Muslim for One Day

Having a Muslim woman in our midst, we as the second semester Krakow girls were dying to find out what it felt like for our classmate to be a Muslim woman in Poland. 

Floor 2
From left to right.: Eike Hinz, Floor Boele van Hensbroek, Marielle van Heumen, Fauzia Ariani, Claudia Lübbers, Emma Klever.

Floor Boele van Hensbroek│floorbvh@gmail.com

Having a Muslim woman in our midst while living in one of the most homogeneous countries in Europe, we as the second semester Krakow girls were dying to find out what it felt like for our classmate to be a Muslim woman in Poland. So, we conducted an experiment. For one day we pretended to be Muslims and covered up from head to toe. How did we experience this? Did it change our perceptions on Muslim veils such as hijabs and headscarves? Read here my personal reflexions on this little experiment.

Background: Veils in the West

In Europe, the Muslim veil is not free from controversy. In multiple countries there have been heated debates on whether or not to ban the headscarf. In France, the decision has been made to ban burqas in public spaces. Why? Partly because many Westerners believe that obligating a woman to cover her body is a restriction of her freedom and emancipation. J.C. Young argues in his book ‘Post-Colonialism: A Very Short Introduction’ that “for many Westerners, the veil is a symbol of patriarchal Islamic societies in which women are assumed to be oppressed, subordinated, and made invisible.” This perception can be partly explained by looking at the process of emancipation in the West.

“In the West, showing your body indicates public presence, visibility and freedom of self-expression…”

In Western societies, dress liberation has meant ‘participation in society’. It meant being able to ride a bicycle and board a train. Showing your body indicates public presence, visibility and freedom of self-expression. However, westerners might be taking it one step too far when criticizing veils and defining them as backward and degrading. Blogger Liz Connor argues that “They (Western woman) have developed, it would seem, a rather delimited view of what public visibility might mean to different woman (…). The possibility of covering up is not necessarily a backward step.” Apart from this, it has been argued that denying people their religious expression can equally be defined as oppressive. Moreover: western beauty standards for woman are not free from oppression either!

“I have always believed that covering your body actually reinforces the focus on sexuality…”

Being a western woman myself, I must admit that also I have been critical towards headscarves. I always found it hard to understand why Muslim women cover their bodies to such extent that sometimes even their faces are hidden. Knowing that they can only show themselves to their husbands gave me the impression these woman are somewhat ‘owned’ by their husbands.  Also, I could not see how the obligation to wear all those clothes could be comfortable in any way. Thus, women suffer because of it, I thought. Moreover, I have always believed that covering your body extensively in order to avoid sexual attention actually reinforces the focus on sexuality. Think of African bush women walking around bare-breasted all day. All the attached meaning to the body immediately evaporates, and the body becomes just a body; like an instrument. Obviously, all these opinions and thoughts of mine were full of prejudice and misunderstanding. However, this I only found out much later, after I had dressed up as a Muslim woman myself for a day.

Muslim for one day: the start up

Floor 1_scarves

It was during a lovely dinner time in June that the idea was born: we, the girls of the second semester Krakow class would all wear headscarves for one day. In this way, we hoped to be able to understand how it had been for our classmate, Fauzia Ariani, to live in Poland as a Muslim woman. Fauzia, who has come all the way from Indonesia to Europe to study MA Euroculture, would be our guide during the day. In practice, this meant she would provide us with headscarves and tie them fashionably around our heads. Obviously, the experiment soon became an experiment in fashion as well. I learned there is a booming fashion industry for Muslim women and looking at the pictures of famous designs very quickly got us in the mood.

