BLOG: One month on the job – what it’s like to intern for an NGO

Noémi Kalocsay

As the second semester approaches in the Euroculture master programme, there is another important decision to be made; namely, which track to choose for the third semester: professional or research?

Blessed with fairly good research skills, I would have been ready, willing and able to take a semester in Mexico City and improve my Spanish skills, or discover a whole new world in Pune, India while diving into one of the countless possible research topics the Euroculture programme offers. But for me the real challenge was to see how I would perform in a non-academic environment and solve problems not only in theory, but in practice as well. After all, this is what the Euroculture programme is about: stepping out of our comfort zones over and over again. Hence, I eventually had to let go of the more convenient research track. Half a year and a lot of paperwork later, I found myself working for a Hungarian NGO: Foundation for Africa. Continue reading “BLOG: One month on the job – what it’s like to intern for an NGO”

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The Pulse of Europe is beating: How pro-Europeans are taking the stage

Pulse of Europe in Frankfurt am Main 2017-04-09
Pulse of Europe-event in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. By Raimond Spekking.

By Sabine Volk

Around 150 students are holding up sheets of paper in blue, white, and red. Rester avec nous, they shout, stay with us. In the moment the camera clicks to shoot the French flag formed out of sheets of paper, the sun breaks through the clouds again. A good sign for Europe? Maybe. What is sure, is that the pulse of Europe now also beats in Groningen.

On a Sunday afternoon, on the second of April, 2017, the first Pulse of Europe event was held in Groningen. Pulse of Europe is a pro-European movement that has emerged in Frankfurt, Germany, around the end of last year. Against the backdrop of the Brexit referendum, the election of President Trump, and the rise of nationalist sentiments all across Europe, the initiators aim at raising awareness about the many advantages European integration has brought to European citizens. They have been organizing weekly events on Sunday afternoons, first only in Frankfurt, then in an increasing number of cities in Germany, now all over Europe. (see http://pulseofeurope.eu)

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Pulse of Europe in Groningen. By PoE Groningen.

The first Pulse of Europe event in Groningen took place on the square in between the University of Groningen’s main building, and the University library. Blue and yellow balloons distinguish the pro-European character of the event. An estimated 150 people gather around the stand that offers free lemonade, and on the stairs of the Academiegebouw, the main building of the University of Groningen. Most of them are students, and they seem to be mainly internationals. The German percentage remains unspecified, but might rise up to 70 percent according to the author’s educated guess. Possibly unsurprising: several generations of Euroculturers are seen amongst the supporters as well.

The event starts off with the European anthem, Freude schöner Götterfunken. As expected, nobody knows the lyrics. But this is no problem, because of Jeremy’s enthusiasm. Jeremy, who is the organizer of this first Pulse of Europe event in Groningen, is genuinely happy about the number of people that have showed up. After only eight days of organization, the turnout is a remarkable success. Jeremy invites us all to hold short, three-minute-long speeches about our opinions and attitudes towards the EU. Although the open microphone had been announced beforehand, students are reluctant to take stage. Nevertheless, many important topics are brought up by the students daring to speak to the crowd: Europe as a peace project, borderless Europe, the EU as a refuge in times of globalization, Europe as a space for diversity and exchange rather than close-minded nationalism. A lot of praise for the EU indeed, but students are, after all, those who benefit most from European integration.

After a couple of speeches, the organizers hand out the sheets of paper in white, red and blue. The reference is clear: the flag serves as an appeal to the French citizens to make a clear statement for Europe, diversity, and collaboration, and not for Marine Le Pen’s chauvinistic nationalism, in the upcoming Presidential elections. The next Pulse of Europe Groningen-event is scheduled, of course, for April 23rd: the day of the French election. That time the event will take place on the Grote Markt, the central square in the Groningen city center. Can more people be attracted than only the students who directly benefit from the EU and its Erasmus program, or who are regular international students? Let’s hope so. After all, rester avec nous should nowadays be pronounced in all European languages.

Click here for more by Sabine Volk on The Euroculturer.

Click here for more European Politics on The Euroculturer.

Click here for more Cultural Issues on The Euroculturer.

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Meet the Erasmus Graduates whose business is bringing EU funding to Italy’s entrepreneurs: Life after European Studies Interview

 

Eoghan Mark Hughes

Euroregion Consulting was founded to act as a translator for businesses who are seeking European funds in Udine, Italy. A translator, as co-founder Mattia Anzit puts it, “for dummies”. The problem for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is that they are often engaged in such complex, technical work, that if they want to gain access to European regional funding, they are going to need a team capable of navigating a dense bureaucracy and translating high floating concepts into understandable plans. Mattia and his co-founder, Selina Rosset, are Udine’s solution to this problem.

