level. Furthermore, I found some courses’ content redundant.
EM: What was the most difficult thing you encountered after starting the programme?
VM: The most difficult thing I encountered after starting the programme was undoubtedly finding accommodation in Krakow, since the city is quite small. Moreover, another obstacle was French bureaucracy, also connected to housing. I had some difficulties with the paperwork related to the CAF (caisse d’allocations familiales).
EM: Why did you choose the internship track? Where did you complete your internship and why did you choose to go there?
VM: I decided to do an internship, as I wanted to become more self-confident and to grow from a professional point of view. Mainly, I chose a professional track because I wanted to be more competitive in the job market and have higher chances of landing a job. My choice was obvious, since I have always wanted to work in project management in the cultural sector on a European level. However, apart from culture, I also nourish a deep interest in politics and human rights. Therefore, when they offered me the opportunity to undertake an internship at The Festival Academy in Brussels, I took it.
The Festival Academy organizes trainings for young festival managers worldwide to promote social change and inclusion, citizenship building and access to arts and culture, by engaging with cultural European and international institutions, artists, civil society members, politicians and refugees. To sum up, it combines all my interests, which is something quite unique for a job placement. Furthermore, I was attracted by the possibility to provide assistance during the trainings themselves, by travelling around Europe. When I joined the organization the trainings only took place in Europe. Also, I was interested in meeting people from all over the world, with different cultural and social backgrounds. The job gave me the opportunity to combine the more “monotonous” office work with field work. It was in line with my good communicative skills, my deep interest in other cultures and my open-mindedness. In addition, I thought that working in a small team would have allowed me to contribute more actively and significantly to the mission of the organization.
EM: Can you describe a typical day as an intern? After completing the internship, were you aiming to get a job at the same organization?
VM: During the internship, I assisted the Project Manager in her daily activities related to communication, e.g. editing of training documents, internal news, social media, newsletter and website. Furthermore, I was in charge of administration finances, for example invoices and follow up of payments, assisting with research funding opportunities and lastly, production like assisting with production schedule, hotel and travel arrangements before the event and on site during trainings. The variety of tasks helped me to get an overview of what it takes to organise a medium size event. After the traineeship, I did not get a job at the same organisation, mainly due to the fact that it was not really in line with my interests.
EM: Is there something you wish you would have known before starting the programme?
VM: What I would have liked to know before starting the programme is the fact that the title obtained through the Euroculture M.A. Programme is not automatically recognised in my home country, Italy. This is hampering my possibility to take part in public competitions to work at the administrative or education level. The latter is particularly significant, as one of my dreams was becoming a high school teacher. Before accepting the offer from the Euroculture Consortium, I talked to one of the coordinators to raise my concerns about the
recognition of the title in my home country, and I was told not to worry about it, since the University of Udine was also part of the Consortium. However, after a few months I was talking to fellow Italian Euroculturers and discovered the recognition of the Euroculture title by the Ministry of Education in Italy has always been an issue.
EM: Do you think your third semester choice was a crucial step for your career, did it enhance the probability of getting a job at the Commission?
VM: I truly believe my third semester choice was a crucial step in boosting my career. It was the stepping stone into the professional world, as it allowed me to gain valuable experience in the field of project management. Furthermore, it helped me realise this was the career path I wanted to follow. This internship truly enhanced my probability of getting a traineeship, and afterwards a temporary job at the Commission. In fact, the Commission highly appreciates candidates who already had a working experience before applying to the Blue Book compared to other institutions. Previous working experience is therefore a fundamental selection criterion. In my case, without a traineeship at The Festival Academy I would have never been able to get where I am now, which perfectly fits my professional path.
EM: Do you have any advice for current and future Euroculture cohorts ?
VM: My only advice to fellow Euroculturers is to be genuinely ambitious: there is no perfect candidate, no perfect job, just as there is no perfect relationship nor city to live in. Sometimes besides preparation and knowledge, luck also plays a big role. Keep believing in what you are doing and you will find your spot at the Commission or wherever you are meant to be!
EM: Valentina, thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions. Your answers are very useful for current and prospective Euroculture students. We wish you all the best on your career path!
Picture Credits: Personal file