“Wow, this is actually not so bad…”

We agreed to meet at Fauzia’s place in the morning and first have breakfast together. (You can’t become Muslim on an empty stomach! Everyone knows that). After breakfast, the fun part began. Fauzia showed us her suitcase full of headscarves. Then – oh wait, yes you read that correctly, a suitcase full of headscarves – we all chose a nice colourful combination. I found out that a headscarf is not just a headscarf; it actually consists of several elements: an under-scarf or turtleneck, a shawl and an optional headband. Fauzia arranged them skilfully, choosing different styles. When I looked in the mirror afterwards, I saw a completely different me. ‘Wow, this is actually not so bad!’ I thought. However, I still looked far from presentable. Having left my apartment with the illusion I looked modest, Fauzia soon helped me out of this dream. ‘You are too naked!’ she said. ‘I can see your under arms and legs. Oh, and your dress is see-through!’ ‘Right.’ For your information, it was 35 degrees that day. Still, I put on an extra legging and long sleeves and finally, got permission from Fauzia that we were good to go. Although I still cheated a little as I was wearing flip-flops meaning, my feet were naked. But, flip-flops with socks? I reckoned Allah wouldn’t mind…

What the Quran prescribes in terms of woman’s dress

“Let me briefly explain…”

Before continuing, let me briefly explain what the Quran actually prescribes in terms of woman’s clothing. (To find out, I unfortunately did not read the Quran but visited some forums instead). It turns out, there are two requirements in terms of woman’s clothes. First, a woman’s body has to be covered in such ways that only her face, hands, and feet are revealed. Secondly, the clothing must be loose enough so that the shape of the body is not visible. Also, women should not dress so as to look like men, they should not dress in a way similar to those who don’t believe in God and the clothing should be modest, neither ragged nor overly fancy. Obviously, different interpretations exist of what is said in the Quran therefore every Muslim applies the rules in different ways.

Let’s hit the road

Floor 3

As soon as we left the house I noticed one thing: being a Muslim woman can indeed be torturous. It was so hot! How do those women deal with this heat? My respect grew with every second. Sweat was dripping down from my face and back. I looked with envy at the krakowian girls in their light summer dresses and skirts. How nice it would be to feel the wind through my hair and cool off my skull. At the same time I became very conscious of naked skin. And naked skin was everywhere. I saw girls wearing hot pants and short tops. ‘Wow, they know no limits!’ I thought. The headscarf was starting to work on me. Secretly, we inspected the way people looked at us. It was hard to tell what they were thinking as we did not receive many ‘telling’ looks. However, with the exception of the children. When spotting us, they would grab their moms’ legs and point at us with bewildered looks. Maybe the adults could hold back their first reactions unlike children? If we got any reaction at all, though, it was quite positive. People smiled and looked at us with wonder. I actually felt a little special and exotic.

“I became very conscious of naked skin…”

We bought ice cream and sat down at the Rynek. In a way, it felt nice to be so covered up. I felt less exposed to the outside world, being literally and figuratively less ‘naked’. Emma told me afterwards that she appreciated wearing the headscarf. ‘Except for some worries about how people would respond, in some way or the other I enjoyed being hidden inside all those clothes, I’m not sure why.’ Claudia said she was surprised that it felt so normal wearing a headscarf but also added ‘As soon as we left the flat, I had almost forgotten about it.’ And forget we did. In the afternoon when we went for lunch, we talked freely about topics like homosexuality and partying. Okay, now people started to stare! At the end of the day I was happy to remove the headscarf, simply because it felt more comfortable. Would we have done the experiment in wintertime, I might have kept it on a few days more…

A reflection

Probably, you have an opinion yourself about Muslim veils. You might see them as a symbol of repression and subjugation, obviously as a symbol of religion. What else do you associate the Muslim veil such as the headscarf with? ‘Tradition,’ ‘conservativeness,’ ‘gender,’ ‘masculine culture,’ and ‘immigration’? What I suspect that will not cross your mind are ‘mysteriousness,’ ‘fashion,’ ‘culture,’ ‘Indonesia,’ ‘morality,’ and ‘protection.’ After having met Fauzia, and wearing a headscarf myself for one day, my perception has changed. Whereas beforehand I was critical and sceptical about Muslim veils, I now see that I misunderstood. Now, I can appreciate the headscarf as a cultural expression and I like how it makes woman’s hair (something so trivial in Western culture) into something highly mysterious.

“Now, I can appreciate the headscarf as a cultural expression…”

Exactly for this reason, I appreciate being part of MA Euroculture so much, as it enables me to meet people from various backgrounds. Studying Euroculture is not just about gaining scientific knowledge and skills; it is about learning to understand others and tackling prejudices. It is about becoming a better person. I will finish this article with a few words from Fauzia:

Floor 4

This experiment was not just about some European girls’ headscarf-curiosity (or my hijab fashion experiment over the girls’ hair). It was about understanding, respect, and tolerance. People in the world were created differently in order to get to know each other, weren’t they?!

