Richard Blais (2018-2020) spent his first semester in Olomouc and continued his Euroculture studies in Groningen. He applied for the master because he wanted to have the opportunity to travel throughout Europe while learning more about European sciences. Therefore, Euroculture seemed to be the perfect fit for this ambition. During the third semester, Richard went abroad to Edmonton (Canada) to do an internship at the Alliance française. He graduated from Euroculture in August 2020 and is currently working as an intern in Brussels at the European Association for the Storage of Energy.
Euroculturer Magazine: What were your expectations when you applied for the Euroculture MA and did it match the reality? Richard Blais: I was expecting more rigid classes based on my own personal experience in the French university system! I was very pleasantly surprised by the “serious-yet-laidback” atmosphere of this degree which corresponds well to the students—autonomous young travelling adults.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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)
Could you tell us something about the speakers?
(Luc points at the speakers in the café hanging from the ceiling: “those speakers?!”)
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?
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!
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.
Floor 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.