How to survive your MA Thesis

survive MA thesis 33

Helen Hoffmann│helenhoffmann@outlook.com

Welcome to Thesis Hell! This is what I like to call the three, five, six, maybe even more months you spend writing your Master Thesis. People have told you about this phase in your life, they have warned you, scared you and told you it will be the worst part of your student life. But The Euroculturer is here to help you survive Thesis Hell and enter Submittal Heaven with 15 easy tips.

It is really not that important

Most people will try to tell you otherwise. They will insist that this is the most important paper you ever write and if you cannot submit in time, you have to pay fees and if you do not submit at all, you will end up unemployed for the rest of your life.

These ideas are not helpful when you are already lying awake every night in a state of panic. Because really: it is not that important. Make this your mantra. Yes, you should care about your thesis –  but it is not the end of the world.

You have done this many times before

…just with smaller case studies.

If you are panicking over the ground-breaking scientific contribution your MA thesis asks from you (and you will at some point), remember that you are not a freshman. Most probably you have written so many theses and papers in your university life that you cannot even remember a third of their titles. You have done all this before. A thesis is a thesis is a thesis. Your case studies might have been smaller, your literature more limited and your time frame only a few weeks, but you have done this work many times before and you have not failed. You know your craft and you will succeed this one more time as well.

Make it your project

Most teachers try to guide you into Thesis Purgatory by asking you to pick a topic you are passionate about and write your thesis about that. There might be a slight chance that your passions are actually outside the realm of your studies but even then you can make the thesis your project. Surely there is something you have been wondering about, something you want to dissect. Well, here is the good news:  You get a few months of time, a fully-equipped library and two supervisors to help you find the answers to those questions you have been thinking about.

Don’t think: they are making me write this shit so that I get a degree. Think: Now I am going to find out about this, I have excellent prerequisites and I will even earn a degree for pursuing my interest.

Get a team

Get a team like Sarah(left) and Larissa did
Get a team like Sarah(left) and Larissa did

Everyone has two supervisors, some have the good ones that answer every email, give your tips and help you advance the project. (Like mine.) Other have more, let’s say, absent supervisors. But regardless of which one you have, think of your thesis as a challenge you will master in a team. Your supervisors are the more serious part of the team; you are the captain. But three is not enough for a team: get a pep talker and an academic guide.

When I wrote my thesis, I had a very patient friend who I could send all my angry texts to. She would reply with loving words of encouragement. Every evening, I would inform her how many words I had written today. Sometimes it was 34. She would say, “Every word is a step forward”. She would also feed me when I was unable to get my act together and she would go and party with me when I reached a milestone in thesis writing.

I was also lucky to be friends with someone involved and excited by academic research. Whenever I met her for lunch, I got a flow feeling afterwards. I could just work at the double speed because she had guided me and told me what my next steps should be. It is much easier to accept a friend’s guidance than the ones of your supervisors – who will in the end, grade you, after all. ¨

Find people who can encourage you during your thesis writing. Build your team and let them help you. You have to write your thesis alone but you can have company on the way. (Do not forget to mention these people in your acknowledgments though.)

Write for instant panic relief

Many of us read and research and think. We do not start writing because “I still do not know enough”. But your time is dedicated to thesis writing not thesis procrastinating so do not make this mistake. It leads to you stressing when others tell you they are on page 37. It makes you anxious because 60 pages seem so much. Stop reading right now and start writing. Begin with the easiest part, regardless whether that is the introduction of chapter four or only the cover page, but start writing. Having five pages down gives instant panic relief, I promise. If there is one thing that will be in the way of submitting your thesis it is perfectionism. Always remember: Done is better than perfect.

Don’t be scared of the fancy words

Establish relationships to conceptualize and theorize the pan-European issues of contemporary times in a broader perspective? The art of professional bullshitting uses a lot of fancy words and they can be scary.

Remember that a definition is not more than deciding what a word means, a concept is not more than explaining an idea and to historize something means you tell me how something was before today. They’re fancy words, but they will not bring you down.

Set the right margins from the beginning

In most social sciences and humanities, professors seem to think they will need a lot of space to actually write corrections on the sides of your paper. Regardless of the fact that we have long ago entered the age of digital theses, you are still obliged to leave some 3 centimeters blank on your paper and to format it 1.5-spaced. This is a good thing! Make sure to set every document you work in in the right margins and put in your correct footnotes from the beginning. This will make your paper look longer, make you calmer, and save you time in the end. Eighty pages sound way too much when you work single-spaced.

Use a citation software

Using a citation software is going to save you a lot (!) of time and energy. I do not see why you should manually manage 214 books and articles when there are excellent programs that can do it for you. At some of our universities, these programs are even free. Check with your library and take an introductory course in how to use Citavi, RefWorks and all the other awesome inventions that save you blood, sweat and tears. You will not regret it.

Do your share every day

If you are going through Thesis Hell, keep going. Do not take days off (except weekends), but do your share every day. It will give you a feeling of security that you have done everything you could. Slow and steady wins the race.

Count your pages

It is relieving to know how far you have come. Count your pages and feel free to share with your above-named team that you have a third already. But please, spare your fellow prisoners in Thesis Hell from your page numbers.

FYI, for Penelope, it was 75 pages.
For Penelope, it was 75 pages.

Separate work and play by studying somewhere else but at home

Some people say they can study and write at home. For the other 95 percent of the world’s population I suggest: Try simulating a work environment by studying somewhere else than your home. You go to your thesis every morning and you leave it there every evening. In the meantime, you are a free person.

Build in filters to minimize collateral damage

A lot of thesis anxiety is rooted in not knowing if what you wrote is good enough. We have all heard the stories about those that failed or got a re-write. If you want to minimize the risk of failing make sure you have a critical proof reader and carefully read through their comments. You might want to ask different people for different chapters: your maths student friend for the statistics and your English teacher aunt for the overall flow of your text. Also, ask your supervisors if they are willing to read single chapters before you submit the complete draft. A supervisor who has read and accepted single chapters will tell you before the final deadline if s/he thinks you are going down Fail Road.

Enjoy the privilege of being a student

Thesis Hell does not have to be the worst part of your life at university. On the contrary, it is now that you have so much experience that you easily navigate through the campus jungle and can take best advantage of everything student life offers. Work hard and play hard – it might be the last half year you can do that.

