By Caterina Rossi

Jagiellonian University, Faculty of International and Political Studies, Institute of European Studies

There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this article, you are wondering whether or not the Jagiellonian University could fit your interests and if you’d like to spend a semester there! With this article, the academic culture of Jagiellonian University will be exposed, which together with the city lifestyle should help you make up your mind if Krakow will be your next Euroculture stop!

What’s very important when it comes to choosing your next university is understanding the context in which the programme is inserted within the university: this gives you an idea of the type of lecture content you will receive and the prominent perspectives; the angle from which the topics will be presented to you. First of all, being a Euroculture student in Krakow makes you feel very cosy and part of a bigger, very welcoming community. The programme is carried out in the Institute of European Studies, which is part of the Faculty of International and Political Studies. This context will be reflected in the classes content, in the extra courses you might want to take, as well as in the professors you meet.

All the classes are relatively small and the whole building and facilities of the Center for European Studies are brand new

Krakow: II Semester destination

In this section, you will find a description of the courses that were offered in the academic year 2021/2022 – always keep in mind that they might vary but overall this will be what’s on offer in the Polish edition of Euroculture!A few pieces of information that do apply to all courses: all courses run along the whole semester, classes usually start at the beginning of March and end in late May/June, depending on the number of credit points/ECTS, delays, exams and so on. You will have a few days of break during the semester for Easter celebrations (Poland is a very catholic country!) and at the beginning of May, of course for Labor Day (May 1st) and for Polish Constitution Day (May 3rd). The polish grading system is on a scale from 2 to 5, with 5 being the maximum and 3 being a pass. Unlike other countries —  the Netherlands, in particular! — the maximum grade is actually achievable! Also, the amount of work is not particularly stressful: there are sometimes take-home assignments throughout the semester that contribute to the final grade, but the workload is never exaggerated and it doesn’t overlap between different courses. For all courses, the teacher assigns mandatory readings that will be discussed in class, and these are pretty important – most of the time the class is quite interactive as the professors ask for opinions and impressions about the texts. The mandatory courses are exclusively for Euroculture students, but you will have the chance to meet students from other programs in the extra courses and other activities.

First up, the core mandatory courses for the second semester in Krakow 2022: Eurocompetence II (5 ECTS) — Eurocompetence 2 is a core course offered at all universities, and the course in Krakow focuses on Project Management and Intercultural Communication. During the first part of the semester, the course focus was on personal development and the application of project management onto the future project of the students. During the second part of the semester, the students applied the techniques to a group project that had to be delivered at the end of the semester – in the II semester in Krakow we were just 7 people so we worked all together on a Welcome Kit for all the Euroculture students coming to Krakow for the IP at the end of June! On the other hand, regarding Intercultural Communication, we barely had a session confronting our different backgrounds and how that could impact the way we communicate. I would have personally liked to have a little bit more on it, especially about non-EU countries as I feel that among Europeans we are already very familiar with each other. The assessment was based on a report of the project we worked on.

Methodology and IP Preparation (10 ECTS) —In comparison to the other courses,this course has been described as the most intense by former Eurocutlure students. It’s the only course that runs twice a week, and multiple teachers work well together and bring their personal areas of expertise to the course. The course introduces many research methods and reviews a few of them in depth, such as interviews and content analysis. Throughout the course, supervision for the IP paper is provided and one of the teachers of the course  is assigned to each student as a tutor, according to the topic and the methodology chosen as well as depending on their expertise area. The assessment of the course is a three-day group project: a few research topics are given and each group picks one and develops a feasible, realistic research proposal, applying the theories that were encountered in class. 

Research Seminar: Younger Europe (5 ECTS) — This is one of the courses that characterises the second semester in Krakow compared to other semester II university choices.  Similar to the Methodology course, multiple lecturers bring their expertise and personal research skills and interests to the table. The course aims to give the student a better understanding of Central and Eastern Europe countries, considering their history, culture, society, and politics. It is very well organised and pushes the students, who in most cases are not very familiar with CEE (Central Eastern European) countries, to reflect on what stereotypes surround this area, what is true and what is not. Classes are mostly interactive and usually based on a discussion about the impressions or doubts that the readings have triggered. The final assessment was a take-home exam with three essay questions. 

Research Seminar: Latin America (5 ECTS) — this is the other course that characterises Krakow’s curriculum. Due to certain delicate circumstances the course might not be offered in the future. The course was divided into two parts organised by two different teachers: the first part was an overall introduction to Latin America’s history, society, culture, and politics and the second part was a deep dive into two themes: femicide in Mexico and migration in Mexico. The final assessment consisted of an essay question exam.

Extras!

The Institute for European Studies is a very active institute and there is always the possibility to join extra activities. 

