“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 the voters that may have negative effects on the future of the organisation. He stressed 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 – and there is a need 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 the 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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Prof. Jerzy Buzek (born in Śmiłowice (actual Czech Republic) on the 3rd of July 1940) is an eminent Polish politician and fervent pro-EU European deputy. 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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Barbara Zak and Dorota Kowalska with Prof. Jerzy Buzek

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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

EU Careers Student Ambassador – December

Natalia Wysocka

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Hi! My name is Natalia Wysocka and I have been chosen to take up the role of European Union Careers Student Ambassador, the very first one in the whole history of Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. At the beginning of academic year 2015/2016, along with students from European Studies Students’ Scientific Association. I embarked on promotion of EU institutions, internships and job opportunities. This column will be dedicated to my Ambassador’s activity. Once in a moth I will present my „diary” so you can see closer how is it to work for the EU. I am extremely enthusiastic about our further cooperation, and you?

So, in December…

9th of December

 chełmAnother great meeting with students of high school in Chełm, Poland. I ran double classes with extremely intelligent and curious youth. Some of the students even took part in national competition dedicated to the matters of European Union! I really liked what one boy said at the end: working for European Union must be a dream job. Well, indeed 😉

16th of December

16.12.2015That day I had the very last presentation in this year (2015). The meeting was provided for students of European Studies at The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. I found this session to be especially important as I had an opportunity to talk to people who, most probably, will be taking jobs connected with various aspects of European Union.

We had some technical issues but managed to discuss the most important topics anyway. It couldn’t be better!

 

Gentle reminder: You can apply for 5-months INTERNSHIP in European Commission.

Deadline: 29.01.2016

Face a bigger challenge!

If you wish to be even more up-to-date with current Lublin issues, please follow this Facebook profile:

http://on.fb.me/1lJrSqU

In case of any questions, feel free to contact me:

Natalia Wysocka

John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

eucareers.kul@gmail.com

EU Careers Student Ambassador – November

Natalia Wysocka

logo

Hi! My name is Natalia Wysocka and I have been chosen to take up the role of European Union Careers Student Ambassador, the very first one in the whole history of Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. At the begining of academic year 2015/2016, along with students from European Studies Students’ Scientific Association. I embarked on promotion of EU institutions, internships and job opportunities. This column will be dedicated to my Ambassador’s activity. Once in a moth I will present my „diary” so you can see closer how is it to work for the EU. I am extremely enthusiastic about our further cooperation, and you?

So, in November…

5th of November

My radio interview in Polskie Radio Lublin where I presented EU Careers Student Ambassador program and EPSO as well. If you wish to listen to it, here is the link.

I hope you will enjoy it! 🙂

17th of November

kołątaj2Along with representative of Regional Centre of International Debate, we had a great meeting with students of Hugo Kolataj’s high school in Lublin, Poland. I was amazed by the knowledge of so young people! I had a chance to inform them about internships and job opportunities in the EU. They were especially interested in the subject of Erasmus+ students’ internships.

Meanwhile, I had a meeting with students from European Studies Students’ Scientific Association. We decided to work together on several projects. First of them, is my conference at the Catholic University of Lublin. It will be dedicated to students of European Studies. You can find details on our Facebook profiles:

EU Careers Lublin

Koło Naukowe Studentów Europeistyki EURO-KUL

Another great news: contact point has finally started! You can meet me for individual consultation on every Wednesday at Catholic University of Lublin. If you decide to come and discuss your career, please, let me know by sending an email eucareers.kul@gmail.com

If you wish to be even more up-to-date with current Lublin issues, please follow this Facebook profile:

http://on.fb.me/1lJrSqU

In case of any questions, feel free to contact me:

Natalia Wysocka

John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

eucareers.kul@gmail.com

EU Careers Student Ambassador – October

Natalia Wysocka

logo

Hi! My name is Natalia Wysocka and I have been chosen to take up the role of European Union Careers Student Ambassador, the very first one in the whole history of Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. At the beginning of academic year 2015/2016, along with students from European Studies Students’ Scientific Association, I embarked on promotion of EU institutions, internships and job opportunities. This column will be dedicated to my Ambassador’s activity. Once in a month I will present my „diary” so you can see closer how is it to work for the EU. I am extremely enthusiastic about our further cooperation, and you?

