The Back Office: New Students

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Albert Meijer

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 euroculture@rug.nl 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. 

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(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

No More “I don’t know” on Euroculture Housing Issue

Eunjin Jeong l eunjin.lynn@gmail.com

Housing is a very important issue for MA Euroculture students because they get to move constantly as part of the curriculum. For some, getting a room in new places has been easy but as most of them admittedly say, they were lucky. The truth of Euroculture housing is here: It can be very difficult and if you are not lucky, you are all on your own. Looking for a room in a foreign country can be a very stressful process especially if you don’t speak the local language. Also, it’s possible that the semester already started and you are without ‘home’, living in a hotel or hostel. I examined the housing situation of Euroculturers, in collaboration with Niccolò Beduschi (Euroculture 12/14) who brought up the issue and ask three questions in an attempt to get more housing support from MA Euroculture Consortium and some universities which are not providing any housing service.

Why don’t we start by looking at ‘very good’ cases?

BILBAO

The University has helped us find a place. You send some necessary documents before a set deadline and one month after you receive information about your place. They send you information of your apartment (address, cost etc) and ask if you’d like to accept the offer. Bilbao is really good in that service.”

KRAKOW

Euroculture Krakow team was really helpful throughout the process. They gave us advices on web pages, kept track of our accommodation status via E-Mail and coordinated semester rooms with Laborooms (kind of dorms from a private company). I am really happy with the “service” of Krakow.”

Question #1. How could Bilbao and Krakow so good at these services when others are not?

And here are some ‘could have been better’ cases.

GRONINGEN

It is possible to find a place “through the university” but only by paying a fee of one month of rent.”

STRASBOURG

You can get student housing, but it is not in a good condition (ok, it’s cheap but that should be the only positive thing!). The application process for the student rooms was easy and worked out well. But you definitely need French in order to get along with everything.”

Question #2. Should we not expect a decent room if we cannot afford a high fee or speak good French?

And here are some ‘could have been a lot better’ cases. The problem not only comes from the lack of support from the university but also the fact that there are too many students looking for a room at the same time. Still, they can do more than just saying “I don’t know.”

UDINE

Most landlords want you to have a contract for a year. Actually, there are many ads from people looking for roommates, but because they all look for people who will stay long, finding a place is very difficult, although if you have time, it’s not impossible.”

UPPSALA

The university at the beginning did not help us find a place until at last we were told that some rooms were reserved for international master students. Many of us got those. However, it’s very hard to get rooms in Uppsala in general.”

GOTTINGEN

Everyone had to search for their own accommodation as far as I know, and we didn’t receive any help from either Euroculture Goettingen team or the university. They just recommend me websites for the private market. You can apply for student dorms, but you get on a waiting list with the average waiting time of 20-24 months. Some people even had to stay in a hotel for a few weeks, even when the semester had already started.”

Question #3. We all know we are adults who need to take care of our own affairs. But what if it’s REALLY DIFFICULT?

This simple poll and possible following comments/debates will be collected and sent, in a month, to the Consortium and each university to show Euroculturers’ opinions on the issue. Many thanks go to Niccolò Beduschi and other Euroculture students for providing the information(quotes) I used to write this article.

Eunjin Jeong, Editor-in-chief

Eunjin is from South Korea and studied Education for her BA. She began MA Euroculture in October 2011 in the University of Göttingen, later studied in the University of Strasbourg, did a research track in Uppsala University and currently finishing her MA thesis in Strasbourg. Her research interests lie in finding ways for diaspora groups to feel as ‘citizens at heart’ in host countries. Eunjin is a part-time realist and a full-time idealist.

How The Euroculturer Began: Eureka Over Pasta, Dancing in the Dark, and Our Magazine Here

Eunjin Jeong | eunjin.lynn@gmail.com

Very late at night, I suddenly started dancing in the street. It was an ordinary day in May and I was on my way back home after studying with an Italian friend of mine, Bianca Rubino, for our final exams. Me dancing in public is extremely rare and I would rather appear doing yoga on French national TV than be seen dancing by a stranger. Still, I was dancing, in the presence of random passersby staring, walking in the direction of Robertsau, my residence in Strasbourg, undoubtedly happy.

Three hours ago I was asking Bianca, over pasta that we cooked together, why I should be happy. I had been secretly going through a very hard time for months because of an irrevocably damaged friendship with my best friend. Helpless and hurt, I felt like running away from everybody, especially those who really cared about me. Not knowing what I was going through and how desperate I was, Bianca cheerfully answered, without even stopping to think for one second, “You should be happy because you’ve had a chance to meet a wonderful person like me through Euroculture. Why wouldn’t you be happy?”. The answer shocked me to the point that my world turned upside down. Her not very serious response to my very serious question didn’t bother me at all because it was so right. I had had the privilege of getting to know so many wonderful people during my two semesters of Euroculture, except I hadn’t realised it until then. I believe that that very Eureka moment, later followed by a highly unusual dance performance in celebration, helped to heal my wounds and gave me the strength to kick off The Euroculturer.

Having enjoyed working as a writer for a university English-language newspaper during my undergraduate years, establishing a platform for students to write freely was actually on my dream list since the first day I started the MA Euroculture programme. It was only a matter of inspiration, courage, and willingness to sacrifice some free time. I have been fortunate enough to find all three thanks to the Eureka moment that I experienced in May 2012. The magazine, however, only became possible with the help of many other Euroculturers. The Board of Editors including copy editors, correspondents from each university, and contributing writers, from both Euroculture current students and alumni, are true pioneers fully equipped with the love of their own community. The Euroculture Consortium trusted me with the project and now supports the magazine with funding, which symbolizes the close connection between the Consortium and its students. Dr. Lars Klein of the University of Göttingen helped me greatly throughout all the crucial moments of getting official approvals and funding from the Consortium, not to mention his sincere encouragements from the very beginning of the preparation. Juan M. Sarabia, a Euroculture programme coordinator from Jagiellonian University, Krakow, without whom The Euroculturer would have been homeless, built us a home, i.e. a fabulous website to accommodate all of our articles. He also helped out with all the technical and designing concerns, including the logo. Nora Trench Bowles, a Euroculture classmate from the University of Strasbourg and a Drew Barrymore replica with an excellent work ethic, volunteered to take the responsibility of Copy Chief. She is, therefore, fully in charge of the copy editing process which, with the collaboration of other copy editors, takes care of the quality part of the magazine. This has helped me greatly in concentrating on the content and pulling the overall edition together. Helen Hoffmann, whom I always rely on for important decisions, is a true Miss Help for the magazine. Heartfelt thanks go to all those mentioned.

The only hope we have for this magazine is that no matter how many editions come out in the future, after the first generation leaves, it will remain as a place where all Euroculturers feel truly welcomed to share their stories of Euroculture, regardless of their backgrounds or peculiarities. Every Euroculture student, including alumni, is welcomed to contribute and I want to spare the finale of this acknowledgment especially for the future contributors to The Euroculturer.

eunjinEunjin Jeong, Editor-in-chief

Eunjin is from South Korea and studied Education for her BA. She began Euroculture in October 2011 in the University of Göttingen, later studied in the
University of Strasbourg, and is currently doing a research track in Uppsala University. Her research interests lie in finding ways for diaspora groups to feel ‘citizens at heart’ in host countries. Eunjin is a part-time realist and a full-time idealist.