Ana Alhoud (2018-2020) is an American who traveled across the pond to start her Euroculture life in Göttingen, Germany. Before Euroculture, she studied Communication and International Studies for her Bachelor’s degree. She applied for Euroculture because she loves learning about different cultures and the many ways they interact. Ana is about to finish her first semester in Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany, and she will be continuing the next semester at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain.
Thank you Ana, for taking the time to answer these questions!
1. What was the most difficult thing that you had to adjust to when you started the programme?
For me, the most difficult thing to adjust to was the language barrier. Even though I have experience with other languages, German threw me a curve ball because the languages I do know are not super similar in structure or sound. However, I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn German and overcome the challenge it presented. Continue reading “Student Profiles: Ana Alhoud (US, Göttingen-Bilbao)”→
Nienke Schrover (2017-2019) is from the Netherlands. She has a Bachelor degree in Human Geography at Utrecht University and a minor in International Relations at the University of Amsterdam. She decided to apply for the Euroculture programme because she absolutely loved the experience of studying abroad with other international students, and after participating in an exchange semester at Newcastle University, England, for her Bachelor’s, she wanted to experience it again.
For her, the Euroculture programme meets her broader interests as it focuses not only on European politics, but also culture/identity, international relations, and so on. Nienke’s Euroculture life started at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and continued at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She is currently doing an internship at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels, Belgium.
Thank you Nienke, 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?
Oddly enough, the thing I found most difficult to adjust to after starting the program was the fact that people come from such diverse backgrounds. It was quite new for me to see that people had such different levels of knowledge and different perspectives. Since I had lived in the same house for the first 20 years of my life, it was also very new to me to learn about identity and how many of my classmates have family from so many different places. I definitely learned a lot about identities and how to be more open and sensitive to different perspectives. Continue reading “Student Profiles: Nienke Schrover (NL, Groningen-Krakow)”→
Joyce Pepe (2018-2020) is half-Dutch and half-Italian. After studying European Languages and Cultures in the University of Groningen for her Bachelor’s degree, she embarked on the Euroculture adventure -one of the main reasons she chose to apply for Euroculture was the interdisciplinarity of the programme. Unlike other studies, it does not limit itself to study Europe from just a political point of view but rather allows you to broaden your perspective by giving space to social and cultural aspects too. She believes that this is of fundamental importance to function as an intermediary in a world increasingly characterized by different cultural groups and regional settings.
Joyce is close to finishing her first semester in Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany, and she will be going to the University of Udine in Italy next semester.
Thank you Joyce, 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?
I believe that my previous studies–which, like Euroculture, were quite interdisciplinary–have overall prepared me well to face difficulties that may arise when undertaking new subjects. So, from an educational point of view, I would say that I haven’t had to face a lot of hardships. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that compared to my Bachelor studies, my workload has increased. Considering that the semester in Göttingen only started in October, I have had and still have a lot of work to do in very little time. Continue reading “Student Profiles: Joyce Pepe (IT/NL, Göttingen-Udine)”→
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.
The Euroculture universities are full of surprises, as was demonstrated in the last edition of the consortium universities, that govered the hidden gems Olomouc, Krakow and Udine. All of the universities in the consortium have their own beauty, and this time we are travelling a little further north: to Groningen, Göttingen and Uppsala. The more northern universities, especially one particular very northern one, have a very obvious con: the rain, the snow, the ever-present cold. Or, in the Swedish case, the darkness. But do not be fooled by this particular con of the north of Europe, because these cities and universities have their own charm.
There’s nothing beyond Groningen
The Groningen city slogan is the following: “Er gaat niets boven Groningen“, or: “there nothing above and beyond Groningen”. It is a pun, due to its northern, and some might say peripheral, location in The Netherlands. There’s literately very little above and beyond Groningen. However, due to the small size of the Netherlands, you are only an hour and a half away from the West of The Netherlands, with cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Not that you would need to go, though, because Groningen is a beautiful and cozy city, filled with students and activities. Continue reading “Euroculture: The Not-So-Cold North!”→
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 2010-11it 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?”→
Finding a place to live is probably going to be one of your biggest worries over the two years you will spend as a Euroculture student. You will soon be living out of one big fat suitcase, and you will master the art of bookings, security checking and visa applications.
