In this new section of the Euroculturer Magazine, we interview alumni who have much more to offer than an insight on the Master itself and can actually give many tips to current students regarding their own thesis writing process.
The first one is Ashanti Collavini, who was part of Euroculture 2017-2019. She spent her first and second semester respectively at the University of Udine, in Italy, her home country, and at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. For the third semester, she chose the research track at UNAM, the Mexican partner university. Before Euroculture, Ashanti did a BA in Foreign Languages and Literatures (English and Spanish) in Italy. She applied for Euroculture because she wanted to broaden her studies towards other subjects and gain international experience. She also wanted to live and study in foreign countries, improve her language skills and experience new cultures and academic systems. Ashanti is currently undertaking a second Master’s degree at the University of Trieste, but she is also the current Euroculture coordinator for the University of Udine.
Euroculturer Magazine: How would you describe Euroculture to future students? And what does it represent to you?
Ashanti Collavini: I would describe Euroculture as a unique opportunity of life enrichment. One of those that gives students a set of skills and knowledge that they probably wouldn’t be able to fully develop by studying only in their own countries. At least, this is true for me! Euroculture represents a life-changing experience, since each country I studied and lived in shaped who I am today.
Joyce Pepe (2018-2020) is a Dutch-Italian Euroculture student. She did a BA in European Languages and Cultures before applying for the MA, and decided to embark on the Euroculture adventure mainly because of the interdisciplinarity of the programme. She spent her first semester at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and her second semester at the University of Udine, Italy. For her third semester, she chose to do a research track outside Europe, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico.
Euroculturer Magazine: Why did you choose the research track? And why did you choose to study at UNAM?
Joyce Pepe: I have to be honest and say that my decision to apply for a research track was quite sudden and improvised. If you had asked the version of me that just started attending classes in Göttingen, I would have told you that I would apply for an internship position. And here I am now, one year later, living in Mexico City. When we received the booklet with all of the information regarding the research track, I initially disregarded it, convinced about my decision to continue with the other path, but when I started looking into the different courses offered at UNAM, I grew more and more interested. For one, I believed it would have offered me the opportunity to improve my spanish, which was already a B2 level. Second, I deemed the possibility to move and study in a university across the ocean a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thirdly, while I liked the idea of starting putting into practice what I had been learning for the past four years, it saddened me to know that if I had opted for an internship it would have meant the end of my life as a university student, as I would have no longer have attended classes, other than those regarding my thesis. Finally, I was extremely interested in the classes at UNAM, which link my interest in Europe with that in Latin America.
Ashanti Collavini (IT, Udine-Groningen) has a background in English and Spanish Languages and Literatures. Her undergraduate Erasmus experiences made her realize that she wanted to do MA studies abroad, where she could broaden her scope of studies to include global and contemporary issues; and challenge herself by experiencing different cultures and academic systems in various countries, all the while living and studying in an international environment.
Sabina Mešić (SI, Uppsala-Groningen) also studied English and Spanish Language and Literature during her Bachelor’s. She enrolled to Euroculture because she is interested in the programme’s interdisciplinarity, and she wanted to change the focus of her studies as well as study in various countries.
Both just finished their research semester at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City. Thank you Ashanti and Sabina for taking the time to share your experiences! Continue reading “My Third Semester: Research Track at UNAM, Mexico (2017-2019)”→
“Don’t Panic” has become the motto of the Democratic Party in the days following the 2016 Presidential Election. The surprise victory of the self-described outsider Donald Trump has divided the nation and experts are scrambling to come up with clear predictions of the President-Elect’s future policies. Among his many campaign promises were a bevy of foreign policy goals promising an “America First” foreign policy. But what does this mean?
In dozens of interviews, speeches and debates over the past year, President-Elect Trump has pledged to renegotiate trade deals, take a hard line on China, eliminate ISIS using a Cold-War style strategy and a wide array of other lofty goals. With a Republican House of Representatives and Senate and the potential to influence the make-up of the Supreme Court, President-Elect Trump has the possibility to enact real change at home and abroad. Still, since many of his proposals, especially in the foreign policy realm, have been met with skepticism by veteran members of his own party, the question becomes whether President Trump will be able to unilaterally carry out his vision.
In order to assess what the Trump administration is capable of, we must first look at what foreign policy power the president actually has. The answer to that, as is the answer with many constitutional questions in the US, is very vague. The actual powers delineated in the constitution are as follows: he is the commander in chief; he appoints ambassadors; he can negotiate treaties, and he appoints the Secretary of State. Every President has interpreted these powers differently. President-Elect Trump is fortunate to follow in the footsteps of two presidents who expanded the executive authority over foreign policy decisions immensely.
Every 15 September, Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain. The Mexican War of Independence broke out on 15 September 1810, after 300 years of colonial rule by Spain, and ended in 1821. Mexico’s Independence Day commemorates the blending of two cultures: Mexican and Hispanic.
