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
Janina Grabs, EMA (Erasmus Mundus Association) Course Representative of Erasmus Mundus Master’s Programme, Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Policy Analysis, is certainly an interesting figure. In her old blog, she described herself as a Globetrotter, Foodie, Multilingual, and definitely a Chocoholic. She now runs a new and popular blog called ‘Food (Policy) for Thought’. Her passion for food policy is admirable and even contagious. Therefore, The Euroculturer concluded it is of interest for our readers to invite Janina and learn more about her love for sustainable food policy, some simple tips that we can do in our daily lives to support more sustainable food systems, and also her amazing Erasmus Mundus life.
Q1) Hello, Janina, nice to have you here. Could you briefly introduce yourself and your Erasmus Mundus Programme? In your opinion, what distinguishes your Master’s programme from others dealing with similar topics?
Hey there, thanks for having me! I’m originally German and was born in Berlin, but have lived in the USA, Switzerland, Canada, France, and Germany again since then. And I actually just moved to Sweden for the second year of my Master’s!
Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Policy Analysis (AFEPA) was born only 3 years ago and is a programme offered by the University of Bonn, Universite Catholique de Louvain, Corvinus University in Budapest, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, and the Swedish Agricultural University (SLU) in Uppsala. I think that AFEPA really manages to merge the different fields that are touched by our food systems – both from the environmental as from the economic and political side. Thus, we also have a fantastic array of students with very diverse backgrounds who can teach each other a lot, from the animal science of dairy production to the political economy of selling the resulting milk products.
“AFEPA really manages to merge the different fields that are touched by our food systems…”
Q2) You studied Political Science at McGill and Science Po for your B.A. How did that background help you understand your current subject better? Also, why did you decide to do your Master’s degree in Europe, when you could have gone to another part of the world?
I think studying political science expands your horizons on how decisions in some parts of the world can affect outcomes in very different areas. As a result you are prevented from being too narrow-minded in looking at the impacts of certain policy decisions. Also, we learned to read and digest great amounts of information very quickly, which is extremely useful when faced with a 900 page economics textbook.
I was drawn back to Europe both because of considerations for my future career – with a European passport, it was more practical to acquire experience that will allow me to work in governments and policy analysis in a European setting – and because I love the lifestyle here. I may be a globetrotter but Europe still feels most like home.
“I may be a globetrotter but Europe still feels most like home…”
Q3) What do you like most about being an Erasmus Mundus student?
I am a restless spirit that gets bored easily and so I love the challenge and opportunities of exploring new places, settling in new cities and being faced with new languages and cultures. But of course, the best part is the people you meet from all parts of the world who introduce you to more aspects of your field of study – and life in general – that you had ever considered before.
Q4) Let’s talk about your blog now. Tell us a bit more about ‘Food (Policy) for Thought’ and how it all started. Also, who are the people regularly visiting your blog and what are they looking for?
As you mentioned, I was already familiar with blogging, having kept a travel blog semi-alive over several years, but I really wanted to focus more on the one topic that I felt most passionate about. In addition, we had a very long exam period where I had a lot of free time on my hands and no obligations other than studying – and we all know we can’t do that all day long. The blog gave me an excuse to look deeper into issues I would have otherwise only skimmed and to try to explain complex topics to laymen like myself. I think my regular readers come from all walks of life: they are students, mums that are looking to cook real food for their kids, farmers – and actually a lot of people whose blogs I follow myself. This again is such a fun back-and-forth between people with different perspectives and expertise, and the comments and feedback are the one thing that keeps me coming back.
“The blog gave me an excuse to look deeper into issues…”
Q5) What is the best part of being a blogger related to the subject that you are currently studying? Also, many people have hard time keeping their blogs running. How do you juggle all the course work and blogging?
