Interview with Marcella Zandonai: The International Youth Conference in Krusevo

Interview conducted by Lina Mansour.

Marcella Zandonai is a 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. You can read more about Marcella’s work here.

1. Tell us a little bit about the conference and its objective!

The International Youth Conference was created 19 years ago from a local Macedonian NGO called Youth Alliance Krusevo. Krusevo — the city where the conference is held — is one of the highest cities of the Balkan region (1350 meters) and is a very nice location, where nature and culture meet each other. The main objective of the conference is to gather “the most active young people from 16 countries to work together for the European future of the Western Balkans Region”. This year’s topic was “European values for the future for SEE region – Regional Transformation”. The main focus of the Conference was on the European integration of the Western Balkans and it had 5 thematic areas:

  1. Regional Transformation
  2. Securing the European future of the region
  3. Youth-led transformation of the integrative politics of the region
  4. Sustainable and digital transformation of the region
  5. How much does the future cost?

The Conference was divided into three days of frontal presentations on the five thematic areas and two days of group work and brainstorming to come up with concrete policies: one for each area.

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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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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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