'Primarily, the programme entails taking theories about discourse, ideology and power structures, and applying them to cultural objects such as film, books, and television. I really like that we are analysing contemporary culture.'
How did you find out about UvA?
For my 18th birthday I went on a trip to Amsterdam and I fell in love with this city. I found out there’s a university here, and they offer this programme that I’m very interested in and it was in English. The website and the integration matters felt really welcoming. All in all, it was all very appealing to come and live here.
Why did you choose Literary and Cultural Analysis in Amsterdam?
I didn’t take rankings into consideration, I just looked at programmes. I chose Amsterdam because the programme seemed more suited to me and I realised I’d be able to take things from the programme and apply it to the city. Primarily, the programme entails taking theories about discourse, ideology, power structures, etcetera, and applying them to cultural objects such as film, books, and television. I really like that we are analysing contemporary culture. We use kind of old theories, like Plato and Aristotle, and more current ones like Foucault, and apply them to everyday situations. These theories never get old.
What about your expectations? Were they met?
My expectations were more than met, if not exceeded. I came here not really knowing what to expect. I hopped on a plane and started a new life in a new country and made new friends. I integrated really quickly, and the University was very helpful. The day I arrived there was an introduction, including appointments with the municipality and the bank. They even drove me to my accommodation. The application process online was simple as well; the information was clear and it was not an administrative burden.
What’s it like to live in Amsterdam? How did you make friends?
There’s no point in not integrating. There’s so much the city can give back to you, if you’re willing to give to it and engage in events, lectures, screenings, and take opportunities as much as possible. I mostly made friends through the programme. I found a co-student from my program 30 seconds after I landed, at the airport. We became friends, and meet for coffee, lectures, and activities on the side. I like to play tennis, so I also met people there, through the USC University sports campus. There I also met people from other programmes.
When I came here, I wasn’t expecting there would be so many British people, but there. I have a couple of British friends and I also have a lot of Dutch friends, from Haarlem, Leiden, Utrecht, Den Bosch – all over the place. I try to speak Dutch with them. I’m not taking courses to learn Dutch; I’m trying to learn it by myself.
What is your favourite course so far?
I really liked a couple of the courses in the first block of the semester, about analysis and interpretation. Rather than jumping straight into the deep end, we first learned basic methods. So, for example, we learned things like narratology, how to unpick a poem, how to unpick a story, a film, a piece of art, and how to use compositional techniques. These were things I was already doing in my own time, but these courses fine-tuned the analytical aspects.
What are your favourite theories and analytical objects?
I really like space and architecture, so, for instance, theories about gentrification. I did a presentation about the NDSM (an industrial/squatting area in transition in the north of Amsterdam) and the movement of wealth towards the north of the city. It was previously kind of a wasteland and now, thanks to investments there are more buildings. And there is a whole group of people that is losing their space and voice.
Do a lot of discussions take place in the programme’s courses?
During the seminars we have lots of discussions – they’re very interactive and very hands-on. For the most part, everybody is prepared for the seminars and for challenging opinions. It’s nice to hear ideas being brought up about things I hadn’t even considered in the first place.
You are taking a minor outside of LCA?
Yes, I’m taking a minor in Conflict Studies, which is in the Social Sciences Faculty. It really interests me what motivations lie behind actions of genocide or mass murder, for example. Also, what I find particularly interesting is that you can take electives from two different faculties. This offers me a contrast – two different ways of researching and looking at texts, meaning I can compare, contrast, and combine the things I learn. My minor is very methodological, is heavily based on statistics and contains lots of case studies, whereas in the LCA it is more a case of having certain theories and then applying them. There is a connection between the two. LCA also contains bits of psychoanalysis, with Freud and dream analysis, and the formation of identity, for example when a baby looks in the mirror for the first time. In Conflict Studies we learn that some people could commit murder because of their personal circumstances or because of national economic circumstances. So, there’s definitely a cross-over there.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from LCA?
The biggest lesson was that cultural objects, like media or film, are all representations of how we perceive reality and ourselves, like how a painting is a snapshot of an artist’s frame of mind. I see cultural objects as an indication of who we are. We get a better understanding of ourselves by examining the products that humans have created. What does this product say about who we are? And, more importantly: what can we learn from it?