Ever since I have started my university program, I have heard repeated questions about it.
What exactly is European Cultures and Society? What can you do with it? Can you actually find a job afterwards? Why would you study about the Europe when you come from the United States?
I have been studying bachelor’s degree for two years at Europa-Universität Flensburg in the north of Germany, right on the German border. As it turns out, I have wondered the same sort of things myself. My program is new and evolving: the year above us was the first one, and the dynamics and German-International students of each year are quite different. It doesn’t come with much security, if any, and only recently did I get the reassurance that graduates of the program did indeed get into get quality master’s programs. My attitudes about the program range from wishing that I had chosen a more specific study program to feeling as if I really did choose the perfect program for me. What I can say for certain is that I believe that this degree has prepared me better than what I had planned in the United States: International Studies with a focus in German Studies.
Why would you study about the Europe when you come from the United States?
It may be difficult to discern
… just exactly what one learns in this program. After two years, I can say that the three main things that this program has taught me are about research, the European Union, and intercultural communication.
Perhaps the greatest strength of this program is the high-quality level of education about research. The faculty has high expectations when it comes to educating about qualitative research, and if one puts in the effort, it is possible to really understand how it works, and how to do it well. Furthermore, to receive good grades some courses, one needs to have a strong understanding about how write papers that have a high level of analytical power. This is not something that comes right away, but it is something that is possible to learn in this study program. Much of our exams our essays where one must come up with the topic and entire research process. This isn’t necessarily easy, but if one passionate about research, the freedom provided and chance to strengthen your analytical skills are a significant benefit.
The program is called European Cultures and Society
… and much of the program indeed revolves around the concept of Europe and the European Union. We learn everything about Europe from how to read the legal framework to the philosophy that it was founded on to the different theories of integration in the EU. Most of the other classes focus on Europe from different perspectives. I’ve read a massive report about social mobility in the EU, a book about communication between the West and the Soviet Union after the fall of the Iron Curtain and discussed how different European cultures draw boundaries with culture. We not only learn about Europe from the political level, but from the cultural level, historical perspective, and all the implications that come with it.
Our program does not have a class labeled Intercultural Communication, though completing the entire program is perhaps more beneficial than any training one could receive. My year is composed near evenly of international students and German students (the year above mine is mostly German, the year below mostly German). My social life consists of spending time with both international students and German students, and my shared flat consists of an American, a Dutch student, a Kenyan, a Northern German, and someone from the very south of Germany. Intercultural communication becomes a lot more relevant when one encounters it in every group project, class discussion, and every day in a shared flat. There are some challenges, but our program comes with the benefit of understanding the complexities and methods needed for effective intercultural communication.
The location and university also provide some opportunities that one might not expect. Sometimes the university hosts guest lecturers that are quite interesting, and recently they hosted a summer school about Islam and Democracy. There were many visiting lecturers from Palestine, which was supplemented by lecturers from the university. It was meant to be for students of a different study program, but the students from my program took full advantage of it. The viewpoints and perspectives brought up were diverse, and the resulting discussions were the most interesting I have experienced in my entire university career.
The university is also located in Flensburg
… which is on the Danish border and home to a considerable Danish minority. There are a few minority related institutions in the region. As someone who has formerly lived in Denmark and with an interest in minority studies, this has been beneficial for growing my research interests and possibilities. While this is not necessarily what most prospective students look for, for those interested in minority studies and Denmark the location is perfect.
I would recommend European Cultures and Society at Europa-Universität Flensburg to prospective students who are both passionate about Europe and have an idea of what they want to do after their degree – or at least are the type to figure it out quickly. I would not recommend this program for those who do not have an interest in Europe an
d are looking for a degree that allows them for a clear path after graduation. In this program, you get what you put into it, and if you are passionate and innovate opportunities will come, just as the questions about what you actually are studying will.
There are some challenges, but our program comes with the benefit of understanding the complexities and methods needed for effective intercultural communication.