Put things into perspective

Do not think that Thesis Hell is a pleasant place just because you follow these tips. No, there will still be days with nervous breakdowns when you are crying in bed. There will be hours in which you are staring at your computer screen wondering why you chose this topic after all. There will be times when others have stolen your favorite library seat.

There are ups and downs. They come and go. There is no way to avoid them, make sure to keep a healthy perspective.

So you think you are the poorest thing on the earth because you have to write that stupid thesis. All your first-year-friends get to go out all the time and play.

Stop pitying yourself –  it is not helpful. Put things into perspective. Do you know someone who is really sick? Heard of someone who cannot find housing? I assume you do know about people living in war-stricken regions. Yes, right: you do not have a problem! You have a challenge that you can and will master. And everyone is on your side.

Submit and CELEBRATE!

Submitting your MA thesis is a milestone in your life. If you are not pursuing an academic career, this is the last paper you ever wrote for university. You should treat this event accordingly. Have a graduation ceremony, throw a party, submit and celebrate like there is no thesis defense! (I mean, there isn’t at many universities…)

Survive MA thesis 2
Submit and CELEBRATE like Nora(left) and Bianca did

Helen new profile

Helen HoffmannCreative Editor

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).

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“Make the most of it” Experienced Euroculturers share their advices with the new MA Euroculture Students

peter
“Be sure to secure library access on the first day!”
(Peter Zwart, Euroculture 11-13)

Helen Hoffmann│helenhoffmann@outlook.com

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.

Go online

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.

alexandra
“Take every opportunity to make new friends!”
(Alexandra Mebane, Euroculture 12-14)

If you liked Helen’s article, also read https://euroculturer.eu/2013/03/27/where-is-home/

Helen new profile

Helen HoffmannCreative Editor

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).

Resistance, Resilience & Adaptation: Getting Ready for the IP

Meet the IP 2013 Krakow Team

everything will be ok...1

Floor Boele van Hensbroek│floorbvh@gmail.com

On a sunny day in Krakow I met with IP organisers Juan, Luc and Karolina at cozy café Karma, one of the favourite hangouts of some of the team members. Here, I had the chance to ask them all about the upcoming Intensive Programme. Because, as we all know, IP 2013 is getting closer. In June, MA Euroculture students will travel to Krakow from every corner of Europe to experience a mind-blowing week full of lectures, discussions, presentations and urban challenges. A week’s worth of memories for every Euroculturer and an excellent opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones. The IP team is working very hard to make this week a great success. Now it’s time to ask them about their experiences with organising IP 2013!

Who is in the IP team?

three all together smaller
© Floor Boele van Hensbroek

Karolina (middle), the feminine side and head of the crew, steers and manages all activities related to MA Euroculture and the IP. A Polish-Canadian with a weakness for cinnamon-oatmeal muffins and peanut butter, she brings enthusiasm and comradeship to the team.

Juan (right), one of the few Mexicans dwelling in Krakow, runs the programme’s PR, visual ‘identity’ and acts as a student advisor. He will take good care of you and if you’re lucky (and have a gusto for spicy food) he might allow you to taste some his famous tacos.

Luc (left), Kung-Fu apprentice and an expert on transport and geopolitics of the North, comes to us from Quebec and assists the programme as an internal advisor. His fine sense of humour will guarantee an all-but-boring stay in Krakow.

 Hey guys… Uhm, everything under control?

(Whispers amongst each other: “don’t mention the… you know what”)

J: No, all jokes aside, it’s going great!

(All three nod in agreement)

Could you describe IP 2013 in one sentence?

K: A fun opportunity for students to meet, exchange and engage with each other and produce something within their environment, at the local level, and as much as possible in an eco-friendly, gender-balanced, budget-conscious and stimulating way. Oh, and in a fun and welcoming atmosphere!

(But that was two sentences?!)

How did you decide on the theme and subthemes of the upcoming IP?

J: Last summer, we had a few sessions with other people from the institute in which we asked ourselves ‘what are the issues concerning Europe nowadays?’ Those were really nice sessions.

K: One important issue we knew that had to be addressed is of course the crisis, which is hanging over Europe like a dark cloud. However the idea was to reframe it by asking the question: how can we move forward?

L: Yes, we wanted to approach the crisis not as a crisis, but as a period of change and adaptation.

we are the best
© Floor Boele van Hensbroek

If you had to write a paper yourself for the IP, what would it be about?

J: I would definitely choose the subtheme ‘Change and the City’. What I’m interested in is the link between cities and literature: how the city is imagined and created within literature.

K: I would definitely focus on the subtheme ‘the Shifting Borders of Inclusion/Exclusion’. My own research interest is in integration policies and how such policies construct ‘the other’.

L: I would write something on mobility and transport. In Europe transport is very expensive and there is much discrepancy between people who have access to it and people who don’t have access; between people who control their mobility and who don’t control their mobility. It’s a social and geopolitical issue.

While planning the upcoming IP, what was some important feedback from previous years that you had to take into account?

J: Student engagement and student participation. Students wanted to be more involved and not only listen the whole time; so not only input but also output. Therefore we focused a lot on student engagement and participation. We are quite confident that this indeed will happen.

What distinguishes IP Krakow from the previous IPs so far?

L: We draw on what has already been done before and try to innovate. Every IP has brought something new. I think the key thing this year is the urban challenge. Also, we are working in a different setting and staging, we are trying to make it more cool and fun.

let us think..
© Floor Boele van Hensbroek

Could you describe the group dynamics within the IP team?

L: Well, we are friends before co-workers. We know each other very well and communication always goes easy. Sometimes we don’t even need words to understand each other. I also think that we have complementary skills and assets.

K: If you find a document that’s color-coded: Luc made it. You see a funky blurry postmodern design? Definitely Juan.

(And Karolina?)

J: Karo brings all the skills together and makes it work. The fact that we are all friends is definitely an extra motivation. By the way, Karo plays basketball at the office; it relaxes her when she’s stressed. Oh…and she has a whip.

What is the biggest challenge in organising this IP?

L+K+J: Money…(rubbing thumb and fingers together).

