Learning about the EU from the inside: Interviews with EU trainees #1

Barbara Zak

With the aim of getting more knowledge about the functioning of the European Union (EU), I have conducted several interviews with EU interns who agreed to share their experience about their traineeship in different EU institutions. This article is the first one of a series. I would like to thank all EU trainees for their participation and their time.

Here you can find more information about the traineeships offered by the EU: traineeships for students + traineeships for graduates.

Dorota – from Poland – European Parliament (EP) – trainee from the European Parliament Liaison Office in Warsaw

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© Dorota Kowalska

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I have a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in European Studies from the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland. I spent an Erasmus exchange in Nicosia in Cyprus. As of my work experience, I did a 1-month internship in the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London and a 1-month internship in the office of Jarosław Kalinowski (Polish MEP) in Brussels.

 2/ How did you apply for the internship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

I applied online: you have to fill in an application that is available on the website of the European Parliament. The traineeship is called “Schuman traineeship” (5 months). When you fill in the application, it is important to do it only once. You can’t save it and come back to it. You have to devote 1 hour to do it. Make sure that the internet is well-working.

  • You have to fill in personal data, academic background, work experience, languages among others;
  • There is no need to provide any evidence of language but don’t lie because they may call you in order to check it;
  • You have to write a short text showing your motivation (they pay the biggest attention to the motivation: why you chose the EP, how the EP will benefit from your traineeship);
  • Your CV is not required;
  • No health certificate saying that you are fit to work is necessary;
  • You have to provide a certificate of non-criminal record when you have been accepted (make sure to have it before applying because it may be difficult for you to get it, especially if you are abroad during your application!).

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship?

© Dorota Kowalska

© Dorota Kowalska

I believe that I experienced a specific EU internship in the European Parliament Liaison Office in Warsaw (Poland) as it was in Warsaw, in a rather small office with 7-8 people and 4 trainees (all Polish citizens because Polish language knowledge is required). I shared the office with a worker involved in the program entitled “European Parliament Ambassadors’ School”. This program was devoted to pupils of secondary schools. I was involved in managing this program: sharing knowledge about the EU to pupils, organising contests on EU knowledge, distributing materials to schools and students.

As I worked in the information office, we had a lot of press conferences and meetings with Polish MEPs to organise in Warsaw. I was involved in working with the Regional Discussion Forum: we were preparing events in Szczecin and in Płock in Poland. For this type of events, we created workshops for students from secondary schools about the EU institutions and held meetings with MEPs that came from this specific region.

It was challenging because I had to prepare an event in a different location, invite people, journalists to participate in a meeting with MEPs, for instance with the MEP Roża Thun.

4/ Do you have any special memory from this experience to share with us?

I liked doing this internship because it gives the opportunity to act and put your effort in the name of the EP, to not only learn about the institutions but being part of it. You work in a European/international environment; you are meeting people from other countries. I went to Strasbourg for the plenary session of the EP in December 2017 as an observer. We were around 20 trainees from the information offices from all the Member States.

My advice is: don’t be afraid to apply! It really takes a long time to get an answer but this experience can change your life, you will meet a lot wonderful people and it can shape your future career.

 ***

Barbara – from Poland –  European Commission – trainee from the DG SCIC (DG for Interpretation) in Brussels

1/ Please tell us about your academic background and your work experience.

I have a Master’s Degree in political science with journalism at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and finished Master’s studies in knowledge of culture, specialising in audiovisual culture and film analysis, at the University of Warsaw. My main professional experience though is in photography – I do fashion, event and product photography professionally since 2011. I am also experienced in graphics and journalism, and my main academic background is communication.

After graduating, I started working for Polish media, then I worked as a photographer and for the Press Office member in Congress of Women (Kongres Kobiet).  My next step was few years in the UK, where I mostly worked as a photographer and retoucher, then back in Warsaw as a journalist in the PTWP group.

2/ How did you apply for the internship? What are the steps to follow? Do you have any advice to give regarding the procedure?

It took me quite a few sessions to apply, as I always missed the deadline. Last August I was back in Poland from the UK for 3 months, unemployed, tired and desperate to improve my career path and move abroad again, then I realised that I can apply. And honestly, I didn’t believe I could be accepted, as my background was mostly related to photography and I struggled with finding any job. I filled the online application, which is very complex, you obviously need to show your academic and professional background, skills and mostly motivation. It also requires applicants to show their areas of interests, what will be later on prioritising the DG’s choices of candidates (but not always).

The next step is the document verification – whatever information was given in the application form, it needs to be confirmed with documents like diplomas, recommendation letters from workplaces or language certificates. It all has to be uploaded in electronical version.

Later on candidates are put into the Blue Book, to be reviewed by DGs. That’s when the choices are being made – if a DG is interested, an advisor calls the candidate. In my case Lieke was my advisor and I remember having a great talk during the phone call and I did very well on impression. I already knew that although it was not confirmed yet, I am high on the list in my DG. The official decision came by the end of January.

Like I mentioned, I was rather sceptical about my chances and I made it. I was very precise with filling my application and during the interview I was myself, showing my engagement and interest in getting the traineeship. I would advise to be natural, be yourself – in my case I ended up in a great Unit, which fitted my skills and interests allowing me to develop, so I guess there is a place for anyone in the Commission after all.

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© Barbara Pawlik

3/ What were your tasks, your missions during your traineeship?

I was assigned into the DG SCIC (DG for Interpretation), Unit C1 – Corporate Conference Organisers.

My main duties were complex: 1. Graphic design, 2. Photography on the events, 3. Working during the events, helping on organising and managing conferences, 4. Additional help on surveys, conference correspondents network, research.

During my traineeship I created some visual materials for my Unit, presentations on Green Events and how to prepare the event. I also created a graphic material on Sli.do tool and how to use it which was spread throughout the Commission and other DGs. I attended many conferences while taking photos and organising events.

I was also very active in projects related to trainees activities (outside of my work as a trainee). I was an official photographer of the Trainees Committee and I photographed events for trainees such as meetings with M. Barnier, M. Vestager, D. Tusk, E. Bienkowska. I was also photographing a Job Fair for trainees and Euroball, the biggest party of the traineeship and activities of subcommittees: strategic simulation in EPSC, visit in Google Digital Atelier, conference on diversity with EP members, football tournament between EP and EC trainees. I helped prepare, set up and document the Farewell Conference, during which I was also an official photographer. I was a judge and creator of a photo contest for trainees and member of a Yearbook team, creating, designing and making the biggest memory of the traineeship – printed Yearbook.  As a coordinator of the Film Subcommittee, I provided and organised weekly screenings of European movies for trainees.

I also started my photography project “Project Europeans” by taking portrait photos to show the diversity and beauty of European people.

4/ Do you have a special memory from this experience to share with us?