The call to revolution that spurred Mexicans to fight the Spanish Empire in 1810 is known as El Grito, the Spanish word for scream, and is commemorated with jubilation by all Mexicans every 15 September. On this day, they honour the heroes that gave them back their homeland after 300 years of colonisation by the Spanish Empire. Mexico celebrates its independence, and Mexicans “scream” that they are proud of their roots and the cultural mix that characterises their society. The only exception for this celebration was in 1847, when Mexico was occupied by American troops. After the Mexican–American War, Mexico lost about one-third of its territory, including nearly all of present-day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.
“On 15 September, Mexicans honour the heroes of independence…”
The annual holiday is a non-religious celebration that brings Mexican society together. There is a festive atmosphere on the streets, with mariachis singing on every square, with people dancing and partying. The air is filled with the lovely smell of tortillas. On 15 September at 11:00 p.m., everyone screams together the call for independence made by Miguel Hidalgo, the priest that started the War of Independence by mobilising the Creole society. This shout is repeated by the Mexican President, who is currently Enrique Peña Nieto, representative of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The following call is screamed on the zocalo – the main square of Mexico City – at the same time by every governor in the 31 departments that form the country:
“Hurrah, hurrah, and hurrah…”
“Hurrah for the Independence; Hurrah for the heroes that gave us our homeland; Hurrah for Hidalgo; Hurrah for Morelos; Hurrah for Allende; Hurrah for the Independence; Hurrah for Mexico, Hurrah for Mexico, Hurrah for Mexico”.
The day Mexicans were born on the world political map
Ambassador Arturo Gonzalez, the director of the third country mobility programme of Erasmus Mundus Euroculture at the National University Autonoma of Mexico (UNAM), explained: “On this day we celebrate the achievement of independence for our country. 15 September 1810 represents the day Mexicans were born on the world political map. I am proud of Mexicans’ ability to maintain the unity of our country in search of our own philosophy, a complex issue due to the enormous diversity of Mexican society. There is no doubt our society has influences from other nations. Parts of this heritage are positive, other aspects are more negative”. The ambassador also highlighted the fact that Mexico has not had a military government since 1940.
“The annual holiday is no longer a celebration of independence, but of Mexican identity…”
Jose, a taxi driver in Mexico City, suggested that the annual holiday is no longer a celebration of independence, but of Mexican identity: “We Mexicans pay too much attention to gringos’ way of life. Yes! We like to follow gringos’ trends and how they speak (gringo is a word which refers to Americans), but on 15 September there is an exception. On that day, all Mexicans are proud of their roots, and we celebrate Mexican identity all together through our food, music, leg-pulls, and a shared feeling of happiness and hospitality.” In fact, the greatest experience that the MA Euroculture programme has given me is to get to know how incredibly kind and caring Mexicans are in general, always trying to help the foreigner.
Spain, the stepmother
“So the Spaniards are gone…but who are the Mexicans today?”
Independence from Spain gave birth to a new society, and a new identity. The Creole identity is a mixture of European blood and that of the indigenous Indians. The Mexican War of Independence was inspired by the French Revolution. Nevertheless, it was a holy revolution with the aim of breaking apart from the foreigners after centuries of occupation. ‘But who are the Mexicans today?’ is the question posed by Hernan Taboada, professor of history in the Euroculture programme at UNAM. “Before the independence, they themselves were called Spaniards. But after that, the Motherland – Spain – became the ‘stepmother’, a monster that had oppressed Latin America for three centuries of tyranny. From now on, they will call themselves Americans. In my opinion, they are still waiting to find their own name”.
Time for the Mexican Moment: The Enrichment of the Country
The future of Mexico is debated. “What path should be followed by the country to achieve more social equality?” asks Tabohada. Should it be the North American model, or should Mexico focus instead on the experience of the European Union? In order to give an answer, Tabohada quotes the Latin American author and educator Simon Rodriguez: “We have to invent or we err. Has the Spirit of the Revolution died?” Tabohada asserts that “it certainly has, due to the petroleum industry and the education system that are both moving away from the nationalism that has ruled the state for years.”
“We have to invent or we err. Has the Spirit of the Revolution died?”
We are living the so-called “Mexican Moment”, as it has been dubbed in the New York Times. Experts foresee great development for the country in the short term. Nevertheless, Mexican youth question whether they are going to live to see improvement, as progress fails to influence the economic standards of the lower classes, where the minimum wage is 64.76 MXN per day (3.7 EUR), according to the International Business Times. The country feels proud of its ability to become competitive as an exporter of services and producer of technology. It is a key issue for the economy of the country not to be too dependent on its oil and raw materials. Sadly, this growth doesn’t accompany the enrichment of the country as a whole due to the lack of equal redistribution of the money, with 50 million Mexicans living in poverty, according to the latest report by the official National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy.
“Mexicans have reasons to be proud but the persistent poverty is a sad reality…”
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Maria de las Cuevas, journalist, studied at the University of Deusto and the University of Strasbourg and is currently doing a research track at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM). She is grateful for the amazing program at the UNAM, which focuses on Mexican revolutions that closely accompanies the history of Spain, her homeland, and how European Liberal movements influenced on the fight for the independence of Latin America. She enjoys traveling around the country with her husband and friends. She’s also doing an internship at Studio Phi Creative Agency in the department of Social Media. She is impressed with the friendliness and warmth of the Mexican society which she wouldn’t be able to forget for a long time.