Why the Idea of Europe Matters

By Nikhil Verma

What is Europe?
If you honestly think about it, could you pinpoint it out? If yes, where does Europe end or most importantly where does it start? Is Europe an ideology or does the idea of Europe ends with its dynamic borders?
Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden – these ‘Cantons’ laid down the foundation of the modern-day concept of ‘Culture’. You may wonder – How exactly has that evolved?

Well, ‘Cantons’ – the administrative division of states – make up nowadays’ confederation of ‘Switzerland. “Bundesbrief” – the oldest constitutional document of Switzerland documents the alliance of these three ‘Cantons’. In one of these ‘Cantons’, the birth of a prolific intellectual would take place – Jacob Burckhardt was born in the Canton of ‘Basel’ in 1818, he later wrote the 19th century’s masterpiece – ’The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy’. Published in 1860 and then revised in 1867, it was a sensational description of the Italian Renaissance.
Burckhardt’s vision that ‘Renaissance’ was the beginning of the modern world would later be expanded into modern politics, economics and aspects of modern society. His ideas encapsulated the idea of social, political, and cultural transformation in Europe. Burckhardt is thus known as the father of the notion of ‘Culture’ and its developments since the 19th century. Today, the stern look of his portrait on the Swiss franc is reminiscent of the path-breaking work for the cultural history of Europe and modernism. Continue reading “Why the Idea of Europe Matters”

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Lampedusa: A Tragedy with a Plot Twist

By Agnese Olmati

A small strip of land in the middle of the Mediterranean, 205 km off the Sicilian coast and 113 km away from Tunisia. Lampedusa, the southernmost point of Italy, has become popular in the recent years as the symbol of the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Today, even if its name is no longer on the front pages, the island is still at the core of migration flows through the Central Mediterranean route and still serves as lifebuoy for many. According to statistics, the death tolls and number of arrivals have decreased in the past couple of years, but people continue to land in Lampedusa – and die in its surrounding sea. Estimations show that 2016 was the deadliest year, with 4,587 dead or missing at sea[1] and 500 arriving in Italy by sea per day, compared to only 61 since June 2018 till today.

However, this is not a positive signal meaning that the Italian and European migration policies are giving the expected results. In fact, 19% of those who have tried to leave Africa last September died or went missing, a percentage that has never been registered before[2]. Past scenarios in which the island, with its 6,000 Lampedusani, was hosting 10,000 people on its small territory[3] are not likely to happen again. Lampedusa is not facing any serious problem in welcoming and hosting migrants in its hotspot, where their process for seeking international protection starts and where they normally spend just two days before being transferred to the mainland.
However, the migratory phenomenon is still profoundly affecting Lampedusa and those who live there. Different people and places around the isle can show what living on an island on the European border means, with all its peculiarities and paradoxes. Continue reading “Lampedusa: A Tragedy with a Plot Twist”

Euroculture: The Hidden Gems

By Maeva Chargros

Applying for a master programme is not an easy task; applying for an Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme such as Euroculture, offering eight universities in eight different countries… can be even more complicated. Indeed, during the application process, candidates have to pick three universities they are interested in for the first semester. Of course, the courses taught there, as well as the specialisations of each university or the monthly budget are important; but sometimes, one needs something more personal to be convinced.
This first edition of universities’ presentations is focusing on what we could call the “hidden gems” of Euroculture: the universities you might not think of at first, some cities you could not even place on a map before going there, but they turn out to be life-changing decisions you’ll never regret.

Creativity: a keyword for all three cities

Why would you study in Central Europe? Life there is affordable (or even cheap), with many options to travel. This is what every Erasmus student answers during their first week here. A few weeks later, they still consider the place to be affordable and practical for trips, but the list of good reasons to study here extended slightly. The very dynamic cultural life, for instance, shows up suddenly. Continue reading “Euroculture: The Hidden Gems”

Message from an Obama Groupie: An ode to the Obama decade

Lianne Arentsen

Some say most Europeans are fans of Obama. I am not sure about that, but I definitely am. You could say I am an Obama groupie. So this article will be an ode to Obama. Or better said, an ode to the feeling that Obama gives.

