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.
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.
Maeva Chargros is a French Euroculture student who spent her first and second semesters in Olomouc, Czech Republic and Krakow, Poland, respectively. Having previously studied within programs that take on a multidisciplinary approach, Maeva decided to apply for Euroculture as it offered her the opportunity to dive back into literature, history, and languages (as she did in her BA) without losing the interdisciplinary approach. She has a background in Nordic Studies, and professional experience in digital communications as well as public relations (PR). For her third semester, she went back to Olomouc to do the research track.
Thanks Maeva for taking the time to share your experience!
1. Why did you decide to do research?
Honestly, I just wanted to keep digging into my thesis topic. I was foolish enough to pick a topic I knew barely nothing about, in a field I was not exactly familiar with, so I realised I had to work on my background knowledge as much as I could, and the research track was the best option for this. Also, since I’ve already worked, I did not feel like I would be learning anything tremendously stimulating – quite the opposite of a research track where I’d be learning a lot every day on various topics. Perhaps the comfort of going back to Olomouc – a city I really enjoy to live in – was also part of my choice, but shhh, it’s not supposed to be that important, right…?
Fangjia Chen is from China and has a background in Business English. She has always wanted to study European cultures and live in Europe. After a recommendation from her supervisor, she decided to apply for Euroculture. Fangjia spent her first and second semesters at Strasbourg and Göttingen before following the research track at the Department of International Relations and International Development, University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
Thanks Fangjia for taking the time to share your experience!
1. Why did you decide to do research for your third Euroculture semester?
I decided to do a research semester mainly because of the content of the research track. In Groningen, the research semester is composed of a research internship and research seminars. You can choose a field that you want to work with. I’m really into China-EU relations, and the university found a really great internship job for me at the International Relations (IR) department.
Elisabeth Stursberg (DE, Strasbourg-Groningen), or also known by her classmates as Lizzie, studied Cultural History and Theory & Economics during her Bachelor’s. After she took interest in the selection of partner universities and cities Euroculture offers, she started her Euroculture life with the intention to learn more about European history, culture, and politics and the EU in particular, and find out if she could see herself working for the EU or another IO afterwards.
Inès Roy (FR/MA, Udine-Strasbourg) has a background in Languages and International Business. Her decision to study Euroculture stems from her desire to travel and study at the same time. She has always been interested in the concept of cultures and how they are perceived from different standpoints.
Both have returned from their research semester at Osaka University, Japan, and are their final semester at Université de Strasbourg. Thanks Inès and Lizzie, for taking the time to share your experiences!
1. How did you come to the decision of doing a research track at Osaka?
Elisabeth Stursberg (ES): The choice between internship and research track was not too easy, since both sounded like a great option. What influenced my choice most though was the possibility to spend a semester in Japan, a country I had not visited before but was so curious about! I actually don’t think I would have done the research track if I hadn’t been accepted for Osaka. Another reason was that I had already done several internships during my Bachelor’s (it’s pretty common in Germany and often even implicitly, or explicitly, required by employers) and will probably do at least one more after finishing this MA. Time flew by so quickly already in the first semester, and I just liked the idea of studying for another semester as long as I had the chance. Japan as the destination was also a major factor, since I was going to take the research seminar on Integration Processes in East Asia and in Europe during the second semester – so it just seemed like a perfect fit.
Inès Roy (IR): As far as I can remember, I always wanted to go to Japan to see the beautiful landscapes, as well as to see how the ultra-modern and the traditional interact. However, traveling to and living in a country for a few months are two very different experiences. So the possibility to go there was actually another reason for me to apply for Euroculture! As I don’t speak Japanese and wouldn’t be able to find an internship there, I believed this research semester was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
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)”→
The gigantic country of India truly lives up to its ‘incredible’ reputation. Pune, India has an overwhelming effect on one’s each and every sense, and through this montage-like article, I intend to present some fun facts we came across as well as give an inside look into our everyday life far from our MA Euroculture homelands. I will also try to portray our third semester research track spirits. I hope these fragmented stories might answer some questions for those who are thinking about applying to Pune next year, or those who are just curious..
WHITE TIGER VS WHITE PEOPLE 0-1
Visiting the Pune Rajiv Gandhi Zoo was a great experience for many reasons. Firstly, the zoo has an extreme national-park-sized extension compared to the quite packed European ones; halfway through we decided to skip what we judged to be the “less interesting” animals in order to finish on time. Secondly, the zoo has several extraordinary animals we’ve never seen before, like the white tiger who kept flicking fleas off his head so he could finish his afternoon nap. Thirdly, we gained first-hand experience how it feels to be constantly photographed in a zoo, as some visitors actually preferred to take pictures of us rather than of the grouchy white tiger. We felt for the animals behind the fences — although we could actually escape the zoo, we still could not escape the curious looks we received from people outside the zoo. If we move around the city a bit more than usual, we can be sure that many people want to take photos with us, stare at us, and chat with us. At one point in our flat-hunt, we noted that the house across the street would never get built if we moved there, as the workers abandoned their tasks just so they could stare at us for up to half an hour. I have no idea how celebrities deal with the excessive, 24/7 attention they get, but hey, who am I to talk, I’m happy to be here.