So, in October…

15th of October

Photo: Komisja Europejska w Polsce, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

Photo: Komisja Europejska w Polsce, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

Yes, we have finally started! Since that day, I can officially act as EU Careers Ambassador. After great session in Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Commission in Warsaw, I have gained an extra boost of energy and motivation. What will come next? We find out soon.

23rd of October

My first, short live interview as EU Careers Ambassador in Polskie Radio Lublin.    My speaker, Ms. Agata Koss, turned out to be extremely curious about EPSO and our project. Then, I realized how many things I need to do to familiarize Polish society with the subject of European Union career.

27th of October

Job Fair at Catholic University of Lublin. There was a great number of students who were asking current opportunities of work and internships in EU. I think it is a result of an intensive Facebook campaign run in both of EU Careers Lublin and Career Office KUL profiles. I could discuss my further conferences and stands with students and see what is expected. Because of that, I gained the general overview of the issues I need to talk about in the future. I received an amazing support from Careers Office at the University and from Europe Direct in Lublin as well.

Photo: RODM, Biuro Karier KUL, Kurier Lubelski

Photo: RODM, Biuro Karier KUL, Kurier Lubelski

 

If you wish to be even more up-to-date with current Lublin issues, please follow this Facebook profile:

http://on.fb.me/1lJrSqU

In case of any questions, feel free to contact me:

Natalia Wysocka

John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

eucareers.kul@gmail.com

The role of „soft power” in shaping EU’s external image

Emil Wojtaluk

Defining instruments for creating EU’s external image can be problematic. The conference held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin on November 9-10, entitled “Cultural dimension of the European integration” gathered scholars from different universities to help us understand these processes.

The conference was co-organized by the Polish Society of European Studies

The conference was co-organized by the Polish Society of European Studies

Defining soft power

Taking culture into account should be connected with its external image. The problem of EU’s perception is very complex, looking at all crises the Union is struggling with, its image decreased. Another thing is that the Union itself has problems with defining its external image policy. What is more, the incapacity to inform its own citizens leads to ignorance about functioning of the European Union, let alone countries outside of the EU. A way to solve this problem could be effectively acting diplomacy of the Union (as the element of soft power).

According to J. Nye soft power could be defined as ability to receive what we expect thanks to attractiveness, not violence, compulsion or payment. The ability of one’s entity to form an alliance and to get more influence is possible thanks to three factors. These are culture, political values and foreign policy – realized on the basis of previously mentioned values and culture. The essential instrument of conducting foreign policy by the EU is shaping positive image on the international scene, via these three soft indicators.

If we are to discuss main merits of EU’s soft power, one of them is that EU is perceived as “civilian power”, having its origins in the 70s. The concept was based on the assumption that the Communities are founded on peace. A distinctive factor is that civilian power means also economic activities. In the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU we can find that in exercising foreign relations the Union is relating to universal values such as democracy, human rights or EU enlargement policy. These provisions as well as other EU legal acts referring to external policy create the so called set of values, which are components of soft power. One of the essential features of Union’s involvement in the world is multilateralism, also seen as soft power (cooperation with other countries). The European Union is perceived as one of world’s mediators on the international scene, but rather as advocate of only peaceful resolutions, which sadly have low efficiency. Especially looking at recent crises inside the EU and internationally, it is said that the Union use the methods of “cheating reality”.

