Professor of Education Charles Temple recently led a shortened version of a semester-long program which had operated annually for the past nine years. The focus of this program, a one-credit course entitled “An Introduction to Central and Eastern Europe,” was ethnic relations in Hungary and Romania, in the context of the history of the region. The topic left room to discuss other issues such as the communist period, and the accession to the European Union. This particular trip was situated in the context of a widespread economic crisis in Europe, which has raised the question of whether Europe can sustain its comparatively generous system of social services with an aging work force, a shrinking birth rate, and global economic competition.
“The combined goals of having students take advantage of being in a foreign setting, acquiring a basic level of knowledge about the setting and the issues it presents, and inquiring and reflecting on experiences – these added up to a lot to pack into three weeks,” says Temple.
The trip began in Budapest, where the group took brief courses on the history of the Hungarian nation, and on ethnic relations and public policy in Hungary. Then, in Romania, they participated in two-hour sessions for eight days on the history of Cluj and of Transylvania, as expressed through its architecture and monuments. A series of local speakers offered presentations on related topics: specifically on the communist period, on life as a member of the Hungarian minority group in Transylvania, on issues connected to the Roma people, and on education.
Temple also had occasional seminars with the purpose of helping students make connections between the lectures and presentations, observations in the community, field trips and their own research. One in particular, “Romanian folk traditions,” took place on the hill of Cetatuie, with a local drama teacher and students singing Romanian, American and Hungarian folksongs.
Among the experiences included in the trip were an architectural tour of Budapest; folk dancing at the Tanchaz; a tour of Jewish Budapest; a ballet at the Budapest Opera; tour of Parliament building; archeological tour of the city Cluj; an excursion to Praid Salina (salt mine) and a trip up the Apuseni mountain by cable car and visit to Peles Castle.
“The trip really opened up my eyes to this area’s complex history and the conflicts associated with the numerous minority groups that share these borders. I feel that this opportunity of studying abroad in Central Europe has enhanced my education here at HWS; I have a broader sense of the term nationality and wish to explore and witness more,” says Ariella Korn ’12. “Professor Temple provided us with wonderful insight. His past experiences working in Romania gave us a better understanding of the region and a sense of intimacy with our surroundings.”
Students maintained journals and are completing final projects (a digital story, a ‘zine, a PowerPoint presentation, or an illustrated lecture) and a blog on Blackboard.