I KNOW A GUY
Looking for a flat? Need a rickshaw? Searching for a good dentist or want to buy a golden yacht with built-in singing robot-swans? No matter what you ask for, or as a matter of fact whom you ask, the response will always be the same: “Yes, yes, I know a guy”. It is fascinating to witness how the rickshaw driver or the caretaker of our guest-house transforms in no time into a real-estate agent with, of course, a smoothly elaborated commission-system. Just tonight, before coming up to my room to work on this article, a shopkeeper told us that he “knows the guy” who rents flats to foreigners in the area. The guy next to him told us he knows a guy giving great yoga lessons near our future home, and a third guy knows a guy who has a travel agency where we can book really cheap domestic flights. How lucky, you might say, although these undoubtedly kind and fast flying offers are presumably related to our foreignness.
IT’S THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT DIFFERENT
Studying in Pune means studying a lot, both on and off the university campus. As for the academic experience, the Sociology Department that is hosting us has made us feel very welcome and is helping us a great deal. We have a variety of classes to choose from: Rural Development, Urban Sociology, classes dealing with women’s studies or gender issues, and classes with many local students that make us push ourselves to break down language barriers that the Marathi language puts up. We also have time to work on our research project, which is not hard to figure out when living in such a stimulating environment, and when we already have a supervisor.
The level of studies varies, given that we can attend both 1st and 3rd semester classes, but we have met many bright students and our academic experience is very much complemented by our everyday adventures. Naturally, the university doesn’t look like some other universities that I have attended, such as the University of Deusto with its gorgeous library and freshly renovated corridors. Unlike the University of Duesto, there is no Guggenheim museum across the river. In fact, girls need to ask for a key if they want to use the bathroom, and the campus is a proper jungle. However, the University of Pune is one of the best universities in Maharashtra and is top-ranked in the country. Therefore, there is no need to think of it as a rural college without proper facilities and professional academic staff. Fun fact: the big auditorium of the sociology department has some of the comfiest chairs ever, with a bag-rack, footrest, and a wide-enough table part to write on. So, as they would say: ‘It’s the same, but different different’.
HE’S A VERY GOOD COOK
The flat-hunting craziness of the first two weeks led to many interesting situations. Some landlords refused to rent a flat to us because we were foreigners or because we were not related to each other, meaning we weren’t brothers or sisters. Even so,one of our top experiences was definitely when we met the owner of a house we intended to rent. We took a rickshaw to the outskirts of Pune to an average-looking block of flats to meet our landlord, but little did we know that once we entered his flat we would be sipping masala chai in one of the fanciest living rooms we had ever been to. Apart from the numerous religious paintings, the sculptures, the amazing view with gigantic bats flying about, and the astonishing cleanliness, we gained an insight into the everyday life of a high-class Indian couple with personal servants. To illustrate their lifestyle, here are two snippets of the conversation without any commentary:
Husband: So you would all be living in the house, all six of you?
Husband: Do you need a cook then? We can send him over sometimes (points at his personal servant). He’s a really good cook, and he can do the cleaning too.
Agent: Where is the Ma’am? (inquiring after the wife).
Husband: She’s making chai. (Meaning: the personal servant of the wife was the one preparing our tea in the kitchen, and the Ma’am just gave the orders).
It is impossible to leave out the Bollywood experience in this article. Chennai Express is a hit movie currently running in cinemas all over the country, starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. (For those of you who have never seen a Bollywood movie before, well, you have some serious homework to do, but until then here is a glimpse of the magic that happens on the big screen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNZNgyCd6zc). Once you get a dose of Bollywood there is no escape, you must go with the extremely colorful and musical flow. Fun fact: we got complimentary Pepsis in a restaurant because we recognized and sang along to the movie’s soundtrack. Watching some white guys trying to sing a hit Hindi song must have been entertaining enough for the staff to want to ‘reward’ us in some way. Now we are working on some Hindi songs for karaoke as well, just in case.
ANSWERS TO SOME FAQs AND COMMON FEARS
Q1. Is it safe to live in Pune?
Despite the fact that we are usually moving around in the very safe environment of the university, we are aware of the different role of women in the society. For example, we know about the recent rape case that occurred in Mumbai. We do not provoke any trouble, and we try to respect traditions and general Indian ethics especially in the way we dress, behave, and speak. So far, we have not had any kind of unpleasant experiences, and local people have been extremely friendly and helpful to us.
Q2. I’ve heard some horror stories about different ways in seeing hygiene and cleanliness between Europe and India. Is it that bad?
Hygiene and cleanliness are notions to be redefined once in India. Reservations dissolve quite quickly as one gets used to the chaotic lifestyle and just dives into it. Pollution is another big problem in cities like Pune. There are lots of old trucks, buses, scooters, and vans that make the rickshaw passenger like us ‘smoke’ every day. The constant honking doesn’t make the traffic more enjoyable, but these issues can be solved with a pair of earplugs and a scarf.
Q3. Are there any health-related issues to which one can be vulnerable when living in India? Also, can you find western goods in Pune?
Apart from some minor stomach issues, which is absolutely normal amongst this masala and chili overdosed cuisine, we have had no other health-related issues so far. From the very first day, we’ve been eating with our hands, occasionally on the street, and drinking through straws, with some of us even drinking tap-water (all this, of course in a reasonable manner). We have seen a boar browsing through the trash, hundreds of stray dogs and cows wandering around peacefully, and joint families living under a bridge right next to a dump, but still, there is no need to imagine Pune as a middle-of-nowhere city or as the hotbed of malaria. One can easily find what we might consider to be ‘western goods’, such as liquid hand sanitizer, hair dye, or just a good cup of coffee.
Viktória is from Hungary and studied International Relations, French Philology and Film Theory. She is very much interested in antidiscrimnation and human rights and also is specialized in those issues. She studied MA Euroculture in Bilbao and Udine and is currently doing a research track in Pune, India. She’s being obsessed with travelling and loves to get lost.