Ghent University

Why choose Ghent University?

Ghent University is a top 100 university and one of the major Belgian universities counting over 41,000 students and 9,000 employees. Our 11 faculties are composed of 117 faculty departments. These departments offer more than 230 high-quality courses in every one of their scientific disciplines, each inspired by innovative research.

The Master Program in American Studies (a program at UGent) helps students to understand the United States as a nation-state of staggering scale, complexity and diversity. Internationally, indeed, it continues to be the largest economic and military power; one of the world’s most robust democracies, an exceptional place of literary, political, cultural and artistic creation.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Challenging, Refreshing, Rewarding

I just finished my MAAS and I absolutely loved it. Having already done three years of American Studies during my BA, I started this masters interested to know how the professors would handle the fact that most students did not come from an American Studies background. Were they going to explain it all again? Or were they just going to leave the others behind? These initial thoughts were soon swept away by my first lecture. Straightaway I understood that this masters is not about how much you know or don't know; it's about what you want to know. Sure, this masters is no different from any other masters; you're going to have to get stuck in, but how you do it: that's up to you. The professors do a fantastic job at showing you every corner of American Studies; political, cultural, theoretical, etc. By use of a simple VPN connection you have access to all the stuff you need to feed your thirst for knowledge, and believe me, thirsty you will get. Although at times it might seem that the water gets a little deep and the amount of freedom you receive might seem a little overwhelming, with the right attitude this masters can be the most enriching experience of your life. Not only did my (already proportionally large) passion for American Studies grow, so did my passion for learning all together. I can probably go on about this program for hours, but since this website limits me to 200 characters, I'll try and sum up my experience in three words: challenging, refreshing, rewarding.

What would you improve about this program?
For students who like a little more direction in terms of their assignments, this program could be a little overwhelming at times.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

MAAS 2014-15

As a prospective student I sought a better understanding of the United States within a globalized world. I wanted to further establish my factual knowledge of American and world history, and I wanted to engage several disciplines, perspectives, and theories to understand, dissect, and utilize that knowledge. Additionally I sought to develop my writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills. The MAAS program effectively facilitated this.

This is not a program centered exclusively on ‘textbook’ knowledge. In MAAS the professors take very seriously the importance of critical discussion over the topics in question. As such, the comprehensive presentation of factual knowledge is continually matched with interrogation into the causes, effects, and implications of the topic. Moreover, the professors encourage the students to question various presumptions that have been taken for granted in the historical or contemporary discourse of the topic. This amounts to lively intellectual consideration in each course and is, indeed, the program’s most important element.

Ultimately, knowledge is reinforced in each course while the particular disciplinary approach of a course affords nuanced understandings. For example, in Literary Journalism the student addresses topics in American and world history through the medium of the genre. Studying John Hersey’s Hiroshima or David Foster Wallace’s piece on 9/11 allowed for intimate and privileged vantage points from which the student could address those events. Likewise, the course on law and justice facilitated inquiry into the fundamental developments and philosophical underpinnings of American society—concepts that would be relevant in each MAAS course. The depth of the MAAS interdisciplinary approach is a quintessential aspect of the program.

Both of these aspects are met with the range of personal, national, and educational backgrounds of the professors and students—adding diverse perspectives to the discussion of material. Indeed, as the material is so often of direct international concern, such perspectives are essential. This internationality (of the program and university itself) was the aspect that I cherished most. Moreover, the special joie de vivre of Ghent, its friendly and open community, and its world-class host of beers make it a phenomenal city for students.

Reflecting on my experience in the program and in Ghent, I certainly feel satisfied and confidently prepared for the law and public service careers that I seek to pursue.

What would you improve about this program?
I think that MAAS should develop stronger ties with the local and at-large community (other academic departments, conferences, journals, organizations, etc.) This could manifest in public debates, panel discussions, film screenings, presidential debate screening (albeit quite early in the morning if streamed live), as well as conference attendance and journal submission. The shared initiative on this development between students and professors would help the student grow as a purpose-driven academic with a greater sense of community, which, in turn, would lead to a more fulfilling MAAS year.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A particular fit, but the right fit if you know what you want

The MAAS program at UGhent is a strong, interdisciplinary American Studies program. The thoroughly international student body and the wide expertise of the staff are the program's strong points. I found the staff supportive and encouraging, even going out of their way to support academic and professional opportunities outside the formal course boundaries. The staff wants to see its students succeed and works hard to create the academic and community space to create that success.

