Interview by Leonie Glaser
In this interview, you can read about the internship experience of Mari Ordonez (2020/2022), an Ecuadorian Euroculture student who studied her first semester at Jagiellonian University, Kraków and her second at Università degli Studi di Udine. She conducted her internship at The Festival Academy, which made her realise that she is not done with academia just yet.
Euroculturer Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you started the Euroculture M.A.? Were they met?
Mari Ordonez (MO): My expectations were centred around the potential of diving more in-depth into how certain social issues, such as migration and post-colonial social memory, manifest within artistic and curatorial practices. In this regard, Euroculture gave me the opportunity of learning about the technicalities of these issues from a social perspective that, in turn, became a critical standpoint over which to observe how artists and museum institutions are interiorising and responding. In this regard, my track between Jagiellonian University and Università di Udine did end up complementing my research goals.
EM: Why did you choose the internship track? Where did you complete your internship and why did you choose to go there?
MO: I chose the internship track out of a personal need to evaluate if I was ready to leave academia after the master’s degree and re-enter the workforce or if I wanted to follow along with my education. Since I am an Erasmus Mundus scholarship student, I saw it as an opportunity of embarking on an internship with an economic safety net in case the opportunity was unpaid. Ultimately, I chose to complete my internship at The Festival Academy as a Project Management Trainee. My main motivation was the possibility of collaborating within a small NGO that worked directly with cultural workers in training opportunities meant to foster networking and international collaboration opportunities.
EM: How did you find your internship? What advice would you give to students looking for a position?
MO: I found it through the internship newsletter emails that the Euroculture Office in Groningen circulates amongst all students. My first advice would be to keep an eye on what the Consortium is announcing as opportunities, as they can already be one outlet from which to select places for application. My second piece of advice would be to not be afraid of sending spontaneous applications to organisations you find interesting, especially if these organisations are small, given they might not advertise as widely as other organisations their internship potential. Thirdly, interning for small organisations has the potential of providing a well-rounded experience as you might take part in tasks from multiple fields within the organisation which might help steer those for whom this is amongst their first working experiences into their workplace interests beyond their degrees.
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?
MO: The typical day would be different depending on the work mode of the day, as the office had a hybrid schedule which allowed us to have three days in the office and two days from home. I would usually start my day revising the pending tasks from the day before and checking the mailbox for urgent emailing tasks that were needing a response. Afterwards, with the rest of the trainee team, we would divide the tasks for the day and, in case anyone needed an extra hand, one of us would step into the task of the other person to help complete it. The routine was quite flexible as we would usually have a daily routine that was task-driven and for which it was up to us to define our work schedules depending on our workload for the day. As such, some days would be longer while others would finish earlier. It all depended on the ongoing projects and the deadlines set within the office and by partner organisations.
After completing the internship, while I would have welcomed the opportunity of a workplace position if the offer would have been made, I arrived at a different conclusion within my career path. I found the answer to my personal concern with my career future and decided that I am more interested and driven to further pursue doctoral studies focused on the cultural sector.
EM: Is there something you wish you would have known before starting the program?
MO: Regarding the overall structure of the internship semester, I wish I would have known how to settle a clearer routine within my workplace to place my studies first. While the thought of having four months (September-December) to write the portfolio seems long, time goes by fast, and the portfolio is a demanding task where you do have to find a balance between your internship tasks and your studies.
Regarding the program, in hindsight, the research track could have been a better match for my professional goals and concerning a research track is no less feat than an internship semester. However, the internship track did ultimately steer me in this direction, so there is a small possibility that I would have not answered my personal question regarding my future without deciding to pursue an internship. There are plenty of big choices that are a constant part of the Euroculture experience and each one of them, ultimately, shapes our master’s experience. It is such a highly tailored program, where no two people have the same educational experience, that it is worth remembering that you can have some control in shaping what your profile will ultimately be and where you want to be by the end of the two years.
EM: Do you think your third-semester choice was a crucial step for your career, did it enhance the probability of getting a job where you wanted?
MO: Yes, it led me into figuring out I want to remain in academia for a while longer. While the probability of getting a job might have certainly been enhanced by my internship experience, it is still too early to tell since I am still figuring out which are the immediate upcoming steps for my career after my master’s graduation.
EM: What was the most difficult challenge you encountered after starting the program?
MO: Migration is probably one of the biggest challenges, if not the biggest one as a non-European citizen. Every moving experience is heavily shaped by how the migration process is going to be in the next country. This soon becomes tolling and complicated to manage when you are trying to still give your best as a student. While the programme is conceived around the possibility of fostering European mobility, for non-European students, frontiers are still present and migratory regulations can shape the pace of the semester. Learning how to navigate multiple countries’ bureaucratic offices and waiting times is certainly difficult but, ultimately, a skill to be learnt as the world is made up of frontiers, migratory regulations, and bureaucratic offices that are complex to navigate.
EM: Do you have any advice for current and future Euroculture cohorts?
MO: Think about where your goal lies after Euroculture and plan ahead depending on that picture. The programme can be tailored into fitting with what you are pursuing and, as such, see which options are beyond what you had previously thought. Your end goal might change, and that is alright too.