At the beginning of the semester, you will be asked if you want to take extra courses. The offer is very broad and they usually don’t overlap with the mandatory courses. To understand what kind of courses one can attend, it is important to remember what the institute is part of: the Faculty of International and Political Studies. To give an idea,  these are some of the courses that were offered in 2022: Contemporary Migration and Asylum in Europe: Policies, Politics and Strategies; Europeanisation and transformation of collective identities: Politics, Policies and Strategies; EU Foreign and Security Policy: Europe, NATO and Transatlantic Security; European Integration. Theory and Practice; Western European Politics and Transatlantic Relations since 1945; Challenges to the European Identity: The rebirth of nationalisms in Europe; Bioethical Concepts in the Nazi Ideology and their Aftermath; Gender, Democracy and Citizenship in CEE; Europeanisation and transformation of collective identities; Europeanisation and transformation of collective identities: Theoretical Considerations.

I personally didn’t take any extra courses because I was still recovering from the first semester in Groningen and I didn’t want to put too much weight on my shoulders. However, if I could go back I would definitely add an extra course because it is totally doable. Plus, since it is an extra (this also applies to the language courses) it is possible to follow the lectures without taking the exam – indeed it depends from lecturer to lecturer (please check with them beforehand!) but generally shouldn’t be a problem if you’re not interested in getting the course certified. 

At the beginning of the semester, you will also have the chance to enrol in a language course. The offer might vary on the demand but usually are basic courses of the most popular European languages such as French, Spanish and German but also Russian and, of course, Polish! You will receive an email before the beginning of the semester where you will be able to take a questionnaire and express your preference and take a very brief language test in order to see in which level you would fit. Classes are twice a week and the schedule is structured not to overlap with the mandatory Euroculture courses.
If following an extra course for a whole semester is too much for you, that’s no problem: the faculty organises a lot of other extra activities such as lectures or debates. These can be particularly interesting as the lecturers are often professionals and experts on the topic covered. During the past semester, for example, these lectures were offered: “Saying Sorry: How States Can Effectively Apologize (and Have a Long-Lasting Positive Effect on the Aggrieved Party)”; “The changing dynamic of EU-China relations: a view from the EU periphery”; Debate on Green Recovery and Energy Transition. Usually, you will receive an invitation through your university email, but you will also notice flyers promoting them in the university building!

The End of the post-war European Order – very high participation at the debate organised by the Center for European Studies

It is important to keep an eye on your university email as there are always many opportunities coming up to enrol in summer schools (in many cases you can also apply for scholarships!), conferences, volunteer activities, and even internship opportunities or research assistant positions.

Back to Krakow? IV Semester experience

Since your IV semester choice might depend on your II semester choice, here’s a little bit about the last semester at the Jagiellonian University! 

Since, at the time being, I am currently in Brussels for my III semester, I asked for Rachele’s opinions on the IV semester in Krakow! Rachele De Felice is a fellow student from the 2020/2022 cohort (Groningen – Krakow) who went back to Poland for her IV semester while I was studying there for my II semester – that’s how we met! 

Rachele said that the IV semester courses schedule is mostly relaxed (class is once or twice per week) and everything is very much about the thesis writing. It is really up to the student to organise the workload in a smart way, since most of the work is individual. The keyword here is: time management! 

The mandatory courses are two:

  • Thesis writing seminar — It is a course designed to help students writing their thesis. Each student presents their topic and their progress to fellow students and the teacher to receive feedback and exchange ideas. 
  • Eurocompetence III — The last Eurocompetence is focused on application writing. Whether you want to stay in academia or upgrade your career in the professional world, this course will teach you how to write PhD proposals and applications for project funding. Throughout the semester students will work on individual projects. The workload is divided into small weekly assignments that will contribute to the final proposal. This course was especially helpful to those students that will pursue a PhD!

Conclusion and personal opinion

Finally, when I asked Rachele how to describe Krakow academic culture she said that  “it is an interactive space, where different academic backgrounds and thesis topics come together and the students as well as the teacher(s) help each other out with their projects by giving continuous feedback, critique, and review”. I couldn’t agree more with her! During my second semester we were just 7 people and throughout the IP Paper writing process we were always confronting each other’s ideas and giving each other feedback, even though we came from different paths and we were researching on different topics! It was really nice at the IP eventually to see how all those shared support networks helped us so much and also created a special bond between the group! 

To conclude, I would say that Krakow’s academic culture is overall relaxed — but as soon as you want to get more involved, you have the chance to participate in so many different activities and feel part of a bigger community. I chose Krakow because as an Italian I’ve always lived, studied and worked in Southern or Western European countries and the further East in Europe that I had ever travelled to was Vienna – I needed to expand my horizons and this experience changed the meaning that I was giving to the word Europe! I’m really happy with my second-semester choice and spending a semester in Krakow really exceeded my expectations!

Second-semester students from Krakow showing the city to other students from other universities before the IP week 2022

In memory of Prof. Karol Derwich

Photo credits: Annabelle McLeod

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