K: There were also some smaller challenges, but the fact that this year we had a smaller budget definitely caused the biggest challenge.

J: However, because the budget got smaller we were forced to adapt to it and actually became very creative. We have a different mindset now and are adapting very well.

L: In the end, it is OK to have less money. We’ve become quite inventive and discovered that there are still a lot of possibilities with a smaller budget.

Could you tell me why the budget got smaller?

© Floor Boele van Hensbroek
© Floor Boele van Hensbroek

K: (seems a bit reluctant to talk about it) Let’s say for reasons beyond our control. We don’t have any external funding that we usually get.

Students now have to invest more in the IP themselves (like costs for transport and meals). Could you tell me why students should still be excited about the IP despite the financial burden for them? What do you expect students to gain from IP Krakow this year?

J: It’s going to be an unforgettable experience!

K: Well, I would like to rephrase that. The IP has always been the most central event of the MA Euroculture programme. If you miss out on the IP, it’s as if you’re taking the heart out of Euroculture. It’s a way to really experience the mobility aspect of the programme. Also, one should take into account that a few years ago, students relatively paid much more for their IP.

L: The costs should be taken in context. For a ‘real’ conference one would have to pay much more. Also, people have to pay for their meals wherever they are. Besides, Krakow is a cheap city compared to other places in Europe and we have made arrangements with several places wherefore it will be even more affordable.

Could you tell us something about the place we are going to stay?

J: It’s a comfortable place within walking distance from the city centre. During the previous IP in Krakow the residence was up the hill, outside the centre. However, taking into account the themes of this IP, we decided that staying in the centre was more suitable.

What about the lecture rooms?

K: Most lectures will be held in ‘Auditorium Maximum’, close to the city centre. However, there will also be a sneaky special… Namely, in a certain castle up the hill!

(The students who have studied in Krakow will be familiar with this castle)

© Floor Boele van Hensbroek
© Floor Boele van Hensbroek

Could you tell us something about the speakers?

(Luc points at the speakers in the café hanging from the ceiling: “those speakers?!”)

haha..

K: Follow the website! A lot of information is already there, also about which speakers will come. We will make one last vignette that contains all the important information.

L: One thing about the speakers though: we’ve made an effort to engage as much as possible with young researchers and also practitioners. So we didn’t only focus on scientists. Also, there will be Euroculture alumni coming to speak, who will also be there during the career day. Don’t be shy to grab them by the elbow and ask them questions! They are resources. Oh, and one more thing: don’t be afraid to challenge the speakers and be critical of what they have to say!

What can we expect from an urban challenge?

L: It’s creative urban planning, done by students. Together students will improvise and generate ideas to creatively solve urban challenges.

What will the gala dinner be like? Do we have to dress fancy?

(Luc imitates a scavenger and jokes about a Flintstones theme)

L: The gala is always a very special occasion; and it has a special place within this IP. It’s an opportunity to meet, talk and share. It won’t be like the Cannes Film Festival, but people are going to dress nice.

If someone wants to travel after the IP to other places in Poland, where would you recommend?

K: Wroclaw!

J: Warsaw!

L: The Tatra Mountains!

L: If you have 3 days, I’d say, go to the mountains (Zakopane). One week? Go to Warsaw. Two weeks? Go to Mazury in the North-East of Poland.

K: If you want to undertake some sociological research while on holiday, you should go to the Eastern borderlands of Poland. These places are something entirely different and definitely interesting. Also very interesting is Białowieża forest. It is one of the last remaining primaeval forests of Europe.

One last question… What’s up with the penguins?!

L: They are symbols of change and adaptation, they are… unexpected!

ip2013krakow.wordpress.com/
ip2013krakow.wordpress.com/

Last special message from Luc for all the upcoming IP participants: The IP is a fantastic opportunity for students to experience a conference, while still being a student. You might find it stressful to present your paper and to participate in the discussions, but remember that everybody has something to say, whatever they work on. Just go and don’t forget that you will have something interesting to say and that people are going to listen, that they are interested. You are a community.

question penguine

Floor profileFloor Boele van Hensbroek, Junior Editor

I am Floor, Dutch, and 25 years young/old. I studied interdisciplinary social sciences at Utrecht University before starting with Euroculture. I love travelling, dancing, art, theatre, documentaries, tasty food, classy wine and.. actually a lot of other things. I was born in the bush of Zambia with a bush of black curly hair, although now I’m blond as blond can be. I’m a cynical optimist, that looks for truth even though I believe that all truth is constructed.

Mr. Help – Being an Asian girl in Europe

Dear Mr. Help,

We are girls from South Korea, Mainland China and Hong Kong. We’ve encountered several problems while living in Europe as students of MA Euroculture and need your help.

1. Just call my name, correctlySouth Korea (Eunjin Jeong, Euroculture 2011-13)

Mr Help Eunjin
If only I could be called correctly…

Hello, Mr. Help. My name is Eunjin. I have a problem with people not knowing how to say my name correctly. I’ve tried many things and even told them to call me “Engine”. But how long do I have to be the compartment of a car? I do not want to use an English name like some do because I want to keep my Korean identity intact. It was okay until I went to Sweden for my third semester of MA Euroculture. Then, disaster began. They started to call me “Eunyin” and, very painfully, I’ve received several emails with the title “Mr. Jeong”. Should I give up being called correctly in Europe?

2. Could we have a heart to hear talk? – Mainland China (Lili Jiang, Euroculture visiting student from Sichuan University, 2011-12)

Mr.Help Lili 2
If only we could be all cool…

Hello, Mr. Help. My name is Lili. My problem is different – it’s about the social life of my Chinese friends. I have the feeling that most of my Asian friends don’t like hanging out with European students, as they are afraid of the cultural differences. China is no different in this matter. Every time I invite my Chinese friends to a party, they always ask me if there will be other Chinese friends or Asian friends. But, on the other hand, I know that they are also looking forward to making new friends, getting to know different cultures and fitting in to the university. They once told me that their language skills are sufficient for communicating with European friends, but it’s just very hard to advance to heart to heart talks after small talk. I think it’s a big loss for both sides. What could be the solution to really help my Chinese friends to overcome this?