Writing the blog gives me a reason to take a look outside of my textbook and to see how the concepts that we study actually apply in day-to-day life. Also, it helps me to keep up with the current literature in my field of study, which is very helpful now that the time to write my thesis is coming closer and closer. And as for the balancing question – I just came back from a 3-week semi-hiatus when I was swamped with starting a new job, moving (twice), exams and summer school course work. I think it is important not to beat yourself up about letting it go for a while until the dust settles as long as you do come back to it with more motivation and passion again afterwards. The worst path in my opinion is to keep writing something drudgingly just to keep up appearances – do it with passion or don’t do it at all.
“Do it with passion or don’t do it at all…”
Q6) In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge that gets in the way of sustainable food policy making? Also, are there differences among countries? What about the cooperation between countries?
Most humans always prefer the status-quo to any consideration of change coming into their life, especially if that change is a little more uncomfortable from a certain perspective. Right now we live in an era of cheap, plentiful, woefully unhealthy food that is wreaking havoc on our natural resources, public health and on our appreciation of the magic of cooking and eating together. Changing the food system requires changing mind-sets – once that is accomplished, everything else is easier. Maybe the mind-set of ‘supersizing everything’ and the ‘American diet’ is one of the most extreme examples .The USA can be seen as a case that is particularly challenging. Its industrialised food system has expanded beyond its borders. On the other hand, a focus on real, organic, fair traded food can also become a movement that expand over borders, as many multinational NGOs show – so it can really go both ways.
“Changing the food system requires changing mind-sets…”
Q7) Please give us some simple advice on what we can do in our daily lives to support a more sustainable food system.
I will give you three tips: Replacing a couple of meals a week by vegetarian alternatives can reduce your environmental footprint by a lot due to the resource-intensity of meat production. Reducing food waste is also an easy step to save resources. And finally, if you choose organic products from time to time you support a production method that is much gentler with the elements we and future generations depend on for our food.
“If you choose organic products, you support a production method that is better for us and future generations…”
Q8) What are your other passions?
As a self-identified foodie, I love to cook (vegetarian dishes from around the world) and bake; I adore travelling; and I like to do endurance sports like running and triathlons. Oh, and I just discovered sailing this summer, which might be my new favourite thing yet.
Q9) What is the first impression you have upon hearing the name of MA Euroculture? Let’s put it another way. If you met a student of MA Euroculture for the first time, what kind of questions would you ask to keep the person interested?
Well, of course I would ask all about where they come from, why they are interested in European culture and what they are currently working on. I think your Master is so flexible that these couple of questions would lead to discussions that would be very different from person to person, but each time fascinating in its own way.
Q10) Lastly, could you please tell us about your plans after graduating from Agricultural, Food and Environmental Policy Analysis Programme? What kind of work do you want to do? Also, will you still be a sustainable food policy blogger then?
Haha, I do hope I will manage to keep blogging for as long as possible! After finishing my Master, I would like to get my hands dirty either figuratively – working with European food policy for example in Brussels – or literally – doing some farming myself – before moving on to a PhD.
Thank you so much, Janina. We wish you all the best in everything you do, especially in your studies, blogging, and other amazing adventures waiting for you!
Interview by Eunjin Jeong, 2013-14 EMA Programme Representative of MA Euroculture.
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.
Thank you very much for your answer! We wish you the best with your (Post) Erasmus Mundus life!
The result of the poll will be collected and delivered during the General Assembly of Erasmus Mundus Student and Alumni Association (EMA) which will take place on 14-15 June 2013 in Barcelona. The EMA General Assembly (GA) will gather Programme Representatives from over 150 Erasmus Mundus Masters and Doctorate Programmes to enhance the quality of your Erasmus Mundus student lives. If you have any other concerns about your Erasmus Mundus life that have not been covered by this poll, feel free to contact Eunjin Jeong, 2013-2014 Programme Representative of MA Euroculture via email@example.com. For more information about Erasmus Mundus student and alumni Association, visit here and also find it on Facebook.
To my surprise, I was a bit tongue-tied when I first met Alex in front of Pushkin’s statue in Pushkin Square, Moscow on a Sunday afternoon. He was emitting aura which made me forget what I had prepared to say. What am I doing in Moscow? Unfortunately, it seemed like I couldn’t remember why I was there. This is embarrassing. I wanted to sound like a real journalist but apparently it was not working. I just wished I could fool him for the next two hours.