First of all, I was called a Unicorn in the Commission, as I am a creative artist.

My traineeship was 5 months of special memories, the best time in my life full of the most wonderful people, moments and a huge chance to discover who I am, how to continue my career path. It was a time when I developed and grew as a person and professionally, it boosted my self-esteem, confidence – it’s been amazing, especially in terms of people I’ve met.

My first and biggest great moment was shaking hands with president Macron on a conference while I was hunting for a good picture. I also met president Tusk and commissioners Vestager, Bienkowska, Navracics, Katainen, Oettinger. My traineeship highlights were: countless lunches with different trainees, fries and long talks in the park with my friend Vladiana, meeting trainees from 10 different countries on coffee and realising we all speak different languages but we love our company, watching World Cup internationally, Euroball talk with few trainees saying they all have some Polish roots, the best night to morning walk home after Euroball ending with having Portuguese tea at 7AM, spending days and nights with my best friends Vera and Dainius, watching all trainees playing one team in football game with pure joy. And most of all, meeting people, making new friends, seeing joy in their eyes to see me and missing those who left. Feeling accepted, feeling European, feeling moved on the Farewell Conference and knowing that whenever I go in Europe, I will meet friendly faces.

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Reklamy

Working in the Court of Justice of the European Union: An interview with Angela Rogner

Emil Wojtaluk

 

 

Angela Rogner (photo: Cezary Ruta)

Her mother tongue is German and she studied French and English Conference Interpreting at Charles University Graz, Austria. In 1992, she moved to Prague where she worked as a lecturer of German as a foreign language, and at the same time learned Czech. In 1999, she took successfully part in an interpreter competition at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, and in 2004 she joined their staff. Since then, she interprets at court hearings from 5 languages (French, English, Czech, Slovak, Spanish) into German. Here it is: an interview with Angela Rogner, an interpreter with the Court of Justice of the European Union.

 

 

 

 

1) You work as an interpreter in the Court of Justice of the European Union since 2004. Could you explain the process of applying for a job and the stages of recruitment for your position?

I took part in a competition. A competition is a selection process for staff of the EU institutions, handled by EPSO, the European Personnel Selection Office. At that time, every institution still had their own selection procedure. In 1999, an Austrian friend told me about a competition for interpreters at the European of Court of Justice. We decided to go, without big hopes to succeed. The Court of Justice seemed like a mysterious institution and we were sure that the exams would be difficult. They consisted of consecutive and simultaneous interpretation from three EU languages into our German mother tongue. My three languages were French, English and Spanish. My friend unfortunately failed, but I succeeded, to my big surprise. For several years I was on a reserve list for a post at the Court of Justice, and in 2003, before the major enlargement, I got an offer to become a staff interpreter in the German booth. They knew I had Czech in my language combination, and the institutions were looking for people with enlargement languages. Later, I also started interpreting from Slovak. On 31 December 2003, my family was packed up and we left for Luxembourg.

 

2) Did you study law or is this not a prior condition for becoming an interpreter with the CJEU?

I have a university diploma in Conference Interpreting from the University of Graz, Austria. My diploma thesis dealt with the terminology of international treaties, but I did not study law as such. Nevertheless, law has been part of my professional life, in some way or another, during my time as a free-lance interpreter in Austria, and as a translator for a Czech law firm in Prague. A formal law diploma is not required for CJEU interpreters, but a certain knowledge of and an interest in law are an advantage. Of course, there are posts in the EU institutions where a formal law diploma is required.

 

3) What does your work consist of on a daily basis? Do you have to prepare for specific court hearings?

The bulk of my work is preparation. Every week, I am assigned to a number of hearings in cases where German is needed. In order to interpret well at these hearings, I have to be well prepared. The interpreters have access to the case file and study the documents submitted to the Court. A case is not only about specific terminology in various languages, but mainly about a legal dispute that we should understand. What are the parties arguing about, what is the core of the issue? What arguments are put forward? Without sound preparation, we would be unable to adequately interpret a hearing. Proceedings at the CJEU can be brought in any official language. Very often, we have a manifold linguistic situation: The language of the proceedings is, say, English, but various governments of EU Member states intervene, and they will all speak their languages: Greek, German, Lithuanian, French, or Polish.

 

4) Could you explain to our readers, from your own experience, how the principle of impartiality of the judges works in practice? Did you experience anything that could be considered as „unusual” during the Court proceedings?

Sorry to disappoint you, but I never experienced a situation where the judges of the CJEU would not be impartial. People sometimes think that the Polish, the Czech, the Hungarian, the Austrian or any other judge are „loyal” towards their own countries. If this were the case and the Austrian judge would decide in favour of his home country in a case where Austria is sued by the European Commission, European law would be invalidated. The judges operate solely on the basis of European law and interpret it in the light of the given case. Anything else would undermine the very principle of EU jurisdiction.

 

5) What is your position on the current EU proceedings against the Polish government concerning the rule of law and Poland’s judiciary? Is that a discussed issue among the staff of CJEU?

As an interpreter, I have to be impartial. This does not mean that I do not have my own opinion on various matters, but when I work, it must not shine through. My job is to faithfully and convincingly render the arguments of the speaker in the target language, whatever the speaker’s position is. I will not be assigned to the hearing in the case you mentioned, since it will probably be dealt with in Polish and Polish is not yet one of my working languages. Maybe I will have to disappoint you again, but I am not familiar with the precise pleas in law brought against Poland by the Commission. Of course, the events that have taken place in Poland are discussed in the European press and by people interested in the developments in Poland, but there is no special discussion at the CJEU. I believe that judicial independence and the irremovability of judges are very important for the rule of law.

 

6) Finally, what would you advise to students and graduates who aim to work in the EU institutions?

Get a university diploma in the field you are interested in, go abroad, learn languages, apply for an internship with the EU institutions. Check the websites of the institutions where sometimes temporary posts are offered. Take part in an EPSO competition. Don’t give up if it does not work the first time. Try again. Don’t lose your enthusiasm! We need young people who believe in the EU, you are Europe’s future. Additional remark for young interpreters: The CJEU offers also interpreting internships, check out the website www.curia.europa.eu. Good luck!

 

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#EYE2018 : Participating in the European Youth Event

Barbara Zak

On the 1st and 2nd of June 2018, the third edition of the European Youth Event (EYE2018) occurred in the Strasbourg’s seat of the European Parliament (EP). Around 8,000 young Europeans came to the event to discuss ideas for a better European Union (EU), to meet MEPs and to develop their knowledge about the functioning of this institution, but above all to meet other young people from all over the EU and their ambitions, passions and projects. I participated in this year’s edition in order to have my own personal experience of this event.