If the student knows what particular issues excite them academically, then the interdisciplinary nature of the program will only round out their original interests. The freedom of the interdisciplinary field is in drawing connections from otherwise separate fields. In this way, a student with clear academic interests can benefit from the freedom of movement the program allows and do academic work otherwise difficult to justify in a program solely dedicated to, say, Politics or History.

What would you improve about this program?
The interdisciplinary nature of the program is both a strength and its primary weakness. The range of courses can only go so deep in a one year course, thus the breadth of the program can be both overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. The program had one professor teaching a number of courses this last year (due to administrative difficulties), which weakened the program in a sense. However, even with more professors teaching those courses, an interdisciplinary program can only go so deep. Thus, I would definitely recommend the program to an applicant who appreciates the freedom the program offers and the wide focus of the American Studies field. An applicant looking to study a single subject in-depth should look elsewhere.
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No, I don't recommend this program

Wonderful experience; academics not quite Master's level

The M.A. in American Studies, taught at Ghent University in Belgium, has been a wonderful experience for me. I completed the program in 2014. Thanks to the rather strict admission standards, we were a small group of motivated students from many backgrounds, including international students from Vietnam to the US. Fun and camaraderie for an entire year. The academics, however, are not quite what you would expect of a Master of Arts degree. While the courses offer insights into many disciplines, few studies are really explored in depth. Since history, politics, law, and economics were all taught by the same professor, we missed out on the great diversity that could go into so many different courses. The M.A. in American Studies at Ghent Uni. is a great experience for those who have little background in US Studies, but it isn't up to par for those looking for more specialist training and scholarship.

Response from Ghent University

Dear student,

We are glad you acknowledged some of the characteristics that make our Master Program very attractive, among which its high quality standards, its international spirit, and its informal atmosphere are perhaps the most relevant. You also pinpointed an element that actually affected our academic offer last year. We are pleased to inform you, however, that we have addressed such an issue in the current academic year, by both broadening and deepening our academic offer. For instance, we included in our program a course dealing with the relationships between the U.S. and the Middle East and we also launched new academic internship programs, in cooperation with several U.S., Belgian, and Dutch institutions, which can replace up to two elective courses. Content-wise, we furthered students' interest through periodic lecture series and through the establishment of a blog in which students can share their opinions and ideas concerning their classes. We are confident that these changes will further improve the academic quality of our Master Program, and therefore we would like to thank you for your useful comments and wish you the best luck with the rest of your life and career.

MAAS Staff

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Much more than a master's degree

Having completed the MAAS-program, I can say that it has been an enriching experience. The cross-sectoral content, the passionate staff, and the small international group of students have gained me much more than solely the academic content of a master's degree. Having obtained this degree, I can honestly make the case that my understanding of not only the United States, but of the world scene as a whole, has deepened considerably.

What would you improve about this program?
In my opinion, there is room to further develop the theoretical framework surrounding the program. The historical, political, and cultural content is thoroughly analyzed, though the linkage of these individual fields to the bigger field of American Studies does not become entirely clear.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Bradford Lovett

Bradford Lovett, originally from Amarillo, Texas, studied in the Masters of American Studies program at Ghent University during the 2013-2014 school year. He previously completed a Masters of Literature in International Security Studies at the University of St. Andrews and a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies at Hillsdale College in Michigan, USA. He currently teaches business english in Luxembourg City.

Why did you decide to study abroad with MAAS?

I decided to study abroad with MAAS because the program brings together an international group of students in an area historically significant to the U.S. The variety of perspectives in the classroom, the beautiful yet affordable setting of Ghent and Brussels, and the abundance of history make for an excellent academic environment. Studying in Belgium, specifically, allowed me the opportunity to grasp European perspectives on U.S. politics and culture while deepening my knowledge of European history and culture. Belgium, sitting at the crossroads of so many historical events, is an excellent place for a foreigner to experience Europe.