The timing Alex appeared in my life couldn’t have been better. Six weeks before, during the Euroculture Intensive Programme (IP) in Bilbao, Spain, I was anxiously preparing to start an online magazine, The Euroculturer, in the MA Euroculture community. I was also looking for ways to bring alumni back to Euroculture. I heard Alex speak on Career Day and thought that his story could be a great example to many Euroculture students wishing to expand their horizons during their studies. What would be the best way to cover him? I wanted to find out something other than what he already presented on Career Day. Then I got an idea. After the IP, I contacted Alex to ask if I could meet him in Moscow. A few weeks later, in the middle of August, I found myself in Moscow, lost in Cyrillic but full of spirit.
On the way to the restaurant from Pushkin square, as I relaxed a bit, Alex gave me a few details of his life. He studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Scottish men wearing skirts came up in conversation and he told me that he also had a kilt. He wore it for various occasions but mainly in his ceilidh band, Achtung Ceilidh, where he played bass for a few years. He has played guitar for about 15 years and music has always been a big part of his life. Cool.
At the restaurant, Alex ordered for both of us, my Russian not being so hot. I wondered how good his Russian was and he said it was functional to the extent that he could communicate with his Russian colleagues. When asked why he chose to work in Russia, he told me that he had worked in Moscow before he started the MA Euroculture programme. He hit it off with the city and that’s why he decided to come back when he got a job offer. I asked about his current job at BKC International House Moscow where he has a mouthful of a title: Executive Centre Assistant Director of Studies. The job is a healthy mix of teaching, management and training teachers. It’s the variety that makes it, he said.
When the food arrived, I asked more questions about his Euroculture years. He started Euroculture in 2009 at Uppsala University. Outside of the classroom, he was hired as International Secretary of the Uppsala Association of International Affairs, helping to organise weekly public lectures. He joined the Erasmus Mundus Association (EMA) just before moving to the University of Deusto in Bilbao for the second semester. In the EMA he was selected as course representative for Euroculture and was given the chance to participate in the Madrid General Assembly and Communications Conference in Bordeaux. After joining EMA, he wrote regularly for their in-house magazine, EMANATE, and worked closely with the EMA communications team. The idea of his most recent project, Human[i]ties Perspective, was born out of this network, but also from a joint initiative of the EMA and OCEANS Network called Realise It.
Our plates were almost empty when his research interests came up. While keeping himself busy with EMA activities, Alex found the topic of cultural diplomacy interesting. He wrote his IP paper on town twinning, a form of cultural cooperation between two cities, which he further developed in his Master’s thesis. He completed an internship with an EU-funded project, Monitors of Culture, hosted by the University of Deusto, on the role of cultural observatories in Europe in the future. Talking about Bilbao reminded me of his charity marathon which impressed me so much − Forrest Gump being one of my favourite movies – that he had spoken about on Career Day during the IP. Rather enthusiastically, I asked about his marathon and he told me the story in detail. Back in 2010, Alex and a friend of his, George, decided to raise money for charity by running the Bilbao Night Marathon. He’s a passionate runner so it was not intended only for charity, but also for fun. The marathon was a great success and they raised over 4,000 US$ for charity: to help build a well in northern Ethiopia. The support from his Euroculture colleagues, both financial and emotional, was amazing, he said. His charity work, highlighted by the marathon in Bilbao, was one of the reasons why Alex was selected as 2012 EMA Star. Other reasons include his dedication to the EMA communications team and his role in Human[i]ties Perspective, an annual two-day conference with which he has been actively involved since 2011.
Before we parted, Alex said that Euroculture, which distinguishes itself from other Master’s programmes mostly by its mobility aspect, could also be a ‘platform’ for the wider world once you start to see how to get involved. I asked if joining the EMA was one of the critical moments of his life. The word ‘critical’ seemed to entertain him fairly but he soon admitted that it was pretty important because it widened his Euroculture experience and eventually brought Human[i]ties Perspective into his life, not to mention an amazing group of friends from all over the world. Cool, I thought and wished that more Euroculturers would take advantage of what EMA could offer. Then we both looked down at our watches. He had to interview some new staff at work shortly and I had no more questions left. It was time to go.
