Irina Savu-Cristea, Romania

Ms Savu-Cristea just successfully completed her one-year master’s programme “Research Training Program in Social Sciences”. Her outstanding academic achievements earned her a 1.0 for her master’s thesis. She was also awarded this year’s “DAAD Prize for outstanding achievements of foreign students” for her social endeavours.

Ms Savu-Cristea, congratulations on winning this year’s “DAAD Prize for outstanding achievements of foreign students”. What does this prize mean to you, and what can you say about your volunteering work in the intercultural Mauerpark project “Encounter”?

Savu-Cristea: Thank you! The DAAD prize means a lot to me. Seeing my work recognised at this level has really boosted my confidence in the quality of my work – particularly in the context of the highly competitive and achievement-oriented German education system, which I wasn’t brought up in. What’s more, as a fresh doctoral candidate applying for scholarships, I also see this prize as an excellent acknowledgement of my academic potential. As for my volunteering within the collaborative multilingual media project “Encounter”, I am involved in the coordination of our events, which is both very exciting and rewarding. I contributed to the organization and official launch of the Encounter blog as well as our printed magazine, published in English, German, Arabic and Farsi, which address stereotypes regarding migration-related realities. Working in a team of anthropologists, activists, artists and journalists, I have a great opportunity to expand my awareness of the different angles people take in the dialogues they engage in. This has allowed me to reflect more on both the differences and the shared values that transcend borders, nationalities, gender, age or class.

Why did you choose Humboldt-Universität and particularly the English-speaking master’s programme “Research Training Program in Social Sciences”? And what did you especially like about your studies?

Savu-Cristea: I chose Humboldt specifically because it ranks very highly among the top universities for social sciences. As I do not speak German, this master’s programme was the perfect match for me. The programme is specially designed for students who already have an MA degree in social sciences, and its main purpose is to train young scholars in building a cogent project for their future doctoral studies. Its flexible curriculum allowed me to work on my research design, while exploring the current debates on the theories and methods of social science. At the same time, I was able to choose courses from other departments and universities to pursue my academic interest in the topic of my project. And the thing I liked most was the general atmosphere among the students both in my year and the year above.

What advice would you give to other international students who are new to Humboldt-Universität?

Savu-Cristea: It’s hard to give just one piece of advice, as each student has different goals and plans. What helped me was taking advantage of the extremely vibrant selection of workshops, projects and talks on offer in Berlin, both academic and non-academic, and spending time with my colleagues. This helped expand not only my social network, but also my mental maps. Whether they be students, teachers or people outside academia – the great people I have met and interacted with at Humboldt, at Freie Universität and in the Encounter project have shaped me as a person and helped me become a better scholar.

What are your plans for the future?

Savu-Cristea: Given that my goal was to pursue a doctorate in anthropology, for my MA thesis I worked with a second supervisor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Freie Universität, whose expertise matched my research interest. Taking classes at both universities was very helpful; as was the support I had from my main supervisor at HU, who encouraged this collaboration. I have just started my doctoral degree programme with the same supervisor at FU and am planning to do two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Indonesia and write my thesis in anthropological psychology, focusing on the emotions and self-making strategies of girls in two schools. I’m hoping my work will contribute to the wider theories on learning and emotions, and that, in the future, I can initiate applied projects involving collaborative research methods and a better schooling experience for young girls.

The interview was conducted by Ulrike Spangenberg.

Further information about Irina Savu-Cristea and her involvement in the Encounter project can be found on the Encounter blog.



Ulrike Spangenberg

International Office

International Students’ Services

Head of the International Club “Orbis Humboldtianus”


Tel.: +49 30 2093 46712