What I recommend:
Use the university student accommodation system. It’s easy to use (Google Docs) and reliable.
Plus: avoid all the troubles of finding private accommodations while living and studying abroad and make new international friends. (Or not. No one forces you to.)
Minus: you most probably won’t get to live with locals, which could be a shame if you’re trying to learn or improve your Spanish! If this is the case, Facebook might be your best friend. Check out local groups for flatshare, or browse through some local websites. The process will take you longer, but it is worth it. (A friend of mine – an outsider to the Euroculture progamme – was living with three lovely Spanish guys, and it made his Erasmus experience unforgettable.)
Oh the weather! If you thought moving to Spain meant sea, sex and sun, well, it’s not exactly what you’re gonna get in Bilbao. The climate being oceanic on the Atlantic coast, I suggest you pack a pair of wellies. On the other hand, you should also get yourself a bathing suit and a pair of sunnies, because it does get better. (I started going for a swim around April in Bilbao. Not even lying!)
University life. I know that’s also one of the big question marks here. At the University of Deusto, typically, bachelor students have classes in the morning, and masters students in the afternoon. My schedule (you might not get the exact same one but something close to that) was roughly three hours of classes per day from Monday to Thursday, almost always in the afternoon (starting at 3pm). You might occasionally get a class on Friday morning, but you’ll get over it. Continue reading “Second-semester Experiences, 2015”→
Photos taken by Eva-Maria Bergdolt and Amina Kussainova
Edited by Ann Keefer
October has definitely been a mad month. Abruptly ending the summer-holiday sleaziness, returning to classes, being besieged by impending presentations in all fronts… Take your pick, but it feels good strangely enough. Probably it’s just a hardwired inability to really enjoy myself unless when under severe stress. 4 years of studying Modern Languages at Deusto will do that to you.
Anyway, today we had the chance to have a class at the San Sebastian campus of the University of Deusto. Plus the customary exploration of the old quarter, the walk in the promenade by the Concha beach (of which I had hazy memories from 12 years ago at best), having a drink and pintxos, and so on. Which, I must say, has been more enjoyable than a proud, born and bred “Bilbaino” such as myself should ordinarily concede (given the legendary rivalry between both provinces and cities). Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always have Bilbao as the ultimate paragon, and no place in the world is dearer, but this has been a special day, spending time with classmates, fooling around, laughing, explaining all the strange Basque stuff around… bonding, in short. That, I believe, is the idea behind this journey we’ve all embarked upon, and certainly the sensation I want to remember this month for. Life as a Euroculturer is good, so far, and I have the feeling it will get even better.
The gigantic country of India truly lives up to its ‘incredible’ reputation. Pune, India has an overwhelming effect on one’s each and every sense, and through this montage-like article, I intend to present some fun facts we came across as well as give an inside look into our everyday life far from our MA Euroculture homelands. I will also try to portray our third semester research track spirits. I hope these fragmented stories might answer some questions for those who are thinking about applying to Pune next year, or those who are just curious..
WHITE TIGER VS WHITE PEOPLE 0-1
Visiting the Pune Rajiv Gandhi Zoo was a great experience for many reasons. Firstly, the zoo has an extreme national-park-sized extension compared to the quite packed European ones; halfway through we decided to skip what we judged to be the “less interesting” animals in order to finish on time. Secondly, the zoo has several extraordinary animals we’ve never seen before, like the white tiger who kept flicking fleas off his head so he could finish his afternoon nap. Thirdly, we gained first-hand experience how it feels to be constantly photographed in a zoo, as some visitors actually preferred to take pictures of us rather than of the grouchy white tiger. We felt for the animals behind the fences — although we could actually escape the zoo, we still could not escape the curious looks we received from people outside the zoo. If we move around the city a bit more than usual, we can be sure that many people want to take photos with us, stare at us, and chat with us. At one point in our flat-hunt, we noted that the house across the street would never get built if we moved there, as the workers abandoned their tasks just so they could stare at us for up to half an hour. I have no idea how celebrities deal with the excessive, 24/7 attention they get, but hey, who am I to talk, I’m happy to be here.