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.
It was during the Intensive Programme in Bilbao when the thought “Let’s have a common graduation!” came up. The idea arose in the middle of a process that tied us, the 2011-2013 MA Euroculture students, closer together but which, at the same time, marked already half-time on the Master programme’s clock. In the middle of making new contacts and reviving friendships from the first semester, we felt that the IP was a truly unique occasion to get together on the way to achieving our joint degree – one that would not come back. It is hard to say – maybe the felicitous gala dinner gave the key incentive for the idea, or maybe it was the melancholy that came with saying goodbye to so many marvellous people… Maybe, as we move between countries and universities, personal contacts become more important than places. And almost naturally, we strive for a common, dignified closing point, after all the effort put into this prestigious Master programme.
The discussion about the how-when-where that had barely begun during the IP shifted to our Facebook group in June. By the end of July, 55 of the approximately 80 2011-2013 Euroculture students had participated in or read the entries, and about 30 of them had actively ‘liked’ the overall idea. One of the first issues discussed was the location – where should a common graduation ceremony be held? There were proposals reaching from Krakow to Hawaii and from Groningen to Uppsala. Another of the first concerns was about additional costs for travelling and accommodation, and many wondered if there was some funding possibility as was the case for the IP. The motivation to set up a common graduation ceremony had started to materialise in concrete issues.
Surprisingly, we have come to know only recently that preparations for the first joint “Euroculture Alumni Day and Graduation Ceremony” had already started at that time. Unnoticed by most of us, a news article appeared in the Euroculture group on the EMA (Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association) website at the end of July, inviting Euroculture graduates, alumni and their relatives and friends to the event. The first joint Euroculture graduation, which was held 12-13 October in the Göttingen, was primarily organized for Göttingen home and host students, but was also open to students from the other universities. So it gathered graduates from the years 2008- 2012 and represented a meeting of former Euroculture students at the same time. The approximately 90 participants and guests from all over the world enjoyed highlights like a common dinner, certificate awarding ceremony and a casual get-together with snacks and drinks. While travelling and accommodation costs were not covered, the university offered to make reservations with the university discount.
When I started writing this article, I believed it would be with the mission to get a common graduation ceremony on the way. What it does now is to announce that a dream that many of us shared has already come true. Really, Prof. Dr. Tamcke from the University of Göttingen seems to sum up our feelings perfectly when he says: “If you finish your studies it’s not a mechanical thing alone. You need something also to feel that it’s a special point of your life and you need to celebrate it a bit”. In the end, the joint graduation ceremony and the alumni network are those characteristics of the MA programme that have the ability to carry the Euroculture spirit beyond its physical limits: staying in contact, keep meeting other Euroculturers, keep sharing ideas about Europe.
A last question remains: does all this mean that we can actually count on a graduation ceremony for us next year? Or one in some years time at least? Well, it looks like it! The University of Göttingen writes on its homepage: “Euroculture Göttingen would like to thank the participants for coming and helping us set up a wonderful tradition!” and announces that the event will be held on a yearly basis from now on. It’s just that… have we ever heard officially of such a ceremony for us? Let’s make sure, just in case. Take it as a mission to keep talking about the graduation ceremony in any possible Euroculture context, ask at your universities about it, tell all the Euroculture students and staff, and, if you like, even try to get involved in the organisation of the event. There’s no offer without a request for it, and we are here to make things happen the way we like them!
Anne has a BA degree in Social Sciences and studied MA Euroculture in the University of Deusto, Bilbao and Uppsala University. Currently, she is an intern at the European Capital of Culture office in San Sebastian. Minority languages, cross-border cooperation and peace studies are some of her favourite subjects, and she recently got absorbed by the idea of social transformation through civic participation… Yes, she is one of those do-gooders.
