Andrea Schuechner (E.MA graduate 2005/2006)
Electoral Adviser, UNMIT Timor Leste
In the winter of 2003, well into my second year of teaching literature at Beijing University, a friend mentioned the E.MA programme when I told her about my need to change the course of my professional life and to leave the ivory tower of philology.
One and a half years later I found myself in the monastery of San Nicolo together with 82 other students – some of them knowing exactly what they wanted, others, like me, not quite so sure of what they were searching and what they would find.
A year later I moved house again – this time to a small Roma village in the south of Hungary that I had come across when researching for my E.MA master thesis. We had been the first E.MA students to spend our second semester at an Eastern European university and little did I expect Hungary to become my second home.
Another half year later I started working at the EC Delegation to the Sudan in Khartoum thanks to an E.MA scholarship. I would remain in Sudan for more than two years and would become irreversibly attached to the country. – The story continues but what it goes to show is that the E.MA programme did indeed completely change the course of my life and I believe that of most of my course mates.
We 83 are now scattered throughout the world and yet our paths cross every now and then – in the obvious places like Brussels and Venice, but also in more far-flung places like DRC, Timor Leste or Haiti. We stay connected as friends and as human rights professionals as much as we stay connected to all the places and people our E.MA background took us to.