Kees Krul from the Netherlands, alumnus of the programme, now a PhD candidate at Delft University of Technology
What was the best thing about the Asian Studies programme?
"It was the cosy environment. We were with around thirty students, so it wasn’t too big. We were a very tight community between both the students and the teachers. It became a really open environment that was very stimulating.”
What was your favourite course?
“The thesis was my favourite part. Since the subject is area studies, we were allowed to actually go into the field. I went to a partner university in China to do my field work. I think this is quite a special thing about the programme. They facilitate a partner university for you to do your field work. This makes your Master's thesis much nicer rather than just spending your time doing desk work.”
What was the topic of your thesis?
“I looked at community supported agriculture. It’s a new way to run an agricultural business. Normally, you have a farmer who produces stuff and then sells it on the market. But this is different; this is bought by the community as shares. If there is a bad harvest, then the risks are shared by the whole community and not just the farmer alone. If there is a good harvest, then the whole community benefits. This was a really new phenomenon at that time in China.”
What have you been doing since you graduated from the programme?
“After I graduated, I was specialised in China, but I hadn’t really mastered the Chinese language. I applied for a scholarship to study Mandarin in China and received it. So, immediately after finishing my Master’s, I spent one year in Beijing studying Chinese full time. Next to my studies I also interned at Landesa, an NGO that seeks to improve farmers’ land rights. These two experiences eventually led me to finding my way to becoming a PhD student working on a topic that I really like, namely land rights in China.”
What did you think of the teaching style in Sweden?
“I think it’s really friendly. It’s nice that you can call the lecturers and even professors by their first name. That’s quite special in Sweden. There’s not really a hierarchy in the classroom, which is also an important point. Since my programme is so small, I was able to really build relationships with the teachers as well. After the programme I still stayed in touch with them.”
Do you feel that the Asian Studies programme helped prepare you for your PhD?
“I think the Asian Studies programme is really good for people who want to do a PhD afterwards since it is two years, which isn’t standard. One year does not give you enough time to really learn all the research skills you need. The programme here really helped us prepare for our thesis topic because we had more time to do so. It helped build our research skills, which then helps you if you want to apply for research positions within or outside academia.”
What tips to do you have for incoming students studying the Asian Studies programme?
“A very good thing about the programme is that there is a lot of flexibility in every course. If it is a course in, say, economics or politics, you can always adjust it to your own interests. For instance, we had a geopolitics course where we had to watch movies and analyse them from a certain perspective. We could choose any movies that we liked. I eventually picked Pom Poro, a Japanese film by Studio Gibli that depicts how the forest habitat of racoons was affected by urban development. This flexibility is great to build a professional profile or ‘niche’ throughout the two years. You should make sure you’re taking advantage of that opportunity.”
Why do you think prospective students should choose to study the Asian Studies programme at Lund University?
“I think the interdisciplinary competence that you gain at Lund is really important. More research needs to follow an interdisciplinary approach. That’s the trend that the research is following, which I can also see in my own PhD research. These days research, and particularly in social sciences, is often not strictly confined to one discipline but mixed. Joining a Master’s programme, like this one, that has a very strong interdisciplinary approach will help familiarise you with this approach and help you succeed.”
What was it like to be an international student in Lund?
“It was so much fun! I joined the nations of course. I also joined UPF (the Association of Foreign Affairs). I was in the committee for the magazine, for which we published an issue twice a year. There are a lot of opportunities for international students to do something outside their education.”
Do you have any advice for international students coming to Lund?
“My advice is to really engage in all the opportunities you have in the student life. Also, if you take your own initiative in the beginning, you will find that Swedes are much more really friendly and receptive than they sometimes appear when you first arrive.”
What surprised you the most about Sweden?
“It wasn’t as cold as I expected it to be!”