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SOSJobs! Alumni4Students: Felicitas Rabiger’s Experience as an International in the Swedish Labour Market

Felicitas comes originally from Nuremberg, Germany, but she has always been a real globetrotter eager to explore her surroundings. When she was 15, she spent a few months in Limerick, Ireland and that set the start to wanting to move abroad and trying out different things. Since then, she has lived in Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and since 2010, Sweden. She joined the Euroculture programme in 2009 starting off in Groningen. After graduating in 2011, she started a career in the education management business in Sweden, but has worked for both Swedish and American employers. Felicitas lives together with Saga (2.5 years), her partner Linus and her dog Mio.

Interview by Carolina Reyes Chávez

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): How long ago did you graduate from Euroculture and what are you working with now?

Felicitas Rabiger

Felicitas Rabiger (FR): I graduated 10 years ago and now I work at Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan. It’s a very Swedish organization. In Scandinavia there’s a long tradition of enabling people – normal people, with no education, to get more knowledge. The concept is called Folkbildning, it comes from the civil society and it’s built on associations. So a lot of people in Sweden, almost everyone is basically part of a group focused on some kind of topic, like football for example, or if I have a sickness, for example cancer, I can go and join the cancer association, or if I’m interested in painting I can go and join my local painting association, you know? That’s how they establish a lot of small associations that are part of the democratic tradition in Sweden. 

So Studieförbundet is basically here for this small associations to give them structure and to help them with administrative processes, also we organize all kinds of activities together with them, we can give them access to free education… It’s like a consultant, but not for business but for organizations in order to help them to get the work better and to get more organized. We also help them to get more members, with branding for example, also they can use our space and get money from us for materials.

My position is called Organizational developer and it’s about having contact with a certain amount of associations and helping them with all kinds of stuff, like finding ways for them to get funding for new projects. We also provide courses to the general public, like languages, painting, astronomics, anything that’s not university education. So it’s a really broad job.

EM: What do you see as your role or contribution as a non-Swede in this very Swedish organization?

FR: Well, actually we are discussing right now that I’ll have more focus on integration in general, because that’s my focus. Not being a Swede, I have been working a lot with people like me that need to get into the Swedish job market, and I’ve been trying to provide educational programs for them, to help them also to get better Swedish for example, to finding funds… So it’s a very creative and outgoing job, I have to talk to people all the time. I’m teaching some courses and I actually held a seminar in Swedish Work Culture for the Uppsala International Hub.

EM: Is this Studieförbundet an organization funded by the State?

FR: Yes, and that’s super interesting, you know? You could say that the Studieförbundet is the Swedish biggest cultural organization. And there are different goals with this Folkbildning concept, that’s actually to secure democracy so that people can meet, discuss and get more ideas and knowledge. The goal is also to integrate people that don’t have a voice into the society, for instance we focus a lot on handicapped people, or I work a lot with women that don’t have a job nor speak Swedish, or that are analphabetic. We want to give them a chance to get into the Swedish job market, so to give these groups a voice.

EM: That’s awesome

FR: Yes! And it’s something very, very Swedish. I don’t know anything like that in any other country. It’s like the education system in the university here which is about this concept of having your own power, seeking knowledge on your own, and that’s not only for the elite but is part of this idea that everybody should have access, even if you are handicapped, or if you come from a very distant country, you still should be able to take part in the society. So being State funded…it’s basically a way to enhance democratic processes, supporting the people and actually helping them to get power.  

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From a Friendly Gesture to a Dependable Platform: Bart Swinkels’ Dutch Covid-19 News

By Bart Swinkels

Starting as a friendly gesture to fellow students, when Bart Swinkels (Dutch, Groningen/Uppsala, cohort 2021/2023) started translating and sharing news about Covid-19 restrictions in the Netherlands, he never imagined the societal need that this initiative appears to fulfil. In this article, Swinkels reflects on the year 2021 and the journey of establishing his platform: Dutch Covid-19 News!

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A Journey through Bucharest’s Fascist Architecture and Forgotten History

By Stefania Ventome. Edited by Lina Mansour. Biographies are available at the end of the article.