Public diplomacy

Beata Piskorska, PhD during the conference

Beata Piskorska, PhD during the conference

Another part of soft power is public diplomacy – understood as dialogue between countries, realized with using media and direct communication. That is why using means of Public Relations is also crucial. The EU is currently trying to meet this challenge by the use of social media and digital diplomacy. We could observe it looking at the activities of former and current High Representative of the Union, especially during the “Arab Spring” – seen as the test for digital diplomacy and using social media. The national example of using digital diplomacy is former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Radosław Sikorski and his twitter account – it was debatable whether his commentaries were his private opinion and whether it reflected his position as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, that’s why using such means is debatable everywhere in the world.

Public diplomacy is realized by the EU in various ways: by study visits, cooperation with local MS’ governments, cooperating with international organizations, as well as by development aid and supporting cultural institutions. Here the essential element of public diplomacy is cultural diplomacy. In 2007 document “European agenda for culture” it was emphasized that promoting of cultural dimension is significantly important, and it should be supported by cooperation with other international organizations dealing with cultural policy.

“United in diversity” is perceived as one of the biggest achievements of the EU as an attempt to connect different cultures and identities. Nevertheless, it becomes an contentious issue. Especially when it’s crucial to create mutual legal framework for the functioning of culture. It is the problem how to create laws common to all, indeed different cultures.

Summing up, despite all difficulties with communication and creating unified image of the EU by 28 Member States, the European Union is still seen as a model of integration processes. It is extremely important to understand that values that are important for EU members (like the rule of law or equality in a broad sense) may not be so crucial for people coming to Europe or living outside the EU.

The article is based on the speech of Beata Piskorska, PhD (Department of Political Science/John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin) entitled “The role of „soft power” in shaping EU’s external image” at the conference entitled “Cultural dimension of the European integration” held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland) on 9-10 November 2015.

Cultural dimension of the European integration

Emil Wojtaluk

Have you ever thought about the comprehensive analysis of political culture inside EU institutions and the cultural policy of the EU as such? The aim of last week’s conference held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin was to answer these dilemmas.

PTSE

The conference was co-organized by the Polish Society of European Studies

“Political Culture in the European Parliament”

First of all, we have to realize that political culture can be understood as a sphere of influence, the way how politicians gain its power and then how they maintain it.

From the point of view of “neutralization of ideology” we may distinguish two examples referring to this term. First is the initial assumption of the founding fathers of the European Union, where the main goal was the economic integration, which indeed is true if we look at powers of the European Parliament. At that time they were significantly limited and the institution itself had only little influence on decision-making process.

The other example is that inside the EP, each political group gets some position because of the rule of consensus and geographical balance – where there is no competition, unlike national politics.

Another thing is the way of making decisions, where there is no fight for influence on decision-making. When the European Commission proposes legislation, the matter is then governed by the so called shadow rapporteur, who is responsible for particular project. He/she collects opinions, negotiates the draft with the EP and the Council and prepares the project for voting. Rapporteurs give opinion on a project carrying about presenting the view of their own political group, which does not look so transparent.

As a word of conclusion, we should not look at the decision-making process in the EU from the perspective of national politics.

 “Political Culture in the Council of the EU”  

This time it is not about understanding political culture as a formal way of making decisions (legal procedures), but more as a real life model we observe.

Again we have two approaches. According to first the representatives of member states in the Council (both administration and at ministerial level) act by a logic of consequences – meaning what consequences of their choices will be the best from the point of view of their own country. The second approach is about the logic of appropriateness (as a consequence of socialization processes ) so the way of behavior expected by the others.

There are three functions of the Council according to political science – negotiable, representative, and social. Through all of these, the most important one is negotiable function where everyone expects something in return. To be more precise it is again divided into three types of reciprocity: specific reciprocity – concerns specific case which is during negotiation process, in short term perspective; institutional reciprocity –e.g. when each member state has its presidency on rotational basis; diffusional reciprocity – when one member state makes concessions in specific case, remembered by others and repeated in the future.

Another issue is voting by consensus, named as “shadow of the vote”, – where no voting occurs, but it is still taken into account. According to the author we have many negative consequences of consensual voting, which are: 1) inefficiency – because negotiation process is being extended until no one is against; 2) lack of transparency since it’s difficult to define member states’ preferences; 3) inequality of particular member states (it’s hard to assess the influence of each country); 4) uneven impact – larger countries have greater influence while smaller countries have smaller impact.