About my one-day experiment being a Muslim woman and wearing a headscarf in Europe: I have passed through tough experiences of wearing a hijab in Europe. However, I see it as an opportunity rather than a setback on my path. I know I have to be no one else but myself. And I still have faith that good people will come to know each other by person and not by prejudice.

Floor profileFloor Boele van Hensbroek, People’s 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.

My Memories of Krakow: the Heart of Polish Culture and Cuisine

susanna 4
Wonderful smoked cheese, oscypek

Suzanna Fatyan │susanna202001@yahoo.com

In the spring of 2006, I was accepted to the MA Euroculture programme in Poland. Childhood memories suddenly took over me: my Mom playing Chopin – ballad, nocturne, waltz and mazurek (mazurka). Music filling the house. A lovely cake with a similar name, full of walnuts and raisins baked by my Granny. This specialty, consonant with Polish dance, is an integral part of Polish cuisine. These memories are my first links to Poland. The flavour and fragrance of the cake turned the music of Chopin from a subject of aesthetic addiction into an integral part of home warmth and comfort. Amusingly, other memories are also connected to those gustatory and odoristic aspects. I remember the taste of Polish strawberry jam and oatmeal biscuits, szarlotka, trickled pastries and other Polish dishes. Our grandmothers knew how to cook them because, due to similarity of circumstances, they appeared in Uzbekistan together with Poles. We have bright sun, generous nature, and an abundance of fruits, vegetables and berries. For that reason, wonderful fruit and berry aromas of Polish cosmetics, popular in our country, felt close and familiar.

 “I remember the taste of Polish strawberry jam and oatmeal biscuits, szarlotka, trickled pastries and other Polish dishes. Our grandmothers knew how to cook them…”

My childhood memories about Poland are fragmentary, chaotic, irregular. Books on the shelves: Adam Mickiewicz, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Jerzy Stawiński, and brilliant aphorisms of Jerzy Lec. I remember the movies of Andrzej Wajda, fine faces of Polish actors, perfect beauty of actresses: Beata Tyszkiewicz, Ewa Szykulska, Barbara Brylska with delicacy, culture and healthy dignity always impressive in their characters. Incidentally, these features carried to the point of absurdity had frightened us in Russian operas where Poles were portrayed as vain, arrogant people.

Besides Chopin, Poland has other famous brands, reflecting the scope and depth of the scientific, artistic and spiritual potential of the Polish nation. Copernicus, John Paul II, Krzysztof Penderecki:  graduates and honorary doctors of Krakow’s Jagiellonian University which supplement the city’s list of brands. And this was the university where I was going to be studying.

“Krakow…Copernicus, John Paul II, Krzysztof Penderecki:  graduates and honorary doctors of Jagiellonian University which supplement the city’s list of brands.”

The childish joy I experienced through my acquaintance with Poland is hugely strengthened in Polish restaurants, delicious food distributed by someone’s generous hand in open air cafes. The hospitality, warmth and generosity of Polish people make you feel as if you are surrounded by your closest relatives.

Wonderful Polish homemade food

Homemade Polish food
Homemade Polish food

“Living in Poland, be prepared to gain extra weight.”

In Poland, you are invited to homes, you are surrounded with care and love every minute. For that reason, it doesn’t take long until you perceive Poland as your second home and get excited every time you hear a Polish word uttered.

Pierogi
Pierogi

Living in Poland, be prepared to gain extra weight. Hanging out with friends is intrinsically combined with delicious café experiences. And in Krakow it becomes an addiction. Probably, the most famous Polish specialty worldwide is pierogi (variation of dumplings). These yummy stuffed pies amaze you not only with their number of fillings like mushrooms, buckwheat, berries, strawberries … but also colours. I have never tried such beautiful and colourful pierogi in all my life! Polish soups are also a special part of the menu. The most traditional and remarkable to me is zurek, which is usually served in freshly baked bread. This rather substantial combo often turns out to be your meal of the day!