3. It was just noodles!!! – Hong Kong (Au Yeung Shek Ling Hilary, Euroculture 2010-12)

Mr Help Hilary 2
If only I could cook freely…

Hello, Mr. Help. My name is Hilary. I also have a problem. When I tried the WG or flat share culture in Europe, I was nervous at first but enjoyed it very much later: my flat mates taught me how to live in the local way which was great. But nothing is perfect. Well, as a home food lover, yes, I cooked food from Hong Kong for myself and my friends very often. But is it really necessary to give me negative looks when I cook food from my home? I know that European and Asian eating habits are very different but I had eaten lots of European specialties during my stay in Europe: venison, escargot, lapin, etc. If I love European food or not is not important: that I tried them is important. (Actually, I love them, especially escargot!) It really upsets me when my flat mates make disgusted faces and criticise my food without even trying a bite. IT WAS JUST NOODLES!! What can I do about this?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Desperate Eunjin, Lili, and Hilary.

Dear Desperate Eunjin, Lili, and Hilary,

mr helpHi, Eunjin. I really understand your problem. For Europeans it is difficult to pronounce your name correctly. Even if we try, it probably doesn’t sound correct to your ears. I suggest you choose a nickname for your time in Europe. It should be a nickname which fits your personality and feels like it belongs to you. Your problem with being mistaken for a male is quite easy to solve. I would suggest putting an e-mail signature beneath your e-mails in which you call yourself Ms. Jeong.

And Lili, I know exactly what you mean. I often had the same experience when walking around campus, meeting Asians or being in Asia as a European. I think there are several reasons for this. One reason might be that the party habits of Europeans and Asians are quite different. As I noticed, Asian parties generally start earlier and the biggest part is eating. For us Europeans, it starts late and is mostly about drinking, which I think probably makes a lot of your friends quite uncomfortable if they are not used to it. Another reason might be that it takes a lot of courage to overcome the initial shyness of meeting somebody who might not understand everything you say. But I can assure you that it is that way for both sides. A possible solution for you might be to combine the Asian and European way of doing something together. You could organise a culture evening where you first start with an Asian meal and afterwards go out to a party. You should especially tell your friends that most European students would love to talk to an Asian person about a lot more than just superficial small talk. Maybe a good way to get in to a ‘deeper’ conversation is to ask a question about something in European culture that you don’t understand.

Finally, Hilary. I think it is the biggest plus of the WG culture to learn something new about whoever you live with. So maybe your flat mates didn’t understand that part about living together. Of course they don’t have to love everything you cook and, as a person who knows Asian food, I can even understand if they think it looks or smells strange, but I cannot understand why they wouldn’t want to at least try it. You could invite them to a dinner where you cook some Asian food? I know from experience that most Europeans love Kung bao ji ding (Kung Pao Chicken) and Asian noodles, but need somebody to tell them what it is and what kind of taste they should expect.

Mr. Help is from Germany. 

For now, the future can wait

When we submit the thesis and when the last Eurocompetence class ends, we will say “Have a nice summer” and “Good luck with that interview”. And after that, many of us will not see each other again. We will not say it, of course, but we will be thinking it as we hug, cry and laugh. The future will be bright and sunny (hopefully) and everyone will have to walk their own paths and live their own lives. Each of us will run for that prize we get after we cross the finish line. All that will happen in a few months…

penelope2 Penelope Vaxevanes │prosiliomani@hotmail.com

As students of MA Euroculture 2011-2013, we have  78 classmates scattered all over Europe, currently sitting in libraries or cafés, reading and taking notes, scribbling or doodling, trying to make sense of their Master Thesis. Most of us read and read and read, trying to form an idea of what it will be like; some of us even have a plan, while a few of us have done the preliminary work and are already writing and anticipating the outcome of our results, hoping that it will not be just another academic paper. In any case, the majority will take tonight off because it’s Friday: we will go have a drink with our classmates or our partner and we will tell ourselves that we deserve it because we have done so much work and because there is so much more still to come.

The days will pass one by one; and we will become progressively more stressedas time becomes a constraint (June will not always be two months away). And, as we start getting emails from our supervisors asking about our progress while our coordinators invite us to upload documents from our research on STUD-IP (that’s for you Gottingers), we will slowly realise that we are reaching the finish line. This is not the kind that only one can reach. Everyone that crosses it is a winner. Because the real prize, the one that is in everyone’s mind, is not at the finish line: it is far beyond it; so far that most of us don’t know yet where it is.

And here is the awkward part of this last semester of ours. As we spend every day thinking about the work we have put into writing the thesis and regretting all the work we haven’t done, we fail to see the one and only truth: the thesis will give us a degree, but it will not give us a future. The degree may become the key to our future, only if we learn to use and promote it. We are after all, in a MA “of excellence”, meaning that we are, by association, excellent ourselves, are we not?

We are also forgetting something else. For some of us, these will be the last few months of our university lives. Soon, we will be university graduates for the second time. But what does that exactly mean? By the end of July we will not be students anymore, yet more likely we will not be employees either. What will we be? Who are we without our student identity? Are we unemployed? Are we in between places? Will we become a mere number in a statistic that shows how university graduates are absorbed by the market? No one knows.

And then there is another thing: we cannot avoid being adults anymore. For some now is the last chance to stay out late thanks to the excuse that “class is boring anyways, so I might as well skip it”. It will also be the last time we can take a class about something that sounds cool (Philosophy of Math, anyone?) but which will not give us credits or make our degree stronger. In other words, this could be our last chance to delve into things that we always wanted to try: Portuguese, Quantum Physics, Comparative Theology and everything else our universities can offer.

Moreover and most importantly, when we submit the thesis and the rest of our papers, and when that last ‘Eurocompetence’ class, which no one ever understood the point of, ends we will say “Have a nice summer” and “Good luck with that interview”. And after that, many of us will not see each other again. We will not say it, of course, but we will be thinking it as we hug, cry and laugh. The future will be bright and sunny (hopefully) and everyone will have to walk their own paths and live their own lives. Each of us will run for that prize we get after we cross the finish line.

