The EU & Minority Languages Promotion

By Roberta Ragucci

The European Union is home to 60 regional or minority languages which are threatened and risk to disappear. Language can constitute more than just a communication tool, as it can be regarded as a bearer of culture and traditions. In such a culturally diverse environment, where the EU can be seen as an engaging multicultural mosaic, is the diversity constituting a key point for our sense of communality? Or is the presence of multiculturalism representing an obstacle for a potential homogeneity?

One of the most varied and endangered linguistic minorities in Europe is the Sami. The Sami is an indigenous people living today in a territory which extends on four countries (Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway), in a region called Lapland. Sami livelihood and economy was mainly based on the reindeer husbandry, coastal fishing, and hunting. Thus, due to their need to follow reindeers, they have never lived in one and only big community, setting up several smaller communities instead. Consequently, their nomadic life led to the development of different Sami languages, at least ten, which cannot be classified simply as dialects of the same language. Nowadays, the Sami language which counts the larger number of speakers is the North Sami, followed by the Lule Sami and South Sami. It belongs to the finno-ugrian linguistic family and it is commonly divided into three branches, depending on the grade of mutual intelligibility they can reach.

Since the establishment of borders in the Scandinavian peninsula and Russia, the Sami population quickly became a minority and encountered all the correlated difficulties as, for instance, the prohibition to speak their own language and the obligation to learn the new majority (“national”) languages. This was a consequence of the development of the agricultural activities, which implied a progressive settlement in the most Northern-most areas where the reindeers used to graze, and the wish to reach a certain homogeneity amongst the territory after the drawing of new borders. Thus the Sami people was considered a threat to the in-borders safety and homogeneity of the now “national” population. Continue reading “The EU & Minority Languages Promotion”

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Professor Jařab & the Velvet Revolution: “Freedom is a Sleeping Beauty”

By Lauren Rogers

As students of Europe, we like to believe we have a good grasp on the history and political development of the continent. Too often, however, we have been educated from a singular perspective, one that rarely includes the perspective of what we have labeled “the East”. The tragedy of Central Europe, as Milan Kundera once called it, is not that the Soviet Union gobbled up so much of the continent after World War II, but rather that “the West” allowed such a massive piece of its cultural heritage to slip away. One of the most common things Euroculture students say after spending a semester in Olomouc is, “I never knew.”
“I never knew about Václav Havel.”
“I never knew about the Prague Spring.”
“I never knew about Tomáš Masaryk.”

The Euroculture program, however, is fortunate enough to have among its professors Josef Jařab, a person with a keen memory and a knack for being around at the turning points of history. Professor Jařab, or JJ as he is more commonly known among Euroculturers, is a professor, former rector and dissident who calls Olomouc his home. We sat down with JJ to speak to him about his life, the Velvet Revolution, and lessons we should be taking from Central Europe.

A Central European Story

Born in 1937 in the Silesian region of what was then known as Czechoslovakia, JJ’s life has been studded with academic and literary accomplishment. He glibly refers to his birth as his first major achievement; he somehow managed to be born full term only three months after his parents’ marriage: “It usually takes nine months! My first surprising sort of record was to make it in three or four months.” This, he told me, is why he is so famous in Olomouc.

All joking aside, JJ’s reputation in Olomouc – and throughout Central Europe – truly does precede him. At the risk of turning this article into a listicle of defining moments, I would like to mention a few that stand out. Throughout the Soviet occupation of then-Czechoslovakia, JJ worked to bring Western culture beyond the Iron Curtain. When the Velvet Revolution began in Prague, he led the students in Olomouc to a similar revolution. On the day he was officially fired by Palacký University, he became its first freely elected Rector. He was a close friend to Olga and Václav Havel, served as rector of the Central European University and as a Senator of the Czech Parliament and pursues, to this day, his passion for poetry, literature and jazz. This, too, is a fitting profile for a Czech revolutionary; the Prague Spring and Velvet Revolution were, after all, not driven by activists or the overtly politically minded, but by the writers, the students, the poets, the actors. Continue reading “Professor Jařab & the Velvet Revolution: “Freedom is a Sleeping Beauty””

The Back Office: The Digital Age

All-focus

Albert Meijer

I’m a child of the eighties, which explains my love for mismatched coloring schemes, my Wham!-inspired wardrobe and the continuous Tears for Fears-soundtrack playing in my head.
One of the perks of being an eighties kid is growing up with Modern Technology. My parents sometimes still text me IN ALL CAPS, but my fingers have the adaptability of a Karma Chameleon. Shaped by Gameboys, Nintendo, cellphones, smartphones and the Cloud, I’m pretty confident about my tech skills.
That’s great, because in the modern-day Euroculture office, there’s a constant move towards the Digital Age. Two proud moments of this semester are the introduction of
our new and improved website, complete with a state of the art new application system, and the start of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). By now, 10.000 people, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, signed up to learn from some of our top professors. The Future Truly Is Now.
The next step – which is a small one for mankind, but a giant leap for a
  humble course coordinator – is bringing tech back into the Euroculture classroom. We’ve already included some students in the MOOC, but now we’re discussing classroom conferences, the ‘flipped classroom’ and ‘blended learning’ – fancy names for making cooperation between Euroculture students in different universities possible. Exciting stuff, as you can imagine!
The Dream of the Eighties is alive in Groningen – I’m just praying that in ten years, I won’t be replaced by an intelligent robot. 
     