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

The core of the event consisted in the activities that each of the participants chooses to take part in. As for me, the most impressive activity was the discussion with Antonio Tajani in the hemicycle where participants could directly ask the current President of the European Parliament questions about already selected topics. It utterly felt as if we were in the shoes of the MEPs. Other activities that I joined were the fictional trial of the EU that was accused of having a democratic deficit (roles of the participants were divided between judges, prosecution, defence and jury), organised by the Paris-based think tank Argo ; a political rap battle between London-based rappers that represented the socialist, liberal, green and conservative parties of the EP ; and a conference about the Brexit negotiations and their impact.

 

 

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Workshop „Europe on Trial ! Who’s to blame for the break-up?”. Credits : Argo think tank

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Photo: Barbara Zak

It could be felt from this event that young European citizens are very much attached to the EU as they believe it helps them in various fields such as studying abroad (with the programme Erasmus+), in their search for a job or with the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital.

The major focus of this edition was the 2019 European Parliament elections, meaning that the EU encouraged the participants to vote at these elections. The EYE2018 seems to be a very good initiative to promote and thus increase the turnout of young European citizens at these elections as they are more inclined to spread the word about it to their fellow young European citizens.

 

 

 

Below you can find some impressions written by other participants of the EYE2018.

Zoé from Copenhagen

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Photo: Anaïs Cathala

During the EYE, I experienced a concentration of passionate and driven people, creating an inspiring atmosphere for me to extend my personal limits. Talking in front of a large audience in the hemicycle, a fraction of the European youth, was an experience that I will not forget. Overall, the EYE inspired me to further become active in youth groups and involve myself in activities that aim at strengthening the influence of the European youth.

 

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Photo : Maria Joanico

 

 

Maria from Lisbon

The EYE was my first direct contact with the European Union. It had a vibrant atmosphere and the activities I participated in were very insightful – not only for understanding European youth’s ideas and thoughts nowadays, but also to understand EU problems and its benefits as well. It was a good and rewarding experience to participate in helping to build a better future for all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Felix from Kufstein

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Photo : Felix Buchauer

Many consider the European Union to have alienated with its people due to a lack of communication. The EYE offers a possibility for younger people to overcome this feeling and really embrace the EU. Lots and lots of discussions, presentations and talks allow not only to gain a lot of information about the EU, but also to get into contact with a lot people also involved in the topic. Overall it really is a great chance to broaden one’s horizon and to understand that the EU is not just a complicated superstructure, but our present and our future, we can shape it, we just have to get involved!

 

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Photo : Victoria Chatelier

Victoria from Nantes

As a European citizen but also a law student, I wanted to get a new experience and thus I took part in this event. I attended a debate about the corruption perception index of 1995 (transparency.org) and how to evaluate corruption in countries which are at the end of a civil war or not. The main part of the debate was the focus on the means used to decrease corruption and protect human rights. The speakers gave us some initiatives, projects that can be set up and then we shared our ideas with them. It was very concrete.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to hear Ms Lamiya Aji Bashar and Mr Denis Mukwege who are two Sakharov prizes laureates. They shared with us a part of what they have seen, what they have lived. It was very emotional and inspiring.

(The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was established by the European Parliament in 1988 in order to honour people that consecrated their lives to the defence of human rights and the freedom of thought. Ms Lamiya Aji Bashar was awarded the prize in 2016 while Mr Denis Mukwege was awarded the prize in 2014.)

Eventually I was present at a debate about environment. I noted that young European people showed a particular interest in this issue since there was a very strong debate and the big lecture hall was overcrowded.

I have several impressions about this event that I would not have expected :

First of all, the participants’ age – they were teenagers who came with their teacher. Yet were very much involved. It depicted a positive image of the youth, very far from the cliché that we sometimes hear sometime about young people and their disinterest in what’s happening in the world in general.

Secondly, this event allowed us to share our ideas at the end of each discussion sessions. The first step to be heard was achieved, which means that if you want to do more for the European Union, you really can.

Thirdly, it was an event that was based a lot on culture. There were theatrical and dance performances, and also music bands from different European countries playing on open spaces in or outside the parliament, for instance the Yo!Fest. It was a very much appreciated surprise.

To conclude, this event was a real source of motivation and inspiration in getting more involved in what I believe.  I will finish with this little sentence which was on my mind at the end of these two days : « Be audacious, you can do something even if you’re young. »

*

 

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

In addition, our group also visited the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg where we met with a legal expert who explained us the functioning of the Court.

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Photo: Barbara Zak

Last but not least, the city of Strasbourg is truly lovely with its timber framing houses, the river Ill in la Petite France historic quarter, and not to forget the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Strasbourg!

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak

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Photo: Barbara Zak
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Photo: Barbara Zak

The official site of the EYE2018 :

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/european-youth-event/en/home.html

EYE on Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/ep_eye/

Here you can find the coverage of the EYE2016 by fellow writers of the EUROpens blog :

https://europensblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/european-youth-event-2016-1/

https://europensblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/european-youth-event-2016-2/

 

 

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Irish people vote for the legalisation of abortion

Barbara Zak

On the 25th of May 2018, a referendum was held in Ireland concerning the legal authorisation of abortion in the country. Irish citizens voted in favour of maintaining or repealing of the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, that is to say to allow or not the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas) to enact laws regarding the termination of pregnancy.

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Copyright : Niall Carson/PA

The Eighth Amendment was introduced into the Irish Constitution following the 1983 referendum. It prohibits abortion in almost all cases as both the mother and the unborn child have a right to live. It officially made abortion illegal.

The Yes won over the No regarding the legalisation of abortion with 66.40% vs 33.60% of the votes. Nearly in every parliamentary constituencies, the Repeal of the amendment vote was predominant, except for the Donegal constituency. Thus, the Thirty-Sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018, which is the legal name of the amendment to the constitution, will abrogate the article 40.3.3° of the Irish Constitution that prohibited abortion. Health Minister Simon Harris said that Irish people could expect the abortion legislation to pass by the autumn.

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Photo by Blue-Haired Lawyer.

Most political parties endorsed a Yes campaign, such as the Labour Party, the Green Party or Sinn Féin. However, it was mostly the issue regarding Savita Halappanavar’s death after being denied an abortion during a miscarriage that affected people and stirred the controversy surrounding the strictness over possibilities to abort. We should note that the turnout was high with 64.13% of the registered voters that came to the polling stations. During the campaign, the focus was not only on the easing of the restrictive regime that already existed (e.g. the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013)) but to permit women to have the choice over abortion or not (up to twelve weeks of pregnancy). The international press welcomed the outcome of the referendum, even claiming that “liberty won in Ireland” (El País). On the other hand, anti-repeal partisans highlighted that every unborn child has a right to live and that abortion simply means killing a defenseless child who is not granted any choice over his own life.