The Italian founders of Euroregion Consulting, are an energetic team, bouncing back and forth off each other throughout the interview, finishing each other’s sentences and lending each other the odd English phrase or two. Having met during the Euroculture Master program, which they both studied in Udine and Strasbourg, Selina says that if it were not for the program, Euroregion Consulting would never have been founded. Despite the fact that the two of them have lived in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy all their lives, they had never met before. As Mattia explains, he is not from the capital, Udine, like Selina, but from a small town, which he insists that I have never heard of.  Vibrant and chatty, the team joked about Italian bureaucracy, confused entrepreneurs and the problems facing young people and students in today’s economic climate. My interview with these two former students of European studies through Euroculture touched on life after graduation, entrepreneurship and European business in a Eurosceptic age. Continue reading “Meet the Erasmus Graduates whose business is bringing EU funding to Italy’s entrepreneurs: Life after European Studies Interview”

The Back Office: Management Meeting

back-office

Albert Meijer 

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.)

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Photo by Daniel Schwem

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.

Click here for more by Albert Meijer

The Back Office: The Digital Age

All-focus

Albert Meijer

I’m a child of the eighties, which explains my love for mismatched coloring schemes, my Wham!-inspired wardrobe and the continuous Tears for Fears-soundtrack playing in my head.
One of the perks of being an eighties kid is growing up with Modern Technology. My parents sometimes still text me IN ALL CAPS, but my fingers have the adaptability of a Karma Chameleon. Shaped by Gameboys, Nintendo, cellphones, smartphones and the Cloud, I’m pretty confident about my tech skills.
That’s great, because in the modern-day Euroculture office, there’s a constant move towards the Digital Age. Two proud moments of this semester are the introduction of
our new and improved website, complete with a state of the art new application system, and the start of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). By now, 10.000 people, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, signed up to learn from some of our top professors. The Future Truly Is Now.
The next step – which is a small one for mankind, but a giant leap for a
  humble course coordinator – is bringing tech back into the Euroculture classroom. We’ve already included some students in the MOOC, but now we’re discussing classroom conferences, the ‘flipped classroom’ and ‘blended learning’ – fancy names for making cooperation between Euroculture students in different universities possible. Exciting stuff, as you can imagine!
The Dream of the Eighties is alive in Groningen – I’m just praying that in ten years, I won’t be replaced by an intelligent robot. 
     

Click here for more by Albert Meijer.

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“Erasmus for the World? Approaching Two Decades of the Erasmus Programme” by Daniele Carminati

 

                                                  

Erasmus for the World? Approaching Two Decades of the Erasmus Programme

 

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Dutch Scholar Erasmus inspired the European Union education mobility system.

Daniele Carminati

It is often said that knowledge is the tool with which you change the world for the better, and, as such, promoting the acquisition knowledge and its diffusion should be a top priority. One more step, considering the globalizing world, may be intercultural exchange of knowledge, achievable thanks to improved means of communication along with the mobility of people and goods. Student mobility is growing exponentially, at different levels, and has been proven invaluable in the past few decades, but this may be just the beginning. There are several exchange programs with different impacts ongoing across the globe. Some of them are bilateral but limited to a few universities, some are  consortiums formed from different institutions, across several countries and continents. The US offers numerous opportunities and scholarships through their Fullbright Program, among others, which has been providing grants and promoting exchange for nearly seven decades. The US effort to implement such a project has been laudable, however, it may be easier to develop such program within a federal system when compared to a supranational organization as the EU. The latter has the Erasmus exchange program, what is probably known today as the greatest example of student mobility worldwide.

The EU is facing several issues: internal; such as the ongoing financial crisis still affecting several members; and external, foreign policies regarding the fight against terrorism and the consequent refugee crisis. Nonetheless, regional movement and funding for students willing to study within the EU area and collaborating countries have increased steadily. The Erasmus Programme creation has not been a smooth or easy process. After several postponements and additional debates, an agreement was reached in 1987, following a six-year trial program. Despite initial delays, the amount of applications received were above expectations- even for the first round, which happened during the academic year 1987/1988. The program evolved through the Socrates Programme, in 1995, and in 2000, and eventually into the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP), in 2007. Only recently, in 2014, the program became Erasmus+, a new version of the former program to further promote “education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020.” Continue reading “Erasmus for the World? Approaching Two Decades of the Erasmus Programme”

What is an Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree?