Finally, the type of culture in the Council can be described as “intercultural”.

The article is based on a conference entitled “Cultural dimension of the European integration” held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland) on 9-10 November 2015. Especially based on the lectures of Marta Witkowska, PhD (The University of Warsaw) and Piotr Tosiek, PhD (Marie-Curie Skłodowska University).

Next stop: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin – European Studies! #3

It’s already the third post about studying European Studies at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL). This time we are to present the topic from the professor’s perspective. Check out what our professors: Anna Bysiecka-Maciaszek and Delaine Swenson want to tell you about European Studies at KUL!

Anna Bysiecka-Maciaszek, PhD

Anna Bysiecka-Maciaszek, PhD

Anna Bysiecka-Maciaszek, PhD

My name is Anna Bysiecka-Maciaszek and I am a lecturer at European Studies. I am in this programme from the very beginning and play an active part in its running. At the Institute we offer a wide range of courses in the field of European Studies – from more theoretical to practical ones, both in the area of humanistic and social studies as well as legislation and economy of the European Union. My courses provide students mainly with practical knowledge – linguistic and cultural in particular. I teach legal and business English, conduct lectures in Intercultural Communication and Cultural Aspects of European Integration and have a seminar in Migration and Identity. Since European Studies are popular with foreign students (also from the Erasmus Programme) every one can also get some practice after the classes, which I find especially attractive and encouraging for our prospective students.

European Studies are interdisciplinary studies that provide students with an opportunity to learn about the legal functioning of the European Union and familiarize themselves with the history, culture, politics and economy of its member states. Since the studies are conducted in English, we give a lot of attention to language courses (such as English for law and business or English for Academic Purposes), which not only help students benefit from the studies but, most of all, raise their possibility of getting an interesting internship abroad and have a better job after graduating from our university. The students can benefit from our cooperation with different institutions and serve an apprenticeship in the European Parliament, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other nongovernmental organizations. The skills which they acquire during their studies at KUL are indispensable on today’s internationalized labour market. I believe that with their knowledge, practical skills and experience each European Studies student can say: “The world is my oyster!”


Delaine R. Swenson, J.D.

„AN AMERICAN’S VIEW ON EUROPEAN STUDIES AT KUL”

Delaine R. Swenson, J.D.

Delaine R. Swenson, J.D.

 As an American lawyer and law professor who lives and works in Europe I am often asked a lot of questions about being in Europe verses being in America. My answer normally highlights the advantages to an American of the experience of living and working in a different culture. In a similar way I would recommend to interested students the opportunity to study European Studies at KUL.

European Studies offer several important advantages to students who want to graduate with knowledge and skills that they will find useful in a variety of eventual careers. First among these is the variety of studies in the program. With a multi-disciplinary approach that has studies in history, sociology, political science, economics and the law among others; graduates of the program have a broad based education. The diversity of professors, teaching styles and methods is also a strength of the program. In addition, through the selection of electives the students have the chance to learn more in their own areas of interest.

 Beyond the classroom experience European Studies have a large variety of opportunities to develop their skills before graduation, from social events, to professional and skills development, project planning and implementation, internships and public service opportunities. These important live skills are an integral part of the KUL European Studies experience and will be invaluable to the future careers of the students.

 As someone who has made hundreds of hiring decisions over the years it is precisely this breath of education and practical training, combined with language development that I look for in a good employee. Like an American who learns, lives and develops in Europe, others can learn, live and develop in European Studies at KUL.

baner_europeistyka

For more information on European Studies at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin please visit:

http://www.kul.pl/european-studies,24210.html

BA in European Studies:

http://www.kul.pl/bachelor-of-arts-in-european-studies-curriculum,art_28136.html

MA in European Studies:

http://www.kul.pl/master-of-arts-in-european-studies-curriculum,art_28137.html

Admission for the year 2015/2016:

http://www.kul.pl/admission-procedure,art_34687.html

APPLY NOW!