In Europe, abortion is utterly illegal in Malta. It is legal in Northern Ireland and Poland when the life of the mother is in danger, when she faces health issues, in case of rape or if the foetus is defective. In the United Kingdom, Iceland and Finland, abortion is allowed just like in the case of Northern Ireland and Poland with the addition of socioeconomic factors.

 

 

 

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Sources :

„An Bille um an Séú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht, 2018
Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018” (no. 29 of 2018, PDF) : https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2018/29/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/25/irish-abortion-referendum-explained-what-you-need-to-know

http://www.thejournal.ie/repeal-yes-4034251-May2018/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/how-the-yes-and-no-sides-won-and-lost-the-abortion-referendum-1.3509924

http://www.thejournal.ie/world-reaction-4037769-May2018/

http://www.thejournal.ie/simon-harris-abortion-2-4039539-May2018/

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/25/europe/ireland-abortion-referendum-intl/index.html

What you need to know about Ireland’s bitterly-debated abortion vote

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/abortion-referendum/abortion-facts

http://www.euronews.com/2018/01/30/which-european-countries-have-the-strictest-abortion-rules-

https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/05/25/opinion/1527275725_504618.html

https://www.corriere.it/esteri/18_maggio_27/a-dublino-si-volta-paginaanche-tanti-erroridi-chiesa-sempre-venerata-7ce23972-611d-11e8-9f1c-2fb6ab417c7d.shtml?refresh_ce-cp

 

45th edition of the Summer School of Polish Language and Culture at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

Emil Wojtaluk


First of all welcome back after a long break! It’s been a long time since the last post was published on our blog. Finally we are back with something fresh and we hope you will enjoy it! The first entry after the break is about an unusual program organized by the School of Polish Language and Culture of the John Paull II Catholic University of Lublin. The School was established in 1974 making it one of the oldest institutions in Poland of such kind. Its students can receive American or European credits for taking the courses. The School of Polish Language and Culture KUL participates in the national system of granting certificates of Polish as a foreign language. Here we present a concise information on the Summer School program carried out by the School.


The Summer School of Polish Language and Culture runs each year in July and August since 1974

45th edition is coming this year!

 

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Copyright: The School of Polish Language and Culture KUL (fot. Cezary Ruta)


Tailor-made programs

 

Our program distinguishes itself from others by allowing our students to design their own programs, they are always adjusted to the needs of our participants. We always try to be flexible!
The uniqueness of our Summer School can be described
in a few simple points:

  • First of all our participants have a choice of courses lasting from 2 to 8 weeks that is the only program in Poland allowing for such a wide range of learning opportunities.
  • As mentioned above there is an option for modifying the program to your individual needs, e.g. if you require more individual consultations you can request more of them, at the same time resigning from lectures or taking more classes than envisaged in the original program under additional arrangements. Also if you are interested in specific vocabulary we can always try to adjust that to your own needs.
  • We offer one of a kind levels of intensity!
  • Semi-intensive – with 4 hours* a day + a lecture
  • Intensive – with 6 hours a day + a lecture
  • Highly-intensive – the same as in an intensive course but with additional four hours a week of individual consultations.


Apart from rich and intensive language courses the cultural component of the Summer School is carried out by providing lectures on Polish culture, history, literature, music, or contemporary issues. The lectures are delivered in Polish and English.

 

Explore our country!

 

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Copyright: The School of Polish Language and Culture KUL (fot. Cezary Ruta)

The Summer School of Polish Language and Culture is not only about studying! To give you a relief after hard working days spent on learning one of the most difficult languages in the world we prepared rich cultural and social activities. This includes:

  • one-day trips to picturesque places in the Lublin region where students are given a unique opportunity to see some of the masterpieces of Polish art and architecture;
  • sightseeing of Warsaw, the capital of Poland;
  • trips to interesting places along Poland’s eastern frontier;
  • all of these activities are included in the course fee!

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    Copyright: The School of Polish Language and Culture KUL (fot. Cezary Ruta)

 

Prices and application procedure

The prices of our courses ranges from 600 EUR to 3000 EUR depending on your individual choice (2,3,4,5,6,7, or 8 weeks starting at the beginning or the end of July). The longer the course the lower the price per hour of lesson. The fee includes board and accommodation, course books and the necessary teaching materials as well as plays, concerts and the trips.
More information on specific dates and prices are available on our website (click here to redirect).
Attention! You can negotiate your price, contact us for more details!


The online application form is available HERE

The deadline for applications is May 30 each year!

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Copyright: The School of Polish Language and Culture KUL (fot. Cezary Ruta)

Feel free to ask in case of any questions!
You can drop us an e-mail at:
polski[at]kul.pl

Facebook:
School of Polish Language and Culture KUL

“The world does not end only at what we see”: an interview with Prof. Bogusław Marek

Maria Moroniak
Emil Wojtaluk

Winters in Humla (Nepal) tend to be very cold (© Prof. Bogusław Marek)

In our unusual interview we would like to introduce our readers and followers to a very extraordinary person – Professor Bogusław Marek, OBE. Professor Marek is the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Disabled Students, the founder of Center for Adaptation of Teaching Materials for the Blind and the inventor of  ‘English for the blind’ program.

For Professor his work of more than twenty years is both a mission and a passion. He has invented numerous educational toys which are used by him on daily basis as tools to explain difficult concepts based on visual experience. In 2002 he was honored with The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen Elisabeth II for his devotion to his educational effort.

We hope the following interview is going to encourage you to get yourselves familiar with the Professor Marek’s activity and maybe even support his initiatives.

Emil Wojtaluk: You are the father of ‘English for the blind’ program and the founder of the Center for Adaptation of Teaching Materials for the blind at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. Could you please outline the Center’s activity?

Real objects and models support computer based English language lessons with blind children at KUL (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: Due to the fact that the blind are recognized as a group with so called special educational needs, our activity is all about helping them with functioning like they weren’t blind. For instance, when someone sighted needs a book – he goes to the library, borrows a book and reads it. This is impossible for a blind student unless there is a copy of the book in a Braille or digital format. The blind students remain disabled persons but we try to take their disability away. Sometimes, at meetings and conferences, I surprise people saying that here at the University our policy is not to have any disabled students. I can always hear a murmur of outrage: “how come, at KUL”? All I mean is every disabled person is welcome here, but we do our best to make sure that they can function as regular students. If a student in a wheelchair is able to use a lift to get to the classroom – he is not a disabled student anymore. This also applies to blind students – if they have their books and tests adapted for them, they are no longer disabled students. This is what the Center’s activity is about and I have to say we have a lot of work. As of today, there are 15 blind students enrolled at the University. Let’s say each of them attends 8 classes and there are 10 books needed to be read to prepare for them – it makes 80 books for one person. This is a tremendous amount of work. Last year our Center transformed 70K pages of regular text into Braille or digital format. Plus texts written in Braille take approximately 3 – 4 times more space than the regular font. Our students are equipped with personal digital appliances, Braille notebooks with a small screen. Our specialty is also converting graphics: graphs, diagrams, charts or maps. We are ready to prepare boards and plans in a tactile version.