This week The Euroculturer is delighted to share this post from travel blogger and Euroculture student Virginia Stuart-Taylor. Virginia’s blog, The Well-Travelled Postcard, is a popular travel blog, aimed at inspiring people to get out and see the world.

Recently I moved to Groningen in the Netherlands to begin the Erasmus programme, Euroculture: Society, Politics and Culture in a Global Context. This degree programme has a slightly unusual structure where students move to 3 or more different countries in 2 years and I’ve had a lot of questions asked about the programme by others who are tempted by that idea! My Master’s degree follows a relatively unknown structure that not many people have heard about, but it’s such a great idea that I thought I’d explain it in a bit more detail. First off the name: it’s called an Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree.

Is it like Erasmus?

You’ve hopefully already heard of Erasmus… If not, then you’re missing out! Erasmus is an incredible student exchange programme run by the European Commission (an EU institution) that allows Bachelor’s students across Europe to spend a semester or a full year of their degree studying at another university in Europe. It encourages and allows students to live abroad, meet other people from all over Europe, understand another culture and broaden their horizons. Not only that, but the EU gives students an Erasmus grant to help them afford it, which varies from uni to uni, but when I did my Erasmus semester in Córdoba back in 2010-11 it was roughly €350 per month. It usually also includes a free course in the language of that country. You can also do Erasmus work placements, such as the 6-month internship I did at Armani in Italy as part of my Third Year Abroad, and you still receive the Erasmus grant. I adored my whole Bachelor’s degree, but I have to admit that my Erasmus year was by far the best year! You can do an Erasmus both at Bachelor’s and Master’s level, although only if your Master’s course is long enough and allows it (which is normally not the case in the UK as they’re only 9-12 months long). Continue reading “What is an Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree?”

What does it mean to be a European citizen? The realities of EU citizenship and the nationalism problem of Europe

 

citizen-pic
Source: EUtopia Law

Elizabete Marija Skrastina

In 1992, forty years after the European Union was established, the Maastricht Treaty introduced the notion of a “European citizen”.

It did not go well. Not only did this new term awaken mistrust between the peoples of the EU’s different Member States, it even caused such considerable internal controversy states such as Denmark that the European Council had to release a statement in order to confirm that “citizenship of the Union is a political and legal concept which is entirely different from national citizenship (…)”. In the same year, the European Commission sought ways to create common EU symbols but faced strong resistance from the Member States. A good example of this was the Commission’s proposals to have athletes from all Member States appear as one delegation during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, a proposal which was fully roundly by governments.

Now, 1992 seems a long time ago, and surely, one would think, that after more than twenty years, with a generation already born as European citizens coming into adulthood, this term would have to be something warm and familiar, something, we cherish as much as our nationality.

But, for most, it is not.

In the European Union’s web portal, it is still stated that “EU citizenship is additional to and does not replace national citizenship.” Eurosceptics keep arguing that to overcome nationality is impossible, and those who think otherwise are to be regarded as utopian fantasts. With Brexit, it feels like the utopian idea of a one strong, united Europe is slowly drifting away. More and more people from the Member States reject the idea of an ever-closer Europe, often out of fear that their state might lose its sovereignty under the pressure of common policies. On this note, one might even argue that it is the lack of trust and general indifference among the Europeans that is the main reason why the European Union is facing such problems now.

gisela
A group of British Eurosceptic politicians. Boris Johnson, current Foreign Secretary of the UK, is in the middle.

A survey conducted by TNS political & social at the request of the European Commission in 2015 shows that there still are people in the Member States – fortunately, not too many, and the share of them is declining – that do not even fully understand the term “European citizen” and the mystery hidden within the term . In 2015, 13 % of the respondents stated that they have never even heard the term “citizens of the European Union”, while 35 % of respondents said that they have heard about it, but do not know what it means exactly.

Maybe this is the reason why, when looking at the statistical data from 2015, over 30 % of the Europeans admit not feeling like a European citizen.  In addition, 38 % of all Europeans admitted that they not only do not feel like a European citizen, they actually see themselves as exclusively a member of their nation.  This, again, might be the reason why European citizens distance themselves from European affairs – this can be seen in all its “glory” when looking at the 2014 European Parliamentary election where only 42.6% of all people holding European citizenship voted. 42.6%! Not only it is that the lowest turnout since the first European elections in 1979, it also makes one think – what happened?

eu-cit
A demonstration by the UK’s European citizens

It is not like the idea is not being promoted. There are different levels of Erasmus programme available to encourage exploring other Member States, there are European days, information centres in every country, videos, information campaigns and the homepage run by the European Commission – europa.eu – can be accessed in every single official EU language. But somehow, the notion does not reach its target. It seems that on the way from Brussels to our homes, the information gets lost and never really reaches us, the citizens of the European Union.

