Interview by Laura de Boer
In this edition of SOS!IP, Becky Emrick (2017/2019) will tell you more about her experiences at her Intensive Program in 2018 titled “Where is Europe? Replacing and re-ordering Europe.” Becky spent her first semester at Uppsala University (SW) and her second semester at Jagiellonian University Kraków (PL). For her third semester, Becky returned to Uppsala for a research internship at the RESPOND research project, to return to Kraków once again for her final semester. Her Euroculture experience included many hurdles which made her experience all the more rewarding overall.
Euroculture Magazine [EM]: What were your general feelings about the Intensive Program (IP) when you started the Euroculture program? Were you excited about it, or were you nervous?
Becky Emrick (BE): Right when I started the Euroculture program, I honestly didn’t even give much thought to the Intensive Program. I knew that it was something that I was going to do, but there was already so much going on: moving to Uppsala, getting my paperwork and visa situation organized, getting settled in my student housing as well as trying to adjust and do well in my classes. Then before I knew it, it was time to pick our second university!
It wasn’t until I moved to Kraków at the beginning of the second semester that I began thinking about the IP. Once I did realize that it was coming up, I had mixed emotions about it. I was really excited to see my friends from Uppsala again; but on the other hand, I was immensely nervous about my IP paper, doing well, and taking advantage of the networking opportunities that the IP program gave.
EM: When the IP topic was announced, did it take long before you knew what you wanted to write about? Was the final version of your paper different from what you initially had in mind?
BE: I feel like initially when the IP topic was announced, I wasn’t too nervous about choosing a topic. But I feel like with most writing topics, once I sat down and started thinking about my topic, it was more difficult than I had anticipated! My final version wasn’t too different from what I initially imagined, but I believe that’s because I knew I wanted to talk about migrants in the EU from the beginning, so I made a way to make it work with the IP topic. Especially when I consider my writing style, I’m not surprised that my topic changed a bit, it’s totally normal for me in the writing process!
EM: How was the writing process? Were there any challenges that you did not expect to encounter beforehand? If so, could you give any tips on how to overcome these challenges?
BE: The writing process was okay, the biggest challenge for me was picking a topic that I could write about in the short page count we were given! All my initial ideas were way too vast for the size of the project, and honestly, I was frustrated that all my initial ideas weren’t working.
If I had to give advice to students who were about to start the IP, I’d say to firstly trust the writing process: your initial topic will most likely change and that’s okay and normal. Secondly, try to make sure your idea is feasible in the time and space allowed for your final IP project. That doesn’t mean you have to necessarily abandon your first idea, but just try coming at it from a different angle or try to ask a more specific question. Like I mentioned for my first piece of advice: trust the writing process! Thirdly, don’t let the idea of the whole program make you nervous, just try to enjoy it as much as you can because it is such an amazing experience. Finally, I know a lot of people do try to use the IP as a starting point for their final thesis, but I knew that wasn’t going to be the case for me. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! You can use the IP to get your feet wet, get comfortable with a research method, or to try something new. If it doesn’t work out for your final thesis, that’s also totally fine.
EM: Would you say that your second-semester university prepared you well for the IP? How did they help you to get on your way? Are there any improvements that could be made?
BE: I would say my second semester university prepared me the best they could for the IP. I struggled a lot with the methodology portion of my IP paper, and even though our professors were quite busy, they definitely made an effort to meet up with us outside of class to help. Additionally, they did give us various tools to use for the IP and for us to be successful; however, we were thrown a bit into the deep end. That being said, I believe this allowed me to learn what methodology types worked best for my IP project and prepared me even more for the final thesis project.
EM: How was the IP week itself? What kind of activities did you do?
BE: The IP week itself was such a whirlwind: one minute it started and the next minute it was over! There were always activities and events going on, but it was fun because we still had a lot of free time to get to know everyone.
I participated in the lectures, career workshops, as well as the field trip to Auschwitz.
EM: have you had a lot of contact with other Euroculture students during the IP?
BE: I did! As I previously mentioned, I was really looking forward to seeing all my friends from my first semester university. It was also such a blast because I got to introduce my new friends to them, and they introduced their new friends to me! Aside from that, we got to meet friends of friends of friends, so it was just an extremely positive environment where everybody was really excited to meet one another.
EM: After the IP was over, did you use your topic as a foundation for your thesis? Why (not)?
BE: I didn’t use my IP topic as my thesis because honestly, I was already feeling burnt out from the topic. Additionally, I used the IP to try writing about a topic and use evidence that I wasn’t used to working with, and I knew when I finished the IP that I didn’t want to use any part of it for my thesis.