Stella Meyer is a German Euroculture alumna from the 2019-2021 cohort, having studied in Uppsala, Göttingen, and Bilbao. In the following article, Stella tells us about her life as a recent Euroculture graduate. Entering the job market, even with a MA, is not that easy.
I am an inherently indecisive person. On bad days, it takes ages for me to make a simple decision. As simple as do I want to have an apple or a banana for a snack. I know it doesn’t really matter and is an incredibly unimportant question to dwell on. Yet, it is a classic example of me being absolutely lost and unable to make a very basic decision. Now, the prospect of having to actively choose a career path is downright terrifying for me. I am aware that nothing is set in stone and career changes are not only possible, but normal – if not recommended. Yet, it still feels like a pretty big decision to me. Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? And then there are the more practical questions concerning work-life balance, salary, benefits, potential career opportunities and so on. As it turns out, indecisiveness in light of the sheer number of options is not my only hurdle. The industry I am looking to work in comes with its own set of challenges: sky-high expectations and little to give in return. That does not pair well with my own – admittedly also high – expectations and career ambivalences.
The Intensive Programme can seem daunting to new Euroculture students, but it doesn’t have to! Jodie van ‘t Hoff talks us through the IP preparation phase, paper writing process, and how the (online) IP in 2021 went for her. While Jodie’s Euroculture experience has been almost entirely online due to the ongoing pandemic, she is making full use of the programme’s mobility. Having started in Groningen then attending Olomouc online, Jodie moved to Göttingen for her third semester and is currently preparing to spend her fourth semester in Olomouc (in person this time!).
Euroculture Magazine: Would you mind giving us a small introduction about yourself? Where are you from, what are your universities, and how did you find out about the Euroculture programme?
Jodie van ’t Hoff: I’m Jodie van ’t Hoff, I’m half Dutch/half German, and I am currently in my third Euroculture semester doing a research track at the University of Göttingen. My first semester was in Groningen, my second in the Czech Republic. During my Bachelor’s programme, which I also completed in Groningen, I learned about the Euroculture master. In the end, I applied because the subjects seemed a great continuation of my Bachelor and the mobility aspect to me was a real selling point.
In this edition of the Euroculture City Guides, Maike Mewes (German), who recently finished her second semester at the university of Uppsala, will give you an insight into life in the German city of Göttingen, where she studied at the University of Göttingen during her first semester.
The City Guide Project is led by Paola Gosio and Felix Lengers.
Euroculturer Magazine (EM): Why did you choose to study and live in this particular city?
Maike Mewes (MM): I already completed my Bachelor’s degree in Göttingen – more by chance – and got to know about the Euroculture Master’s programme. Göttingen is a very beautiful city with a high percentage of students (almost 25% of the inhabitants). Located in the middle of Germany, Göttingen also offers the possibility to visit many other interesting places – either with the regional trains which are for free as a student (at least in Lower Saxony and some neighboring cities) or with the ICE which connects you to Berlin, Munich, or Cologne within only a few hours.
EM: What are the aspects you appreciate the most about the city and which ones are those that you like less?
MM: In my opinion, Göttingen is the perfect city to study! It is quite small which helps a lot to find one’s way around after a short time and not to feel lost. One can easily walk or go everywhere by bike or use the bus for free, and there are several green areas like parks and the forest around the city. The Kiessee, a small lake, is the perfect place to go for a picnic during a nice sunny afternoon with some friends. Göttingen is also a city with a large number of students and therefore offers many possibilities to meet friends in cafés and bars and to do cultural activities, which are included in the Kultursemesterticket, like going to the theatre or concerts of the symphony orchestra (depending on the theatre/concert either for free or almost for free!). Tip: have a look at the long list of activities one can attend with the student card!
Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio
Marcella Zandonai is an Euroculture alumni (cohort 2015-2017) from Trento, Italy. She spent her first semester at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and continued her Euroculture studies in Bilbao, Spain. After doing some volunteering, travelling in New Zealand and working for a local NGO in Trento, she joined Euroculture again in 2020 as the Assistant Coordinator at the University of Göttingen.