Kawa coffee
Kawa coffee

If you are in Krakow for Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday), you will have the chance to try fabulous local donuts, pączki, filled with rose petal jam. Once again, a return to childhood! My Granny made rose petal jam as our garden was full of roses! The best place for pączki is Rynek Główny (Main Market Square), where the largest number of donuts is distributed. You are too late? Don’t worry! You can try this dessert in one of Krakow’s numerous coffee houses along with excellent hot chocolate, kawa (coffee)  or herbata (tea). The selection of herbata will surely amaze your imagination. It may contain all types of berries, herbs and even flowers from local forests. It was in Poland that I tried blueberries for the first time, and they immediately became one of my favourite berries. In Krakow, you buy berries, fruits and vegetables not only in shopping malls but also from farmers’ markets (in Uzbekistan we know them as bazaars). For that reason, food in Poland has a wonderful taste that you always think about. While travelling between cities of Poland you can admire the beautiful farms that produce the food you can then enjoy.

“Poland is famous for its desserts…Also, amazingly, the Poles even add poppy seeds to pasta!”

Poland is famous for its desserts, especially szarlotka, sernik (cheesecake) and makowiec (pastry with poppy seeds). Amazingly, the Poles even add poppy seeds to pasta! Even having lived in a warm country, I have never seen poppy seeds in such huge quantities as in Polish cookies. Szarlotka in Krakow is also worth trying! It seems quite unusual to me. First, it comes warm, while we serve it cold. Second, the apples were thinly sliced, while in my country we usually slice them in rather large pieces. It tasted fabulous, in candle light and accompanied with kawa!

kiełbasa
kiełbasa

Luckily, I also experienced winter time in Krakow, when I saw beautiful Christmas decorations and ate carp, kiełbasa (sausages) , several types of zapiekanka (bread roasted with mushrooms and cheese), wonderful smoked cheese (oscypek) with jam  as well as flavoured ginger breads. Don’t miss the local liquor based on honey, mied, along with Żubrówka (vodka with herbs), which are both are available in shops and restaurants.If you favour a vegetarian diet, bar sałatkowy (salad bar) Chimera at ul. Św. Anny 3 will be a true discovery for you, with the best choice of vegetable and fruit salads.

“Lastly, it is of crucial importance to know wonderful cafés…”

As a student, it is of crucial importance to know a wonderful café in the old part of town: Massolit at ul. Felicjanec 4. Massolit has a great choice of books in English which you can read in the café while sipping herbata. Books can be either bought or exchanged.

Several years have passed since I graduated from Jagiellonian University but the warmth and hospitality of the people, and the charm and ancient spirit of the city and university remain in my heart.

suzannaSuzanna Fatyan, Contributing writer

Suzanna is from a city of Oriental fairy tales – Samarkand in Uzbekistan. She studied English language and literature in Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages for BA. In 2008, Suzanna graduated MA Euroculture from Jagiellonian University in Krakow and Deusto University, San Sebastian. Suzanna works as tour guide in Samarkand, writes blog for Uzbek Journeys in Australia and travels as much as possible.

My life as an IP intern?

The Euroculturer has invited Florian Fritsch, IP 2013 Krakow intern to ask what it’s like to be an IP intern.

florian profile smaller Florian Fritsch│ florian_fritsch@hotmail.fr

Q1. Hello, Florian. How did you become an intern with the IP 2013 Krakow team? How long did the internship last?

Hello! Well, last summer I found an interesting internship in a different field but they eventually turned the offer down, mentioning financial difficulties. A few days later Juan (from the IP team in Krakow) called me wondering if I was still available for the job, as I had applied for it a few months before. Project management is a professional area in which I would love to work after I graduate from MA Euroculture so I said yes! Let’s say the team was quite lucky to get me in the end!!!

Q2. What kind of work did you do as an IP intern?

