Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Robert Mevissen Enters Georgetown MA and PhD Studies in German and Modern European History

Hello all!
     I'm sorry that it's been a while since most of you have heard from me! Since graduation from CSB/SJU, life hasn't slowed down very much for me, which is just fine but hardly leaves room for my correspondence career. Most of you probably know that I just spend the last two years living, studying and working in Vienna- after meeting friends, exploring the city, playing in a first rate orchestra and finally feeling as though I could get used to this "European lifestyle," I realized that if my career plan had taken a definitive Austrophilic turn and I hoped to get back there sometime (professor of history at the University of Vienna?), I should probably continue my education and make myself slightly more valuable (those Austrians seem to love their "Magister" title, and most of my students agreed that "Bachelor Bertl" didn't sound so impressive on a CV).
     Thanks in part to a very supportive group of people, I sent in my applications to graduate schools last fall- I applied to a lot of Midwest universities to pursue PhD studies and a few DC-based schools for MAs. Fortunately, my decision was very easy (only my first choice school accepted me into its PhD program), so, I am now in Washington, DC (with my girlfriend Elisabeth- whom I met in Vienna) having just completed my first semester at Georgetown University. My program is a joint "MAGES-PhD" degree, which means that I will receive an MA in German and European Studies and a PhD in Modern European history.
     The MA curriculum focuses entirely on current (or modern historical) European events, such as EU institutions, European Economy, European cultural theory, etc. I've recreated EU Council Summits, written papers dissecting the German response to the Euro crisis and (true to my roots) I've just finished writing my final economics paper on the "Production, Consumption and Marketing of Austrian Wines," which unfortunately did not lead to any "field" research. The PhD curriculum, which I am completing simultaneously, is very heavy in historical theory, which is fascinating and frustratingly difficult to understand (have any of you read "Metahistory" by Hayden White- holy cow!). My fields of study as of now are the Austrian and German Empires in the 19th century, nationalism and European empire-building. And with my newfound knowledge in gender, class and subaltern narrative building, I hope not to silence too many voices in the course of my research.
     Both groups of students with whom I am studying are amazing- the MAGI (our nickname for the MA cohort) are fun, spunky, highly intelligent individuals, who all foresee "State Department" or "CIA" in their future. The PhD crowd is a bit more subdued, perhaps because they realize that they have five years of school in front of them still, but they are also very insightful and endearing personalities. Although the historians stick to themselves, the MAGES department has a lot of contact with the PhD students in the German department here (maybe because we meet up every Thursday to practice our German at "Stammtisch"), and at the beginning of the year, I met Brooke Kreitinger - a former Bennie! Don't worry, dear French professors, I am also maintaining a good level of French, having enrolled in a French language/culture course and practicing with the three other MAGI who also speak French- one of whom is from France. Although the fourteen other students in the program poke fun at us when we speak French in the BMW Center, we've decided that they're just jealous that they peuvent pas parler francais.
     As I said, I am now finishing up the semester! The great news that I wanted to share with you involves my recently-discovered summer plans! At the beginning of November, I applied through the State Department to work at an overseas embassy. I just found out that the US Embassy in Vienna accepted my application, so I will be going back to Austria this summer for ten weeks to work as an intern in the embassy's Economic-Political section (http://austria.usembassy.gov/econ.html). I am massively excited, as that was exactly what I hoped to be doing! After having quickly responded that I was interested in taking the internship, I got another email yesterday from the US Embassy in Berlin, who had also accepted my application. It was very difficult to write back and decline the position.
     In any event, life is good and thanks to all of you who got me here, I feel well-prepared for it!! I hope that the fall semester back at CSB/SJU was a grand success. I would love to hear from each of you and find out what is going on, so once you have the time, please write!! If anyone mentions that there is snow on the ground, I might become insanely jealous, as DC seems to be experiencing a resurgence of warm weather (like "shorts, t-shirt and umbrella" weather). I'm excited to return home to my family in Minnesota in a few weeks, once all my final papers are written...

I hope you are all well!! Take care!

Gratefully yours,


ps. I've also attached a recent photo of my in front of a bus that I saw in DC last week, which made me happy! Also, don't mind the scruffy look- it's "no-shave November" and it was my first time ever participating...