My Third Semester: Internship at the Institute for Minority Rights

By Laura de Boer

Katherine Arena (2020-2022) has done her Bachelor in European Languages and Cultures at the University of Groningen, where she majored in European Politics and Society. Her first Semester of Euroculture was spent in Groningen and her second in Udine. She is currently doing her internship at the Institute for Minority Rights at Eurac Research in Bolzano. She will return to Groningen for her final semester, back to where it all started.

Euroculturer Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you started the Euroculture M.A.? Were they met?

Katherine: When I started the M.A. Euroculture, I was mainly expecting two things; the first one was to be part of an international group with people sharing a common interest in European studies and the opportunity to have an engaging exchange with them. The second one revolved around the whole moving and travelling dimension, getting to meet new people, and being confronted with new cultures. The first expectation was fully met; I have met a lot of interesting people, and I have shared and learned about different perspectives. The second one unfortunately was not fully met due to the pandemic; I was still able to do the second semester abroad, but the internship track, in the end, happened online, with me visiting the city and the office only once.

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Gender and danger: the ‘good girl persona’ in institutional fieldwork

By Ines Bolaños Somoano

I have spent hours formulating my questions, over and over again, so that they are precise but cannot be interpreted as provocative or too critical. Despite my intensive preparation, we reach a crucial point in the interview and I am nervous. I want to confront my interviewee, ask him why he says X thing happened, when official memos quite clearly state Y event was key instead. The look in his face tells me he doesn’t think I know about it, nor that I am likely to put him in a sore spot.

I ask him an easy question first, let him paint a pretty picture, before I move on to the meaty stuff. Then I aim my metaphorical weapon. I make sure my posture, face expression and voice all reflect an adequate sense of gratefulness and respect for his time and knowledge. My efforts are rewarded as I get a somewhat honest answer, if one that also vastly underestimates my knowledge in the subject.

When I exit the office, however, I do not feel exultant or accomplished; I am actually angry with myself and with my interviewee for the charade. For having had to feign ignorance and slow thinking in front of officials I have researched. I know, however, that others approaches (confident assertiveness or jovial camaraderie) would have not worked. As a female researcher, the ‘good girl persona’ is my only realistic approach to interviewing powerful institutional elites.

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