Personal thoughts and experiences of Euroculture students, teachers, alumni… about the Euroculture lifestyle. Sometimes in the form of feedback, or diary article, or pictures: the format is up to the authors, just like the topic!
Samuel Yosef (2017-2019) is half-Italian and half-Eritrean. Before Euroculture, he studied Law at Sapienza – University of Rome. After his Bachelor’s, Sam wanted to do a Master programme in European Studies that combined travel and an opportunity to experience new things outside his hometown Rome. He heard about an Erasmus Mundus Master from a friend who was doing one on Space Studies. After a look at the universities and cities comprising the Euroculture Consortium as well as the possibility to study outside Europe, he decided that Euroculture was a perfect combination of his ideal MA programme.
He studied in the University of Strasbourg, France in the first semester and spent the second semester in the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He just returned to Rome after a research semester abroad in Osaka, Japan, and is getting ready to move again to Strasbourg for the last semester of his studies.
Thank you Sam, 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?
Bureaucracy and housing. When I first moved to Strasbourg, I didn’t have a place to live–just an Airbnb–and my mother came with me to find a house. I arrived in Strasbourg a week before classes started. I didn’t know how to look for a house because I’ve never had to do it before. With everything being in French it was hard for me to communicate, let alone find something. On top of that, there are a lot of French “regulations” with the housing search that I didn’t know about. For example, most of the housing offers for students require a French guarantor.
In the end, the housing search turned out to be very hard. It was also partly my fault because it was already too late when I started looking, and anywhere, September is a very busy month for students in search of a place to live. Eventually, everything worked out, but at the time, it felt like my major source of “threat” was finding a house. I learned from this, of course–for my fourth semester, I started looking in September to find a place to live from January.
Some people start a new year with new year’s resolutions. Some are just trying to get over their New Year’s Eve hungover. Here in the offices of Euroculture, we have a different tradition to start the new year. I introduce to you: the Management Meeting.
For a Management Meeting, directors and coordinators from all Euroculture universities get on trains, planes and automobiles to meet each other, to battle it out in an arena (meeting room) in one of the Euroculture cities. The upcoming meeting will take place in Göttingen, which means that in between debates we get to regain our strength by eating sauerkraut and drinking beer.
The Meeting happens twice a year: once in January, and once during the Intensive Programme, which also includes delegates from the non-EU partner universities. The January meetings are somewhat bleaker: less sun, less partners, less students (none at all!), which leaves all the more room for what needs to be done: talk, discuss, manage, meet. All work and no play.
So what do we discuss during these sessions? Boring stuff mostly, but vital for a complicated international programme like ours. Important decisions are made here too: which students will get to go to a non-EU partner for the third semester? Which applicants will be selected for Erasmus Mundus scholarships? (Spoiler: none, we’re in a gap year.)
Despite the high level of boring discussions and endless note-taking, I see the meetings as a treat. Not only do I get to see all Euroculture cities, it’s always great to see the extended Euroculture family, meet new additions to the team, and most of all to take part in the best tradition of them all: gossiping about the students we share.
“Dancing Through the Euroculture Master” was filmed by Euroculture students in 3 continents, 18 countries, and 24 towns or cities for the last 2 years. 25 Euroculture 2012-2014 students are featured in the video.
Directed by Miia Simunaniemi(Euroculture 2012-14), Idea by Laura Marchetti(Euroculture 2012-2014).
The Euroculturer has invited Lex Tan Yih Liang, a student in the Erasmus Mundus Europhotonics Master’s programme to feature in this edition. Originally from Malaysia, Lex is an active member of the Erasmus Mundus Student and Alumni Association (EMA) as well as a founder of travel website ‘LeX Paradise’ since 2009, which is followed by over 3,000 people on Facebook. (http://www.facebook.com/LexParadise)
1) Hello, Lex, nice to see you here. Could you briefly introduce yourself and your Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme, Europhotonics?
Sure, I am Lex from Malaysia, an ordinary guy that dreams big. I love technology, entrepreneurship, and traveling. I guess those interests lead me to this prestigious Master’s programme, which is the Erasmus Mundus Master’s program, Europhotonics. It is a Master’s program that focuses on ”light”, or “photon” as it is known scientifically. In the field of photonics there are endless areas to explore and develop. These include laser technology which is used in the medical field, but also in machinery; renewable energy such as solar energy, and wind energy; consumer devices such as lighting, smartphones, and screen panels; optical devices such as telescopes, microscopes, and cameras. I have to say it is a great Master’s programme and I am finishing it later this year 2013.