In front of Bucharest’s main train station, at the end of a small park that shelters homeless people and drug addicts, lies the CFR Palace. Massive, imposing and sober, the CFR Palace, also known as the Ministry of Transportation, is one of the first buildings that a visitor coming to Bucharest by train would notice. It is also one of the many architectural remains of totalitarian regimes scattered around Romania’s capital. Nowadays, Bucharest is a city of contrasts, split between abandonment and consumerism and decay and development, but for most of the past century, the city was the administrative centre of three gruesome dictatorships, a dark history that has left significant marks on the city’s identity. Bucharest’s monumentalism is mostly attributed to the infamous legacy of Ceausescu’s brutal regime, but buildings such as the CFR Palace evoke a different past, one that has been slowly erased from the people’s collective memory. 

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City Lifestyle: Local Groceries in Local Groningen

By Loura Kruger-Zwart

The Netherlands has four major supermarket chains that can be found all over any city: Albert Heijn and Jumbo are the two largest, followed by Aldi and Lidl as slightly more affordable chain counterparts. Here and there you might also find a Coop or a Spar as alternatives, and while chain supermarkets tend to be close by and convenient, you pay for that convenience in both price and plastic. 

According to Business Insider Nederland, all six of the aforementioned supermarkets have average or high prices for basic goods – average prices can still be high on a student budget, and this does not take into account higher costs for non-basic and international products which can be both hard to find on chain supermarket shelves and expensive once you come across them.

Plastic packaging in major chain supermarkets is another issue: a stroll in some of these stores will show individually packed paprikas and cling-wrapped cucumbers, beside rows and rows of prechopped, plastic-encased fruits and vegetables. In 2019, supermarket chains in the Netherlands and elsewhere agreed to reduce their use of packaging materials – and there have been some improvements, like some stores opting for paper bags in bakery and fresh produce sections. However, watchdogs say that the fine print of the Sustainable Packaging Sector Plan 2019-2022 targets only the chain supermarkets’ home brands and focuses recyclability of plastic use rather than reduction. 

So, what can you do? There are indeed options for getting groceries and avoiding the chains, and wonderful Groningen is bursting with alternatives. Here you’ll find some suggestions and information on fresh markets in the city, as well as some lesser-known yet excellent (and affordable!) grocers that specialise in international products and ingredients. 

To the Market!

Markt

What: produce market
When: Tuesday, Friday & Saturday
Where: Vismarkt

Three times a week, the Vismarkt of Groningen becomes home to a bustling market of fresh groceries. Here you’ll find fruit and vegetables (minimal plastic in sight), bakery stalls that understand the needs and budgets of the city’s students, and even a stand dedicated to herbs, spices, and loose-leaf tea. Among the amazing variety, you’ll also come across flowers, cheese, eggs, and fresh snacks like stroopwafels and Belgian fries. Buying in bulk is always penny-smart, but avoiding waste is also important – consider buying fresh produce together with friends for the best deal! And don’t forget to bring your own bags! 

This link has more information about this and other markets in Groningen, so be sure to plan your week around visiting these great options.

Insider tip: while many of the stalls are the same every market day of the week, the bakeries change each time. Tuesday is great for cheap buns, snacks, and sweets, while Friday and Saturday’s bakeries trade in deluxe loaves and cakes that’ll last you all week.

Home & Abroad

If you’re on the hunt for international products and ingredients, for something you’re missing from home, or you just want to try something new from non-chain supermarket, here are five fantastic stores to support in Groningen:

Basarz
  1. Basarz 

What: Italian products and ingredients
When: 7 days 
Where: Vismarkt 34

Basarz is where you can fill all your Italian delicatessen needs, from pasta and pesto to Parma ham, olives to oils to tiramisu, and everything in between. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly, and always happy to help. You can also order hot meals (dinner) on a weekly basis, or pop in for a quick lunch to take away or eat on their lovely little Vismarkt terrace. Bonus: keep an eye out for the Basarz stall at the market too, for all your antipasti needs! 