I KNOW A GUY
Looking for a flat? Need a rickshaw? Searching for a good dentist or want to buy a golden yacht with built-in singing robot-swans? No matter what you ask for, or as a matter of fact whom you ask, the response will always be the same: “Yes, yes, I know a guy”. It is fascinating to witness how the rickshaw driver or the caretaker of our guest-house transforms in no time into a real-estate agent with, of course, a smoothly elaborated commission-system. Just tonight, before coming up to my room to work on this article, a shopkeeper told us that he “knows the guy” who rents flats to foreigners in the area. The guy next to him told us he knows a guy giving great yoga lessons near our future home, and a third guy knows a guy who has a travel agency where we can book really cheap domestic flights. How lucky, you might say, although these undoubtedly kind and fast flying offers are presumably related to our foreignness.
IT’S THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT DIFFERENT
Studying in Pune means studying a lot, both on and off the university campus. As for the academic experience, the Sociology Department that is hosting us has made us feel very welcome and is helping us a great deal. We have a variety of classes to choose from: Rural Development, Urban Sociology, classes dealing with women’s studies or gender issues, and classes with many local students that make us push ourselves to break down language barriers that the Marathi language puts up. We also have time to work on our research project, which is not hard to figure out when living in such a stimulating environment, and when we already have a supervisor.
The level of studies varies, given that we can attend both 1st and 3rd semester classes, but we have met many bright students and our academic experience is very much complemented by our everyday adventures. Naturally, the university doesn’t look like some other universities that I have attended, such as the University of Deusto with its gorgeous library and freshly renovated corridors. Unlike the University of Duesto, there is no Guggenheim museum across the river. In fact, girls need to ask for a key if they want to use the bathroom, and the campus is a proper jungle. However, the University of Pune is one of the best universities in Maharashtra and is top-ranked in the country. Therefore, there is no need to think of it as a rural college without proper facilities and professional academic staff. Fun fact: the big auditorium of the sociology department has some of the comfiest chairs ever, with a bag-rack, footrest, and a wide-enough table part to write on. So, as they would say: ‘It’s the same, but different different’.
HE’S A VERY GOOD COOK
The flat-hunting craziness of the first two weeks led to many interesting situations. Some landlords refused to rent a flat to us because we were foreigners or because we were not related to each other, meaning we weren’t brothers or sisters. Even so,one of our top experiences was definitely when we met the owner of a house we intended to rent. We took a rickshaw to the outskirts of Pune to an average-looking block of flats to meet our landlord, but little did we know that once we entered his flat we would be sipping masala chai in one of the fanciest living rooms we had ever been to. Apart from the numerous religious paintings, the sculptures, the amazing view with gigantic bats flying about, and the astonishing cleanliness, we gained an insight into the everyday life of a high-class Indian couple with personal servants. To illustrate their lifestyle, here are two snippets of the conversation without any commentary:
Husband: So you would all be living in the house, all six of you?
Husband: Do you need a cook then? We can send him over sometimes (points at his personal servant). He’s a really good cook, and he can do the cleaning too.
Agent: Where is the Ma’am? (inquiring after the wife).
Husband: She’s making chai. (Meaning: the personal servant of the wife was the one preparing our tea in the kitchen, and the Ma’am just gave the orders).