Next stop: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin – European Studies! #2

It’s our second post about studying European Studies at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL). Check what international students have to say about our studies!

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Seungchul Baek (European Studies, III year)

Seungchul Baek (South Korea)

My name is Seungchul Baek, and I am a third-year student of European Studies at KUL. I still remember that I was not able to understand the first lecture at all, because of my terrible English at that time and partially because of the professors’ Polish accent I had never heard before I came here, but now I have already finished my dissertation and nearly finished the whole degree programme. It has been a great experience to study and live here for three years. I have learnt many things and met a variety of people I would have never met if I did not come here. I am proud of myself not only because of finishing my Bachelor’s degree successfully but also because of coming here where completely different people speak completely unfamiliar language for me.

I have always been interested in Europe since I was a child. For that reason, European Studies sounded like a perfect programme for me. There are some South Korean universities that have European studies, but I thought it would be better to come and see Europe on my own as I study, and it was the best choice in my life.

Sometimes Polish higher education is said to be loose in terms of workload. Some students from other countries say that they study a lot less here than they did in their home country. For that reason some say Polish education level is not as high as other countries’, but I disagree with it. Not only was the workload here enough for me, but also a tough system or a huge amount of workload does not mean that the country or the university has a good education system. Moreover, you learn many things outside the university by travelling and socialising. As I have been studying here, I have learnt many things for my life as well.

Valerian Karchava (Georgia)

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Valerian Karchava (European Studies, II year)

My name is Valerian Karchava, and I come from Georgia. I am a 2nd year European Studies student at KUL. People often ask me why I chose this field of study and how I got know about KUL. Well, before coming to Poland I was studying Sociology at the Tbilisi State University. However, after a year of studying I began to realize that Sociology was not for me and decided to quit. My aim was to find some interesting course abroad that would be available to me but it seemed to be quite difficult. Since I was familiar with Poland and had also visited the country several times before I considered it would be the best idea to go there. After several days of searching I found European Studies course at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. When I read the description of the course I was very impressed and happy that I found exactly what I was looking for. Moreover, I knew from my Polish friends that KUL was quite well-known university in Poland. So, after passing certain recruitment steps I was accepted and started studying.

After 2 years of studying I can openly say that the European Studies programme is exactly what I was looking for. It is professionally oriented programme with a distinctly international character, preparing students for international careers in a wide range of fields. Through various types of lectures, exercises and workshops we become familiar with Europe and its many dimensions. This programme enables us to have a rich background in our European origins and development, it provides students with the opportunity to study contemporary European culture and society and its continuing impact upon today’s world. Furthermore, we learn about the European Union and its legal structure that is very useful for every European. European Studies programme provides the knowledge that I think is needed to have if you want to work in an international environment(such as European Union institutions), in the business community, a non-governmental organization or the civil service.

I would like to say that the study environment in the university is very good. Teachers are qualified, demanding and friendly at the same time and I am very happy with it.

So, if someone asks me if I am happy with my choice to study European studies at KUL, I would answer – yes! Yes because, I think, this field of study is very relevant to the time we live in now and it gives you many job opportunities in the future. So I encourage everyone who is interested in European culture, history, politics, functioning of the European Union and who dreams about working in the international environment to join European Studies at KUL!

Claudia Jacewicz (Poland/Germany)

Claudia Jacewicz ("Erasmus student" at KUL)

Claudia Jacewicz („Erasmus student” at KUL)

I am a third year European Studies student from Bremen, Germany(Universität Bremen) and I am currently in the final stage of my Erasmus year here at KUL in Lublin. Since my bachelor degree course provides its students to make a semester abroad in the fifth semester, I had to look for a good university and destination. I decided to look for universities in Poland, because I wanted to improve my Polish, as it is part of my language courses in Germany. The three destinations I chose were Wrocław, Lublin and Łódź, but in the end I was accepted at KUL in Lublin. At first I was a bit disappointed, because I really wanted to study in Wrocław, but the whole situation changed once the semester at KUL had started.

