Alfonso Méndez Forssell

A ‘broadened horizon’ at Lund University

The Lund University experience: ‘An eye-opener’

In the following sections, he describes his experiences of Lund University, and the programme, as well as his plans for a future career. He also shares his advice for future students interested in the programme.

The Lund University experience: ‘An eye-opener’
‘My experience at Lund University has been, to put in bluntly, an eye-opener. In Mexico, where I’m from, it’s not so common for people to pursue a Master’s degree right after finishing your studies, so when I got my bachelor in Communication Sciences I followed the standard communications student path and eventually landed a job at a media agency. After a few years working there I realized that the traditional corporate communication role didn’t fulfil me, so I decided to further my studies in order to widen my vision of the field’.

Alfonso goes on to say that ‘Lund University put in me in touch with fascinating and diverse people from all the world, allowing me to recognize and challenge many rooted preconceptions and beliefs that I had, while at the same time giving me the chance of building friendships and establish an international network. The University itself is an enthralling and plural symbolic and physical space that allows students to find a balance between academic and personal interests, with plenty of opportunities to engage with official and unofficial clubs and associations. Within the first semester I found myself representing a Nation’s football team (a Nation is a social club for students), going to politically-motivated meetings with students across the faculties, and cooking authentic Mexican food for people from four different continents’.

Above that, Alfonso says that ‘the university offers some great support and exemplifies perfectly the sort of person-focused, flat-organization approach of Swedish culture, so resources abound and professors and lecturers are more approachable than in other more hierarchical academic cultures; this also translates into having a bigger emphasis on the student’s self-determination in their educational process, which means individual work is favoured, as the classes are more sporadic and serve as guidance rather than the only source of learning. Personally I really enjoyed and thrived in this setting, as it provided me the chance of designing my own schedule and the freedom to determine my objects of study within the diverse field of media and communication. I found this sense of independence intimidating at first because I come from an educational background where learning happens mostly within the classroom. Looking back, I realized that in this setting I had little chance to actually study and never read one book from cover to cover, so at first I didn’t think I was equipped to face the amount of studying and writing that goes into a postgraduate program, but in the end I realized that anyone committed can rise to the challenge, as I did’.

Choosing media and communication as a major
‘Given that I have a bachelor in Communication, studying a master’s at Lund University would be a great way to make a career change, rather than just advancing it. Unfortunately, a master’s degree in itself doesn’t mean much anymore in the current labor market in my country. It’s usually a smarter choice to work two years rather than studying two years. But a master’s degree in a top university abroad is another thing. Studying a good communications programme in a top university is a great opportunity for me to make a career change with a certain edge. Sweden and Lund University were the first choices in their respective category, so I’m glad things went my way’.

A ‘broadened horizon’ at Lund University
Lund University helped Alfonso ‘open new career path and opportunities, and broaden my horizon as to what I can do within the field of communications. I now know that I want to pursue a career in academia. This time kick-started my interest in research and offered me a stimulating environment to motivate it. What at first became an itch by the end had become a calling’.

Writing a thesis
During the last semester of the programme, students write a thesis in media and communication studies. Alfonso’s thesis had to do with citizen participation in Mexico: ‘I explored a model of citizen participation through media literacy education in the Mexican context. I make the argument that Mexico has the conditions and the need to incorporate media literacy into the education system, but in order to offer the students tools and skills that are relevant to the current media scenario – one characterized by a tug-of-war between dominant media structures and new constitutional democratic guidelines brought about a major telecom reform – it has to go beyond functional models of media literacy focused on the acquisition of technical and mechanical skills and embrace more critical models that set the foundation for acts of citizen participation, such as the involvement in policymaking and further recognition and exercise of rights’.

Supervised thesis work
Alfonso describes his experience of the supervision during his thesis work, saying ‘I received excellent supervision, which happened within a framework of affluent academic guidance and dialogue. The supervision was a source of stability and validation when the task became too overwhelming. I found it to be a really useful process in which I was able to filter out redundancies or unrelated matters and compact and format ideas into cohesive and structured ways’.

Advice to future students
‘Just go into the program with an open mind and the willingness to learn in a highly stimulating setting made out of intelligent students from all over the world who want to make a difference, thought-provoking, engagement-stirring course literature and top-of-the-line professors and lecturers’.

After graduation
‘I’m currently looking to publish an article or two on academic journals based on the research I did for my thesis’. He goes on to say, ‘tied to my ambition to publish, I want to use that as a building block to land a PhD within a communications program in which I will be able to continue my research on the link between media literacy and civic engagement in difficult democratic contexts. In the long run I want to become a media researcher and policy advisor’.

Sidansvarig: michael.rubsamenkom.luse | 2020-06-15