Kevin Witzenberger from Germany, now PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia
How did you find out about Lund University and this programme?
“I finished my Bachelor’s degree in Media and Communication Research in Germany before I started the Master’s programme in Sweden. During the final year of my Bachelor’s degree, I did a lot of research on suitable Master’s programmes. I knew I wanted to study in an international context to get a different perspective on my research field. Amongst all European universities, Lund University offered a programme that stood out to me.”
Why did this programme stand out to you?
“In the end, there were many little things that added up to my decision to study in Lund. Some were based upon the excellent reputation of the University, others upon the programme and even the city.
The most appealing feature was the structure of the programme in Media and Communication Studies: a strong focus on theory, a few methods workshops, and the opportunity to conduct my own research within the Master’s thesis. This seemed like a great recipe to develop independent researchers, and an ideal way for everyone to find their own little research niche. Something else that stood out to me before coming to Lund was the lecturer to student ratio. I think I benefitted greatly from that.”
Did the programme live up to your expectations?
“Absolutely. I wouldn’t have changed a thing if I could. The programme prepared me to move on and become a PhD researcher and critical thinker.”
What was the best thing about your programme?
“Two things that add up: the peers and the supervision. Something that I hadn’t considered before coming to Lund was what the class size, the teaching style and a heavy emphasis on collaboration would lead to: a tightly knit groups of friends.
It’s something that is even reflected in the social landscape of the city. If you see an international group cycling through the city on the weekend, it’s quite likely that they are all in the same Master’s programme.”
Why should prospective students choose this programme?
“If you feel like you want to become a researcher, this programme is the right choice. This does not mean it is the wrong choice for a career outside of academia, however. This programme turns you into a critical thinker and many of my peers went on to use their skills in such a variety of jobs; everything from working within the European Commission to journalism, PR and a lot of other fields you would not expect media researchers to end up in. Every time I catch up with some of the other alumni, I am always impressed with where they ended up.”
What was your favourite course and why?
“This was definitely Media Audiences. It’s a challenging course that teaches you so much about audiences and what they make of media content. Professor Annette Hill has a great way of teaching students a lot about research methodologies. Even though I went on to research something completely different, my work and the way I think about a lot of issues are still shaped by things I have learned in this course.”
Were you able to gain any practical experience during your studies?
“About half of the cohort did an internship during the third semester. I was tempted to do this as well but decided against it in the end. The time to take courses during the programme is so limited already, and it felt it would be better to use all the time I had.”
What do you think of the teaching style?
“It’s great. While the tertiary educational system is not all that different in Germany, the teaching style definitely is different in Sweden. During my undergrad, I always felt rushed to finish a course and sometimes when it was over, you’d feel as though you’d barely scratched the surface of a topic. There is also a heavy emphasis on collaboration, as I mentioned before. It’s not for everyone, but I definitely became better at working in groups during my time in Lund.”
What are the options for networking like?
“Lund is an international university with a focus on research. There are many international conferences, often within the same lecture rooms you usually have your classes in. That makes networking pretty easy. All Master’s students in our programme were encouraged by the senior staff to engage in all these knowledge exchanges.”
How international is your programme?
“Very international. It’s exciting to work and study with people from so many different cultural backgrounds.”
What was the focus of your thesis?
“In my thesis I looked at algorithms in everyday life. I applied what I learned in Media Audiences about media recipients and what they do with media content to technology, to show how everyday users manipulate the algorithms of Facebook, Google and co., even if they don’t necessarily know much about technology.”
What it is like to be an international student at Lund University?
“Being an international student in Lund is not extraordinary and that is a great thing. Everyone is welcoming in this city and wherever in the world you are from, one of your neighbours is probably from the same place.”
What was your first impression of Lund?
“I thought it was absolutely stunning. All seasons in Lund are just that little bit more intense. Brace yourself for vivid colours in spring and autumn. It may be a bit of a cliché, but just imagine you’re living in a town straight out of an Astrid Lindgren story. Add to that a really international atmosphere, a welcoming local culture, plenty of venues over the year and spectacular landscapes.”
Do you have favourite places in or around Lund?
“Broder Jakobs Bageri and Ebbas are great places for fika. I loved cycling around Lund. Taking the bike to Skrylle in spring, to the sauna in Bjärred in winter, or to Lomma beach in summer are some definite highlights.”
Do you have any advice for other students that are considering to come to Lund?
“If you feel up for it, sign up for the Swedish language classes with SFI. Apart from learning Swedish, it is also a great way to meet people and ease into Swedish culture. It’s a time commitment but I think it’s worthwhile.
Another thing is to get a bicycle as soon as you can. Having a bike feels like owning the key to the city. There are obviously many other ways to get around, but it saves so much time and money to just hop on a bike. Lund is very safe for cyclists and you’ll get used to cycling in winter too, I promise.”
What surprised you the most about Sweden?
“There are a few things that really surprised me, and I tried to take some of these things with me. Swedes appreciate their time off work and I think this is great. It took me a while to get used to the fact that the library wasn’t open 24/7 or that it’s barely open on a weekend, but after a while, I started to ease into it and appreciate my own time more.”
What were the highlights of your time here?
“Every spring. There is just something very special about being part of a town that is waking up from a long slumber through winter.”
What have you been doing after your studies?
“Since I graduated in Lund, I started a PhD at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. I am looking at how artificial intelligence might impact education policy in the future.”
To what extent did your degree programme prepare you for a career in your field?
“I’m very grateful for everything I learned in Lund. The programme really prepared me to move on and become a PhD researcher. I also greatly benefitted from the networks of the senior researchers in my department, the workshops they set up and the international conference that they hosted.”