Everything was focused around project management. My main responsibility was the Career Day of the IP 2013: organising the day, contacting and inviting people and professionals to the event, logistics, brainstorming, etc. I was also in contact with students, answering questions or queries they had, and I contributed most of the information on the ‘practical info’ section of the blog or the vignettes (the IP newsletter). I was able to bring my own experiences of last year’s IP in Bilbao, Spain, looking at what was successful and enjoyed and what could have been improved. I was in charge of finding the volunteers to assist the students during their stay in Krakow, looking for ways to reduce cost in food, and a lot of other things (including going out in the evenings and other surprises that I won’t reveal now – it’s top secret!).

Q3. Can you describe your day as an IP intern?

My day started very early in the morning, around 9am, with a cup of coffee with Juan. Then we went up the hill to Przegorzały where ‘the castle’ (as it is commonly known in Krakow) and the Institute of European Studies is situated (students will understand what I mean when they are in Krakow). Mornings usually began with a meeting with the team about the IP. This was sometimes followed by a ‘brainstorm session’ in order to bring in new ideas to make this IP the best one ever! Afterward I completed administrative work such as looking for information on the internet, calling people, meeting with people, and exchanging ideas with other members of the team. We sometimes had fun with a little office basketball game (but, to be honest, we were all quite bad at it).

“Mornings usually began with a meeting with the team about the IP. This was sometimes followed by a ‘brainstorm session’ in order to bring in new ideas to make this IP the best one ever!”

Q4. How was working with other members of the IP team?

Great! Amazing! Splendid! It really feels good when you work with people like Karo, Juan and Luc. They are really helpful and it was a lot of fun to be around them.

Q5. What skills/qualities do you think an IP intern needs?

I think self-management is the main thing. You have a lot of responsibilities and the team is not always going to be looking over your shoulder at what you’re doing. You need to set your own goals and agenda. Communication wise, well, you need to have easy contact with people, trust yourself and your English language skills, and you must to be motivated about your work and be willing to do work for students you don’t know.

“You have a lot of responsibilities and the team is not always going to be looking over your shoulder at what you’re doing. You need to set your own goals and agenda.”

Q6. What skills/qualities do you think you have acquired during your time as an IP intern?

I have two. Firstly, I learned how to manage myself, set my own goals and deadlines. I’m much more organised now. Secondly, I feel more comfortable contacting new people, and I really enjoy meeting potential partners or sponsors.

Q7. What’s your best memory from the internship?

Probably my visit to the French Consulate. At first I went there just to get some contacts for the Career Day, I didn’t expect to participate in a meeting at all. I was on my way back from the gym, not really dressed in a formal way. The interesting thing was that, despite my embarrassment, I learned a lot about diplomacy and partnership during this 45 minute meeting. To add another one, maybe the incident when Juan broke the back window of his car while trying to park, I don’t know!

“Despite my embarrassment, I learned a lot about diplomacy and partnership…”

Q8. What’s your worst memory from the internship?

I don’t think there are any bad memories.

Q9. Would you recommend the IP internship to other MA Euroculture students?

Oh yes. I learnt a lot and really felt like a member of the team, not just a trainee who gets asked to bring coffee and make photocopies. You also learn a lot about project management in a practical setting, working on a serious conference of which you already have some experience. Finally, I think you also learn a lot about Euroculture.

Q10. You lived in Krakow for two semesters. How was it living there? Tell us what you liked most about Krakow.

Yes, I spent a year in Krakow. Krakow is a lovely city, probably the second most beautiful city in the world after my hometown of Strasbourg (who said I was being super subjective?!). It has some really beautiful architecture. It is also a dynamic student city. It can be really cold and snowy during the winter, but the weather is very nice in June when you can enjoy the sun on the Main Square with a beer or do some tanning on the shore of the river near Wawel. There are also a lot of bars, pubs and clubs with €1 beers and vodka shots – but be careful or you might have trouble following all the interesting activities we prepared for you during the IP!

“The weather is very nice in June when you can enjoy the sun on the Main Square with a beer or do some tanning on the shore of the river near Wawel.”

Thank you very much for answering our questions. We heard that you will be in Krakow for the IP to help the team. Good luck and have lots of Euroculture fun!

Thank you very much for having me, I’m looking forward to seeing the students at the IP in June!