The university has a lot of different courses to offer. Especially the faculty of European Studies offers a variety of courses in the field of law, history and culture, though the main focus is still law. Even though I am usually not very focused on law in my studies, I enjoyed the majority of my courses; it was refreshing to focus on something different and new.

However, it was not only the courses that were different: The concept and structure of my university (and maybe German universities in general) is quite different to KUL. Even though my bachelor degree course in Germany consists of a small number of students (slightly more than 30 students), lectures and seminars let me feel a bit anonymous. A relation between the professor and students is hardly establishable. This is different at KUL, since most professors are encouraged to get to know their students. Most lectures and seminars seem to be a bit more like school classes, which makes them more interactive and therefore interesting.

All in all I enjoyed my stay at KUL. I actually enjoyed it so much that I extended my stay from one semester to two semesters, so that speaks for itself. This year abroad will definitely be kept in good memory.

baner_europeistyka

For more information on European Studies at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin please visit:

http://www.kul.pl/european-studies,24210.html

BA in European Studies:

http://www.kul.pl/bachelor-of-arts-in-european-studies-curriculum,art_28136.html

MA in European Studies:

http://www.kul.pl/master-of-arts-in-european-studies-curriculum,art_28137.html

Admission for the year 2015/2016:

http://www.kul.pl/admission-procedure,art_34687.html

APPLY NOW!

Next stop: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin – European Studies! #1

It’s the last time to decide what studies fits you best! Just have a look what European Studies students from Lublin(Poland) have to say about their academic experiences!

Emil Wojtaluk

Emil Wojtaluk (European Studies, III year)

Emil Wojtaluk (European Studies, III year)

My name is Emil and I study European Studies in English at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. Have you ever wondered whether or not you’re good enough to study entirely in English? I had the same doubts, but they passed as soon as they appeared. European Studies at KUL gives you practical knowledge on legal English, that you need to “function well” at the Faculty of Law – the classes from Academic Writing or English for Law and Business helped me a lot. All I can say from my own experience is that two weeks from the time I started to study my worries gone away. It turned out I found the courage to speak in foreign language, and I was one of the few most active students. What European Studies in Lublin can give you, beside improving your language skills, are student’s organizations.

“Students’ Scientific Association of European Studies Students” associates the most organized and knowledgeable people – the ones who do not “study only to study”, but are being active beyond regular classes, e.g. by promoting the faculty or organizing interesting events. If you’re an ambitious student, you’ll certainly find it useful and it’ll become your way of self-development.

Another students’ organization is the one you’re just reading- EUROpens BLOG! Since the Editorial Board is composed of 10 persons at maximum, in order to become the editor you have to meet some requirements. Each year thousands of people read our blog and share their thoughts with us. The most important thing for us is that the number of viewers is constantly growing – from 1,472 in the initial 2012 to over 5,500 in 2014! I have an honor to be the first officially chosen Editor in Chief since 2013 🙂 My last message to you will be simple… DON’T BE AFRAID! 🙂

Anita Weprzędz

Anita Weprzędz (European Studies, III year/ Law, V year)

Anita Weprzędz (European Studies, III year/ Law, V year)

Hi. My name is Anita and I am 24 years old. I like journeys and reading books. I was struggling with myself for a very long time to take my second faculty which is European Studies. Since I was always interested in European issues, I took part in some competitions about European Union and participating in programs funded from European budget like Youth in Action. But that was before studies. Currently, my dream is to become an attorney. So after high school I stared law studies. But I missed the classes on European Union issues. After the first year, our University (John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin) opened a new faculty – European Studies conducted in English. Because I was afraid because of my English skills ;-), I took additional advanced English at Matura exam (final exam after high school in Poland). When I passed it without any problems, I decided to apply for European Studies. And that was one of the best choices of my whole life! For me, this studies supplemented my law faculty, gave additional opportunities and make me sure that this is what I would like to do always. Thanks to European Studies I got some extra internships, e.g. in insurance company which has chosen me due to my knowledge of legal English (we have some classes on it). Now being bilingual is very expected by future employers, and studies in English are very helpful to deal with it. I can talk about this for a very long time, but the point will be still the same – choose European Studies and you will get crucial experience which will ease your future life :-).