Maria Moroniak: Do you remember the specific moment in the past when the project was born? Was there any milestone, which you remember as a propulsion of the initiative? Or was it all about arduous, day-by-day work?

Bethany Centre for blind children in Meghalaya, India (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: I think I need to mention a couple of milestones here. First of all – you two are probably too young to understand that – a middle-age crisis. When you are a guy in your forties, you have made your PhD and your habilitation, thoughts like “can I achieve anything more at this university?” cross your mind. I have always been afraid of a vision that I could end up like someone I met years ago during my studies at the University of Warsaw. The gentleman I am talking about was apparently tired with his life and his students and all he was doing was reading out loud boring lectures from yellowed pages of his notes. I didn’t want this kind of academic death to happen to me. I needed a shot in the arm. I wasn’t frustrated yet. I just could have felt I needed more. Then it happened that I was staying in London with my students and once noticed a poster of a charity working for the blind. There was a girl holding a model of Tower Bridge in her hands and the sentence “Amy will never see the sights of London” written below. It made me think: “hold on… if Amy has been blind since she was born, she’s got to have very good hearing, memory and concentration. And these skills are extremely useful in interpreting or teaching languages. The only thing Amy may be missing is a foreign language”. And then I thought I could offer English to the blind kids in Poland. So said, so done. I visited this foundation the same day and two weeks later I was a tutor on a camp for blind kids. This was supposed to let me know if I could handle this kind of work.After coming back to Poland I went to Laski (a special school for blind children). I would teach English to kids and kids would teach me about being a blind person. After two years of working in Laski I got a scholarship and went to England to do a specialist course in visual impairment. It was before Poland’s accession to the European Union but they already had some preparatory programs for the members-to-be and I was one of the first beneficiaries of the “Tempus” program, which let me complete my visual impairment studies at the University College London. After coming back to Poland I found out that my new British qualifications were not valid in Poland but it didn’t put me off. I started a “pirate” unit here at KUL, thanks to a green light from the authorities of the University. And this was when, in 1995 the Unit of Typhlodidactics of English was established which later included Alternative Comuniation. We started with training teachers, later on first blind students appeared, so did the need of preparing materials for them. In the beginning it was more like outwork – we only had a tiny Braille printer. And then we got invited to participate in a program “Per linguas mundi ad laborem” co-organized by the University of Warsaw and the Maria Grzegorzewska University (Academy of Special Needs Education). The project was planned on a large scale, including creating centers for adaptation of materials at KUL and the University of Warsaw (UW). We split the roles up – Warsaw focused on converting regular text into Braille format and we, due to my personal experience, focused on graphics, obtaining new, very expensive devices for creating high-class, long lasting tactile graphics. That project was my second milestone.

Group photo on the last day of a tactile graphics workshop in Apia, Samoa (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

I think I need to mention the third one too. It happened during my studies in England, which were supposed to last two years, though I completed them within one year since I didn’t have other responsibilities. I was asked to give a speech during the inauguration of the academic year. Back in that time KUL was known as the only independent university from Western Berlin to Tokyo, so every embassy sent a high-ranking representative, even ambassadors themselves, in a gesture of support. I was given an opportunity to speak in front of such a noble audience, so I had been working on my twenty-minute speech for three months. I was honored with applause, but the most glamorizing part was talking to all these guests in person. There was a line of ambassadors asking me how they could support my initiative. Thanks to that morning we got equipment sponsored by the Canadian Embassy and I could go on a very important course of tactile graphics organized in Australia and funded by the British Embassy. Thankfully I was quick enough to react by saying “Your Excellency, the course is useless unless I have funds to buy the equipment for producing tactile graphics” – so we got money to buy that too. When it comes to embassies, there was also another interesting situation. Once I was parking my Polish car in a London street and saw two couples with their children walking by. When they saw the number plates they approached me and started a conversation, talking about my work with blind kids. Soon they turned out to be members of the Polish Embassy willing to donate some spare money to charity. The next day I visited the Consulate in London and left it with a cheque for 26K pounds. The money was spent on equipment which was soon sent from England to our Center in Poland. There was also the fourth milestone – thanks to a project “Równy Start” – “Equal Chance” we got enough money to buy more devices for students with various disabilities.

Emil Wojtaluk: You have traveled a lot to work in so many different places. Have you noticed any differences in conceptions of helping the blind? Do you think there is an awareness gap between Poland and other countries?

Reasearchers from India Institute of Technology are getting acquainted with new technologies for producing tactile graphics (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: In the beginning of the nineties English parliament enacted very significant regulations – a kind of a manual for every institution interested in helping the blind. Thanks to these guidelines everyone knows what one is supposed to be doing – for example a school headmaster knows what his duties are and what source of funding he can use. They leave no space for latitude of interpretation, there are no situations when people keep saying that would be good to do this or that, but no one knows where and how to start and in the end no one feel responsible. I would say that their system works better. But there are inequalities too. Some parents of blind children decide to sell their house and move to another, richer county, where they can get better support from the government.  When it comes to attitude of a society to a blind person, I have never experienced hostility, even in such exotic countries as Nepal or India where being blind is often associated with being punished for sins. I have also seen exaggeration – in the United Arab Emirates local kids get top world-class support, for instance, once I met a boy who didn’t even know how to use his electronic devices. I suppose that was because his father would buy him every latest appliance available on the market so his son never took time to get familiar with using it in a proper way. So in fact the boy had all this equipment stored without the knowledge of how to use it. On the other hand, the vast majority of blind kids living in the UAE are the kids of immigrants working there and they receive no support from the government, they can only count on international organizations.

Maria Moroniak: Your program dedicated for the blind makes entering the job market much easier for them. Do you know what happens to your students after they graduate, do you often hear from them?

Teachers from the North of India are learning about innovative educational resources for blind learners (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: We don’t run any records, but maybe we should. We keep in touch mostly because we are on friendly terms. Almost every graduate gets a job after completing the studies – sometimes they teach English or earn some extra money offering private lessons. Due to their strong interest in electronics, they also work as other blind people’s consultants helping them to learn how to work with devices for the blind. There is an interpreter. And there is also a person who undertook English studies to learn the language so she can start her dream studies – Psychology. She became a clinical psychologist and even has been awarded by the British National Health Service for her work. One of our students, owner of a deep, warm voice unfortunately doesn’t work for any radio station, but works successfully at the telephone customer service. Professional path chosen by our students depends on their determination. There are also passive people for whom enrolling on a course is enough or people who choose to study just to be entitled to get a certain type of help.

