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)”→
“Science losing credibility as large amount of research is shown to be false” reads the headline of an article in Waking Science magazine. Another article in the Wall Street Journal states that “the corruption of peer review is harming scientific credibility.” In a world that prides itself on scientific acumen and the scientific method, these are huge problems. Science is structured in a way that makes scientists build upon other people’s work, creating something like a pyramid of knowledge. Scientists apply methods of others, argue using other scientists’ conclusions, and make important decisions based on these findings. However, science is becoming highly politicized. Topics such as climate change receive incredible amounts of funding whereas other academic fields such as archaeology have difficulty finding financial backers (exemplified by the fact that a year after the potential final resting place of Alexander the Great was found in Greece, the excavation lies forgotten). Similarly, science is becoming an increasingly corporate affair. For instance, sugar lobbies are paying scientists to publish articles that blur the role of sugar in heart disease and instead blame it on fats. At the same time, as more scientists enter their respective fields and funding dwindles, the competition for results is higher. In essence, the world is facing a massive issue of scientific credibility. It is time for the European Union to step in, drastically. As a part of the Horizon 2020 project, or other future projects, the EU should create a new project titled: “The EU Scientific Credibility Institute” or EUSCI for short.
The aim of this project would be to establish an institute or environment in which scientific findings are put to the test using a method of open access. What this means is that similar to all the political processes that are open to the public, filmed and documented, this project will do the same for science. This helps accomplish several goals. On the one hand, it increases public engagement in science, research, and innovation, which in turn helps scientific education. This increase in public engagement opens up many areas previously unavailable to scientists. It will increase the subject pool available and given the fact that anyone can tune in at any moment, educational institutions of all levels can emulate, contribute to, or criticize the methods used by the scientists. What we find, in essence, is that a whole new world of possibilities opens up for the scientific community.
The way in which projects or experiments would be selected will help achieve many of the EU’s goals on science. One can imagine an environment in which non-partisan senior scientists and EU employees decide on which projects would be facilitated by the EU Scientific Credibility Institute. Senior scientists would examine projects for the scientific worth and the EU employees would examine the projects for their societal/EU implications.
Crucially, such a project would help the EU accomplish crucial goals mentioned in its “Responsible research & innovation” project. For example, it calls out for increased gender diversity. One of the ways in which EUSCI could help establish this is by stimulating a wider array of genders to participate in scientific research. In combination with open access, this will function to set a strong example and demonstrate the merits of gender diversity. Similarly, the “Responsible research & innovation” project calls for increased interdisciplinary approaches. On the one hand, it could stimulate this by having scientific projects approached from several academic angles, while on the other hand, once again the merits of open access will stimulate academics and students from other fields to criticise or problematize scientific undertakings. Finally, it could add credibility to the EU. More specifically, given the fact we already have EU standards in food, EU standards in safety, and EU standards trade, why not have EU standards in science?
Crucially, the EUSCI would have two cornerstones. First, the removal of cognitive and information bias. By removing financial and political pressure from scientific results, while having the entire process open to the public, it would produce substantially more dependable results based in fact. Secondly, it would be an incredible environment for talent. This is because the open access will allow people with all socio-economic backgrounds to contribute, which in turn will give rise to new, unexplored talent. At the same time, it would provide an environment in which students or recently graduated academics can explore their scientific acumen by testing and improving upon established theories and methodologies.
Much of our society is built on scientific knowledge and ideas. This includes research in sociology, chemistry, psychology, astronomy and all the other fields of science. In order to stem a crisis in scientific credibility, the EU must lead the way. An institute such as the EUSCI will help the EU establish its “Responsible research & innovation” goals. But most importantly, it will be a very valuable tool in helping to re-establish scientific credibility by removing much of the political and corporative elements and reaffirming science in fact.
The Euroculturer interviews Lora Markova, the winner of the 2012 ALBA (Annual Liesbeth Brouwer Award) Thesis Prize. We all saw her being awarded with the prize during the Gala dinner at the Intensive Programme in Bilbao this summer. We know that the award is a great asset for one’s academic future, not to mention a reward for all the tears shed while struggling with the Master’s thesis.
11 questions to answer…
Q1. Hello, Lora. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
– Hello, The Euroculturer! I come from Bulgaria and I completed MA Euroculture with an Erasmus Mundus Grant at Deusto University, Bilbao as my home university and Georg-August University, Göttingen as my host university between October 2010 and March 2012. During my third semester I conducted a research track at Pune University, India – a great opportunity for intercultural interaction, and theoretical and empirical studies. My research interests focus on (new) media arts, interactivity, modes of contemporary spectatorship and transmedia, transculturality and cross-cultural exchange of aesthetic codes and cultural repertoires.
Q2. What did you study for your Bachelor’s degree and where? Did your previous studies help you when you were writing your Master’s thesis? If so, in what way?
– I graduated with a BA in Animation Cinema and Visual Arts from the New Bulgarian University, Sofia with a Socrates/Erasmus exchange in Semiotics at the University of Torino, Italy. After this rather practical training in creative arts I shifted towards art theory and graduated with a MA in Media Culture and a MA in Arts Management from Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Within my studies I carried out internships at the Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN), also in Amsterdam, and a Blue-Book traineeship at the European Commission, Brussels. Living in different European cities and shifting cultural contexts triggered my interest to explore Europe as a cultural project. Thus, Euroculture was a unique opportunity to revisit my knowledge of arts and media in a European context and to enrich my research scope with intercultural communication perspectives. In this sense, my previous experience was helpful in writing my thesis, but gaining novel theoretical and methodological knowledge and ‘Eurocompetences’ was also central for my research.