Kamil Augustyniak

Kamil Augustyniak (BA in European Studies, III year)

Kamil Augustyniak (European Studies, III year)

Hello Reader! My name is Kamil and I am proud to be a student of European Studies. This is a great opportunity to share with all of you my personal statement about this faculty and, hopefully, encourage you to join me the course. Few months ago while waiting for next class I met by accident young journalist from local radio. He came to interview university president and students due to celebration of 96 anniversary of our university. Since he waited and so did I, he asked me about few words related to studying in Lublin. I surprised him when I mentioned I study European Studies in English. He heard a lot about the idea of studying in English at KUL and took an advantage of interviewing me to ask some questions concerning this faculty.

My personal experience shows that people actually know this studies but are rather closed to it because of foreign language. I realize it is not bagatelle for everyone but there are some other benefits at our studies which surely attract young people. What interested me the most is number of extra-curricular courses which differ from each other. I do not mean only practical foreign language courses ending with certificates, currently so desired on international job market. There are numerous others. Starting from these strictly connected to European Union issues (e.g. Fundraising for international projects), through classes increasing our general confidence and real practice (e.g. Public speaking), and ending with economically directed (e.g. Introduction to economy and business). All of them and many other are free of charges thanks to European Union’s funds and provide students with valuable and practical experience which is now extremely important when looking for a job.

So many possibilities while studying European Studies made this faculty exceptional and worth trying.

Kinga Hodór

Kinga Hodór (BA in European Studies, II year)

Kinga Hodór (European Studies, II year)

My name is Kinga Hodór and I am a student of the second year of European Studies in English. As I’ve always loved meeting people from different cultures and learning languages in practice, I decided to take up this particular field of studies. From the perspective of two years spent at the University, I can say that it’s been one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life! Having started with some fears connected with language barriers I used to have, I quickly adjusted to the lectures and tutorials led in English. Very soon, I found it very attractive and beneficial. Anyway, even though gaining knowledge and the above enumerated advantages are important, there is something much more appealing for me… This thing is contact with foreign students, mostly Erasmus people. I believe that the choice of the field of studies in English has been some kind of gate for me towards international friendships and experiences. Thanks to this, I’ve been broadening my horizons, shaping personality and developing language skills.

Since the beginning of this academic year, I’ve been so-called ‘guardian angel’ of one French girl who has come to Lublin on her Erasmus Exchange. We’ve become good friends and we share common interests. So far, I’ve made so many friends from different parts of Europe that I can’t simply imagine the situation of that not having happened. Thanks to these people, the time spent in Lublin has been much more interesting and funnier. I’m not only talking about attending the same lectures at the same University. It’s much more about the free time spent together, taking part in different events or going to various parties. All these elements create amazing memories.

Frankly speaking, spending time with foreign students somehow inspired me to experience Erasmus adventure on my own. And voilà, for the next semester I’m going on Erasmus Exchange to Cyprus. I’m sure it will be an amazing time. I know it will be as I’m going to enjoy every single moment!

baner_europeistyka

For more information on European Studies at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin please visit:

http://www.kul.pl/european-studies,24210.html

BA in European Studies:

http://www.kul.pl/bachelor-of-arts-in-european-studies-curriculum,art_28136.html

MA in European Studies:

http://www.kul.pl/master-of-arts-in-european-studies-curriculum,art_28137.html

Admission for the year 2015/2016:

http://www.kul.pl/admission-procedure,art_34687.html

APPLY NOW!