Emil Wojtaluk: I’d like to refer to the previous question. As far as you are concerned, how important on the labor market for the blind is their education? How many of them work in their educated profession?

Kick-sled – winter sport accessible to both sighted and blind persons (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: Unfortunately, it does not look good. According to the data presented by the Polish Association of the Blind, only 10 – 15 % of the blind work and the situation isn’t any better in other countries. We should encourage employers to employ the blind showing them how they can benefit. Unfortunately there are misuses because of concessions the blind bring to companies, so some entrepreneur give a blind person a job just to make him or her a ghost-worker with a benefit for the company. The blind’s ability to fit in the labor market isn’t just based on their education but also on their attitude and interpersonal skills. Let me give a fantastic example by quoting our current English Studies student. When one day at the class she noticed that someone didn’t want to learn how a tactile map works, she asked her friend: “How do you want to know how to reach your destinations then? Every time you ride a trolleybus  you are just going to count the shakes it gives you and then you’d know that you’re supposed to get off?!”. One day she came to our office asking if she could print something. It turned out she had made stickers to put on a windscreen warning drivers that if they keep parking their cars in wrong places, they will have their cars scratched by a blind person’s white canes. This girl is cheerful, always smiling, sociable. But there are also grumpy students for whom being a blind person seems to be an eternal excuse for anything. These people are going to have issues with finding a job no matter how educated they are. From the start they arose aversion or pity and that leads them nowhere.

Maria Moroniak: Has any of your students ever joined your initiative working along with you?

Professor Bogusław Marek: Of course! We had a wonderful PhD student who has temporarily moved to the US. She used to encourage and motivate our students, organize courses, theme meetings, trips, body language workshops. Each one of our graduates knows how to work with blind kids and if someone chooses to work with them he or she is definitely well prepared for that. Some of our students organize workshops in their communities.

Maria Moroniak: so your idea is being continued.

Professor Marek: If someone tries this kind of work once and it turns out well, one definitely gets hooked, there is no turning back. Once some lady teacher told me “Oh, I admire you, I am so soft at heart that I couldn’t be working with blind children.” I responded jokingly “My heart is a stone, so I can work with them with ease.”. It’s not about pity, you need a reasonable attitude. One needs to contain emotions.

This eight-year-old boy (looking four) turned out to be a very bright student (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Maria Moroniak: so is the job mentally overwhelming?

Professor Bogusław Marek: I would say this job is invigorating. It takes creativity to face the challenges and figure things out fast. I say challenges, not problems, because problems bring you down and challenges cheer you up. I constantly feel a need to create something new and I believe that’s the reason I am still in a good shape. It happens that I have to do the homework. One day a blind boy told me that that day he had learned a new English word: transparent. I was wondering how I could explain this word to him… Later on I was working on figuring it out at home. And the best moment was when next time we met he left the class and told his mom “Mom, I already know what this word means”.

Emil Wojtaluk: The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – the supreme honour available for a non-British. Could you tell us the story behind it?

Authors of the interview: Maria Moroniak (left) and Emil Wojtaluk (right) with Professor Bogusław Marek (© EUROpens BLOG).

Professor Bogusław Marek: First I have to mention again that KUL was very important institution on the world stage back in that time. A lot of embassy officers, even ambassadors, were sent here to learn Polish language. And there is a tradition that when an ambassador takes his position in a country he is sent to, he takes a trip around the country to explore it. One of them came to Lublin to recollect his Polish language course at our university which he had attended years before. He also visited our workshop and he liked it. After a while I got a call from some high officer who invited me for a lunch here, in Lublin. During the lunch with the Diplomatic Secretary of the British Embassy I was asked a lot of questions about our program “English for the Blind”: about its beginnings and about its future. And that was it. After a while I got another phone call from the British Embassy. That time I was asked “If the Queen wanted to honor you with a medal, would you accept it?”. I can remember that I was in a rush because I had to go to a lecture, so I responded playfully “How could I say no to Her Royal Highness?” I hung up thinking “Medal? What medal?”.

The Order of the British Empire received by Professor Marek (© EUROpens BLOG).

In a couple of weeks I received another message – that the Queen awarded me with the Order of the British Empire. I was asked to send in a list of guests I wanted to invite for the ceremony of decoration. I could choose between the British Embassy in Warsaw or Lublin City Hall, since there was a British Week scheduled then and all of the Embassy workers were going to come here anyway. I really wanted to invite my blind pupils – after all I was awarded thanks to them and, most of all, for them. The ceremony was held in Lublin City Hall. An officer of the army was holding my medal resting on a cushion. All of then-rectors of our University arrived, there were speeches, a bugle call, congratulations, a grandiose ceremony. I remember someone told me “You got an extremely important medal, use it wisely”. But I can also remember that there was hardly any information in the Polish media. Only a  line and a half in the local newspaper. I am not saying I felt sorry, but later on when David Beckham got the Order I could see a huge difference – everyone was talking and writing about that everywhere! I have O.B.E. written on my business card and people sometimes ask me which Christian monastery’s acronym is this? In Anglo-Saxon countries such as England, New Zealand, Australia or Canada this status is really recognizable. This doesn’t mean they prepare a red carpet every time I arrive, although I have to admit it helped me a lot when it comes to contacts with western organizations. And also every year the British Embassy invites me for the Queen’s birthday party.

Maria Moroniak: What are the Center’s plans for future? Are you going to take up any major initiatives worth exposing?

Lessons a HEAD Nepal are organized in a multi-purpose room (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Professor Bogusław Marek: Of course, some huge ones! I have already mentioned the project “Równy start” within which we are going to arrange a Center for Motivating the Disabled – I called it “KUL CAN”. Our team will be wearing T-shirts with the slogan “KUL CAN = You Can!” printed on them. We want to expand our activity and serve other universities and schools with our skills and well-equipped workshop, which is the best equipped one in Poland, even better that the one at the Maria Grzegorzewska (University Academy of Special Needs Education) in Warsaw . We also have signed a contract with Fund for the Blind of Laski to support their charges in starting studies, not only at KUL, but wherever they wish. We want to help them out with enrolling at their dream studies. I hope one day we could create a typhlodidactics unit at the University. We already have surdopedagogy (pedagogy of the deaf).

Maria Moroniak: You have wide experience in working with the blind, how do you think, what can we learn from the blind?

Humla is known as a hidden gem of Nepal (© Prof. Bogusław Marek).