So what does it mean to be a European citizen?

Let’s put it in an everyday perspective.

To be a European citizen means that you can finish your dinner with your Spanish family, and carry on your night with drinking a nice, cold bottle of German beer, maybe snacking on some French macaroons while watching Downton Abbey and texting with your best friend from Bulgaria. It means that you can say “Hello” in at least five languages, and your “bad” words collection is enormous thanks to your friends from Italy, Estonia and Greece.

Being a European citizen means you can spontaneously buy some low cost airplane tickets and have a nice weekend whether up in the snowy mountains, deep into mysterious forests or sunbathing in the sunny beaches, regardless whether you are from Latvia, Portugal or Slovenia.

 

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European Union

On a more serious note, it means that you can make your voice heard by a petition, or a letter, or even by becoming a candidate for Parliamentary elections and you have the fundamental right not to be discriminated whether by race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation. It means that, as long as you stay within the borders of the Union, you are never “illegal” and you can work and live abroad, and are always protected by the diplomatic and consular authorities in another twenty-seven countries, excluding your homeland. Being a European Citizen means that under certain conditions, if you feel that the national court of your homeland has ruled unfairly, you can bring the country to Court of Justice and fight for your truth.

To have the fortune to be a European citizen means that you have the rare opportunity to see, hear, smell, taste and touch the world in new ways again and again, and yet – stay true to your own nationality.

That is what being a European citizen means. Simple as that.

Elizabete Marija Skrastina is new to The Euroculturer. Keep up with her latest stories by following The Euroculturer on Facebook or by subscribing to our newsletter.

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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

The Girl Who Went on Erasmus Twice

Cuts threaten Erasmus

“The EU’s university exchange scheme Erasmus could be threatened by budget cuts in member states across the union. The much-loved scheme allows university undergraduates to spend up to a year studying for their degrees in foreign countries all over the world.”

(25/10/2012, euronews)

Penelope Erasmus1

Penelope Vaxevanes │prosiliomani@hotmail.com

The first Erasmus

I remember vividly the day my Erasmus in Lyon, France ended. It was six in the morning as I boarded the shuttle to the airport, to catch my flight to Greece. I was with my friend Paul. We were both tired as we had crashed a party the night before with some other friends and had left at 4am .We walked in the warm night for the last time, slipped into the quiet residence, I took my luggage and we left for the bus stop, silent. A couple of minutes later the bus came, we hugged, I boarded the bus and as it took off I waved, not only to Paul but also to that part of my life that I could never go back to. I cried all the way to the airport. It was the first of the countless times I would cry in the following months, as I suffered post-Erasmus depression. Don’t laugh. It’s actually a thing.

Eventually, I got over it. I put the whole experience in that part of my mind where everything seems glorious and happy. The experience shaped me like no other before it. It opened my horizons and made me appreciate the life I had been accustomed too. I got to meet so many different people, that came from all these different countries and whose lives were so similar to mine and yet so different. I got to emerge myself in another culture. I had to forget all that was normal in Greece and simply follow the French normal. The experience was educating. It transformed me, as it has transformed millions of other students before and after me.

Imagine my shock, then, when I read one morning in late October that the European Union (EU) is planning to cut the Erasmus budget. Not only does the EU make budget cuts in education, but it does so by cutting the funds of one of the best features of the European university life: the Erasmus exchange program. What a ludicrous idea, indeed. On the one hand, I think that maybe the EU funds are in such a state that they have become desperate. On the other, though, I think that they just view the Erasmus programme as a luxury they offer students which they do not appreciate. Indeed, students hardly see the benefits when they are on Erasmus, but rather realize later, when the whole thing is over.

Largely, Erasmus is considered a good excuse to go abroad, meet people, travel, party 24/7 and occasionally appear in class and write a paper or two. Mostly it is like that. Or rather, it seems like that. Yes, of course, all the Erasmus clichés are more or less true. The Spanish people who always hung out alone, only speaking Spanish.  The people, who never go to campus during Erasmus, let alone to class. Those people that always compare the country they’re in with the one they came from, always finding the first one lacking. There will always be people that the Erasmus experience will not affect at all. They are the excuse the EU is using to label the program a ’failure’ of sorts, when, in reality, it is so much more. Continue reading “The Girl Who Went on Erasmus Twice”