In this edition of the Euroculture City Guide, Chingyz Jumakeyev (Kazakhstani) tells you all about life in the city of Bilbao, where he spent his second semester at the University of Deusto as part of the Euroculture programme, after his first semester in Göttingen.
The City Guide Project is led by Paola Gosio and Felix Lengers
Euroculturer Magazine (EM): Why did you choose to study and live in this particular city?
Chingyz Jumakeyev (CJ): I have always dreamed of living at least for a short period of time in Spain and even when searching for MA programmes, I always kept that idea in mind. Because of this, it was very easy for me to put the University of Deusto on the list of my preferred study destinations for three simple reasons. First, when applying for the Euroculture programme, I had already acquired a decent level of the Spanish language. Second, I really did not want to lose a chance to live and study next to the ocean (I think Deusto is the only university in the Euroculture programme that can give you that opportunity). Third, Spanish football! Being a fan of Spanish football I was eager to experience Spanish football culture and Bilbao is the perfect destination for that. You can literally feel how Bilbao’s identity is merged with its football club and players. Fun fact: Athletic Bilbao is the only Spanish team that is loyal to its local talents, which means every player of Athletic is required to have Basque heritage!
EM: What are the aspects you appreciate the most about the city and which ones are those that you like less?
CJ: Despite being a relatively small city, Bilbao offers a variety of activities. The best thing about it is that you have mountains for hiking, a river for paddling, an ocean for surfing, amazing weather, and of course you have a huge variety of bars and local food. Also, I would highlight the city’s well-developed infrastructure that allows you to travel not only Bilbao but the whole Biscay region very easily. Besides all of that, the city has much culture as well, which can be found in its famous Guggenheim Museum, the cultural area of the San Francisco neighborhood, Casco Viejo (Old town), and the renovated parts of the city like Moyua and Abando. The only thing that I appreciated less are the high prices which are typical for the Basque Country.
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.
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.
Stanislava Milankov (2019-2021) is from Serbia and before starting Euroculture, she graduated with a Bachelor in Sociology from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia. She applied for Euroculture because she wanted to deepen her knowledge in European affairs and gain professional experience within the EU through the professional track. Stanislava spent her first semester in Göttingen, Germany, and the second one in Udine, Italy. She is currently in Brussels, Belgium, doing an internship at the Assembly of European Regions.
EM: What were your expectations when you applied/started the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment? Stanislava Milankov: I expected to learn more about Europe from a political, societal and cultural perspective, to find internships which would help my professional development, to gain intercultural experience and meet people from all walks of life and, last but not least, to find new friends. All expectations have been fulfilled for now.
EM: Can you tell us more about your IP paper and the overall topic of the IP 2019/2020 ? How did you manage to find a suitable topic? SM: The overall topic of the IP 2019/2020 was “A sustainable Europe? Society, politics and culture in the Anthropocene”. I wrote a paper as part of the subtheme “democratic sustainability”. Taking into account that there is apparent dichotomy between the European liberal democratic ideals and the actual situation in some member states, like Hungary, and candidate countries, like Serbia, I compared the internal and external perceptions of the EU as an actor that can foster democratic changes.
Eduardo Eguiarte Ruelas (2018-2020) comes from Mexico and embarked on the Euroculture adventure after a BA in Latin American Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He spent his first semester at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and the second one at the University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain. He applied for Euroculture after having gone on exchange in Québec and Berlin, which convinced him that he wanted to study abroad. A lot focused on the political and cultural relations between Latin America and Europe in his BA, he saw the master as an opportunity to understand these relations from different perspectives. He was also swayed by the opportunity to get the Erasmus Mundus grant. For his third semester, Eduardo chose to do the research track at the University of Deusto.
Euroculturer Magazine:What were your expectations when you applied/started the MA Euroculture? And does it match the reality at the moment?
Eduardo Eguiarte Ruelas: Honestly, I did not have any particular expectation for the program. I imagined that it would be a great opportunity to get to know different people, speak different languages, and travel around Europe, and here the program has not failed me. Beyond that, I did not have any particular image of how it was going to be.
Ana Alhoud (2018-2020) is an American who traveled across the pond to start her Euroculture life in Göttingen, Germany. Before Euroculture, she studied Communication and International Studies for her Bachelor’s degree. She applied for Euroculture because she loves learning about different cultures and the many ways they interact. Ana is about to finish her first semester in Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany, and she will be continuing the next semester at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain.
Thank you Ana, for taking the time to answer these questions!