Euroculture Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you applied/started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?
Marcella Zandonai(MZ): I have to say that I started my job in a very unrealistic period of our Earth´s life. The 2020 health crisis completely changed my perception and my work tasks as well. When I started, there were actually hints of a return to normal life around July 2020. However, a couple of months later, the virus came back and I started working remotely I only had a vague idea of how my job was supposed to be, since I did my MA in Euroculture as well. I was seeing my (now) ex-colleagues doing a lot of work, being outside, traveling, being with students, and enjoying themselves. I supposed that in a utopian world my job would be hectic and I would be always on the move, meeting up with people and exchanging smiles with students.
So, my answer is: no, the job expectations did not match reality. But unfortunately, there is no one to blame. Maybe it would be easier if there was but…oh well: such is life.
When I applied I thought that the first wave would have been the first and only. But then this turned out not to be the case. We are living in uncertain times.
Interview conducted by Johanna Pieper & Paola Gosio
Dr. Lars Klein has been part of the Euroculture staff since 2008. He is currently the Euroculture course-coordinator in Göttingen and his academic interests lie in (European) identity, belonging and participation, and foreign policy, amongst others. By participating in his teaching modules “Introduction to Euroculture”, “Cultural Construction of Europe” and “Europe in a Global Context”, Euroculture students in Göttingen have the opportunity to learn more about the aforementioned research fields. You can contact Lars via the following email: email@example.com.
Euroculturer Magazine ‘EM): What were your expectations when you started your job position as professor or coordinator and does it match the reality?
Lars Klein(LK): I started with Euroculture in April 2008. Some of my Ph.D. colleagues in the Graduate Programme (“DFG-Graduiertenkolleg”) I had pursued prior to that had done Euroculture while it was still a 60 ECTS programme, some of the academic staff were also contributing to Euroculture then. So I had an idea of what to expect, but Euroculture in Göttingen was in a transition at that time. Our Director, Martin Tamcke, had just taken over a few months earlier and started a completely new team with me and Marc Arwed Rutke, our coordinator. Having said that, I never would have expected to enter a job that would take on such a big part of my life and which I would still be working in 13 years later. And I certainly would not have imagined that the daily work with students and colleagues in the Consortium would be such a lively, fruitful and diverse endeavour.
EM: What is your academic background and can you tell us about your previous job experience before starting to work for Euroculture?
Choosing, starting, and managing a project often are daunting tasks. The Euroculturer conducted a series of short interviews to showcase some of the many projects Euroculture students came up with in the Eurocompetence II course. These interviews were designed to give current and future students an idea of what has already been done and to learn from previous experience.
We asked each student the same three questions: What was your Eurocompetence II project? Did you put it into practice? How was your experience?Here are their testimonials:
Virginia Stuart-Taylor – Uppsala 2017 – War on Truth
Our class in Uppsala 2017 decided to plan, fund, and run the ‘War on Truth’ international conference on the topic of fake news, bringing students and locals into contact with leading figures from academia, think tanks, the media, and start-ups from across Sweden and the Netherlands. Held in May 2017, only months after Trump’s 2016 election, misinformation and fake news were crucial issues, making the conference well-attended and a big success.
The hardest part of working together on the project was the ideation phase and picking a feasible, realistic, and sufficiently stretching project. We looked to examples of previous Eurocompetence II projects for inspiration and scope but also scoped out our own skills, interests, available resources, and pressing issues it would be worthwhile to address. Once we settled on running a conference, the division of roles within the team and execution of our individual responsibilities was easier, and regular meetings helped us make decisions, keep on track and manage the project. Overall it was satisfying to complete such a tangible project as a conference, with our post-conference report being a good physical outcome.
Rhys Nugent (2019-2021), from the UK and Ireland, spent his first semester at the Georg-August-University of Göttingen and the second at Universidad de Deusto. He holds a Bachelor degree in Modern Languages and decided to apply for Euroculture to develop his interest in European affairs and culture while taking advantage of the social, professional and personal opportunities that formal education provides. He is currently residing in Bilbao, Spain and working as an intern at the European Citizen Action Service.