All that will happen in a few months; but for now, without further ado, put your pens down, save all your documents, log out of Facebook and call your classmates to go out for a drink (or a cupcake, a movie, a tea). Do it, even if you did not do as much work as you wanted, or even if you have to wake up early tomorrow to go to that Portuguese class. Don’t be lazy; you can watch The Big Bang Theory tomorrow! Do it as if your life depends on it. For no one will ever remember that Master Thesis you wrote, but we will all remember that party we had that night, which ended in the dodgiest place, at 9am, on a Tuesday; that night when everyone was lazy and didn’t want to have that drink.

One more night off because, for now, the future can wait.

penelope bar smaller

Penelope Vaxevanes, News Editor

penelopePenelope is from Greece and has studied French Language and Literature in the Philosophic School of the University of Athens. She spent the first two Euroculture semesters in Goettingen and Krakow. After her internship in Hamburg she is now back in Goettingen to finish her MA thesis. She wants to make a career in Cultural diplomacy but so far, she enjoys going out with friends in Goettingen.

Euroculture Groningen Class on a Mission: Exploring the Brussels Jungle

From 28-31 October 2012, the MA Euroculture Groningen class went on an excursion to Brussels. Armed with cameras, (digital) compasses, and semi-rested minds due to the previous week’s reading week (which was by most interpreted as a relaxing holiday), we set off for the six-hour train ride and waved goodbye to some of our teachers.

Floor Boele van Hensbroek | floorbvh@gmail.com

Wildest first impression

floor1After arrival, we dropped off our bags at the hotel and started exploring Europe’s political heart. Most of us had not seen Brussels before and we were surprised by its sparkling beauty. Secretly I had expected to see cold and stately buildings, people in suits with deadly-serious glances but, in reality, Brussels is a charming city with a rich history and a lively atmosphere. After having seen the Grande Place, Rue de Bouchers, Place Flagey and tons of chocolatiers showing off their chocolate in creative ways (chocolate hippos?) we stopped for some vlaamse friet. This gave us renewed strength and good soil for our next destination: Delirium Café. This bar is known for its lo(ooo)ng beer list and, of course, we wanted to grab this opportunity to extend our knowledge of this well-appreciated drink. Beer beyond your wildest dreams flowed from the taps, like cactus beer and spice beer which reminded us of Christmas. We enjoyed listening (and watching) a teenager brass band that had spontaneously dropped in and rocked the café with catchy tunes and a swarm of dancing fans. Brussels kept surprising me! Let’s say: we went to bed satisfied.

The coffee smell from Barroso’s desk: the European Commissionfloor5

The next day brought with it some serious business. After stuffing ourselves with pain au chocolats at the hotel breakfast, we visited the European Youth Forum: a platform for youth organisations throughout Europe. The forum represents and advocates for the rights, needs and interests of all young people in Europe by engaging and participating in both national and international initiatives. After the Youth Forum, and a quick lunch on the go, we visited the European Commission. I am not sure what we expected but probably some juicier insider information than the general information talk on the European Union that we got. The speaker was however intriguing and he was able to answer some questions. Also, I found it cool to be so close to where the magic happens, if you know what I mean. Secretly, I was quite impressed  by the EU’s political buildings, as if I could almost smell the coffee on Barroso’s desk, or as if I was just an instant away from important decision-making processes ready to determine my future (OK, let’s not exaggerate). For the first time, I started to think about a career with the EU. I have always neglected this option as I see myself as non-competitive, a bit weird, and overly chaotic, and for some reason this doesn’t rhyme with ‘EU career’. But well, who knows…? After the Commission we visited the Committee of the Regions, where we were warmly welcomed and informed extensively on the work of the CoR. In the evening we had a splendid dinner at a restaurant called Le Volle Gas, situated at Ixelles Elsene. We walked to most of our destinations, when we had the opportunity see lots of the city and, even better, to question each other about our future dreams, past experiences, opinions and knowledge of silly jokes.

Ceci, n’est pas une histoire: Lobby Planet EU

Early the next morning we visited Musée Magritte. Magritte, you must know from his famous “ceci n’est pas une pipe” written under a painting of a pipe. If you ever go to Brussels, don’t miss this one! Thereafter we had a meeting with Koen Roovers, a University Groningen alumnus and coordinator of an ALTER-EU project (Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation) at CEO (Corporate Europe Observatory). Of this meeting I will tell you some more as it has opened my eyes to the reality of the EU decision-making processes in Brussels.floor

ALTER-EU consists of about 200 civil society groups, trade unions, academics and public affairs firms that campaign against the increasing influence of corporate lobbyists on the political agenda of Europe, the resulting loss of democracy in EU decision-making and the postponement, weakening, or blockage even, of urgently needed progress on social, environmental and consumer-protection reforms. One interesting phenomenon that ALTER-EU campaigns against is the ‘revolving door’, through which many EU officials go. This means that when they leave their EU job, they soon start working for corporations or lobby firms, often even in the same policy area. It also happens that lobbyists go through the revolving door and start working for the EU. As ALTER-EU itself states “When this happens, corporate groups gain inside-knowledge, vital contacts, and above all, powerful influence”’. An example of a fellow who took the revolving door is Mogens Peter Carl, who was Director-General at DG Environment until 2009 and, only six months later, became senior adviser to one of Brussels’ biggest lobby consultancies which, amongst others, represents a vehicle company. Well that just stinks! Don’t you think? ALTER-EU demands tough, new rules to block the revolving door, such as a ban of at least two years before EU staff can become lobbyists. ALTER-EU offered us a booklet called “Lobby Planet EU”, which shows a map of Brussels with all the lobby firms and large corporations marked on it. Just looking at it makes you think… Brussels really is a wasp’s nest!

Last minute surprise in El Parlamento Europeofloor3

On the same day we also visited the European Parliament. Unfortunately, the information talk was again not entirely adapted to the knowledge we already had on the EU and its Parliament, however we were pleasantly surprised when in the end a Dutch MEP’s personal assistant dropped in to give us some nice insider information on his job. After the visit I asked our supervisor (and ex-Euroculture student), James Leigh, whether he ever considered working for the EU. He answered by describing EU workers as ‘glorified slaves’. Enough said I guess.

At this point it was time to hurry to the train station, buy some last minute chocolates and get back to Groningen. I think we all felt tired, but satisfied. Indeed, we were much more knowledgeable about Brussels, the EU, and definitely each other.