Click here for more by Albert Meijer.

The Euroculturer Recommends:

“Local Customs: Rhineland Carnival – Warum ist es am Rhein so schön?” by Mona Moentmann

“Is It Time To Panic? American Foreign Policy Under Donald J. Trump” by Lauren Rogers

“Erasmus for the World? Approaching Two Decades of the Erasmus Programme” by Daniele Carminati

 

                                                  

Erasmus for the World? Approaching Two Decades of the Erasmus Programme

 

holbein-erasmus
Dutch Scholar Erasmus inspired the European Union education mobility system.

Daniele Carminati

It is often said that knowledge is the tool with which you change the world for the better, and, as such, promoting the acquisition knowledge and its diffusion should be a top priority. One more step, considering the globalizing world, may be intercultural exchange of knowledge, achievable thanks to improved means of communication along with the mobility of people and goods. Student mobility is growing exponentially, at different levels, and has been proven invaluable in the past few decades, but this may be just the beginning. There are several exchange programs with different impacts ongoing across the globe. Some of them are bilateral but limited to a few universities, some are  consortiums formed from different institutions, across several countries and continents. The US offers numerous opportunities and scholarships through their Fullbright Program, among others, which has been providing grants and promoting exchange for nearly seven decades. The US effort to implement such a project has been laudable, however, it may be easier to develop such program within a federal system when compared to a supranational organization as the EU. The latter has the Erasmus exchange program, what is probably known today as the greatest example of student mobility worldwide.

The EU is facing several issues: internal; such as the ongoing financial crisis still affecting several members; and external, foreign policies regarding the fight against terrorism and the consequent refugee crisis. Nonetheless, regional movement and funding for students willing to study within the EU area and collaborating countries have increased steadily. The Erasmus Programme creation has not been a smooth or easy process. After several postponements and additional debates, an agreement was reached in 1987, following a six-year trial program. Despite initial delays, the amount of applications received were above expectations- even for the first round, which happened during the academic year 1987/1988. The program evolved through the Socrates Programme, in 1995, and in 2000, and eventually into the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP), in 2007. Only recently, in 2014, the program became Erasmus+, a new version of the former program to further promote “education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020.” Continue reading “Erasmus for the World? Approaching Two Decades of the Erasmus Programme”

The Girl Who Went on Erasmus Twice

Cuts threaten Erasmus

“The EU’s university exchange scheme Erasmus could be threatened by budget cuts in member states across the union. The much-loved scheme allows university undergraduates to spend up to a year studying for their degrees in foreign countries all over the world.”

(25/10/2012, euronews)

Penelope Erasmus1

Penelope Vaxevanes │prosiliomani@hotmail.com

The first Erasmus

I remember vividly the day my Erasmus in Lyon, France ended. It was six in the morning as I boarded the shuttle to the airport, to catch my flight to Greece. I was with my friend Paul. We were both tired as we had crashed a party the night before with some other friends and had left at 4am .We walked in the warm night for the last time, slipped into the quiet residence, I took my luggage and we left for the bus stop, silent. A couple of minutes later the bus came, we hugged, I boarded the bus and as it took off I waved, not only to Paul but also to that part of my life that I could never go back to. I cried all the way to the airport. It was the first of the countless times I would cry in the following months, as I suffered post-Erasmus depression. Don’t laugh. It’s actually a thing.

Eventually, I got over it. I put the whole experience in that part of my mind where everything seems glorious and happy. The experience shaped me like no other before it. It opened my horizons and made me appreciate the life I had been accustomed too. I got to meet so many different people, that came from all these different countries and whose lives were so similar to mine and yet so different. I got to emerge myself in another culture. I had to forget all that was normal in Greece and simply follow the French normal. The experience was educating. It transformed me, as it has transformed millions of other students before and after me.

Imagine my shock, then, when I read one morning in late October that the European Union (EU) is planning to cut the Erasmus budget. Not only does the EU make budget cuts in education, but it does so by cutting the funds of one of the best features of the European university life: the Erasmus exchange program. What a ludicrous idea, indeed. On the one hand, I think that maybe the EU funds are in such a state that they have become desperate. On the other, though, I think that they just view the Erasmus programme as a luxury they offer students which they do not appreciate. Indeed, students hardly see the benefits when they are on Erasmus, but rather realize later, when the whole thing is over.

Largely, Erasmus is considered a good excuse to go abroad, meet people, travel, party 24/7 and occasionally appear in class and write a paper or two. Mostly it is like that. Or rather, it seems like that. Yes, of course, all the Erasmus clichés are more or less true. The Spanish people who always hung out alone, only speaking Spanish.  The people, who never go to campus during Erasmus, let alone to class. Those people that always compare the country they’re in with the one they came from, always finding the first one lacking. There will always be people that the Erasmus experience will not affect at all. They are the excuse the EU is using to label the program a ’failure’ of sorts, when, in reality, it is so much more. Continue reading “The Girl Who Went on Erasmus Twice”