Have you met the IP 2013 Krakow organisers? If you haven’t, it’s never too late! Resistance, Resilience & Adaptation: Getting Ready for the IP

Florian Fritsch, Contributing Writer

Florian is from France and started the MA Euroculture programme in 2011. He graduated from the University of Strasbourg with a BA in Applied Modern Languages in English and Japanese. He spent his first Euroculture semester in Strasbourg, second and third semesters in Krakow, and is now back in Strasbourg to write his Master Thesis to win the ALBA thesis prize. His main focus of studies is the role of sport in European identity and the influence of American culture on the changing sporting habits of young Europeans.

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.

Take Action – A Common Graduation Ceremony for Euroculturers

Anne Kurzweg | anne.kurzweg@gmail.com

It was during the Intensive Programme in Bilbao when the thought “Let’s have a common graduation!” came up. The idea arose in the middle of a process that tied us, the 2011-2013 MA Euroculture students, closer together but which, at the same time, marked already half-time on the Master programme’s clock. In the middle of making new contacts and reviving friendships from the first semester, we felt that the IP was a truly unique occasion to get together on the way to achieving our joint degree – one that would not come back. It is hard to say – maybe the felicitous gala dinner gave the key incentive for the idea, or maybe it was the melancholy that came with saying goodbye to so many marvellous people… Maybe, as we move between countries and universities, personal contacts become more important than places. And almost naturally, we strive for a common, dignified closing point, after all the effort put into this prestigious Master programme.

The discussion about the how-when-where that had barely begun during the IP shifted to our Facebook group in June. By the end of July, 55 of the approximately 80 2011-2013 Euroculture students had participated in or read the entries, and about 30 of them had actively ‘liked’ the overall idea. One of the first issues discussed was the location – where should a common graduation ceremony be held? There were proposals reaching from Krakow to Hawaii and from Groningen to Uppsala. Another of the first concerns was about additional costs for travelling and accommodation, and many wondered if there was some funding possibility as was the case for the IP. The motivation to set up a common graduation ceremony had started to materialise in concrete issues.

The first joint Euroculture graduation
(12-13 October 2012 in Göttingen)

Surprisingly, we have come to know only recently that preparations for the first joint “Euroculture Alumni Day and Graduation Ceremony” had already started at that time. Unnoticed by most of us, a news article appeared in the Euroculture group on the EMA (Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association) website at the end of July, inviting Euroculture graduates, alumni and their relatives and friends to the event. The first joint Euroculture graduation, which was held 12-13 October in the Göttingen, was primarily organized for Göttingen home and host students, but was also open to students from the other universities. So it gathered graduates from the years 2008- 2012 and represented a meeting of former Euroculture students at the same time. The approximately 90 participants and guests from all over the world enjoyed highlights like a common dinner, certificate awarding ceremony and a casual get-together with snacks and drinks. While travelling and accommodation costs were not covered, the university offered to make reservations with the university discount.

When I started writing this article, I believed it would be with the mission to get a common graduation ceremony on the way. What it does now is to announce that a dream that many of us shared has already come true. Really, Prof. Dr. Tamcke from the University of Göttingen seems to sum up our feelings perfectly when he says: “If you finish your studies it’s not a mechanical thing alone. You need something also to feel that it’s a special point of your life and you need to celebrate it a bit”. In the end, the joint graduation ceremony and the alumni network are those characteristics of the MA programme that have the ability to carry the Euroculture spirit beyond its physical limits: staying in contact, keep meeting other Euroculturers, keep sharing ideas about Europe.

A last question remains: does all this mean that we can actually count on a graduation ceremony for us next year? Or one in some years time at least? Well, it looks like it! The University of Göttingen writes on its homepage: “Euroculture Göttingen would like to thank the participants for coming and helping us set up a wonderful tradition!” and announces that the event will be held on a yearly basis from now on. It’s just that… have we ever heard officially of such a ceremony for us? Let’s make sure, just in case. Take it as a mission to keep talking about the graduation ceremony in any possible Euroculture context, ask at your universities about it, tell all the Euroculture students and staff, and, if you like, even try to get involved in the organisation of the event. There’s no offer without a request for it, and we are here to make things happen the way we like them!