Did you run into a language barrier? Did you ever think you knew more/less of the language?

My French is basic and my Flemish primitive, so language was an issue occasionally. Fortunately, my Belgian classmates happily helped me adjust and maneuver my way around school administration, renting a flat and the like. One student met with my landlords and translated my housing contract to make sure I wasn't signing away my future. Another student went with me to my landlord's flat to resolve an issue relating to my flat deposit. When language was a barrier, the locals I knew were happy to help me out - and teach me what I needed to do the essentials - like order a Belgian beer.

Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.

When the fair is in St. Peter's Square, get yourself some oiliballen (spelling?!). They are basically giant balls of deep-fried dough covered in powdered sugar. Belgium never tasted better... except for frites with mayonnaise. The country takes its frites pretty seriously - and it shows. Also, have locals take you to a genever bar and try a few different flavors. No better way to enjoy an evening in Ghent.

How has this experience impacted your future?

MAAS is a flexible program that allows a foreign student a wide range of research options, while establishing a strong base in American Studies. With this grounding, I feel prepared for a range of professional options. At the same time, studying here made me much more sensitive to European perspectives and attitudes, especially toward the U.S. As an American, this affected me personally. Academically, it broadened my horizons.

Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?

Of course! Belgian classmates were all too happy to help the foreigners see the city, know the culture and enjoy themselves. The course students developed a strong bond and supported one another academically and socially. The only limitation to experiencing the city from a local's perspective is a person's willingness or unwillingness to learn the culture, see the city and meet new people. Ghent is easy to love.

What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?

There couldn't be one favorite place. So much of Belgium is easily accessible by train. Seeing Antwerp, Ieper, Liege, Namur, Oostende, Brugge, Brussels... The country is varied and beautiful. Filling your extra time in Belgium is not difficult. And that's just Belgium - it's so easy to train into the Netherlands, France, Germany or the UK. I love Brussels most of all, though. The variety of architecture, exceptional museums, great food and cafes make for a good time.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Dario Fazzi

Job Title
Internship Programs Coordinator
Dario Fazzi, is visiting professor at Ghent University and works as researcher at the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg. He earned degrees from the University of Bologna (BA and PhD) and Roma Tre (MA) in Italy, and has also held visiting fellowships at SUNY-Albany and Brown University in the United States. At MAAS, he coordinates the internship programs and is really glad to supervise students’ theses. His researching and teaching philosophy is centered on the idea that people, whose role has been often overshadowed by power politics, are instead legitimate and significant agents of historical development.

Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

During my academic career, both as a student and as a young researcher, I had the opportunity to study and work abroad. Honestly, no experience has been more rewarding than that one. Living in another country and experiencing its culture and habits put me – and many of my local prejudices – at test.

This process definitely enriched me and opened my mind: I saw things from another perspective, learned alternative methods of studying and approaching life in general, as well as broadened my horizons. As far as I am concerned, living abroad is a process that every citizen of our global era should have the opportunity to do, at least once in a lifetime.

Which study abroad destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

I think that Europe should claim a leading role in this. Many of the European Universities can combine high academic quality with beautiful and historical locations, a feature that can really be considered Europe's most unique selling point. Just think about Brussels, Amsterdam, or Paris, all of which are in short distance from Ghent, another great city where to live and study. Nothing against it, but Cambridge, UK, is a place I wouldn't live in.

What country have you always wanted to visit?

I always dreamt about the U.S. and I had the opportunity to explore it, although there are many places in that country I still would like to reach, as Seattle, for instance. I also liked Latin American countries and it has been a great surprise for me to discover a country that isn't a usual destination for tourists, like Paraguay. I really would like to visit Australia and Canada and, one day, maybe have the time to explore Turkey as well.

What does your home-country's culture value that is taught in your program?

Being an Italian teaching American stuff makes me in the perfect position to analyze and relativize many of the dysfunctions of the American political system. Plus, the long history of my home country helps me adopting a wider perspective when tackling current issues and contemporary developments. What I really like at MAAS is that it combines a lot of European perspectives so that it can really provide students with a genuine transatlantic vision of the U.S.