In Focus: Eurocompetence II || Alessandra Pantanosas (2020-2022)

First-semester students don’t have a lot of information yet about Eurocompetence II in the second semester. To give first-semester students insight into what they can expect from their second semester, the SOS Eurocompetence II series introduces students who have done the subject already. This interview is held with Alessandra Pantanosas (nickname: Sandi), a current third-semester Euroculture student. She did her first semester in Strasbourg, and her second semester – and with that Eurocompetence II – in Groningen. It has to be noted that the semester from January 2021 till June 2021 was fully online due to Corona.

Interview by Laila M. Lange.

What did you know about Eurocompetence II before starting the course in Groningen?

I only had a vague idea about it. I was aware that the course focuses on project management, but I didn’t know how it would be taught or approached, especially knowing that it would be held online. I couldn’t imagine implementing a project from behind a screen and being graded for it.

Could you shortly outline what Eurocompetence II entailed in your second semester?

Eurocompetence II wasn’t like our other classes or research seminars. We didn’t meet as a class often. It was more focused on meeting with our groupmates in our own time. There was, however, a class after every “milestone” (or big submission). These few classes were great opportunities to share ideas and gather input from our other classmates. However, these classes weren’t like typical sit-down lectures. They were more like sessions to give progress reports and peer reviews.

We didn’t have any exams. Instead, we had to submit a project plan and a few other group papers to show our progress every few weeks. All the deadlines were given at the beginning of the semester, so there were no surprises throughout the semester. As for workload, we had control over this, to an extent, because we defined the scope and limitations of our projects.

In addition, the deadlines for the papers were fairly spread throughout the semester. It’s completely manageable. Our groups also got to decide the implementation dates for our respective projects. The only condition was they fell within a range of dates, but the range was quite large. So, we pretty much made our own deadlines.

How was your experience of creating a group? Do you have any advice regarding how to deal with group work?

I couldn’t choose my groupmates. We were all first given the broader project ideas and their backgrounds. Then, we all completed a form to state our top picks from these project options. We were then assigned to a project based on the forms we submitted. I just had to hope that I would be assigned to my first choice. Luckily, I was!

My biggest advice is to maintain constant communication with your groupmates. I was pleased with my group. We all worked together very well, and each of us stayed on top of our tasks. We made sure to devote 1-2 hours every week to have a meeting so we could catch up, address any issues, keep ourselves accountable, and decide how to move forward.

How did you come up with your project and how much guidance did you receive from the docents?

As I mentioned, we couldn’t choose the broader topic. There were three options: Brussels, Colours of a Journey, and a politics café. After we submitted our preferences and were assigned under one of those, it was up to us to decide how to approach those options. We received a short document with some information on the options, but ultimately, the direction and final project were entirely up to us. All our events were implemented online, so it was easier as we didn’t have to worry about budget or logistical issues. However, it was also challenging because we had to figure out how to generate interest and be original with an online event.

We had bi-weekly meetings with our lecturer, Mr James Leigh, so he could regularly give advice. During these meetings, we could ask him questions and shed light on any difficulties.

Did you put your project into practice? Are you planning on continuing with your project in the future?

Our project, which was an online event and art gallery, was a success! There were a few bumps on the road, but it worked out in the end. We were using a relatively new platform for all of us in the group, so it wasn’t entirely surprising that we encountered a technical difficulty during the event. We were able to fix the issue on the spot, though.

In terms of sustainability, we submitted a portfolio after the online event with our proposed plans and suggestions for a future in-person event that stakeholders could use as a framework. But, besides that, our event was a one-time thing.

How would you describe your overall experience of Eurocompetence II? What do you take with you from the subject?

It was a good experience working with a multicultural group and excellent preparation for the professional/academic world (or life after Euroculture). The experience I had, however, was compromised by the covid restrictions. The ideal situation would’ve been to meet groupmates and stakeholders in person, scout for potential locations for the gallery, etc. On the bright side, it made us think out of the box more since we had to think of creative online alternatives.

What would you advise first-semester students (either before or during the project)?

It would be ideal to create a project plan and calendar at the initial stages of your project. This is so you can keep track of your project deadlines and tasks. It forces the group to brainstorm early. In addition, it ensures that tasks are evenly distributed among group members and throughout the project. Of course, the project plan and calendar are subject to changes because adjustments need to be made, and sometimes there are curveballs along the way. However, the project plan and calendar help give structure to the project.

Another piece of advice is not to be afraid to ask for help. You can always reach out to your other group mates or lecturers if you find specific issues during your project planning challenging to address. There’s no shame in that!

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