SOSJobs! Alumni4Students: Virginia Stuart-Taylor (2016-2018)

Virginia Stuart-Taylor is British and was part of the Euroculture 2016-2018 cohort, but graduated in 2019 due to undertaking a full-time job. She spent her first semester at the University of Groningen, her second one at Uppsala University and chose the professional track in the third semester. Before starting Euroculture, she completed a BA in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at the University of Exeter. Currently, she is living in London (UK) where she is working in the UK Government on UK-EU trade relations and negotiations. Virginia always wanted to pursue a Master’s degree and explore Europe further, therefore the Euroculture M.A. was a perfect fit. Apart from moving to Europe, she wanted to shift her career towards the public sector. Ultimately, pursuing the Euroculture M.A. was a fundamental step in her career, as it enabled her to re-orient towards politics, public affairs and foreign policy.

Euroculturer Magazine (EM):  What were your expectations when you applied/started the Euroculture M.A. and do they match the reality at the moment? 

Virgina Stuart Taylor (VST): I started the Euroculture M.A. shortly after the UK’s Brexit referendum and, as I’m British, the vote added a certain element of drama to the course. I was excited to study among so many different nationalities, after 4 years predominantly working full-time in London. I was so thrilled about the freedom of the student experience that I over-subscribed to practically everything Groningen had to offer: Dutch and Russian classes, the Honours College, a Photography course and even some ad-hoc paid work for Study in Holland.  I quickly discovered that the MA course at Groningen is really demanding too, so I did struggle to find time for everything. I learned my lesson and was subsequently more realistic with my extracurricular activities in Uppsala for the second semester. Despite that, I was thrilled that the course was so rigorous, as it meant I learned quickly and absorbed a lot of knowledge, which I’ve used in my jobs after graduation. Following the Brexit referendum, there has been a lot of demand in the UK job market for expertise in European Affairs. While studying though, I tentatively hoped I might settle in the EU with a residency and work permit. Fast forward 4 years and I’ve used my Euroculture experience to start a career in the UK Government, specialising in UK-EU relations and negotiations, and I unfortunately no longer have the right to work in the EU. My network of friends and contacts in the EU is huge however, both in Brussels and spread across the continent, and I catch up with many of my Euroculture friends when visiting Brussels for work. I would ideally like to have a more accessible route and the right to work in the EU again, but I’m also happy that my career has remained EU-focused, even when I’m physically based in London.

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Keeping your Eurocompetence project alive — United Citizens of Europe

Luca, Anton and Hannah are all part of the 2019-2021 cohort. Luca studied in Groningen in his first semester, Anton in Krakow and Hannah in Uppsala. They all three got to know each other during their second semester in Strasbourg. All three decided to pursue the professional track in their third semester, leaving them spread across the continent: Luca in Sofia, Hannah in Geneva and Anton in Berlin. They are all co-founders of United Citizens of Europe and each brings a different expertise to the project.

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): Hi Luca, Anton and Hannah. Tell us a bit more about how the United Citizens of Europe project came into being and what you are trying to accomplish.

United Citizens of Europe (UCoE): The original idea behind United Citizens of Europe was to have a MEU (Model European Union) on European Citizenship and golden visas. The pandemic forced us to change our format and our overall initial idea. In the end, we decided to carry out live interviews on Instagram, hosting guests with a relevant background in the European institutional and civil society sector. The original team was composed of five members; only two of us are still here. When contemplating whether or not to continue with the project, we knew we wanted Anton to join because of his creative mind and attention to detail.

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Behind the scenes: meet the Euroculture Staff – Marcella Zandonai

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio

Marcella Zandonai is an Euroculture alumni (cohort 2015-2017) from Trento, Italy. She spent her first semester at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and continued her Euroculture studies in Bilbao, Spain. After doing some volunteering, travelling in New Zealand and working for a local NGO in Trento, she joined Euroculture again in 2020 as the Assistant Coordinator at the University of Göttingen.

Euroculture Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you applied/started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?

Marcella Zandonai (MZ): I have to say that I started my job in a very unrealistic period of our Earth´s life. The 2020 health crisis completely changed my perception and my work tasks as well. When I started, there were actually hints of a return to normal life around July 2020. However, a couple of months later, the virus came back and I started working remotely
I only had a vague idea of how my job was supposed to be, since I did my MA in Euroculture as well. I was seeing my (now) ex-colleagues doing a lot of work, being outside, traveling, being with students, and enjoying themselves. I supposed that in a utopian world my job would be hectic and I would be always on the move, meeting up with people and exchanging smiles with students. 