  1. Le Souk

What: North African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean (+ more) products and ingredients
When: 7 days
Where: Folkingestraat 21

Left: Le Souk interior; right: Le Souk from outside

Le Souk is a gem of Groningen, with a magnificent range of fresh produce, herbs, breads, olives, sweets, and salads. Be sure to pop into their store for all sorts of international spices, flavour-makers, dates, and grains: their small extension at the market three times a week is but a taste of the range of products they carry! Bonus: Le Souk sells cous-cous, lentils, beans, pasta, and other grains by weight – this means when appropriately measured, you can bring your own containers and avoid packaging entirely for these (and more) products

Toko Hendrik

3. Toko Hendrik

What: Indonesian, Surinamese, Latin American, Caribbean (+ more) products and ingredients
When: 6 days (closed Sunday)
Where: Korreweg 26

Toko Hendrik is a classic and welcoming toko (from Indonesia, Malay word for ‘shop’) with products from across the globe: think Indian drinks, Central American canned goods, Surinamese ice pops, Dominican seasonings, North American cereals, Mexican snacks – this local store’s range is ever changing and always delightful. You can also find some fresh produce here, even aloe vera if you’re lucky! Bonus: Sita’s Roti & Broodjes, a homely take-away lunchspot, can be found inside Toko Hendrik serving Surinamese comfort food in the form of delicious sandwiches and generous roti meals.

4. Nazar

What: Middle Eastern, Arabic, Turkish (+ more) products and ingredients
When: 7 days
Where: Boterdiep 49

Nazar

Nazar is a supermarket but far from a chain: this local store stocks over 6,000 international products and plenty of fresh produce (with minimal plastic!). Once you know your way around, it’ll fast become a staple of your grocery shopping schedule for its diverse range of kitchen necessities like tea, coffee, herbs and spices, drinks and whatever of the many other new or traditional items that catch your eye. The prices are great and the staff is always helpful and friendly! Bonus: Nazar operates as a halal supermarket in Groningen.

Amazing Oriental

5. Amazing Oriental

What: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese (+ more) products and ingredients
When: 7 days
Where: Korreweg 51

Amazing Oriental could be considered a chain supermarket since growing to have 24 stores across the Netherlands, but as the only one north of Amsterdam, I consider Groningen’s branch to be a non-major supermarket in the city – and definitely worth checking out! In this large store they have just about everything: fresh Asian fruits and vegetables are stocked regularly, alongside fresh and dried noodles, as well as frozen delicacies to make and enjoy at home. Also very popular is the plentiful range of vegetarian and vegan products, as well as all the ingredients you’d need to cook an authentic and delicious meal. Not to mention, Amazing Oriental is very student-budget friendly! Bonus: if you’ve made the mistake of grocery shopping while hungry (or just can’t wait to try some of the amazing ingredients you’ve come across instore) Amazing Oriental Groningen has a food corner where you can take a fresh full meal home for less than ten euros, or grab a bubble tea to go!

Honourable Mentions:

Leuk & Lekker (Grote Kromme Elleboog 8): a self-proclaimed culinary giftshop, here you’ll find a huge variety of oils, vinegars, rice and pastas, salts, chutneys and much more, from Europe and beyond.

Ariola (Folkingestraat 54): everything homemade and authentically Italian! Ariola is a must for a pasta lunch or dinner, or to pick up classic Italian ingredients for doing it yourself. 

Polski Smak (Nieuwe Ebbingestraat 84): the only Polish store in Groningen, Polski Smak is well equipped to supply all kinds of Polish goods: breads, sweets, beer and much more. 


Picture credits: Loura Kruger-Zwart

European Capitals of Culture: More than just a title?

By Carolina Reyes Chávez

During the last 3 decades, more than 60 cities across Europe have been awarded the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) title. This means for each designated city, in the most general terms, to set up a massive cultural and artistic event during a whole year. The initiative -started in 1985- has become one of the most ambitious and successful cultural projects in Europe, according to the European Union Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. However, despite the large achievements reported in the ex-post evaluations, ECoC remains a fuzzy concept to European citizens, as well as its outreach. Given this, it might be worth it to look at some of the implications of this huge event and try to understand what does it mean in practice to be awarded with this honorable title.

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Cultivating Consent Culture: Shifting Attitudes in Public and Politics

By Loura Kruger-Zwart

This article is the third of a short publication series in which articles written by the new editorial team will be showcased. This article is written by Loura Kruger-Zwart (from Australia and New Zealand, cohort 2021/2023), currently doing her first semester at the University of Groningen.

Content Note: this article discusses rape, assault and violence; reader discretion is advised.

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Pushbacks in Poland – putting Human Rights enforcement in the EU in focus

By Leonie Glaser

This article is part of a short publication series in which articles written by the new editorial team will be showcased. This article is written by Leonie Glaser (Dutch, cohort 2021/2023), currently doing her first semester at the University of Uppsala.