It is impossible to leave out the Bollywood experience in this article. Chennai Express is a hit movie currently running in cinemas all over the country, starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. (For those of you who have never seen a Bollywood movie before, well, you have some serious homework to do, but until then here is a glimpse of the magic that happens on the big screen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNZNgyCd6zc). Once you get a dose of Bollywood there is no escape, you must go with the extremely colorful and musical flow. Fun fact: we got complimentary Pepsis in a restaurant because we recognized and sang along to the movie’s soundtrack. Watching some white guys trying to sing a hit Hindi song must have been entertaining enough for the staff to want to ‘reward’ us in some way. Now we are working on some Hindi songs for karaoke as well, just in case.
ANSWERS TO SOME FAQs AND COMMON FEARS
Q1. Is it safe to live in Pune?
Despite the fact that we are usually moving around in the very safe environment of the university, we are aware of the different role of women in the society. For example, we know about the recent rape case that occurred in Mumbai. We do not provoke any trouble, and we try to respect traditions and general Indian ethics especially in the way we dress, behave, and speak. So far, we have not had any kind of unpleasant experiences, and local people have been extremely friendly and helpful to us.
Q2. I’ve heard some horror stories about different ways in seeing hygiene and cleanliness between Europe and India. Is it that bad?
Hygiene and cleanliness are notions to be redefined once in India. Reservations dissolve quite quickly as one gets used to the chaotic lifestyle and just dives into it. Pollution is another big problem in cities like Pune. There are lots of old trucks, buses, scooters, and vans that make the rickshaw passenger like us ‘smoke’ every day. The constant honking doesn’t make the traffic more enjoyable, but these issues can be solved with a pair of earplugs and a scarf.
Q3. Are there any health-related issues to which one can be vulnerable when living in India? Also, can you find western goods in Pune?
Apart from some minor stomach issues, which is absolutely normal amongst this masala and chili overdosed cuisine, we have had no other health-related issues so far. From the very first day, we’ve been eating with our hands, occasionally on the street, and drinking through straws, with some of us even drinking tap-water (all this, of course in a reasonable manner). We have seen a boar browsing through the trash, hundreds of stray dogs and cows wandering around peacefully, and joint families living under a bridge right next to a dump, but still, there is no need to imagine Pune as a middle-of-nowhere city or as the hotbed of malaria. One can easily find what we might consider to be ‘western goods’, such as liquid hand sanitizer, hair dye, or just a good cup of coffee.
Viktória is from Hungary and studied International Relations, French Philology and Film Theory. She is very much interested in antidiscrimnation and human rights and also is specialized in those issues. She studied MA Euroculture in Bilbao and Udine and is currently doing a research track in Pune, India. She’s being obsessed with travelling and loves to get lost.
Depending on the university you attend, you either have just started your Euroculture journey, or you are about to embark on it. Surely the coordinators of the programme have sent you some explanations and instructions already (and they will send you many, many more, so brace yourself for the next two years). But don’t you wish you had that older brother, that friend from the previous year who could tell you what it is really like to cram European Law at night at the library, to understand the culinary culture of your new host country, and to find a place that does not rip you off for printing your thesis? Here comes the good news. Your older siblings exist – if not biologically, then at least euroculturally – and we have asked them for their best pieces of advice.
Learn to pack light
When I spoke to Rumen (Euroculture 11-13), a Bulgarian who studied in Sweden and France, the first thing that came to his mind is the skill of packing light. (for more tips, go to https://euroculturer.eu/2012/10/14/miss-help-packing/) “It could happen that you spend three or even four semesters in different countries. Putting your whole life together in a 20-kg suitcase is an art,” he says. Radostina (Euroculture 11-13), who studied at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, recommends bringing formal attire. “Go to at least one gasque,” she advises future Uppsala students on the traditional dinners in the Swedish university town.
Get ready for the intercultural ride of your lives
With packing comes moving, and Rumen emphasizes that he regards this as the most enriching part of the MA Euroculture programme. Learning to adapt quickly and making the most of the new environment is vital, he believes: “Brace yourselves for the intercultural ride of your lives!” Rumen urges new students to make the most of the opportunities they are presented with, even though moving between countries is scary. Getting out and seizing every day of the short time you spend in your host countries is the thing to do. Alexandra (Euroculture 12-14), an American euroculturer in Germany and the Netherlands, agrees. “It is key to make sure you don’t spend all of your time on Skype with friends and family back home,” she remembers.