The Obama hype is not new; we have had it since his first run for President. However, in light of the current events in American politics, more and more Obama groupies stand up to sing his praises. This is hardly surprising. When it seems like the good days are over, it is common to look back at the first blush of the romance. Now, with all the drama between and around Clinton and Trump, Obama is like a sweet memory of the good old times, even though he is still in charge. We know Obama cannot stay. We know our Obama-days will be over soon. So we are sad about that, we are afraid of a future that include Clinton and Trump, and are therefore already looking back on the great years we had with him.

Of course Obama is was not the perfect POTUS. He did not do everything he promised. Guantanamo Bay is not closed, even though Obama said he would close it years ago. However, there is no such thing as a perfect president. They are all humans, and humans make mistakes, especially when caught in an endlessly tangled bureaucracy. They learn from it. With that in mind, let’s get back to the ode to Obama.

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What’s not to love about Obama? The Huffington Post even made a list of 55 reasons to love Obama. Read it. If you didn’t love him yet, you soon will. Some examples of those 55 reasons: Obama is the first black president, he has made great reforms (think about Obamacare, and the Lilly Ledbetter Act) and, he has even won the Nobel Peace Prize. And did you know he can sing? He can easily start a professional singing career once his presidency ends. Another choice of career could be a DJ: for the past two years, he has released summer playlists on Spotify. But, also importantly, he has a great sense of humor. He makes the most out of his final moments as the President of the United States.

That is what we love about him. Whenever there is a new video of Obama mocking himself, of making a hilarious joke, we laugh and we like and share it. We cherish these moments, because we know all the laughing will soon be over. So for now, we stay in our little cocoons watching the videos of Obama, pretending all the American election drama is not happening right now. So here’s a little advice: whenever you read articles about the terrors of a Trump or Clinton, or discovering a new drama or embarrassment for Trump and Clinton, pretend you didn’t see it. Go watch Obama doing Thriller. What you don’t see, is not there.

What will happen in the next Presidency, we do not know yet. For now we can only say, Obama out!

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Photo by John Kees

Click here for more by Lianne Arentsen.

Featured picture credit: Pete Souza.

The Euroculturer Recommends:

“The Danger of Ridiculing Trump: Even if he loses Trump and his supporters cannot be ignored” by Arne van Lienden

“Should Voting be Compulsory in the US?” by Emma Danks-Lambert

“Islamophobia: Made in America – A New Phenomenon? US Elections and Discrimination” by Sabine Volk

A weekend in Stockholm

Elena Mitryukova is a Euroculture student who loves the international experience of the two years of the Master programme. She loves travelling, looking for adventures and running from the routine. “The most amazing adventure for me is the people I meet on the way and what I learn from them,” she says. “Right now I am living in Krakow, Poland. Originally I am from Volgograd, Russia. And I am not sure where I will be in several years. To be honest, I like this. I had barely travelled until 21 and until my first big trip to the United States for 4 months. And then I could not stop myself. I like planning trips and can give a lot of tips on how to spend less or to find something special while travelling. I will be happy to share my experience.”

This is a short report about several days I spent in Stockholm, some tips on how to save money there and what to do. I do not claim being the best expert and certainly do not compete with the students studying in Uppsala. However it is from my friends who asked, persuaded and questioned me on my trip, that this report was born.
Stockholm is a beautiful city, tolerant, democratic, open-minded, interesting and worth visiting. However, probably not all of this is true in February… Before arriving in the city, I had been advised three times to come in summer instead. However I still enjoyed it and would like to see what Stockholm is like during the warmer seasons.

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Continue reading “A weekend in Stockholm”

What the Great War Has to Do With Euroculture

Michiel Luining │michiel.luining@gmail.com

Recently, Der Spiegel suggested the relevance of World War I today while other media and even historians have speculated on similarities between the period around World War I and our time. Might there be some relevance indeed and, on top of that, even to Euroculture? Running roughshod over historical uniqueness by making comparisons with contemporary times is a dangerous business, not to say a dead end in the historical discipline. A hundred years ago it was extremely dangerous for the soldiers to go ‘over the top’ (climbing out of the trenches) in order to gain more territory. Let us now metaphorically go ‘over the top’ in the pursuit of historical relevance. Hoping to survive the many figurative bullets that may be fired upon this undertaking, we will find out how much ground and insight will be gained.

