North American Studies (M.A.)

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Dr. Yulia Kozyrakis, Project manager at the Joachim Herz Stiftung

Please describe shortly your current profession. How does your typical day at work look like?

Currently I am managing the youth exchange program “Azubis go USA” at the Joachim Herz Stiftung in Hamburg. I am coordinating the application and selection process, managing the program budget, coordinating my team, organizing program events and communicating with applicants, participants and partners. My daily work is a mixture of administrative tasks, numerous meetings and strategic planning. The absolute highlights of my work are the exciting and enriching personal exchanges with our wonderful participants (apprentices from Germany and U.S. students) and partners on both sides of the Atlantic.

Why did you apply for a degree in North American Studies?

I love reading and I love U.S. literature. Once enrolled for Magister in British and U.S. literature, I was absolutely thrilled by the inspiring and thought-provoking seminars of Prof. Dr. Ruth Mayer (Uni Hannover). This was definitely a turning point in my studies and l decided to specialize in North American Studies. 

When the Graduate School for North American Studies (GSNAS) first opened, I immediately knew that I would apply for this unique opportunity. I was looking for a structured, interdisciplinary PhD program - exactly what GSNAS offered. The scholarship made it possible to work on my thesis full-time. The JFKI library has been perfect in terms of resources and learning environment. JFKI offered numerous talks, conferences and other possibilities of interaction with peers and experts. My time at GSNAS surpassed my expectations!

When and how did you choose your current profession? Did you realize your plans from the time of your studies?

In the last phase of my dissertation studies I decided to leave the academic path. During my Magister studies I worked part-time in various administrative positions at educational institutions and at other companies. I applied rather coincidentally for a job as an administrative assistant at the Joachim Herz Foundation. When a year later a colleague who managed “Azubis go USA” left the Foundation, I was promoted to my current position. I am happy that my current occupation has a strong connection to the U.S. I have not expected it when I was looking for a job, but now I see it as the perfect combination of my interests and skills.

What in your opinion is the most important thing for your work that you learned during your studies? What do you still profit from?

The profound understanding of the processes which formed U.S. society, which I gained in the seminars, conferences and talks at the JFKI is for me the most important aspect concerning my present work. Also, the ability to critically examine current events and to put them into the context of U.S. formation processes, its history and culture, has been invaluable for communicating with German and U.S. partners, participants and colleagues, and for understanding current developments. In addition, writing, presenting and facilitating skills have been very helpful. And strong intrinsic motivation, of course – “langer Atem”!

Which additional qualifications should one gain as a student that are crucial or useful for your current profession?

Definitely a great deal of practical, administrative skills like business communication, Word/Excel/Powerpoint, organizing events, managing large amounts of data. Also working with budgets and financial calculations has been enormously helpful for my current work.

Is there anything from the Master's program of North American Studies that evokes especially strong memories?

“American Exceptionalism” seminar with Prof. Ickstadt and Prof. Etges. Also, our wonderful cohort – going through the ups and downs of the dissertation process together. The last months of the dissertation work when I spent most of the day in the JFKI Library – my second home (and Baci’s bagels, coffee and small talk – absolutely essential in struggling towards the finish line).

What advice would you give the students who would like to pursue a similar career?

Focus on your interests, but also allow for unexpected chances. Gather administrative skills. Don’t shy away from tedious tasks – they are often rewarded by inspiring outcomes. Look for opportunities in the non-profit sector. Be authentic