1. What was the most difficult thing that you had to adjust to when you started the programme?
For me, the most difficult thing to adjust to was the language barrier. Even though I have experience with other languages, German threw me a curve ball because the languages I do know are not super similar in structure or sound. However, I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn German and overcome the challenge it presented. Continue reading “Student Profiles: Ana Alhoud (US, Göttingen-Bilbao)”→
After discovering the various perks of the hidden gems and the Northern wonders of Euroculture’s consortium, it is time to discover the last two EU universities: Bilbao and Strasbourg. Both are extremely different due to their location; both are amazing picks to study. From the rainy shores of Spain to “La Petite France” picturesque architecture, here is what to expect from these two cities.
Bilbao: The Other Side of Spain
When heading to Spain, most students expect sunny and warm days. Perhaps it shouldn’t be your main motivation for picking Bilbao, though, since the city is among the rainiest of the country – “don’t forget your umbrella” is the main recommendation, quite accurately. If this is the price to pay to get both the sea and mountains at the same time, though, it might very well be worth it! Time is a notion that Spanish people learned to design according to their lifestyle. This also applies to Bilbao and to student life there. It might be rainy, but you will experience what Spain does best: tasty food and joyful leisure time. Not that studying will be any less important than elsewhere, don’t be mistaken – deadlines will just be served with a side dish called “work-life balance”. Continue reading “Euroculture: From Seaside to Europe’s Heart”→
Who will be the next president of the United States of America seems to be the big question of 2016, but in the European Parliament another game of thrones has begun.
At the last European Parliament elections in 2014, the conservative EPP and the social democratic S&D made a deal and signed a written agreement that meant that Martin Schulz, the S&D candidate, would become president for the first half of the legislative period and that the EPP would pick the president for the second half.
Now with the first half coming to an end in January 2017, the current president Martin Schulz does not seem to be willing to leave office, despite the EPP insisting on the instillation a new president from among their own ranks.
The face of EU policy
Schulz has been, with interruptions, president of the EP since 2012 and a Member of the EP (MEP) since 1994. He is often portrayed as a down to earth politician, ingrained and diligent. He is said to have strengthened the position of the European Parliament and even critics say he has made the EP more visible to the European public and the world.
He is considered to be the most influential president in the history of the European Parliament.
However his path to power and appreciation was rocky. The son of a police officer, he wanted to become a football player in his youth but a knee-injury made a professional career impossible. As a result this crushed dream Schulz became an alcoholic in the mid-70s which saw him lose his job and almost get thrown out of his own apartment.
However, despite this inauspicious start, Schulz eventually overcame his addiction with the help of his brother.
What followed is a remarkable career. After a career as a bookstore manager Schulz became mayor of his home town, Würselen, following his first engagement in the German Social Democratic Party. In 1994 he was elected member of the European Parliament and became its president in 2012. He reached a high point of his career when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize together with van Rompuy and Barroso on behalf of the European Union.
In 2014 Schulz wanted to become president of the EU Commission, but in the European elections the Conservatives became the largest party and their candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker became president of the Commission, a post he still holds to this day. Nevertheless, this setback did not stop Schulz from being re-elected as President of the EP.
Power play in the middle of the greatest crises in the existence of the EU
Schulz’s future, however, is unclear, as the first half of this legislative term comes to an end. According to the agreement, Schulz will be replaced by EPP member. However, for some, the agreement does not fit the new circumstances Europe finds itself in.
The S&D argues that with Juncker as President of the Commission and Tusk as President of the Council, already two of the key positions are held by EPP members; and to keep the balance between the largest EU parties, the presidency of the EP should stay with the S&D.
Even a prominent EPP politician and former competitor supports the idea of Schulz retaining the presidency after January 2017, with the simple reason:
“We need stability.”
Just recently Juncker spoke about the many challenges the EU faces in his ‘State of the Union’ address. Brexit, the refugee challenge, economic stagnation and youth-unemployment among many other things.
“Our European Union is, at least in part, in an existential crisis.” said Juncker.
To keep stability in these difficult times, Juncker would like to keep the leadership of the institutions as they are, namely, Schulz as president. It is no secret that Martin and Jean-Claude work closely together, Der Spiegel has even accused them of mutually securing each other’s posts. Juncker said:”The relationship between the Commission and the Parliament has probably never been as good as it is now”, so “Why change a reliable team?”
However the EPP has made it crystal clear that they will not have Schulz for the next half of the legislative period. Schulz has been heavily criticised for not sticking to the agreement and the same critics have claimed that he has made the representation of the European people a one-man-. These critics claim that “if Schulz gave the parliament a face, it is primarily his face”.