Floor Boele van Hensbroek, Contributing writer

floorI am Floor, Dutch, and 25 years young/old. I studied interdisciplinary social sciences at Utrecht University before starting with Euroculture. I love travelling, dancing, art, theatre, documentaries, tasty food, classy wine and.. actually a lot of other things. I was born in the bush of Zambia with a bush of black curly hair, although now I’m blond as blond can be 🙂 I’m a cynical optimist, that looks for truth even though I believe that all truth is constructed.

Greetings From Sichuan: Five Things I Miss Most About Göttingen

Lili Jiang | ljiang1120@gmail.com

I am a Master’s student from Sichuan University, China, majoring in Applied Linguistics. Last year, I was lucky enough to get an Erasmus Mundus scholarship. When I got a chance to choose a host university, I chose the University of Göttingen as my host university and MA Euroculture programme as my main course.

I have to tell you that I spent an amazing 10 months in Göttingen. Now that I am back in Sichuan University, I am missing Göttingen every single day. Here are five things that I miss most about the city:

1. Inter-cultural spiritual discussion every Tuesday night

Göttingen is such a spiritual spot, I realized, as it offered me enough time and energy to be able to reflect and refresh myself every day while I was there. My German friends and I held an inter-cultural discussion every Tuesday night in order to reflect on the inter-cultural communication we experienced every day in Göttingen, and also to discuss how to advance our spiritual perception by developing ourselves and serving the local community. People from different cultural backgrounds came and we enjoyed tea or coffee together, while sharing various ideas with each other. The Tuesday night discussion is still carried on by friends who are still in Göttingen. Every now and then, I join them sitting in front of my computer using Skype from Sichuan.

2. Euroculture friends

I miss all my classmates, people from all over the world who were inspiring in their own ways. The most exciting experience among all, however, was the Euroculture Intensive Programme in Bilbao, despite the pressure from the work and presentations we had to prepare. Coming from China and having met many students from Asia in the Euroculture programme, I felt like Euroculture was collecting potential for the world by bridging the East and the West. I am truly grateful to have studied in this programme.

3. Local people in Göttingen

It’s always true that it’s the people that make the place. What I miss most are, again, the people back in Göttingen. I visited lots of locals in Göttingen when I was there, and they offered me their best gift: friendship and love. Every time I went back to Göttingen after travelling to other European cities, I felt at home.

4. The Botanical Garden

Close to the city centre, you’ll find the Botanical Garden serving Persian tea. Best tea ever! My friends and I always went there for a nice chat or for a brunch. It’s another thing I fell in love with in Göttingen. It’s a small place, but you get everything you need around you and enough time to relax.

5. German class

I miss my German classes. The language classes the university offered were very helpful. I liked my German teachers and they really encouraged me to speak the language, even though I can barely continue a proper conversation for more than 10 minutes with a German person since I’ve come back to China.

Göttingen is such a cute place in Europe especially because it holds many sweet people. It’s always peaceful, which allows you to slow down your life, to study and to work. I am extremely thankful that I spent a year in Göttingen and that I found so many good friends, not to mention my own self, through the whole journey. I am hoping to visit Göttingen again next year. Prayers and love to all my friends back in Göttingen until then.

Lili Jiang, Goettingen Correspondent

Lili is from Sichuan, China and holds a Bachelor degree in Applied Linguistics from Sichuan University. She is a guest student of the MA Euroculture Programme in the University of Göttingen and has studied in New York and at Uppsala University. Currently she is working on her Master’s thesis related to the Baha’i Faith and Chinese language in Sichuan University. She enjoys meeting people from different cultural backgrounds and believes “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”.

Olomouc – Olomouc is Something

Ludmila Vávrová | lidavavrova@gmail.com

Not many people know about the Czech Republic, except that the beer is cheap there and that Prague is a beautiful city. I spent my autumn semester 2011 (my first semester of the MA Euroculture programme) studying at Palacky University in Olomouc, a town in Moravia in the west of the country (approximately 250km from Prague). Although four decades of communism has left its mark on the Czech Republic, Olomouc remained as a lovely town with cobbled streets, magnificent buildings and rumbling trams all centred around two main squares which bring an amazing atmosphere.

One thing dominates the town: students!

Palacky University, the country’s second oldest only to Charles University in Prague, is a set of buildings just off the main street, the most impressive of which is the library set around a large courtyard.

The Euroculture staff are very friendly, helpful and always keen to teach their classes in the pub over a beer or in the café where the theme of Central Europe is explored from many points of view. The impressive thing about the timetable in Olomouc is that it leaves Monday and Friday free. The international students use the long weekends for frequent travels around the Czech Republic, but also to neighbouring countries such as Austria, Poland, Slovakia, or Hungary. These places offer so much of Europe’s still undiscovered history. Also, the chance to link many of the places that are relevant to your study plan during your stay is very exciting. Most travel can be done by train which is quite frequent and very cheap with a student rail pass. Additionally, the Euroculture classes bring with them excursions related to the study programme, such as a visit to the Hyundai car factory in Nošovice and a sightseeing tour around the Olomouc monuments with a detailed lecture about its history.

In Olomouc you are accommodated in halls of residence called “Neředín” (about 10 minutes from the university by tram). Students share an apartment with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen. The corridor that I lived in had people of many nationalities which gave me a cosmopolitan experience in my own country. Moreover, I could build up friendships all over the world. English is the language predominantly used among all international students.

There is more than enough to do in Olomouc. Every international student can sign up for membership of the local Erasmus Student Network (ESN) organisation, which is very active in organising student trips or special events like the international lunch, and they have many good deals with bars and nightclubs around Olomouc. The ESN team consists of Czech students of the Palacký University who have already done a study exchange abroad and are aware of the interests of incoming international students. Moreover, Olomouc is a town of cafés and student bars. The youth scene is frequently represented by the university students performing any kind of art.

It is interesting to compare my previous study experience in Prague, where I did my undergraduate studies. Even if I enjoyed my time in Prague a lot; in Olomouc I found more smiling people (a part of the Moravian character), higher attachment to Czech and Moravian culture, closer relationships between international students living all in the same place, and much lower-priced goods. In Olomouc you can easily feel at home.