2) Why did you choose to come to Europe to study one of the Erasmus Mundus programmes? And after studying Europhotonics for over two years, what do you feel about the choice you made two years ago?
I choose this program because I have a strong interest in technology, especially in renewable energy and the IT sector. Secondly, the Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme is one you would not want to miss out on if you like to travel. Lastly, this Master’s programme also offers entrepreneurship training and courses in its curriculum. That’s why I am in this program right now.
What I feel about my decision to take part in this programme? Simply awesome! Totally! I made the right choice, no regrets!
3) Could you tell us about LeX Paradise? How did it all start?
I founded LeX Paradise back in 2009 when I was living in South Korea. It was just a virtual space for me to write down my travel experiences in Korea. Four months into my stay there, Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) organised a contest for people that write about South Korea. I was really curious about the contest, and ended up joining.. I continued to write more about my travels and I was getting more familiar with Korea. At the end of the contest, I received an award as one of the top 30 travel bloggers. All of the winners were invited to a luxury trip around South Korea. I met many professional travel writers, youtubers, and entrepreneurs in the travel industry. From that point on, I learned to improve as a travel writer, webmaster, and internet marketer.
Yes, that was how I started LeX Paradise!
4) There are many Erasmus Mundus students who wish to run their own travel website given that we travel a lot as part of the curriculum, but it is not easy to keep it running since we normally have very tight schedules. How do you juggle with your studies and your extra-curricular activities as a travel writer, especially considering LeX Paradise is getting bigger and bigger every day?
Really? I met some of them but not so many. Are you one of them? If anyone is interested to start one, let me know – we could discuss it. (You can contact Lex here).
You are quite right about the amount of work as Erasmus Mundus students have to complete. It is not easy to manage all the activities alone. For that reason, contributors play a big role of maintaining the website as well as ensuring that quality contents continue flowing into the website. So that’s mainly how I get by.
And finally, LeX Paradise is not as big as you think but yes, it is getting better.
5) Have you heard about the MA Euroculture programme before? What is the first impression you had upon hearing the name of the programme? Let’s put it another way: if you were to meet a MA Euroculture student for the first time, what kind of questions would you ask to keep the person interested?
I heard about it when I was at the EMA-General assembly. What came to my mind was a Master’s program that covers a wide range of European cultures, including politics, social issues, communities, and of course Culture.
As for the question, it would depend on where that student is from.
To a European student I would ask: “What has the main influence of European culture been over the past decades?”.
To a non-European student: “What is the main difference between European cultures and the culture of where you are from?”
6) You are an active member of the Erasmus Mundus Association (EMA). Could you briefly introduce your job as Promotion Team Coordinator in the EMA-Southeast Asian Chapter (EMA-SEA Chapter)?
As a Promotion Team Coordinator, I am responsible for promotion-related activities in the region, managing social media platforms, brainstorming on promotional events, providing latest Erasmus Mundus information to all the potential candidates as well as representing EMA-SEA Chapter for EMA events. Those are the main features of my job.
7) How did you get involved with the association, and what do you like most about the EMA?
At the beginning, I was a member of EMA, just like anyone else who registers once they start their Master’s program. From time to time, activities were organized online, and I got involved in some of them.
At one point, I thought I should get more involved in the association by contributing with my experiences but also to gain new skills and expertise. For that reason, I ran in the board member election of EMA-Southeast Asian Chapter and I was elected. So, that’s the actual starting point from which I became very involved in the association.
EMA provides a platform for students and alumni to explore endless opportunities including social networking, soft skills, professional development, mentoring, activist, community development and many more. It is a hub for all Erasmus Mundus Awardees to connect, share and make the world a better place.
This is what I really love about EMA.
8) What is the easiest way for other Erasmus Mundus students to be more active in the EMA?
Since EMA members are spread out all over the world, it is hard to get everyone together to tell them more about the association. One of the ways to contribute that I could suggest for other EMA member is to start with online virtual events. For example, participation in webinars, online professional speed dating, online conferencing, as well as in the discussion board. This is one of the best ways to start, and it is the way I started as well. Another way is to get to know EMA members locally and start organizing events and hangouts in your area.
9) One of the two themes of the 4th edition of The Euroculturer is “Welcome home”. Have you been back in Malaysia yet since you started MA Europhotonics, and if you have, how did it feel to be back? Do you think your experience as an Erasmus Mundus student in Europe drastically changed your perspectives toward your home country?
