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EMJMD Incoming: Hear from new students starting their Erasmus Mundus degrees this autumn

This September, thousands of students are arriving to the first university hosting them during their Erasmus Mundus degrees. We caught up with some of them to hear their stories.

Tushita, NOHA - International Humanitarian Action

Hi, I am Tushita. I was born and raised in Kolkata, India, where I acquired a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature before moving to Paris, France, in 2018 to pursue a Masters degree in International Strategy and Economic Development. I am currently based in Paris, brushing up my Hindi, Bengali, English, and French skills, while trying to integrate Polish into my vocabulary too!

From one academic leap to another, I have been granted the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree Scholarship in International Humanitarian Action, 2021-2023. My home institution is the University of Warsaw, Poland, and my host institution is the University College Dublin, Ireland.

A career in human rights has always been my calling, thus being accepted in the EMJMD programme is the dream I have constantly worked towards achieving.

I applied for my programme in 2020 when the world as we have known it was nothing but an uncertain place to live in. However, there is never a good or bad time to follow up on your goals, and my leap of faith, sowed its rewards when I was accepted into the Programme.

Due to the COVID outbreak, the orientation week for my programme is going to be held online and I am deeply disappointed to not acquaint myself with my classmates personally. However, I am more than happy to share the next 2 years with students from different parts of the world with similar academic priorities in life, all of us doing our best to understand and alleviate humanitarian crises. For the future, I wish not only to learn from the prestigious classrooms I revere, but also contribute my own skill sets and be a serviceable member of the EMA Community.

Mariana, EUROSUD - South European Studies

My name is Mariana Mattos, I'm from Brazil and my program is the EUROSUD - South European Studies. Before coming to Scotland to study I was working on a social project helping people suffering with unemployment to organize their career lifes after the pandemic. My program starts on University of Glasgow in Scotland, then the second semester is on National Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, and last year will happen in Universidad Autónoma de Madrid on Spain.

COVID had a significant impact at the start of my program. Since Brazil is on UK's Red List countries, a lot of restrictions were made and the process was very bureaucratic. We had to get a long-term visa to be able to travel and commit to an 11 days hotel quarantine, which I'm doing right now, and we have to stay in the room the whole time, they provide food and 20 minutes of walking in the parking lot. Although it is not great to be locked up, it is a safe way to guarantee that we are able to start our studies on time and with on-person classes.

Juan, SARENA - Safe and Reliable Nuclear Applications

My name is Juan Ignacio Villafañe. I have been accepted to do the SARENA EMJMD (Safe and Reliable Nuclear Applications) programme, starting next week (14 Sep) at IMT Atlantique, in Nantes, France. I am from Argentina! There, before starting my EMJMD, I was studying (and finished) nuclear engineering, at Balseiro Institute.

My EMJMD programme is based in Nantes (France), Lappeenranta (Finland) and Ljubljana (Slovenia). Now, I am in Nantes, waiting for classes to start next week and getting to know the city! For sure, this will be a huge change in my life.

At Balseiro Institute, the place I was studying nuclear engineering, there were two students before me that got accepted to the SARENA programme. That way, I heard of the programme and got interested on it, especially because of the EM full scholarship. I was on an economics class when I felt a new email notification on my phone, and when I saw it was the offer of admission to the EMJMD programme I drop that class for the morning in order to celebrate, enjoy the achievement and start thinking of the new opportunity!

In the beginning, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding visa procedures, vaccine availability, and conditions for flying and leaving / entering other countries. It was very stressful but little by little it began to be solved progressively, so in the end everything ended well (but almost just in time!).

Guilia, EMHRPP - Human Rights Policy and Practice

I left my position in the State Government of Rio de Janeiro as Coordinator of International Justice and Memory and Truth at the Secretariat of State for Social Development and Human Rights, to start a new challenge in my life. Hard decisions are the ones I like to make. Leave a good position where I was able to work with the inter-American Human Rights System and public policies seemed to be the right choice for me, who is always looking for enriching experiences that will make me a better person and professional.

In 2020, I received a full Scholarship place on the Erasmus Mundus Master’s Programme in Human Rights Policy and Practice to study at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), the University of Deusto (Spain), the University of Roehampton (UK), and the University of Tromsø (Norway). Due to the COVID-19, the programme has been postponed for one year and started last month (August 2021). So, I was for more than one year dreaming about this programme, if I count the period before the application process.

I can say for sure that the EMHRPP and Sweden (the first country of the programme and where I am now) exceeded all my expectations. It was a long journey, I have been preparing for this programme even before I knew this opportunity. I have always been committed to studies, volunteering and work. Also, I was lucky enough to discover my passion for Human Rights in the beginning of Law School and worked hard to experience challenges beyond academia. That's one of the reasons that I am also the programme Representative of EMHRPP, I am always looking for new challenges and opportunities to enrich my life and career. The EMHRPP and the EMA offer incredible chances to this.