This year, Poland experienced a large influx of refugees arriving over the border of Belarus. Poland claims that they are not able to host all the refugees, so they pursue controversial and illegal “pushbacks”. The refugees, most of whom claim to be from Afghanistan and Iraq, cannot ask for asylum. What might be more striking than the illegal pushbacks, is the openness that the Polish government talks about this policy. There is no effort made to conceal the pushbacks of refugees to Belarus. The refugees find themselves now stuck between the armies of the two countries without help – eight refugees have already died of hypothermia. They are victims of a geopolitical struggle, which does not seem to end soon. The EU, self-proclaimed promotor of Human Rights, now sees violations of these rights on its own territory. What is the EU’s role in this conflict and with the new geopolitical tensions? 

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City Lifestyle: Student Nations

By Leonie Glaser

Besides having a high-ranking university, beautiful old buildings, and being surrounded by nature, Uppsala has a vibrant student life, unlike any other Euroculture City. The reason? Student Nations! This article will tell you everything you need to know about these Swedish traditional clubs – from the stairs in front of Värmlands to the fancy Gasques – a membership at a nation will define your Uppsala student life!

So, what are these nations? Student Nations are old student associations with their own bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, which are entirely run by students. They organise activities and have clubs ranging from choirs to sports, and from theatre to orchestra. The nations in Uppsala date back to 1630 and the names of the nations (for example, Stockholms Nation, Göteborgs Nation, and Värmlands Nation) give away their origin. The clubs were for students from certain areas of Sweden to meet people from their own region and feel a bit like home again. Nowadays, coming from a certain district is not necessary for membership anymore and even international students can join whichever nation they like!

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The World Post-Brexit: Where do EU-UK Relations Stand After Their Break-up?

By Laura de Boer

This article is the first of a short publication series in which articles written by the new editorial team will be showcased. This first article is written by Laura de Boer (Dutch, cohort 2021/2023), currently doing her first semester at the University of Uppsala.

Ever since the United Kingdom European Union Membership Referendum in 2016, Brexit has been a prominent topic in media and public discourses. Since the UK officially is no longer an EU member state, however, news reports on the topic have seemingly died down. National news agencies in Europe have largely refrained from writing about the situation, apart from the occasional articles on supply chains or the situation in Northern Ireland.  As the eleven month anniversary of the end of the transition period is approaching, this article will discuss the most noteworthy developments and current standings of EU-UK relations. 

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SOSEurocompetences II: Alessandra Pantanosas

First-semester students don’t have a lot of information yet about Eurocompetence II in the second semester. To give first-semester students insight into what they can expect from their second semester, the SOS Eurocompetence II series introduces students who have done the subject already. This interview is held with Alessandra Pantanosas (nickname: Sandi), a current third-semester Euroculture student. She did her first semester in Strasbourg, and her second semester – and with that Eurocompetence II – in Groningen. It has to be noted that the semester from January 2021 till June 2021 was fully online due to Corona.

Interview by Laila M. Lange.

What did you know about Eurocompetence II before starting the course in Groningen?

I only had a vague idea about it. I was aware that the course focuses on project management, but I didn’t know how it would be taught or approached, especially knowing that it would be held online. I couldn’t imagine implementing a project from behind a screen and being graded for it.

Could you shortly outline what Eurocompetence II entailed in your second semester?

Eurocompetence II wasn’t like our other classes or research seminars. We didn’t meet as a class often. It was more focused on meeting with our groupmates in our own time. There was, however, a class after every “milestone” (or big submission). These few classes were great opportunities to share ideas and gather input from our other classmates. However, these classes weren’t like typical sit-down lectures. They were more like sessions to give progress reports and peer reviews.

We didn’t have any exams. Instead, we had to submit a project plan and a few other group papers to show our progress every few weeks. All the deadlines were given at the beginning of the semester, so there were no surprises throughout the semester. As for workload, we had control over this, to an extent, because we defined the scope and limitations of our projects.

In addition, the deadlines for the papers were fairly spread throughout the semester. It’s completely manageable. Our groups also got to decide the implementation dates for our respective projects. The only condition was they fell within a range of dates, but the range was quite large. So, we pretty much made our own deadlines.

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