I haven’t been back to my home country yet, but I can imagine how I am going to feel about it. I think I am going to feel very glad to be back home again after such a great time in Europe, feel loved and cherished to meet all my loved ones, and feel a sense of responsibility by being part of a local and global community that strives to make the world a better place.
I think my experience as an Erasmus Mundus student in Europe changed my perspectives toward my country, especially those perspectives that could improve and develop my country, Malaysia!
10) Lastly, could you please tell us about your plans after graduating from the MA Europhotonics Programme? What kind of work do you want to do? Also, will you still be a travel writer then?
After Europhotonics, I will definitely return to my home country for a while and will be back again in Europe to do a PhD or to launch a start-up. As usual, my work will be very technological.
Of course, once travel writer, forever travel writer. Once EMA member, forever EMA member!
Thanks, Lex for sharing your story with The Euroculturer Magazine. We wish you all the best with everything you do, especially your studies, LeX Paradise, and your engagement with the EMA.
Interview by Eunjin Jeong, 2013-14 EMA Programme Representative of MA Euroculture.
When I was asked whether I would like to be involved in The Euroculturer magazine as the Food Section Editor, I didn’t hesitate for a second in saying “yes”. I couldn’t believe that I, out of all people, had been contacted for this purpose. One of many reasons why I was so thrilled about this opportunity was because my dream, which I have been realizing through my culinary blog, Taste This!, for two years now and still going strong, is to one day be able to call myself a real food writer. Not only is being Food Editor for The Euroculturer going to take me one step closer to that dream, it will also make me work even harder so as to provide a multicultural European audience with information about food, food culture, gastronomy and beyond through my food philosophy and culinary lens.
As a former student of MA Euroculture at the University of Strasbourg, France, I feel that knowing Europe and, above all, knowing who you are and where you come from, is much about food. As a matter of fact, various scholars argue that food habits are the last to change when people move from country to country, from culture to culture. Discovering foreign countries through their distinctive food cultures and food landscape is among my favourite things to do. Eight months ago, when I started working on my Master’s thesis, I decided that I needed to unravel my own native country’s culinary culture and, thus, my own identity. After diving deep into Finnish food culture and taste, I am more convinced than ever that people should know what they eat and, hence, what they are made of.
My name is Edith Salminen, I am twenty-six years old, I come from Finland and, for as long as I can remember, I have had a huge appetite for delicious food. Because there are no limits to my love for food and because I want to learn all there is to learn about food, I applied and got accepted to the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra, Italy. My courses start in November 2012. I have a magnificent year ahead of me.
My love affair with flavours never ceases to amaze me. I dazzle myself sometimes when a tiny bite of a perfect dish excites my palate to the extent that tears of joy blind my vision for a brief instant. People often ask me how it is possible to be so emotional about food. I guess there is no direct explanation. I simply have to be very thankful to have been raised to always try and appreciate the food served to me.
The biggest credit, however, goes to my beloved older brother, a chef turned fire fighter. Ten years older than me, he was, and still is, my biggest hero and role model. My most vivid culinary memories go back to the mid 1990s; to the kitchen in my childhood home where my brother would test the recipes he had learned in cooking school on me. I have always loved to eat, so I had nothing against being his little guinea pig.
Somewhere between me being a little girl, starting to taste my way into the amazing world of culinary pleasures, and the present day, I have become a full-on and full-time foodie. Cooking, eating, writing, debating about food; you name it, I am doing it. I hope that I can inspire you, dear reader, to eat and cook more and better but, most of all, I hope to sensitize you to the enjoyment of tasting delicious food.
Amazing goodness is right there, even if you might not know it. Contrary to what some might think, good food and culinary know-how are not only for sophisticated elites. Good food ought to be an everyday demand for all. I sincerely hope that I will manage to make you think, talk and reflect over food, food culture, gastronomy and your culinary identities. Most of all, I hope I will make you very hungry. Taste this, Europeans! Read and enjoy friends!
Edith was born in Finland and has been travelling around the world since a young age. Edith obtained her BA in French Philology from Helsinki University and studied Euroculture at the University of Strasbourg. After completing the Euroculture programme she did another Master’s programme, this time in European Studies at Lund University, Sweden. Currently, she is pursuing a career as a food writer and is enrolled at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra, Italy. She’s a passionate food lover who fully agrees with Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”.