On the other hand, if Schulz id removed; whom is the EPP going to nominate? For an internal primary on 12 December candidates need to be found. However, they lack strong candidates:
So far the Italian Antonio Tajani, the French Alain Lamassoure and the Irish Mairead McGuinness have been mentioned as possible successors to Schulz. However Tajani is weakened by being close to former Italian PM Berlusconi, who has been disgraced by many scandals. Also as former commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, he supposedly involved in the emission scandal and has already been summoned before the investigation committee. All of this means that he is seen as unenforceable in the parliament.
The other candidates have similar shortcomings. Lamassoure has the reputation of being uncontrollable and prideful, some say thinking of himself as the French president. McGuinness, as a woman, current EP vice-president and a representative of a small EU Member State, seems to have the best chances of getting a majority in the parliament. Nevertheless she is perceived as a rather plain Jane candidate and has not excited much attention.
Currently, Schulz is fighting to forge a coalition with Liberals, Greens and EPP renegades. Yet it seems to be unlikely that he will cobble together enough votes without the backing of the EPP.
So what is next for him? Luckily another throne, perhaps a greater one, is up for grabs. In Berlin, some people would like to see Schulz as chancellor- the candidate for the SPD in place of the unpopular Sigmar Gabriel, to challenge Angela Merkel in the elections for the German parliament 2017 Regardless, it looks like Schulz has only begun to play.
If someone asks me what my favourite part of working for Euroculture is, I get an emotional, teary look in my eyes and tell them: “the students”! Fresh faces every semester, eager beavers waiting to be filled with information. Students coming from all corners of the world, all sharing that Euroculture-gene of being triggered by intercultural affairs, with mouths that start foaming by hearing words like ‘Brexit’, ‘transnational’ or ‘identity discourse’. Being in charge of the general firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail account, I’m often the first person an interested student talks to. It’s my duty to talk them into entering that great programme of ours. But with great power comes great responsibility, mostly in the form of a never-ending cascade of e-mails from students who just write ‘I want scholarship please I need it can I start tomorrow?’ and then expect us to transfer huge sums of money into their accounts. No joke. This happens. A lot. Even worse are those students who have enough brains and punctuation skills to trick us into believing they are genuinely interested in a position in our programme, who ask us to guide them through the application procedure, upload reference letters for them, prepare invoices and insurance certificates, and spend valuable time into ensuring a smooth transition into Euroculture studenthood, but who back out at the last moment by saying ‘sorry I’m not coming anymore, I’m going to Laos instead on a spiritual journey to find myself’. It’s time-consuming and annoying, but my bitterness never lingers – partly due to the great coffee bar in the vicinity of the consortium headquarters, but mostly because of that sweet sweet sound of a fresh new student knocking on my door, asking where they can find accommodation or how to open up a bank account. “Try the mobility office”, I tell them smilingly.
Albert Meijer works with the Erasmus Mundus Master of Excellence in Euroculture: Society, Politics and Culture in a Global Context, one of the most successful Erasmus Mundus programs. To read more of Albert’s work, click here.
(Europe needs all its voices to weather the challenges faces it today. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need to stand up for your Europe. Join the FREE online course, ‘European Culture and Politics’ starting September 26.)
To find out more about the Euroculture program, visit their website here
Finding a place to live is probably going to be one of your biggest worries over the two years you will spend as a Euroculture student. You will soon be living out of one big fat suitcase, and you will master the art of bookings, security checking and visa applications.
What I recommend:
Use the university student accommodation system. It’s easy to use (Google Docs) and reliable.
Plus: avoid all the troubles of finding private accommodations while living and studying abroad and make new international friends. (Or not. No one forces you to.)
Minus: you most probably won’t get to live with locals, which could be a shame if you’re trying to learn or improve your Spanish! If this is the case, Facebook might be your best friend. Check out local groups for flatshare, or browse through some local websites. The process will take you longer, but it is worth it. (A friend of mine – an outsider to the Euroculture progamme – was living with three lovely Spanish guys, and it made his Erasmus experience unforgettable.)
Oh the weather! If you thought moving to Spain meant sea, sex and sun, well, it’s not exactly what you’re gonna get in Bilbao. The climate being oceanic on the Atlantic coast, I suggest you pack a pair of wellies. On the other hand, you should also get yourself a bathing suit and a pair of sunnies, because it does get better. (I started going for a swim around April in Bilbao. Not even lying!)
University life. I know that’s also one of the big question marks here. At the University of Deusto, typically, bachelor students have classes in the morning, and masters students in the afternoon. My schedule (you might not get the exact same one but something close to that) was roughly three hours of classes per day from Monday to Thursday, almost always in the afternoon (starting at 3pm). You might occasionally get a class on Friday morning, but you’ll get over it. Continue reading “Second-semester Experiences, 2015”→