Although I am Czech, I had a wonderful ”Erasmus experience” in Olomouc. It is hard to imagine anyone who would not enjoy a study exchange at Palacký University.

Useful tips

  • Olomouc-Prague return trip ticket costs just around €6 with a student rail pass;
  • “Belmondo” is the most popular Erasmus night club;
  • Olomoucké tvarůžky = a local speciality (extremely smelly cheese);
  • €1 = 25 Czech crowns;
  • Olomouc is good holiday option for your parents to visit you!

Ludmila Vávrová, Olomouc/Indiana Correspondent

Ludmila is from the Czech Republic, and studied Economics and Management for B.Sc. and European Diplomacy for M.Sc. She studied Euroculture in Palacky University, Olomouc and the University of Strasbourg. She is currently doing a research track in Indianapolis with an interest in finding image/word arguments during the 2012 presidential election campaigns in the US and in France. Ludmila is a girl with a dream, mostly involving Czech beer.

 

Feature Story − The Home I Left, the Home I Found : A Vacation in Greece in the Middle of the Crisis

And I say “This is what life should be like. There is nothing else”. I believe it. I am convinced. And Yota smiles and nods. And for a small fleeting moment, I feel as happy as I can possibly feel. There are no more problems in the world, just the sun and the sea and the smell of salt in the air. And I realize that no matter how far or how close I am, this is my home. The home I leave, but the one that always beckons me back as a siren.

Penelope Vaxevanes | prosiliomani@hotmail.com

It is a truth universally acknowledged that in Greece all problems cease to exist in the summer. When the sun becomes blinding, when the heat becomes intolerable, when everyone starts talking about islands and beaches and cocktails in summer clubs, annoying everyday problems start to fade in the Greeks’ minds. The summer is here and it is taking over everything.

And it was like that that I landed in Eleftherios Venizelos airport on the last night of June, after a 17-hour long trip, with the temperature reaching 30 degrees at 2 am, making everything and everyone uncomfortable. But I was home after ten long, long months. Home, in my bed that seems foreign. Home, at my house, that seems strange, yet familiar. Home, where my mother has to remind me all the time that we do not flush toilet paper, because “You are not in Germany”. Home, in a neighbourhood where everything feels and seems the same. Home in the big city you always love, even when you hate it so much. Home in the country that has changed in ways that are so subtle, yet so dramatic, in ways that are cruel yet delicate, in ways that I could never really describe to someone that has not experienced it first-hand… and yet, I’ll try.

The first few days pass in a daze, with a never-ending array of coffee dates and dinner dates with friends and family that I haven’t seen in months. They ask you to tell them how it has been. What do I answer? How could I, ever, describe how it was? Can I tell them about any little detail of 10 months split in three countries? Can I tell them about everything I lived and felt? How changed I feel? But I do talk, because they expect me to and I see them smile and say how jealous they are and how all that moving from country to country must have been so exciting and fun. Most of it is not, but I really don’t want to sound ungrateful and they don’t want to listen to me being a little over-privileged brat.

And then I ask about life in Greece and I offer my first impressions. What are my first impressions? Everything seems the same but feels different. “Everything has gotten so cheap”, I offer. They do not agree. It doesn’t matter if something has gotten cheaper when you cannot afford it either way. “The coffee is less than three euros”, I offer again. “How much is it in Germany?” they ask.  My argument, suddenly, becomes very weak.

They are right. All of them. But I am too. Everywhere you look, you see small restaurants that offer cheap, simple food. The number of gyros places has tripled in my area because you can have a big meal there for less than 5 euro. It is good, affordable food and a chance for a family to go out and enjoy a meal. The nightlife booms. Everywhere you go, there are new bars. You can hardly find a table to sit on a Monday night. When I point that out I always hear a cliché “Greeks will cut from their food, but they will never cut from their fun time out”. It is true. But what is also true, is that all these new bars that have opened offer good, inexpensive drinks. Sometimes with no proper service, sometimes in plastic cups, but still the quality of the drinks is high. And then, there are all these new Greek beer breweries. Ten years ago, a Greek beer was a joke. Not anymore.

I walk to the centre of my suburb in Athens, Halandri, one warm evening in July. I am with my best friend Electra and her boyfriend Matt. For as long as I remember, since we were small girls, we have been talking about living abroad when we graduated from university. She has been living in London for more than three years, but now she is moving back to Athens and Matt is joining her. They want to open a bar like those I described. It is very difficult but, in this market, to me, it doesn’t seem like the worst idea. And like this, Electra becomes the only Greek I know that moves back to Greece instead of going as far away as possible.

One steaming July morning, I find myself in the Piraeus port of Athens, at the house of my friend from my Erasmus days in Lyon, Ioanna. She is a new mother. In what is a true marathon visit, we talk about everything that has happened since I last saw her at her wedding. The baby, the jobs, the family life, our Master’s degrees, our times in Lyon, all mingled together with food, sweets and coffees, until it’s late and Dimitris, her husband, comes back from work. He owns a small ship cleaning company with his family. Conversation turns to the crisis and how difficult it is to raise a child in this economy, how their mentality has changed in one year but also, how lucky they are to be able to have the life they have. Ioanna tells me how depressed she becomes when on the train to Athens, she just sees gloomy faces. “No one smiles”, she complains. And I think about that. Have I seen anyone smiling genuinely? Was the smile reaching their eyes?

The last part of my vacation is, as expected, the vacation part. I take the 12 hour ship to Kos with my friend, Yota. For almost two years she has been working in a tourist shop in the posh tourist shopping district of Plaka, in the centre of Athens just below the Acropolis. Plaka is booming every summer with tourists trying to find the best kind of souvenir from Greece. We joke all the time about how I do a Master’s in Euroculture and she did a Master’s in fake ancient statues sale. She has been recently forced to quit because she was no longer affordable for the business. In one year, the new labour laws state that they can hire people who are aged 25 and under, and pay them half of the standard 8 hour minimum wage. It’s supposed to be a solution to the huge unemployment rate for people aged 25 and under. Being over 25, suddenly, becomes the worst feature on someone’s CV.