So, my answer is: no, the job expectations did not match reality. But unfortunately, there is no one to blame. Maybe it would be easier if there was but…oh well: such is life.

When I applied I thought that the first wave would have been the first and only. But then this turned out not to be the case. We are living in uncertain times.

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My Third Semester: Internship at the Festival Academy

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.

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Behind the scenes: meet the Euroculture Staff – Ashanti Collavini

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio

Ashanti Collavini is an Euroculture alumni part of the cohort 2017-2019. She spent her first and second semester respectively at the University of Udine, in Italy, her home country, and at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. After her MA, she immediately started working for Euroculture as the new coordinator at the University of Udine, where she previously studied.

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?

Ashanti Collavini (AC): When I first decided to accept this position, I was honestly quite terrified by the responsibility I was going to take on with my role as Udine’s Euroculture coordinator! I knew the role would imply quite some challenges, and given the fact that I had never worked in the University system before, I needed to start learning completely from scratch. Luckily enough, I had an advantage: the fact that by the time I accepted this position, I was just freshly graduated as a Euroculture student, therefore I knew already a lot about the programme from the inside and from a student perspective. For instance, I knew what the thesis portfolio was and when it was due, which deadlines I would need to take into consideration when writing the thesis or the IP paper, what the IP was. Moreover, I was aware of the difficulties that international students could come across when studying and living abroad.  However, I can say that working for the programme and experiencing it from “ the other side” gave me a completely different insight on what Euroculture entails from behind the scenes, something that as a student I could not even imagine!

EM: Can you tell us about the job-searching path you went through before choosing and being selected for this job position?

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Behind the scenes: meet the Euroculture Staff – Maite Sagasti

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio

Maite Sagasti

Maite Sagasti holds a BA in History and Cultural Heritage and an MA in Spanish Heritage Management. She is currently the Euroculture course-coordinator at the University of Deusto, where she started working in 2006 and became since then a point of reference for all the Euroculture students studying at Deusto. Next to Euroculture, Maite also coordinates other Erasmus Mundus graduate programmes at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Deusto.

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?

Maite Sagasti (MS): I started to work at the Euroculture master programme in 2006. At the beginning I knew very little about how university networks work. In my previous jobs, I had the chance to work in interdisciplinary teams but always in the same institution/organization. When I started the new position, I had to do the same (at the university level) but also in the consortium level (different work cultures, languages) and for me this has been challenging but also the best part of the job. It has been really interesting to learn how the European Higher Education Institutions work together, to face the challenges and find the solutions jointly, take part in the common project to improve the programme, to work in the European Accreditation System and last but not least, the relationship with the students. I must say that this latter point is for me one the pillars of this job. Moreover, I also learn from students, from their interests and needs, which push me to update my competencies and skills constantly.

Without any doubt, the job has far exceeded my expectations.

EM: What is your academic background and can you tell us about your previous job experience before starting to work for Euroculture?

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Behind the scenes: meet the Euroculture Staff – Lars Klein

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio

Dr. Lars Klein has been part of the Euroculture staff since 2008. He is currently the Euroculture course-coordinator in Göttingen and his academic interests lie in (European) identity, belonging and participation, and foreign policy, amongst others. By participating in his teaching modules “Introduction to Euroculture”, “Cultural Construction of Europe” and “Europe in a Global Context”, Euroculture students in Göttingen have the opportunity to learn more about the aforementioned research fields. You can contact Lars via the following email: lklein@uni-goettingen.de.

Euroculturer Magazine ‘EM): What were your expectations when you started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?

Lars Klein (LK): I started with Euroculture in April 2008. Some of my Ph.D. colleagues in the Graduate Programme (“DFG-Graduiertenkolleg”) I had pursued prior to that had done Euroculture while it was still a 60 ECTS programme, some of the academic staff were also contributing to Euroculture then. So I had an idea of what to expect, but Euroculture in Göttingen was in a transition at that time. Our Director, Martin Tamcke, had just taken over a few months earlier and started a completely new team with me and Marc Arwed Rutke, our coordinator. Having said that, I never would have expected to enter a job that would take on such a big part of my life and which I would still be working in 13 years later. And I certainly would not have imagined that the daily work with students and colleagues in the Consortium would be such a lively, fruitful and diverse endeavour.

EM: What is your academic background and can you tell us about your previous job experience before starting to work for Euroculture?

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SOS Eurocompetence II! Groningen, Uppsala, Göttingen & Strasbourg

By Bryan Trannin Bayne

Choosing, starting, and managing a project often are daunting tasks. The Euroculturer conducted a series of short interviews to showcase some of the many projects Euroculture students came up with in the Eurocompetence II course. These interviews were designed to give current and future students an idea of what has already been done and to learn from previous experience.