Euroculturer Magazine: What were your expectations when you applied/started the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment?
Rhys Nugent: I had expected that studying in multiple countries would challenge my preconceptions, improve my language skills and enable me to gain better insight into the cultural and social dimensions of Europe. I had also hoped to meet students from around the world, learn about new projects and opportunities and make memories to cherish alongside new friends around Europe. Needless to say that a global pandemic had not been at the forefront of my mind when applying for MA Euroculture but, alas, here we are. Most of my expectations were met during my first two semesters of MA Euroculture. I was able to study in two fascinating countries that lie close to my heart. I managed to improve my German language skills in my first semester while refreshing my Spanish language skills in my second semester. I feel like I have a significantly better understanding of European affairs and politics, partly thanks to my degree and partly thanks to my extracurricular activities, and I have made new friendships which I value greatly from all corners of Europe and beyond. I am particularly grateful for the flexibility that both universities have provided me, whether it was their relaxed approach to class attendance or how generous they were regarding essay deadlines. This might seem an odd point to make but one of my greatest fears in returning to formal education was that my epilepsy might disrupt my studies and hinder me from making my deadlines – fortunately, both universities were incredibly compassionate when I faced issues. In this regard, my expectations have certainly been met.
Celia Onsurbe Castellanos (2018-2020) is from Tomelloso, Spain. She started Euroculture in Göttingen and spent the second semester in Strasbourg. She has a background in Translation and Interpreting, holding a bachelor’s degree from the Autonomous University of Madrid (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid). After graduating, she applied for Euroculture because she wanted to do a Master programme in European Studies where she could also live and experience Europe in different countries. During the third semester she went to Mexico for the Research Track (UNAM) and was able to do an internship afterwards at the EU-LAC Foundation in Hamburg, Germany, before starting her 4th semester.
Stanislava Milankov (2019-2021) is from Serbia and before starting Euroculture, she graduated with a Bachelor in Sociology from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia. She applied for Euroculture because she wanted to deepen her knowledge in European affairs and gain professional experience within the EU through the professional track. Stanislava spent her first semester in Göttingen, Germany, and the second one in Udine, Italy. She is currently in Brussels, Belgium, doing an internship at the Assembly of European Regions.
EM: What were your expectations when you applied/started the Euroculture MA and does it match the reality at the moment? Stanislava Milankov: I expected to learn more about Europe from a political, societal and cultural perspective, to find internships which would help my professional development, to gain intercultural experience and meet people from all walks of life and, last but not least, to find new friends. All expectations have been fulfilled for now.
EM: Can you tell us more about your IP paper and the overall topic of the IP 2019/2020 ? How did you manage to find a suitable topic? SM: The overall topic of the IP 2019/2020 was “A sustainable Europe? Society, politics and culture in the Anthropocene”. I wrote a paper as part of the subtheme “democratic sustainability”. Taking into account that there is apparent dichotomy between the European liberal democratic ideals and the actual situation in some member states, like Hungary, and candidate countries, like Serbia, I compared the internal and external perceptions of the EU as an actor that can foster democratic changes.
Gianluca Michieletto (2018-2020) is an Italian Euroculture student who spent his first semester at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and his second one at the University of Bilbao, Spain. Soon, he will return to Göttingen for his fourth and final semester. Before enrolling in the Euroculture programme, he did a BA in Languages, Civilisation and Science of the Language at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy. He applied for Euroculture because the degree matched his interests and previous studies, but also because of the international context of the master. For his third semester, Gianluca crossed the Atlantic to do a research track at Indiana University-Purdue University, in Indianapolis, United States.
Euroculturer Magazine: If you had to describe Euroculture MA in one word, what would that be?
GM: If I had to describe Euroculture in only one world, it would definitely be ‘growth’. Euroculture transformed me as a person, not only by the enhancement of my educational skills but also through my mental, social and emotional growth. I would definitely say that all the small things that I had to undergo during the past three semesters – living by myself, finding an accommodation every semester, taking care of everything, getting to know new people and new cities – have shaped me and helped me to become the person I am today.