And we arrive at the port of Kos, an island that used to be cosmopolitan, rich and a huge tourist attraction for foreigners, especially English and German, in the 1980s and 1990s. At the bus station, waiting for the bus to the village where we will stay, we learn that this is a dead summer. It’s not that the tourists are not coming to Greece. It is that they are going to huge hotels that offer all-inclusive accommodation with three meals, snacks, and all beverages in their holiday packet, therefore leaving nothing for the local businesses of the islands. Tourism still represents more than one fifth of Greece’s income but the future seems uncertain. Another part of Greece’s future that seems uncertain.

And finally we are at the sea, and the sun shines brightly, and we relax in a way that you can only do one meter from the blue sea, the sea that is the only thing that I miss abroad, the sea that is part of the Greek DNA. And suddenly, as if by a miracle, no problems exist. I do not think about the year that lies ahead. There is no Master’s thesis to write. I don’t have to move to Hamburg where I know no one. Yota is not unemployed. The crisis is forgotten. We have only one concern: how fast can we get tanned without getting cancer?

And when we are burned beyond recognition, and we cannot ignore our bellies that want to be fed, we move to the little tavern, where (illegally) the tables are 50cm from the waves, and we eat the Greek salads and the fried calamari and the fresh fish, and we both smile. And I say “This is what life should be like. There is nothing else”. I believe it. I am convinced. And Yota smiles and nods. And for a small fleeting moment, I feel as happy as I can possibly feel. There are no more problems in the world, just the sun and the sea and the smell of salt in the air. And I realize that no matter how far or how close I am, this is my home. The home I leave, but the one that always beckons me back as a siren. The country that is in deep trouble, but always finds a way out of catastrophe. The country where nothing works but everything somehow makes sense. My home, Greece.

If you liked Penelope’s article, also read Darcy vs. the modern girl

Penelope Vaxevani, News Editor

Penelope is from Greece and studied French Language and Literature in the
Philosophic School of the University of Athens. She studied in the University
of Göttingen and Jagiellonian University, Krakow, and hopes to fulfill a career
in Cultural Diplomacy.

Meet the Freshmen: “The most useless thing I ever bought was a round of shots”

Learn in how many languages an American, Alexandra, can say “I love you”, and why William from Strasbourg would wear dark blue for the rest of his life. Find out what Groningen student Matthieu considers to be a useless purchase and whether it’s okay for Dutch student, Hessel Luxen, to vote Democrat one year and Republican the next.

Helen Hoffmann | helenhoffmann@outlook.com

A lot of new MA Euroculture students have very recently made their way into our universities, and we hope that their year started out great. With our universities scattered over eight countries and the 3rd semester students now all over the world interning and researching, it’s a little hard to get to know these new members of the Euroculture family. We still wanted to meet them though and so picked a few to introduce you to. Learn in how many languages an American, Alexandra, can say “I love you”, and why William from Strasbourg would wear dark blue for the rest of his life. Find out what Groningen student Matthieu considers to be a useless purchase and whether it’s okay for Dutch student, Hessel Luxen, to vote Democrat one year and Republican the next.

William Gandemer, French TCK (third culture kid), born in Thailand, grew up in several different countries. BA in Applied Foreign Languages from Univeristy of Strasbourg and another BA in Political Science from the Univeristy of Toulouse.  Euroculture Home University: Univeristy of Strasbourg.

If you could only wear one colour for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
I’d say dark blue, but it really is all about tailoring, isn’t it? :p Okay, seriously, I’d say it’s because it reminds me of the ocean which I was never far away from growing up, and evokes open spaces.

What movie or book would you recommend to someone you are trying to annoy?
Ouch! Um, well I’ve never thought of that, but possibly Disney, haha.

What was your favorite song as a child?
Well I’m torn between two, but I’ll go with A-Ha – Take On Me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djV11Xbc914)

Matthieu Munsch, French. BA in Applied Modern Languages (English & Japanese). Euroculture Home University: University of Groningen.

What would I find in your fridge right now?
Sooo… my fridge. Here’s what you’ll find in it right now: eggs, milk, ham, dutch cheese, goat cheese, mozzarella, a few tomatoes, a bell pepper, some chicken and some brussels sprouts.

What is the most expensive useless thing you ever bought?
😉 As for the most expensive useless thing I have ever bought, I’m not so sure… It depends what qualifies as useless. Hum… maybe a round of shots for people I didn’t really know? 😀

What are three words that describe what you expect from your two years of  Euroculture?

Hum… I guess my three words would have to be: Friends, Self-development and Travel.

Hessel Luxen, Dutch. BA Communication and Information Studies and MA Communication and Information Studies from Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (still working on that last one). Euroculture Home University: Uppsala University.

Are you a good friend?
Doesn’t the fact that I’m doing you a favour by answering these questions tell you that I am? : p

Is it okay/plausible to vote Democrat (or the respective party in your country) one year and Republican in the next election?

Yes that is okay, but only for people who vote on a person rather than the content of his/her election program. I could see why one year you like a Republican candidate more and four years later the Democratic candidate. Personally I would always vote for the same party because I care more about the content. But that doesn’t mean it works like that for everyone.

Would you go parachute jumping?
Hell yeah! I’ve always said I would one day, but never did. Hmm what does that tell you? That I’m a coward? I’d like to say I just haven’t find the right moment for it.

Alexandra Stark, American. BA in German Literature & Culture and Philosophy. Euroculture Home university: University of Göttingen.

Which movie would you watch three times in a row?

I would watch The King’s Speech over and over again. I would gladly watch any film with Colin Firth on repeat! However, The King’s Speech has a lot of substance which I really appreciate in any good film. Every time I see it, I catch a new joke or reference that I did not hear or know before.

In how many languages can you say ”I love you”?
I can say ”I love you” in 6 languages. 6 isn’t much, but it’s a phrase I wish I knew in every language! 🙂

Do you like still water or water with bubbles?

I prefer still water. I drink so much water during the day because I am an athlete and need to be able to drink it very quickly! But the taste of water with bubbles is definitely better, especially with a meal.

Helen Hoffmann, Creative Editor

Helen is from Germany and studied BA History and Gender Studies. She studied Euroculture in the University of Göttingen and Uppsala University, and is currently working to promote trade relations 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. 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).