Applied Cultural Studies in Klagenfurt: Socially critical and diverse

Maria Kravanja, 21 years old from Villach, studies Applied Cultural Studies (AKuWi) at the University of Klagenfurt. She already spoke to us about her life in her self-constructed Tiny House in an interview. As a First Generation Student, she is the first one to study in her family. She talks to us about the path that led her to study, her professional goal of becoming a scientist and tells us what advice she would like to give to freshers who do not have an academic family background.

Why did you decide to study the bachelor’s programme Applied Cultural Studies in Klagenfurt?

To be honest, I did not have the opportunity to orientate myself outside Carinthia. Because if your family cannot support you financially, you at least have material restrictions on access to the higher education system. So, it was clear to me that only the programmes in Carinthia were available for me. I would have been interested in Philosophy and Psychology. At other universities, I would also have been interested in Sociology, which here only exists within single courses. And then, I got to know and got to love AKuWi as a transdisciplinary subject.

Has your opinion towards your studies changed since you started studying?

I am enthusiastic about my studies! Socially critical approaches and seminars on reflection are very important to me. I find these aspects of studying exciting. But of course, there are areas in my programme that I need to motivate myself a bit more for. We deal with Business Management topics and gain insights into the basics of Business Administration and Management. That is also important, but my interest lies in other areas.

You are the first person in your family to study, so you are a First Generation Student. How did your parents react to your desire to study?

For me, the path to university was a bit exhausting. I transferred to another school during the upper classes and attended evening school. So, my path to the graduation from school was not linear and easy.

I noticed that my family, especially my grandparents, were very proud and happy that I decided to take up studies. This world is foreign to my family.  They understand that I have exams, but of course, they cannot understand what it means to study. I think that many First Generation Students find it hard to talk to their families about their everyday life, studies or university problems.

Is there any advice you would like to give to future students? Maybe to those without an academic family background?

Yes, do not be put off by academic texts, by the wording and long sentences. This is normal and you get used to the language of science. Do not be intimidated by people who talk big. Trust in yourself. Remember why you wanted to study and stick to it.

Many people do not dare to study at all or get told “Why are you not smart and just go to work”.

That is right, and yes: Financially, it makes no sense at all to study. Perhaps my studies are not a textbook example for getting the perfect job right after graduation. There are jokes on Jodel, like “What are you going to do after you graduate? – I will be a professional taxi driver.” Of course, that is not true there are job perspectives everywhere. But education simply takes time. Not everyone has the opportunity to complete their studies in minimum time. Many students have to work part-time to finance their studies. Luckily, I received a student grant, but that alone is just enough to make ends meet. I am frugal and do not need much, but if you have a different lifestyle and no family who supports you financially, it is hard. The older you get, the harder it might be to find a job. All this scares a lot of people and I understand that! I have decided for myself that it is worth it. Studying simply suited my interests. At school I always read a lot, was curious, wanted to get to the bottom of things. What was odd back then finally makes sense to me! At university I can do what I enjoy doing.

What does studying mean to you?

It is a great opportunity to deal with the things that really interest me in a setting that is socially acknowledged. I used to read books and think about the world, and many people found that odd. Now, in my studies, it is no longer odd, but it is integrated into a context in which this behavior is even desirable. I have found a place where I can do what I already liked to do. There are enough things to criticise about the university system, but I am still incredibly happy that I have the opportunity to study. In America or any other country, many people simply cannot afford to study. I am very grateful that I am in Austria and that I can study here.

Where would you like to work one day?

I would like to work in science. If I could choose, I would like to work and do research at a university.

What could you not live without in your everyday life as a student?

I could not live without my favourite library seat. I am not going to tell you where it is, otherwise, someone else will find it as great as I do! All joking aside, I think the offer and the opportunity to spend a day at university is great! You have so many places to work, relax or meet for group work. I think that is a great plus. Also, that the library is open 24 hours a day! And not without my Tiny House of course. There is something waking up in a place where you have created everything yourself.

Your study in 3 words:

Socio-critical, diverse, necessary.