Due to the fact that there was no exact equivalent for my degree (IR and History) at the Maastricht University, this year I am part of an European Studies course. When I mention that, many people ask me what an European Studies degree actually involves, what am I really studying. The best way to describe this degree, I think, it’s through interdisciplinarity.
European Studies is mainly defined as a branch of political sciences, which focuses on the study of the process of European integration. This does not mean, however, that it only looks at the European Union. Some degrees have, indeed, a strong focus on the functioning of the Union, which is logical given that the EU does represent the major political factor in the region. Nevertheless, Europe extends outside the boundaries of the EU, and even within its boundaries, it implies a lot of diversity and encompasses various actors.
An European Studies degree looks at Europe from very different and numerous perspectives. Personally, in my first semester I had law, anthropology and history modules, whilst now I have human geography and sociology modules, and they each analysed Europe differently. So be prepared for this if you are considering taking up such a degree. Geographically, it analyses the importance of borders and what conflicts over them exist in Europe, but also the importance of various places, “global cities” like London or Paris. From a historical perspective, you will probably learn a lot about the history of Europe and of the European Union, but also about the history of the whole world, since you need to place European history in the wider context of global history. Legally, you will learn about European law and its relation to national and international law, and also about various European treaties. Politically, you will look at European institutions, but also national governments and relations between different states. Sociologically, you will look at the European society, at its cultural and religious diversity.
So there’s a lot you can learn by taking up such a degree. A bit of everything, I would dare to say. In terms of your career prospects, a European Studies degree can help you gain a position in European institutions, such as the the European Commission or the Council of Europe, in international business and consultancy, in national government bodies, such as ministries and municipalities, in intergovernmental organisations, political parties, lobby groups and NGOs. You can also choose to do further study and afterwards enter the area of research, in academia or for think-tanks.
So if this sounds like your piece of cake, give it a try. I know that most students whose degrees are in social sciences (with the exception of psychology, perhaps) choose to take this degree on their year abroad in Maastricht. So even if you study something different, you still have a chance to try it. 🙂