Large parts of your life will be spent in the library – acquaint yourself with it
With a programme as stressful and demanding as MA Euroculture, you will sooner or later need a social net to fall back on. Befriending the people around you is her advice. Having a coffee in one of the cozy cafés of Uppsala, Udine, or Göttingen might also spark good ideas for class projects and later lead to a relationship that lasts longer than your study time. Peter (Euroculture 11-13), a Dutch student who has been from Holland to Spain, and then to Costa Rica and back, even suggests securing a friend on the first day – a friend with library access: “Be sure to have all library services accessible to you, you are going to need them a lot!” As long as your administration with the university and library is not taken care of yet, you are bound to fall behind. Do not miss out on the library introductions, and learn how to use their resources, which probably are handled in different systems at all of the different MA Euroculture universities.
Make friends – also with professors
Alexandra has felt that professors are approachable and therefore emphasises the importance of keeping in touch with them. “It will also help alleviate a lot of the stress,” she adds. Networking is also important during your two years as an MA Euroculture student. “Taking every opportunity to meet with alumni, professors, fellow students, and anyone else expressing interest in the programme is beneficial to one’s success as a Euroculture graduate,” she suggests.
Learn your host country’s language
Try to learn the language of your host country. You might not become a fluent speaker in the short time you are there, but it is an excellent opportunity not to wander around in complete oblivion and accidentally get on the wrong bus because you cannot read the signs. Multilingualism is common among MA Euroculture students, and most of your classmates will speak three languages. Be part of the linguistic environment, and make sure you have that other language your future employer might be looking for. “Don’t tell yourself: ‘I’ll only be here for one semester.’ You never know where you’ll end up,” Rumen says. Once you establish a basis in Swedish, Basque, or Dutch, you can easily learn more of the language later on.
Radostina points to modern technology as a means of making your life easier. Get involved on Facebook and join the relevant groups for your university. You might be amazed what you can get from there: furniture and bikes, mentors and parties, study groups and job hunts. Join the student unions, and turn to them when in doubt. Often you can get things cheaper there, like print outs for those many theses that you will submit.
Take care of yourself
Noodles and toasts were fine when you were an undergraduate, but not so much now that most of us have passed the age of 21. Olga (Euroculture 11-13), a Russian Euroculturer, stresses the importance of living healthy to survive the programme. “Work out and eat healthy!” she says. Getting sick is not an option, Peter adds. “As long as you are not in a casket, drag yourself to university,” he says. Let go of your illusions, and try to prepare the social contacts you have had so far about how busy you will be, Peter warns with a twinkle in his eye: “You are a Euroculture student now. This means you will have very little time. Many relationships will not survive this test.” You will meet your friends at airports and feel like you are constantly speed-dating your partner.
Make the most of it
As frightening as this sounds, all Euroculturers unanimously declare that while you should work hard to stay on top of things, you should also make time to play: go out for drinks with your classmates, take part in university events, and enjoy the unique experiences your cities offer. You might never be able to come back – max out the opportunities.
Helen is from Germany and studied BA History and Gender Studies. She studied Euroculture in the University of Göttingen and Uppsala University, and did an internship in the PR department of the German-Swedish Chamber of Commerce. Her passion is to dive deep into the Swedish-German relationship and deconstruct the German über-idyllic image of Sweden. This summer, she works with visitors coming to Stockholm. Her interests are film, literature, Liechtenstein, the Eurovision Song Contest (and not ashamed to admit it), and everything printed – even TV magazines. She’s also fascinated with communication, marketing and commercials, socio-cultural trends and psychological phenomena. And of course, her interests include the Swedish Royal Family (she will never forgive Jonas Bergström for what he did).