“Let us now metaphorically go over the top

With some generalisation and a bit of fantasy, one can see similarities between the reality in 1914 and that in 2014. Continue reading “What the Great War Has to Do With Euroculture”

How The Euroculturer Began: Eureka Over Pasta, Dancing in the Dark, and Our Magazine Here

Eunjin Jeong | eunjin.lynn@gmail.com

Very late at night, I suddenly started dancing in the street. It was an ordinary day in May and I was on my way back home after studying with an Italian friend of mine, Bianca Rubino, for our final exams. Me dancing in public is extremely rare and I would rather appear doing yoga on French national TV than be seen dancing by a stranger. Still, I was dancing, in the presence of random passersby staring, walking in the direction of Robertsau, my residence in Strasbourg, undoubtedly happy.

Three hours ago I was asking Bianca, over pasta that we cooked together, why I should be happy. I had been secretly going through a very hard time for months because of an irrevocably damaged friendship with my best friend. Helpless and hurt, I felt like running away from everybody, especially those who really cared about me. Not knowing what I was going through and how desperate I was, Bianca cheerfully answered, without even stopping to think for one second, “You should be happy because you’ve had a chance to meet a wonderful person like me through Euroculture. Why wouldn’t you be happy?”. The answer shocked me to the point that my world turned upside down. Her not very serious response to my very serious question didn’t bother me at all because it was so right. I had had the privilege of getting to know so many wonderful people during my two semesters of Euroculture, except I hadn’t realised it until then. I believe that that very Eureka moment, later followed by a highly unusual dance performance in celebration, helped to heal my wounds and gave me the strength to kick off The Euroculturer.

Having enjoyed working as a writer for a university English-language newspaper during my undergraduate years, establishing a platform for students to write freely was actually on my dream list since the first day I started the MA Euroculture programme. It was only a matter of inspiration, courage, and willingness to sacrifice some free time. I have been fortunate enough to find all three thanks to the Eureka moment that I experienced in May 2012. The magazine, however, only became possible with the help of many other Euroculturers. The Board of Editors including copy editors, correspondents from each university, and contributing writers, from both Euroculture current students and alumni, are true pioneers fully equipped with the love of their own community. The Euroculture Consortium trusted me with the project and now supports the magazine with funding, which symbolizes the close connection between the Consortium and its students. Dr. Lars Klein of the University of Göttingen helped me greatly throughout all the crucial moments of getting official approvals and funding from the Consortium, not to mention his sincere encouragements from the very beginning of the preparation. Juan M. Sarabia, a Euroculture programme coordinator from Jagiellonian University, Krakow, without whom The Euroculturer would have been homeless, built us a home, i.e. a fabulous website to accommodate all of our articles. He also helped out with all the technical and designing concerns, including the logo. Nora Trench Bowles, a Euroculture classmate from the University of Strasbourg and a Drew Barrymore replica with an excellent work ethic, volunteered to take the responsibility of Copy Chief. She is, therefore, fully in charge of the copy editing process which, with the collaboration of other copy editors, takes care of the quality part of the magazine. This has helped me greatly in concentrating on the content and pulling the overall edition together. Helen Hoffmann, whom I always rely on for important decisions, is a true Miss Help for the magazine. Heartfelt thanks go to all those mentioned.

The only hope we have for this magazine is that no matter how many editions come out in the future, after the first generation leaves, it will remain as a place where all Euroculturers feel truly welcomed to share their stories of Euroculture, regardless of their backgrounds or peculiarities. Every Euroculture student, including alumni, is welcomed to contribute and I want to spare the finale of this acknowledgment especially for the future contributors to The Euroculturer.

eunjinEunjin Jeong, Editor-in-chief

Eunjin is from South Korea and studied Education for her BA. She began Euroculture in October 2011 in the University of Göttingen, later studied in the
University of Strasbourg, and is currently doing a research track in Uppsala University. Her research interests lie in finding ways for diaspora groups to feel ‘citizens at heart’ in host countries. Eunjin is a part-time realist and a full-time idealist.