Prof. Bogusław Marek: I would say they teach us that the world does not end only at what we see. There are a lot of things hidden from our sight. We take shortcuts too often. We take a gaze at something and assume that we already know everything about the case. We firmly rely on our sight and that makes us unable to notice how this world manifests itself in so complex way. Let me give you an example of how a blind person describes rain. Once I met a man who told me that he feels very lonely when the weather is fine. He compared himself to a man drawn in the middle of a plain sheet of paper. And when it starts to rain, the sheet starts to fill up with other objects, because he can finally hear the objects he is surrounded by thanks to raindrops pattering on surface. He can hear a roof, a path, a dog leap stairway, the bushes – notice the tree-dimensionality of the world. I think that a contact with the blind sensitizes us to the world, makes us feel we can live more, absorb impressions we are surrounded by using other senses, not only our sight. The world does not end at what we can see.

If you think you can offer any kind of support to Professor Marek’s initiative, feel free to contact with the Center for Adaptation of Teaching Materials:

centrum.niewidomi[at]kul.pl

phone numbers:

+48 81 445 4331 – the Center’s workshop

+48 81 445 4332 – the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Disabled Students, Professor Bogusław Marek

„The future of the EU in the face of Brexit, migration crisis and the hostile policy of Russia” presentation by Jerzy Buzek

Barbara Zak

On the 20th of March 2017, the conference entitled „Students’ Business Forum” was held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, with one of the most remarkable figures of both Polish and European political sphere : Jerzy Buzek, former Polish Prime Minister and former President of the European Parliament, addressed the audience about issues that may endanger the future of the European Union (EU) : Brexit, the migration crisis and the aggressive foreign policy of Russia.

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The current MEP started his speech by briefly reminding us the history of the EU from the European Coal and Steel Community. He then highlighted the present crises the EU is facing and struggling to overcome. In his opinion, the EU is taking a new direction for its future, which does not suppose „European integration”. People have a bigger faith in the national identity rather than the European identity, which illustrates a new psychological situation of voters that may have negative effects on the future of the organisation. He stressed out the fact that our European civilization is gradually weakening. Concerning the three crises, he declared that for Brexit, there will be no win-win results – both parties will suffer from this divorce. It is necessary to somehow strengthen the relations between the USA and the EU, which is a signifcant partner if talking about NATO, as the UK was an important contributor to the good maintaining of these relations. As for the migrant crisis, he recalled Pope Francis’ speech about our role in welcoming migrants and refugees, underlining the Christian roots of the EU. He also reminded that Russia’s foreign policy is becoming more and more aggressive, but that is because of its ruler rather than its society. Jerzy Buzek then described some possible scenarii regarding the future of the EU : the first one would be not to change anything about it, which is dangerous. Another scenario would be a Europe of different velocity : States are not walking together towards the same goal but individually – they choose what policies they want. The last scenario is the federation of the EU but it is a project for future decades. The former President of the European Parliament finished his speech by quoting „unity in diversity”, a watchword that is currently at risk.

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Photo : Barbara Zak

Prof. Jerzy Buzek (born in Śmiłowice (actual Czech Republic) on the 3rd of July 1940) is an eminent Polish politician and fervent pro-EU MEP. His main position in the Polish political sphere was Prime Minister of Poland (Prezes Rady Ministrów) from 1997 to 2001, under the presidency of Aleksander Kwaśniewski. He was the leader of the political party Solidarity Electoral Action (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarność) which was dissolved in 2004. Nowadays he is a member of the Civic Platform party (Platforma Obywatelska). At the European level, he is a member of the European Parliament since 2004, affiliated to the European People’s Party. He was elected President of the European Parliament for the period 2009-2012. He is to this day the only President of the European Parliament from the Eastern Bloc of the EU. He is currently the chair of the European Parliament Industry, Research and Energy Committee since 2014, following his election. He is also a professor of technical science since 1997.

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From left to right : Barbara Zak, Prof. Jerzy Buzek, Dorota Kowalska Photo : Barbara Zak

Follow Jerzy Buzek on Facebook and Twitter

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Sources :

http://www.buzek.pl/node/5564

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/28269/JERZY_BUZEK_home.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/jul/14/european-parliament-elects-president

Conscription in the European Union

Barbara Zak

The mandatory military service may seem to be outdated since the majority of the Member States of the European Union (EU) base their military capacity on professional soldiers and volunteers, rather than conscripts. Nevertheless, with regards to the actual sensation of instability of security in Europe, it appears that having a competent army able to defend the nation may play a huge role at the international level in the long run.

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Soldiers from Sweden’s Skaraborg regiment patrol during a military manoeuvre in Visby, on the island of Gotland. Photograph: Soren Andersson/EPA

At the beginning of March 2017, the Swedish government has decided to re-activate conscription from January 1st 2018, a decision that has been backed by the country’s MPs (70% of the Parliament). This decision concerns 4,000 young men and women (because of gender neutrality) out of 13,000 young people born in 1999, who will serve for 12 months. Obviously, the voluntary recruitment to the Armed Forces is still maintained. The reason for this change given on the website of the Swedish government is that “the security environment in Europe and in Sweden’s vicinity has deteriorated and the all-volunteer recruitment hasn’t provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of the conscription is needed for military readiness”. We can understand that this choice has been made following the security change in the Baltic region and the increased military activity by Russia (war in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea). We should note that the conscription system was abolished in Sweden in 2010.

As the EU is defined as an economic free-trade area with a single market (that is to say that it is primarily an economic union), it does not have any EU army. Member States have their own army which serves in case of an attack against the nation. The national armies can be implied in national or international conflicts following the decision of the government or parliament. Laws concerning military conscription are then regulated by the national law-making bodies. Military service is mandatory in Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece and Lithuania. In the majority of cases, it is compulsory for all male adult citizens, while women have the choice of enrolling into the military service. They can choose between military or civilian service. Germany considered in 2016 to have conscription returned in case of national emergency, as provided by the constitution. Interesting fact, for instance, in 2013, Austria held a referendum which result was that Austrians, with around 60% of the voters, were in favour of retaining compulsory military service.

civilian and military.

Copyright : Matt Hinsa || Creative Commons

Austria being an original case, mandatory military service still suffers from a social lack of support. The youth clearly declares their preference of starting their careers and families, rather than spending months as a conscript. There is a risk of the acceleration of youth emigration, as it was the case in Lithuania when it reintroduce conscription. Some opinions state that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) could be considered as the best solution for the defence of European countries since its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. However, the majority of states in which military service is mandatory are not part of NATO : Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Sweden. As a result, increasing the army troops by changing the voluntary recruitment into a mandatory military service does not seem an irrational decision.

