What do you think of studying in different countries for your master’s degree? In this article, Ivone shares what she learned after studying in three European countries in the EMJMD Program.
For this last year, from September 2020, I have been living abroad in 3 different European countries for doing my master’s study in EMJMD (Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree) MESC+ (Materials for Energy Storage and Conversion) program class 2020/2022. Like a roller coaster, it was an exciting yet thrilling experience to study in 3 different universities in 3 different countries. Yet, I do believe that all the experiences that I got halfway through my study are very precious and I know that I will not get these experiences anywhere else or in other master programs.
Everything was started on my birthday night, 11th March 2020, when I got the acceptance email from MESC+ Consortium stating my acceptance as one of Erasmus+ Scholars for pursuing the master’s degree in this program starting in September 2020. The best birthday gift ever, and that email changed my life entirely.
Fast forward, in the unprecedented time of the Covid-19 pandemic, thankfully I could travel and start my first semester at Warsaw University of Technology, Poland, in October 2020.
Different from other master programs, EMJMD is a prestigious, integrated yet unique Master’s Degree program that is jointly delivered by an international consortium of higher education institutions in Europe. The program offers fully-funded scholarships and opportunities to study in a minimum of 2 different European universities (so-called mobility scheme).
This rare opportunity provides rich experience and insight not only into different teaching styles and the university’s culture but also cultural exchange experience. Open for students from all around the world, it also accommodates a fully international environment because the accepted students are from many different countries and regions. More information and how to get the scholarship can be read here in my previous article.
In accordance with the mobility scheme, I attended Warsaw University of Technology, Poland (October 2020–January 2021) for the first semester and Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III, France for the second semester (February 2021–June 2021). Then after finishing my 2nd semester, I was doing a non-mandatory summer internship at LRCS (Laboratoire de Réactivité et Chimie des Solides), Amiens, France (June 2021–July 2021). And currently, I am doing my 3rd semester in Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Bilbao, Spain starting from September 2021.
Here I would like to share the things that I have learned from my first-year master study journey, from the academics perspective, self-development to cultural experience.
Battery Technology Insights
Motivated by my interest in issues of green energy, zero-emission, electric vehicles, and advancements in battery technology, I finally decided to enroll myself in this MESC+ program. Focusing on battery technology, the MESC+ course is composed of 3 semesters of classes in 3 different European countries plus the fourth semester in Europe, the USA, or Australia for the master’s thesis. Yet it also involves 5 European Universities, 1 USA University, and 1 Australian University along with European battery research institutes. With this substantial and rich program, I do believe this program is the right stepping stone for me to achieve my long-term goal as a scientific expert in the field of energy storage and conversion.
In this program, my knowledge and mindset are built to focus on battery technology and its application. Thus, the courses are a combination of Material Science, Material Engineering, Chemistry, Electrochemical Engineering, and other related disciplines. The core knowledge of battery technology is taught in three semesters, including the fundamentals of electrochemistry, crystallography, solid-state chemistry, energy storage, and conversion, conducting polymers, synthesis of nanomaterials, instrumentation techniques, etc.
Novel issues related to battery technology, energy storage, and conversion are also explained through lectures, webinars, laboratory works, projects, etc. Many of the class presentations and practicum modules are based on current issues or research on battery technology, such as the solid-state battery, M-Xenes as supercapacitor material, conducting polymers synthesis, dye-synthesized solar cell, flow battery, thermal energy storage, etc. The approach is also carried out theoretically and practically so that the mindset as a scientist and engineer is built.
Being Independent, Adaptive, and Knowing Yourself Better
Away from home and family, living abroad, and speaking the non-native language every day indirectly forces us to become independent individuals. Even though it might be more challenging than being independent in our home country, let’ see this as an opportunity for growing and not an obstacle to force you down.
Based on my experience, living abroad gives me a lot of experience of being independent, such as basic life skills, budget management, problem-solving, decision making, self-awareness, resolute, being responsible, being adaptive, etc. It also teaches us to be social and respectful, to live side by side with people with different backgrounds and to practice our ability to build a network.
Furthermore, in my case as a ‘nomad’ student, I got so many challenges in adaptation every time I moved to a new university in a new country. Although, traveling within Europe is easy as traveling within a province in Indonesia, but once I moved to a new country, the culture, weather, lifestyle, people, language, food, etc. are completely different things. Moreover, each university has its schedule, teaching style, and examination procedure in which we must familiarize as well. Budget adjustment, way of work adaptation, study method familiarization, learning language are inseparable parts of this EMJMD program.
Although it sounds very tiring, overwhelming, and challenging, this one-year opportunity really made me a different person. Not only have I become more independent, but I have come to know more about who I am completely, from what my preferences are to my capacities, life goals, passions, motivation, and responsibility for doing what has been entrusted to me. Faith, self-confidence, and self-consciousness are also well-formed through this process that I went through.
Professionalism, Time Management, and Network Building
One last year has taught me not only academics things but also soft skills. During this program, I had to do various projects and laboratory works with my teammates, in which I got a chance to work together with a lot of people from different academics and personal backgrounds. Surely, these opportunities upskilled me to become a professional, teamwork player, and open-minded person. Moreover, since I did volunteering and other activities besides my study, time management becomes a crucial skill.
Still, I had to balance my academics life and non-academics life (social life, family time, traveling, etc.). Practical tips that I always use in my daily life for time management among others, namely weekly to-do-list making, goals setting (both short and long term), prioritizing based on deadlines and urgencies, and organizing the tasks.
The summer internship that I did in LRCS, Amiens, France also brought to me a lot of insight and how to deal with individual research projects independently. Establishing achievable goals in a realistic timeline, designing the right methodology and its execution, and analyzing data and presentation are the most thing I learned a lot from this summer internship practically and directly.
Besides, being in one of the battery technology research centers in France allowed me to build a network with various students, professors, and great people in this field. For sure, I got so many new international friends and upskilled my communication skill. In addition, I also realize that in building a friendship, it is important to always be open to new ideas, be nice and helpful to everyone, listen thoroughly, always put enthusiasm and respect, create a good vibe, and put yourself in the best possible way in every conversation you have.
Traveling and Cultural Experience
Living in Poland, France and Spain this last year surely became a precious occasion for me to travel around the countries and their neighboring countries. Additionally, traveling in Europe is very covenient and budget-friendly for students. The same currency and visa, an efficient transportation system, easy e-payment, and a high level of security are some of the perks that make traveling in Europe covenient.
In terms of budget, many countries in Europe such as Poland, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, and others provide various students discounts for transportation, admission to museums or tourist attractions, food, assistance, and even groceries.
Traveling in Europe is also not only about enjoying the beautiful natural scenery, city center, or old town, but also enriching insight into the culture, history, language and of course gastronomy. Living in several countries in Europe has made me understand the rich culture that Europe has, as well as the different characters of the people in each country. Not only that, learning the history of this continent is fun. Usually, every corner of the city keeps various historical stories. Moreover, if we visit the museum, in addition to its beauty, the museum also stores various interesting historical stories to know.
In summary, both tears and blast moments did happen in my first year of master’s study. I have to admit that some of them were some of the most difficult times in my life but yet I did realize that the moment I overcame it, I managed to get to the next level.
And yet, with all God’s blessing, I survived and passed all the courses even with marks above my expectation. Also, for sure I had the best days of my life and now, I am very grateful for the master’s program that I have in which I found my real passion.