The selection committee established by the Executive Board for the 2016 Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize for Erasmus Students is pleased to unanimously nominate Ms Ting-jung Chen from the University of Göttingen (Germany) for this year’s award. Ms Ting-jung Chen spent her 5-month Erasmus exchange as part of her Erasmus Mundus Euroculture Master programme at the University of Uppsala in the academic year 2013-2014.
Ms Ting-jung Chen has shown that the value of the Erasmus experience is particularly significant for non-European students. The opportunities created by the European Higher Education Area and more specifically by the Erasmus Mundus master programmes allow non-European students to develop their research interests in European subjects and contribute to the dissemination of a culture of diversity, discussion and creativity.
Originating in Taiwan and having majored in Slavic Languages and Literatures, along with Diplomacy, Ms Ting-jung Chen desired to develop her research interests in Europe. After a stay in Saint Petersburg she applied successfully to the Euroculture Erasmus Mundus Master programme in Göttingen. Her first semester in Germany consisted of a wide range of seminars and German classes, which through “elaborate discussions with contrasting ideologies … lay foundations for my upcoming semester in the north”. Uppsala brought “not only scents of ancient archives, but also atmosphere of creativity and vitality”.
It is clear that the experience of diversity, creativity and discussion at the European universities shaped Ms Chen’s choices and perspectives: “My multicultural experiences are constant battles of reinventing conceptions and prescriptions, and hence inspire my approach of how to research potential conflicts in foreign policies”.
It was in Uppsala that the idea of focusing on Europe-Russia relations for her thesis took shape. She was able to present her project to the EU Delegation in Sweden, as part of her course activities at the University of Uppsala. The ability to communicate in several languages (“Mandarin, English, French, German, Russian, and Polish”) gave Ms Chen an edge in pursuing her topic of research. A research period in Strasbourg complemented a transnational and multicultural trajectory that resulted in the final master thesis, successfully presented to the University of Göttingen: “Hostilities in Eyes of the Beholders? Foreign Policies of the European Union and the Russian Federation 2009 to 2014”.
Ms Chen’s essay is an illuminating testimonial of the power of the Erasmus project to induce experiences that change the perception of Europe in young people, with enduring effects. In this particular case, the effect is amplified by Ms Chen’s non-European origin and the topic of choice. As the Laureate stated: “The thesis represents more than a designated obligation of a master degree, but an accumulated consequent of multicultural experiences”.
Having successfully defended her thesis, Ms Chen is currently working as an intern at the EU Office in Taipei. The Committee would like to congratulate Ms Ting-jung Chen on this year’s Arenberg-Coimbra Group Prize and wish her a successful career based on her European educational experience.
We would also like to congratulate the other candidates, whose testimonials were additional excellent examples of the impact of their mobility experience and their academic qualities, as well as of the commitment to the Erasmus project of Coimbra Group Universities where they were awarded their degrees and undertook their exchange periods.