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Sources :

http://www.government.se/articles/2017/03/re-activation-of-enrolment-and-the-conscription/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/28/sweden-bring-back-conscription-2018

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/02/sweden-reintroduce-conscription-amid-rising-baltic-tensions

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39140100

http://4liberty.eu/mandatory-military-service-a-solution-for-national-defence-in-eu-member-states/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/24/lithuania-reinstate-compulsory-military-service

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/lithuania-reintroduces-compulsory-military-service-to-counter-russian-threat-53376

http://www.baltictimes.com/lithuania_publishes_2016_conscription_lists/

http://en.delfi.lt/lithuania/defence/conscription-boosted-emigration-lithuanian-pm-says.d?id=70086058

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/23/germany-considers-plan-to-bring-back-conscription/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21110431

http://www.css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/pdfs/CSS-Analysen-75-FR.pdf

http://www.leparisien.fr/espace-premium/actu/interactif-service-militaire-qui-fait-quoi-en-europe-15-02-2016-5547853.php

Towards a research career? An interview with Dr Tatiana Coutto

Barbara Zak

Dr Tatiana Coutto is an active researcher who has regularly published articles and participated in the writing of books. Her current research activities deal with the EU institutions and policy-making processes as well as public diplomacy of middle powers. She is also teaching at the University of Warwick  (Department of Economics) and at the Catholic University of Lille (Faculté Libre de Droit). For more information about Dr Tatiana Coutto,  click on the link here.

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Dr Tatiana Coutto

1 – Could you tell us about the studies, interesting internships, volunteer work you have done? At that time, did you already know about the career you wanted to pursue?

I had quite an interdisciplinary background, maybe because I was interested by many different things. I began my studies in Brazil (where I am originally from): I did Biology/Genetics during my undergraduate studies, and then I took a Business Management major. I was clearly interested by research work, but was not very sure about what exactly I wanted to do. I also thought of passing an exam to become a diplomat, but I was admitted to a Masters in International Relations in Rio de Janeiro. Then I realized I wanted to keep studying and learning for my whole life. I remember when the Berlin wall came down, when Maastricht was signed and when the Eurotunnel was opened. These events had a strong influence on me – I was really fascinated by the idea of bringing European states together and building solid peace.

My first internship was as a research assistant in a Biochemistry Laboratory, but I did not enjoy it very much. I also worked with Publicity Marketing when I was studying Business Management. During my PhD I worked as a stagiaire to the Brazilian Mission to the EU, in Brussels, and worked as a voluntary translator for a website about undocumented workers, PICUM.org.

 

2 – The profession of researcher may not be very clear to everyone. Could you explain what it consists in? How des oneself prepare a research career after completing a PhD?

I think a research career starts well before you finish your PhD. It starts with curiosity to know more about things, and a pleasure to learn new things, too. A research career involves research work (field work, interviews, cleaning databases, writing articles, presenting them at conferences, submitting it to journals, applying for fund), teaching (+ preparing courses, office hours, marking and invigilating exams – the last two are not very exciting, I must say). Research funds are becoming more scarce, and the career is now very competitive. My advice is to try to work as an assistant since your undergraduate studies, and to get experience from internships as well. During your PhD do engage in teaching activities, and try to publish at least one good article. Again, working as an RA (research assistant) is an excellent option – you get research experience, and it will help you with contacts and reference letters in the future. If possible, spend one semester in another country to gain international experience. Do not wait to finish your PhD to start academic career – it does not work this way. Oh yes, make sure you finish your PhD with at least a basic knowledge of statistics (even Law scholars need that!).

 

3 – You regularly publish articles and participate in the writing of books. Do you have any favourite piece of work and/or a subject of preference?

I am now working on a project about British media and public attitudes towards the EU. The project is financed by the European Social Research Council (ESRC). I do not have articles on the topic yet, but we have a final conference coming up on 19 January in London. If you can make it to London feel free to register at ukandeu.ac.uk („events” page). Please spread the word!

So far most of my published articles are about Brazilian foreign and nuclear policy (published in the International History Review), biological weapons (in the Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals) and about the EU as an environmental actor. I published varied articles because I was involved in different projects – most scholars focus on one or two research domains only.

4 – How is the profession of researcher related to the profession of teacher?

They could not be more interrelated. It is important that teachers engage in research so they can remain updated about recent developments in their field (this is valid for any area of knowledge). I have the chance (whenever possible) to talk about my projects to my students, so the lecture becomes more engaging. Sometimes I also discuss articles I am working on with the students, so I can get a fresh view on my work. There is a tendency to undervalue teaching activities, but I think this is a mistake. Teaching is extremely important, even though it is a very tiring activity (of course you don’t realize that when you are a student – I didn’t use to!). You also have the opportunity to advise dissertations and thesis, which lies between teaching and research. I personally enjoy teaching a lot, but this is not a general rule in academia.

 

5 – What would you advise to students who aspire to pursue an academic career?

Do more than what the teachers and the programme require. Focus (easier said than done), get publications out before you finish the PhD. Everybody will face some difficult moment at a certain point of the career – you are not the only one. Limit the time you spend on facebook, snapchat, WhatsApp (they can be very disruptive). Stay informed (don’t rely only on newsfeed), and do not be afraid of feedback – feedback may not always be nice to hear, but your work improves a great deal.

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview and for your time.

 

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EU Careers Student Ambassador

Agnieszka Szeszel

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Photo: EPSO

EU Careers Students Ambassadors from 28 Member States at the training in Brussels (Photo: EPSO).

Do you want to face many challenges in a dynamic environment and make a difference for Europe? The European Union institutions are waiting for people who are ready to start their career at the international level!

For the academic year 2016/2017 I was chosen to represent the European Personnel Selection Office in Lublin as an European Union Careers Student Ambassador in the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.

During the first few months of carrying this office, I accomplished quite a bit in spreading the knowledge of applying for the posts and traineeships in the EU. I had an amazing opportunity to speak with people of different ages, interests, fields of education and countries.

 

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Taking part in the career fairs

What do I do as an Ambassador? To begin with, I made a presentation for my fellow students on one of the classes at my University, I organized a meeting with the Career Bureau of the other university in Lublin – UMCS, I participated in the career fairs at the Catholic University of Lublin organized by their Career Bureau and also took a part in a special meeting for the people who wanted to know more about working in the EU. But above all and most importantly I answered many questions of people who met with me directly or contacted me by e-mail, about the path that needs to be taken to start working in the European Union institutions.

But it is just the beginning. I have many ideas and plans for the future, so if you are interested in gaining more knowledge about posts and traineeships in the EU contact me and be welcomed at the next EU Careers meetings in Lublin.

Presenting how to apply for a job in the EU

Presenting how to apply for a job in the EU

Read more about student ambassador programme here:

http://europa.eu/epso/ambassadors/students/index_en.htm

Visit EPSO web page to find more about your opportunities of working in the EU:
http://europa.eu/epso/index_en.htm

Contact me for the further information or scheduling a meeting with me:
eucareers.kul@gmail.com

Like our EU Careers Lublin facebook page and be always informed of what’s happening 🙂
https://www.facebook.com/EU-Careers-Lublin-166508530355346/