“The calling of the humanities is to make us truly human in the best sense of the word” – J. Irwin Miller
Eunjin Jeong │firstname.lastname@example.org
I wasn’t surprised when I found myself in Copenhagen in early October to participate in the Human[i]ties Perspective12 conference at Roskilde University, Denmark. Having learned that the HP12 team, currently led by Alex, had been working very hard for the conference despite their full-time jobs, I wanted to witness the fruition of their year-long effort.
Roskilde is a city which can be reached by a half-hour train ride from Copenhagen. When I got out of the train station, cute little signs that the HP12 team had placed here and there led me safely to the conference hall of Roskilde University. I found the hall to be very big and modern, and equipped with high-tech facilities. From the programme booklet handed out by HP12 team at the registration, I learned that the two-day programme had four themes: Communication and Media, Women’s Empowerment, Cultural Diplomacy and Cultural Policy, and finally, Education. Career orientations, which added a practical dimension to all of the themes, were yet another important part of the programme.
The conference began at 10am with Alex’s opening plenary which was followed by welcoming messages from the organisers from Roskilde University. I could tell from the speakers’ tones that there was excitement in the air. With butterflies in my stomach, I looked around and saw the anticipating faces of the other participants. This is going to be great.
Each lecture lasted for fifteen to thirty minutes which perfectly fit my attention span. I liked that they had senior speakers, who were more experienced professors and researchers, while the junior speakers, most of whom were promising PhD students, made the whole programme even more vibrant. Each ninety-minute session was followed by a well-organised coffee break where I met interesting people from all over the world. The senior speakers, who were mostly prestigious professors from well-known universities, were very down to earth and open-minded so I could talk to them about everything from Gangnam style to my research interests. Also, I found three more Euroculturers in the conference: Kim, one of the HP12 organisers with whom I enjoyed talking to at later sessions; Natalia, who also spoke at the Career Day of the Euroculture Intensive Programme in Bilbao earlier this year; and Xiaohan, a junior speaker who studied MA Euroculture back when it was a one-year programme. What was happening on the spot, I could feel, was the expansion of networks in the fields of humanities and social sciences, while MA Euroculture was surely doing its share. Most of the participants have had various international experiences which obviously showed during the Q&A sessions. Cool. My favourite lecture was that of a Danish researcher who had written a very interesting paper on the masculinity of the Somali Diaspora in Denmark; a leadership workshop during the last session which lasted for more than two hours was another inspiring experience. A networking dinner at a Mexican restaurant pleasantly ended the first day of the conference. It was a very enjoyable night filled with delicious food, nice people with similar interests, and anticipations of the remaining programme awaiting us.
The second day went smoothly as well with interesting topics, cultural diplomacy being one which reminded me that a cultural product does not have to be ‘noble’ to make people interested in a different culture. The professor gave Gangnam style as an example. The theme of Education, which sent me back to my undergraduate years especially when the term ‘multiple intelligence’came up, was also very fresh and interesting, while my favourite lecture was that of the founder of Unexus.org who knew a lot of cool quotes. During the closing ceremony, I learned from Alex that the future goal of the HP team is to develop the Humanities Professional Network through the Erasmus Mundus Association (EMA) which will gather like-minded EMA graduates in one place. When I heard the phrase ‘TEDx in EMA network’, I thought it was a brilliant idea, rather ambitious but not too much if the long-term effects of the project could be seen by many.
After the grand finale of the two-day conference, I went to say goodbye to Alex who was still overwhelmed with all the well-deserved congratulations from many people. I thanked him for the wonderful conference which had brought me the feeling of hope and empowerment as a humanities student, not to mention much knowledge, insights, and the network I developed during the two days. The biggest joy, however, came from witnessing a Euroculturer at the core of this wonderful project. Leaving Roskilde University and walking alone again towards the train station, I felt very warm inside despite the typically cold air of Danish autumn. It was a special Saturday evening in early October and my mission to uncover the life of a Euroculture alumnus, Alex Bunten, before, during, and after Euroculture, had started in Moscow and been completed in Roskilde.
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, and is currently doing a research track in Uppsala University. 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.