Wednesday, January 30, 2013

ERASMUS - the bitter end

Atomium, Brussels.
The Belgian exam period, so-called blocus, is now over (at least for me). It's been difficult to study all my courses together. I felt my head was a big pot where I threw in all different kinda theoretical concepts. The thing is, I ended up with a big mixed soup!

Most of my exams were multiple-choice-questions, based on books, often written by the class professors themselves. Of course, it was highly specific. But they made it even harder! For instance, I was asked to choose the right statement among four propositions and to justify my choice for each statement. Quite confusing!

All in all, it's been a quite stressful period. I'm glad it's over! Obviously, I "enjoy" more the Swedish examination system: one course at a time. The exams themselves are harder (open questions and discussions) but there is less confusion. At least my schedule was clearer! Anyway, my exchange semester as an Erasmus student ended with my last exam.

Among the six Belgian universities ranked in the Times Higher Education World University Ranking, I spent my semester at Universiteit Gent (World rank: 93rd)

Course code   -   Course name                                      -   ECTS credits
I was following 6 courses: Marketing Communication, Managing Service Organizations, Innovation & Technology Management, Financing High-Tech Entrepreneurial companies and Business-to-Business Marketing at the UGent and Strategic Human Resource Management at HogeSchool Gent.

If everything goes smoothly, I'll collect 32 ects credits which will be integrated in my master program at Linköping University (thanks to my Learning Agreement). Additionally, I had a Dutch class (4 ects credits) at UCT, but that was just "for fun"!

But all these data don't say much about my proper experience. Overall, I liked my exchange! Even though I've already studied some concepts before, the courses' content was interesting and for some, stimulating. However, I had trouble with Dutch. Meaning, a lack of English translation. Finding information on their online platform (Minerva) or from their emails was rather messy! During an exam, the teacher even gave the instructions in Dutch. No English! 

More critics? I found the professors inaccessible (I had two appointments with a teacher who didn't show up! On the third one, he was busy on the phone for 20mn. I gave up.); I missed feedback from them: 3 months after an assignment, still no grades (counting for 40% of the final grade); and I found bizarre that most of them ask the students to buy their own published books (e.g. I'd have to pay 70€ for a book!).

Nevertheless, I had the chance to meet great people outside the classrooms. That's what matters!


Game on! While I was studying for my exams at UGent, my SMIO classmates at Linköping University were attending the introductory seminars on the Master Thesis, since January 21st. The thesis kick-off is based on a book: Tricks of the Trade - how to think about your research while you're doing it (H.S. Becker, 1998) which gives us lots of examples about what to (not) write and most importantly, through the author's experience in social sciences.

The fourth and last semester of my SMIO program is fully dedicated to the master thesis. In pair of two students, we have to hand in our pre-final version by the end of April, and the final version by the end of May. Each group has a supervisor to provide some guidelines along the process. Our 50-70 pages document will then be evaluated on its problem consideration, structure and logic, theoretical support, frame of reference, research method, empirical data report, analysis, and conclusions. We'll also have to defend our final thesis in public seminars upon the final version.
Waffle bus, Brussels.
The last month has been quite overwhelming with exams and thesis work. Although I loved Belgium with the beers, the chocolate, the fries and the waffles. But, to live in Brussels, you gotta like grey. Then it's perfect for you. So many different nuances of grey that you'll never be bored. But I was!

I'm looking forward being back in Linköping, Sweden. I missed mother Nature, the coziness of the city center and the university facilities. I'll enjoy my final semester at LiU! I'll keep you updated under the thesis writing process ;)

Now, it's time to pack. It's a few hours drive to get to the ferry bringing us back to Sweden...

Tot ziens België!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Last Days of the Arctic - CINÉ ONU

Photographer for the Iceland's biggest newspaper since 1976 and published in the National Geographic, LIFE, the Times, Le Figaro, etc. Ragnar Axelsson (RAX) has traveled the Arctic long enough to contribute with his best shots to an award-winning documentary: Last Days of the Arctic.

© Ragnar Axelsson
Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend an event organized by CINÉ-ONU, an initiative from the United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) which offers free screenings of engaging films to raise awareness and involve us, European citizens in debates with UN or government officials and concerned personalities. The only thing to comply with, is sending an email to book a seat at the Goethe Institute in Brussels.
« The hunters of the North are a dying breed. »
Last Days of the Arctic
More than 200 photographs over the last three decades are combined in the documentary. Mainly composed with black and white images, the film tells a story: the everyday life of the local people living in Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Most importantly, the aim is to focus on climate change and its impacts for the inhabitants.

The film is embedded in passion and respect for the hunter communities and their culture. Portraits and landscapes brought together intend to give the viewer an insight perspective on the life up-there.

To say the least: I loved it. Stunningly beautiful, yet sorrowful when I think of the forgotten population of the far North. No wonders why RAX won so many awards (for his photographs and more recently with the movie itself).

- How long are they going to survive?                  .
- What are the respective governments' positions?.
- What is RAX involvement with the locals?       .

The screening was followed by a Q&A with RAX, Damien Degeorges (Arctic policy expert) and Lida Skifte Lennert (Director of Greenland Representation in Brussels).

Guess what!? You can watch the movie and make up your mind. Then, why not buy the related photography book (if available)?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Xmas 2012 - NYE 2013

Unless you've been strictly living inside your flat for two and half months, without access to the radio, TV, or the Internet (which I doubt so) you probably noticed that Christmas was in town. This year in Brussels, there was no traditional christmas tree. With respect to the Muslim community (25,5% of the local population in 2008), they decided to try something new: a 24 meter-high electronic christmas tree made of steel, covered with wood and a screen. Its French designers ( called it the "Xmas3". During the day, visitors could climb up and enjoy a 360° view of the Grand Place for 4€. A music and light show sponsored by Electrabel (energy corporation) was taking place every-night in december, as part of the Winter Wonders (ending on January 6th).
- What about the 25.655 people who signed the online petition saying that forgoing the traditional tree is another example of the city making too many religious accommodations? (source)  
- What about the Nativity scene with the Baby Jesus in a manger that remains at the bottom of the structure, is it still allowed? (source) 
- What about the 8.130 € (benefits) donated to the Samusocial(source) 
- What about the 4% more hotel-rooms booked by tourists in Brussels, with a Xmas3 costing two-third less than a real tree? (source) 
That's how I left Brussels, before going home in Brittany, France to spend Christmas holidays in family. No luck with the weather. Clouds and rain almost everyday for 10 days. Lovely. At least I was used to it!

Sunrise in Île-Tudy (hometown).
Everyday was split between seeing friends and spending time with family. With lots of great food (oysters, foie-gras, chocolate, etc.), champagne and old red wines! It was rather intense. Finally I drove back to Brussels with friends, where we spent a few (crazy) days sightseeing around (Ghent & Brugge) and celebrating New Year's Eve 2013 (partly there).

However, everything has an end. Since before Christmas, the blocus (Belgium revision break) makes everything studious! All class-rooms, libraries, computer-rooms and others have been requisitioned as exam-rooms. No lectures/seminars anymore in January. It's time to pass my 6 exams (one per class) — plus orals. Quite some work to do then!