Q3. What is the ‘Euroculture approach’ that the jury of ALBA thesis prize emphasise when grading a Master’s thesis? (It is written on the ALBA thesis prize webpage of the Euroculture website that a ‘Euroculture approach’ is important in order to be awarded the prize.) Could you give us one or two examples, in your opinion?
– I guess that the approach of a truly interdisciplinary programme as Euroculture involves conducting interdisciplinary research that reflects current European socio-political and cultural dynamics and deals with Europe as an entity always in an on-going process.
Q4. What does “approaching the related problems in an interdisciplinary manner” mean (as also seen on the webpage)? They said it’s important in order to be awarded the prize. What is an example of ‘interdisciplinary manner’? How do you think it applied in your thesis?
– I understand the interdisciplinary manner as approaching your research problem from multiple (theoretical) perspectives, overcoming disciplinary boundaries and establishing a ‘third space’ between academic fields. Within my thesis I explored transculturality (as a philosophical paradigm and a cultural praxis) in between cultural studies, film and media studies, art history, reception studies, sociology, human geography, post-colonial perspectives and psychology. What I find helpful in this direction is to study carefully the various texts and theories suggested by the Euroculture lecturers and to conduct in-depth research on your chosen topic.
Q5. Who sits on the jury of the prize?
– Academic staff from each of the European universities in the consortium, I believe.
Q6. Could you please tell us about your experience working with your two supervisors? Were they helpful? Professors are usually extremely busy, but how did you managed to get useful advices from them? Do you have any tips on this?
– Of course, it was very helpful receiving feedback from Dr. Asier Altuna and Dr. Lars Klein, as their remarks could indicate to what extent I had expressed and managed my research objectives and outcomes. Indeed, tutors are very busy, and thus it is necessary to be enthusiastic about your own research project, revise your text periodically and question your supervisors and yourself as to whether deeper insights can be achieved.
Q7. When you were writing your thesis, how did you deal with ups and downs in your mood?
– For me writing my thesis was quite an immersive experience and I devoted my time exclusively to it. In order to cope with procrastination I tried to exclude other activities. Still, after finishing each chapter I would take a day off for travelling and meeting friends so that I could create some space between the text and myself before proceeding further. What helped me in terms of time management was to think of writing my thesis as just writing three or four very good IP papers!
Q8. When did you know that you were going to be awarded the ALBA prize?
– Shortly before the award ceremony (during the Gala dinner of the IP), or three months after submitting my thesis.
Q9. Do students for whom English is not their native language have to get their Master’s thesis copy edited (or, at least, proof read) before they submit it? Did you?
– That sounds like a good idea! While writing, I shared and discussed the paper only with my supervisors, appointing specific time to edit each chapter before submitting it in order to minimize possible mistakes. Still, I guess it might be effective to use external help when dealing with such a volume of text.
Q10. What are the three most important things to keep in mind when writing a good thesis, do you think?
– First, it is necessary to choose a topic that you care deeply about. Thus, spending several months on your thesis can be satisfying and interesting for you. It is also helpful to start the research process early and to communicate your ideas to a broader audience (e.g. already during the Intensive Programme, conferences and workshops). For example, I presented one of my case studies at a Human(i)ties Perspectives conference in Hamburg University in 2011, which was an opportunity to gain impressions on the peer reception of my research. Moreover, writing on issues that you are passionate about will allow you to use and expand your thesis after graduation. Last month I participated in the Young Cultural Policy Researchers Forum within the ENCATC Annual Conference, Networked Culture, at Goldsmiths College in London which is another platform for knowledge exchange. I mention these events as potentially valuable opportunities for a greater range of Euroculture students.
Next, I would say try to use “Chekhov’s Gun”. As you probably know, the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov formulated the dramatic axiom claiming that if there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, the gun should be fired in a later act; otherwise it should not be displayed at all. In this sense, everything you mention in your thesis should be for a reason. Thus, it is helpful to delineate your scope by excluding certain topics and to keep some research questions for further studies.
Finally, it is important to be familiar with the ALBA criteria, as they signify academic excellence, and to consider which topic can be innovative in the context of the existing Euroculture titles. At the same time, I think one should not worry about any award while writing as it is beyond the knowledge of the students whose paper will be nominated. For instance, with regards to the high quality and diversity of approaches, I was able to imagine that at least five of my friends and former classmates could have qualified for the prize as well. Thus, I find it as relevant to establish your own standard – let’s say, write in a manner you would like to be published. Then, try to turn the whole process of working on your thesis into an intellectually rewarding experience and hopefully it will be ‘awarding’ as well.
Q11. What is your plan for the future?
– As a member of the Union of Bulgarian Artists I have been involved in several art and cultural projects in the last few months, and so my intention is to continue in this direction. I will keep you updated, and thank you, The Euroculturer, for inviting me to share my experiences as a Euroculturer.
Thank you very much for your answers, Lora. We wish you the best with everything you do!