We asked each student the same three questions: What was your Eurocompetence II project? Did you put it into practice? How was your experience? Here are their testimonials:

Virginia Stuart-Taylor – Uppsala 2017 – War on Truth

Our class in Uppsala 2017 decided to plan, fund, and run the ‘War on Truth’ international conference on the topic of fake news, bringing students and locals into contact with leading figures from academia, think tanks, the media, and start-ups from across Sweden and the Netherlands. Held in May 2017, only months after Trump’s 2016 election, misinformation and fake news were crucial issues, making the conference well-attended and a big success. 

The hardest part of working together on the project was the ideation phase and picking a feasible, realistic, and sufficiently stretching project. We looked to examples of previous Eurocompetence II projects for inspiration and scope but also scoped out our own skills, interests, available resources, and pressing issues it would be worthwhile to address. Once we settled on running a conference, the division of roles within the team and execution of our individual responsibilities was easier, and regular meetings helped us make decisions, keep on track and manage the project. Overall it was satisfying to complete such a tangible project as a conference, with our post-conference report being a good physical outcome.

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SOS Eurocompetence II! Groningen, Olomouc, Strasbourg, Bilbao & Udine

By Bryan Trannin Bayne

Choosing, starting, and managing a project often are daunting tasks. The Euroculturer conducted a series of short interviews to showcase some of the many projects Euroculture students came up with in the Eurocompetence II course. These interviews were designed to give current and future students an idea of what has already been done and to learn from previous experience.

We asked each student the same three questions: What was your Eurocompetence II project? Did you put it into practice? How was your experience? Here are their testimonials:

Arianna Rizzi – Groningen – 2018 – EU4Groningen

My Eurocompetence II project was named EU4Groningen, an initiative aimed at spreading EU literacy and raising awareness on what the EU does for the residents of Groningen, with the final aim of motivating the locals to go and vote in the European Parliament’s elections of 2019.

The project, which received funding from Europe Direct, mainly consisted of a digital communication campaign – on Instagram and Facebook – and a physical event in the context of Groningen’s European Village during the Liberation Day Festival.

EU4Groningen was my first, true project management experience – little did I know that I would end up working in this domain! Anyways, from planning through implementation to evaluation, the teamwork experience I had within EU4Groningen taught me that negotiation is fundamental to make an idea come true in a reasonable (and feasible) way: project management is indeed a very democratic process.

Thinking back at Eurocompetence II at my second university, I am glad that our teachers invested so much time in detailing every step of how to kickstart, manage and evaluate a project. I have quite a lot of lessons-learned that I still bear in mind and try to apply in my job as a soon-to-be Project Manager. 

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SOS IP! Rhys Nugent (2019-21, Göttingen – Deusto)

Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper

Rhys Nugent (2019-2021), from the UK and Ireland, spent his first semester at the Georg-August-University of Göttingen and the second at Universidad de Deusto. He holds a Bachelor degree in Modern Languages and decided to apply for Euroculture to develop his interest in European affairs and culture while taking advantage of the social, professional and personal opportunities that formal education provides. He is currently residing in Bilbao, Spain and working as an intern at the European Citizen Action Service.

Euroculturer Magazine: What were your expectations when you applied/started the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment?

Rhys Nugent: I had expected that studying in multiple countries would challenge my preconceptions, improve my language skills and enable me to gain better insight into the cultural and social dimensions of Europe. I had also hoped to meet students from around the world, learn about new projects and opportunities and make memories to cherish alongside new friends around Europe. Needless to say that a global pandemic had not been at the forefront of my mind when applying for MA Euroculture but, alas, here we are.
Most of my expectations were met during my first two semesters of MA Euroculture. I was able to study in two fascinating countries that lie close to my heart. I managed to improve my German language skills in my first semester while refreshing my Spanish language skills in my second semester. I feel like I have a significantly better understanding of European affairs and politics, partly thanks to my degree and partly thanks to my extracurricular activities, and I have made new friendships which I value greatly from all corners of Europe and beyond. I am particularly grateful for the flexibility that both universities have provided me, whether it was their relaxed approach to class attendance or how generous they were regarding essay deadlines. This might seem an odd point to make but one of my greatest fears in returning to formal education was that my epilepsy might disrupt my studies and hinder me from making my deadlines – fortunately, both universities were incredibly compassionate when I faced issues. In this regard, my expectations have certainly been met.

EM: How has the pandemic affected your studies?

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