News article on EMA website: community.em-a.eu/networks/groups/course_48/news/news.65

University of Göttingen’s report about the “First Joint Euroculture Alumni Day and Graduation Ceremony”: www.uni-goettingen.de/de/414291.html

Videoclip on Youtube “First Joint Euroculture Alumni Day and Graduation Ceremony”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqJnm64oTvE

Anne Kurzweg, Contributing Writer

Anne has a BA degree in Social Sciences and studied MA Euroculture in the University of Deusto, Bilbao and Uppsala University. Currently, she is an intern at the European Capital of Culture office in San Sebastian. Minority languages, cross-border cooperation and peace studies are some of her favourite subjects, and she recently got absorbed by the idea of social transformation through civic participation… Yes, she is one of those do-gooders.

Feel Truely European in Beautiful Kraków

Miriam Beschoten | miriam.beschoten@gmx.de

Kraków, Poland. What is the first thing that comes into your mind when hearing this? Well for me, as a German, it definitely painted a different picture from what I actually experienced while spending my second semester of the MA Euroculture programme there. Starting with the architecture, I expected to see heavy influence from the Communist era that dominated Poland for over 40 years. But instead I found myself surrounded by numerous old and beautiful buildings that reminded me more of being in Italy or Belgium rather than Ukraine or Russia. This is due to a unique fact that makes up a huge part of Kraków’s identity until now: Kraków is the city of culture in Poland and its architecture symbolizes a highly rich cultural life with all the influences that shaped the country for decades. My point here is that despite of all my expectations, Kraków is one of the most beautiful European cities that I have ever been able to see.

Now every time you go abroad, it is my opinion that the people you meet there are of immense significance. People can turn the ugliest place (which, as was just explained, Kraków is not) into the most delightful experience if you get along with them and have fun. For example: the Euroculture staff in Kraków. Not just the professors but, more importantly, all of the Euroculture coordinators are very much engaged in their work and are 100% there to help you find your way around academically and in Kraków itself. I have hardly met anyone at any university I studied at in the past so committed and so open to your ideas and comments. They have a high degree of expertise in what they do so you can definitely learn from them and yet you can go out and have a drink with them or a coffee in our beloved “Karma” café (the first thing they introduced us to). Sometimes they even offer the notorious ‘Vodka lecture’ that no-one can ever leave sober even if you try really hard!

Encounters with local Polish students, however, were unfortunately limited to the annual students’ week where you can attend free concerts or the final march through the town trying to keep a drink in your hand without the police noticing (public drinking is forbidden in Poland). The lack of encounters may be due to the amount of work you have to do in Kraków, resulting from living in a ‘Euroculture bubble’, or it may be also partly due to the Polish students not all seeming to want to get involved with foreign students in the first place. This leads me to my quite honest but general impression of Polish people. Polish people, I have to admit, are still a little bit of a mystery to me. Not being able to speak Polish fluently (despite taking a Polish for Beginners course) is obviously a main factor in this. My experiences ranged from the cashier in the supermarket not even answering your long and painfully practiced “Dzień dobry” or no smile in some people’s faces, not even the slightest hint, to a total stranger walking through downtown Kraków with you for 20 minutes (therefore missing his bus home) just to try to help you find a newly-opened bar. It seems to be a matter of age and former experiences with foreigners that makes the Polish either seem dismissive or warmly welcoming to you.

Whatever it is, however, it should not stop you from visiting such an interesting and exciting European city that has so much to offer on a lifestyle level, both historically and culturally. Choosing Kraków as my Euroculture host university has truly been a great contribution to my understanding of European history, culture, and what makes Europeans feel European. Poland, to me, is one of the countries where you can see how such a feeling is evolving first hand and how entering the European Union changes people’s lives and perspectives, and it would not take me a blink of an eye to decide to go back there again.

Mimi BeschotenKraków Correspondent

Mimi is from Germany and studied BA Translation. She spent her first semester of MA Euroculture at the University of Göttingen, her second semester at Jagiellonian University, Kraków, and is currently doing her internship at a cultural foundation. She is interested in the role of culture and how it can be used to further integrate Europe. Mimi’s real name is Miriam (which she kind of dislikes) and she loves to watch His Dudeness in the film The Big Lebowski.