In addition to the educational aspect, the EMJMD provides a unique experience of overall growth. Here, I am having the opportunity to explore Swedish culture inside and outside the classroom. Here, I am able to participate more in classes, improve teamwork skills, and enjoy fika. It is not just “a coffee and cake break”, it is “a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life”. I am also exposed to a lot of different cultures of the people that will share this incredible experience with me for the next two years.

I am writing this text on my birthday (3 September). Celebrating this day in Sweden with people that I already can call friends and studying at the incredible University of Gothenburg are the best gifts I could ask for today. It is just the beginning of an incredible journey that I want to explore to the fullest.

Brianna, GENIAL - Green Networking & Cloud Computing

I'm a 23-year old American from California (USA). My EMJMD program is GENIAL (Green Networking & Cloud Computing). I completed my bachelor's in Los Angeles, where I studied Economics and Environmental Science. I stayed in Los Angeles to work after graduating in 2019, where I gained 2 years of work experience in a field unrelated to the GENIAL program.

My program is structured so the entire cohort of students follow the same mobility and take all classes together. For semester 1, we are in Nancy, France. For semester 2, we go to Leeds, UK. In semester 3, we are in Skellefteå, Sweden. Semester 4 is dedicated to the thesis. We won't know our thesis topic or location for a few months, but there are several choices both in and outside of Europe.

I had spent the past few months applying to master's programs in the US and in Europe. It was January 2021. I was taking class at a community college and working full-time. I thought I was done applying, and was relieved.

One of my guilty pleasures is TikTok. I used to swear I'd never download it—that I was too old for it. But during the pandemic, I did it anyways. Anyways, I was scrolling my For You page in early January, when I saw a TikTok from @lizlivingblue, a.k.a. Elizabeth Sherr (MER+, 2018-2020) explaining Erasmus Mundus and how to apply. I had never even heard of it before!

So I did some research and found GENIAL, which is the perfect intersection of my academic and professional interests (Sustainability and Technology). I applied, and later interviewed, and the rest was history! A few weeks after my interview, I received a short email stating my acceptance. It was about 4 or 5AM when I received it due to the time difference, but I remember crying because I was so excited and in disbelief!

And now I'm currently in France! All because of a TikTok! Life is crazy and wonderful, isn't it?

Soha, IMAESC - Adult Education for Social Change

The biggest challenge for me would be to continue setting an example for women back home. In the society I grew up, something as basic as education is a privilege that many belonging to my gender is denied access to. Being selected for IMAESC (International Masters in Adult Education for Social Change) gave me the opportunity to be the first woman in my family to go abroad for higher education, breaking the shackles of societal norms around my gender.

And, as an iconoclast, I will continue challenging myself to various heights where I can enjoy the company of my fellow women.

You can reach out to me on Twitter: @SohaTazz

Tariq, IDOH+ - Infectious Diseases and One Health

I ran into an Erasmus Mundus program announcement sometime in 2017. After days of rummaging the catalog, I selected three (3) programs. I went on social media (majorly LinkedIn and Twitter) to seek insights from current students and alumni.

Thereafter, I spent weeks to study (because two of the programs have a test component in the application) and brainstorm for my personal statements and letters of motivation. Long story short, I was placed on the reserve list for one of the programs.

I was emboldened by this and made another application in 2019. This time, alas, I was not even shortlisted for interviews! In hindsight, my expired English proficiency result could be the major factor for that. Or the quality of applicants was just out of my league!

Come 2021, after months of lockdown that helped me slow down, amidst PhD applications, I decided to give my desire of being an Erasmus alumnus one last shot. This time, I decided to apply to just one program. I studied, sat the test and submitted. Then my wife, may Allaah bless her, further said, "Why don't you submit an application for the Infectious Diseases and One Health program (IDOH) too?" I submitted the application, if my memory serves me well, on the deadline.

For interviews, Nigerian shortlists had a current Nigerian scholar, Chris prepare us for the interview. When the list was finally released, I was placed on the reserve list. I was quite hopeful that I would be moved to the main list, but when weeks turned into a month and I was preparing my mind for PhD fall 2022 applications.

It was a Friday. In the evening, I disconnect internet access from my devices to read. This Friday was no different, but I was getting hungry shortly before I completed the reading portions on that day. When I completed it, my plan was to make noodles and catch up on messages. Then the email notification came saying that a place just opened up and I have till Monday to accept the offer if I was still interested. Hell, yes!

