The Romance Studies programme deals with the history, literature and culture of Romance languages. Paloma Seger has chosen to study Italian and Spanish and has lived in Trieste and Mexico City for some time during her studies. Studying at a small university increases the chances of finding a place to study abroad. In this interview, she tells us what she likes about studying here and also, why she is drawn to faraway places.
Was it clear to you from the beginning what and where you want to study?
The idea of studying Romance Studies only became concrete after two semesters at the University of Graz, for which I enrolled with a view to taking a combined degree in Romance Studies (Italian) and Music. The prospect of studying voice led me to move to Klagenfurt, where I lived and studied. To this day, I have kept the artistic subject on a low flame (“pre-studies”), but, as far as my personal input is concerned, I have taken Romance Studies up to the “master class”.
Are there any memorable anecdotes from your studies at AAU?
When you study foreign languages and travel abroad as part of your studies, you may sometimes put your foot in a cross-cultural “faux pas”. For example, when it comes to the vocabulary of a language, the same word can have different meanings in different places. For example, the verb coger has a different meaning in Iberian Spanish than in many Central and South American varieties. In Spain, it simply means to take, catch, take, and this is used metaphorically throughout Central America, but also in Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru, which means that you can say very funny things unintentionally.
What do you like about your studies?
It covers a very broad spectrum of knowledge. It is important to have an interdisciplinary approach from the fields of literature and linguistics and to have acquired two Romance languages in order to be able to assess linguistic and literary phenomena appropriately. I personally found myself in all three disciplines.
Has the course of study shaped or even changed your personality?
Yes, it has enabled me to put many of my ideas into practice and to realise many of my undertakings (study visits in Trieste in 2014 and Mexico City in 2016 and 2018). Without a doubt, the experiences gained are milestones in my personal development and have shaped my world view.
How do you explain the contents of your studies to others?
You can trust your family or friends to go a little deeper.
What do you associate with the city of Klagenfurt?
Klagenfurt is a city with an interesting history. It is important to me to give the region a new face, one that does not look away from where the unprocessed can be found, but instead looks to the future with strengthened awareness.
Why should one study here?
There are competent teachers and good opportunities for interesting stays abroad.
What are you looking forward to when you arrive at the university?
I always look forward to meeting my colleagues from the German-speaking countries, to listening to how far they meet each other linguistically and, perhaps, to witnessing an interesting process of language change à e.g. an die Uni kommen (= coming to the university) – German rather than Austrian. This is increasingly used by Austrian students.
An important advice for AAU freshers in the initial phase of their studies?
You should contact the relevant institutions (Austrian Student Union ÖH, admissions and examinations office, library, etc.) with specific questions, attend information events and read through students’ experience reports. As a student, you will often be confronted with questions from freshers that you simply cannot answer.
How do you imagine your professional future?
You should not make a secret of your goals, but it is diplomatic to play your trump card only when you have it in your hand. I learned this during my internship at the Austrian Embassy in Havana.