From that moment, it felt as if I had eaten beyond my fill. It has been an amazing journey since then. I hope to serialize the journey soon. It feels surreal and in all honesty, I am still trying to process the torrents of emotions and (personal) circumstances the decision to accept the offer brought, but there is no doubt that I am excited to start the IDOH challenge.

Not to sound cliche, but I urge any applicant who really still desires to be on an EMJMD program not to be fazed by rejections. Review and improve your application for the next cycle; you never know. Take this from someone who got in the third time of applying and is taking up the offer in lieu of PhD offers elsewhere.

I am also seizing the moment to thank my wife and family, mentors, and everyone else for their support all through the process. It takes a village to raise a child, now it is my turn to pay it forward. While I have been doing that before now, the dynamics of my contribution has to change also. I look forward to what the future holds and I am taking it one day at a time.

Samson, EMSHIP - Advanced Ship Design

My name is Samson Olorunfemi Alufa from Nigeria. I got selected for the EMSHIP programme for the 2021-2023 cohort. The University of Liege (ULiege) in Belgium is the coordinating institution while Ecole Centrale de Nantes (ECN) in France, University of Rostock (URO) in Germany, and Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) in Spain as the partner institutions. I will be spending one year in Belgium with the remaining one year of my programme in any partner university.

After my undergraduate education in 2018, I was posted to Port Harcourt, Nigeria, for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps, where I served in a Structural Engineering firm. I was involved in the design of concrete and steel structures and was introduced to offshore facilities. After my service year, I went on to work as a site engineer until I got selected for the EMSHIP programme.

I heard about Erasmus Mundus after a friend of mine got selected in 2020. I saw how he improved within a short period after the commencement of his programme. I became interested in the Erasmus programme and decided to visit the EACEA catalogue. I checked through all the programs and found a perfect fit for my goals: EMSHIP.

I checked the consortium site for the requirements, when I saw that I had all it takes to apply, I applied. I submitted my application in December 2020 and interviewed in February 2021. I enjoyed every bit of the interview. And while I was still basking in the euphoria of the excellent interview, I got a message within 48 hours of the interview that I have been selected for the programme. That day has been one of the happiest days of my life. I called family members and close friends to inform them about the great news I just received; they were so excited and wished me well on my way to achieving my goals.

Ismayil, MESPOM - Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management

I am Ismayil Aliyev, a 22-year-old incoming Erasmus Mundus scholarship recipient from Azerbaijan. I have just recently (July 2021) graduated from Baku Higher Oil School in Azerbaijan, with a Honors degree in Chemical Engineering. At the beginning of my senior year, I had started my preparations for master's study and applications, mainly aiming to switch my career to environmental sustainability. The Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree programs caught my attention, which is a unique opportunity to experience Europe whilst studying at top universities, with full coverage of expenses.

The MESPOM - Master's in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management programme takes a multifaceted approach to environmental sustainability: both management / legislative and scientific aspects of environmental issues are covered. The programme universities are Central European University (Vienna, Austria) University of Aegean (Mytilene, Greece) University of Manchester (Manchester, UK) I would like to note that the University of Manchester has been named the world's number one university for action on Sustainable Development in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2021.

Also, considering the competitiveness of the programme, (700+ applicants worldwide) the admission decision was quite exciting and unexpected for me. As environmental issues and climate change hit different parts of the world differently, it will be an enriching experience to study it in an international setting. For the next two years, I am also looking to engage in professional and cultural exchange with my peers of diverse backgrounds.

Bianca, MUrCS - Urban Climate and Sustainability

I am Bianca, from Brazil, and I am coming to Glasgow in the first semester to study in the MUrCS programme, at Glasgow Caledonian Uni. After that I will be going to Finland, Spain and Germany.

My master is about urban planning and sustainability, including climate change, it is a subject I am really passionate about so I am really excited to learn from this new experience. As an architect and urban planner, getting the chance to travel and meet new places and cultures is very enriching, professionally and personally speaking. I am currently finishing some projects in Brazil, architectural and urban projects, and preparing to travel in about 2 weeks.

I have always wanted to have an international study experience, and after working for years as a professional Architect and Urbanist in Brazil, I decided to try it.

Then, in my research for scholarships, I found out about Erasmus Mundus and the MUrCS programme. The programme is a mix of many interests of mine, like sustainability and urban planning, so I decided to try it and apply.

I was trying to be positive about the results, but to be honest I was not very sure I would get it, especially because I always thought about the number of high-qualified people that were probably applying for that too. So I need to say that when I get the acceptance e-mail I had a few minutes where I did not believe it was really happening, and even now, months later, I still have that feeling sometimes.

But I must say that the entire application process has taught me to believe more in myself, and my tip to everyone who wants an opportunity like this is to find a programme that really fits your interests in your personal and professional life.

Find me on LinkedIn!

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