Sailing on the Danube with the Hungarians – Day 8

Our penultimate day on the Global Citizenship Programme consisted of this:

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And this…

And more of this…

And finally with some well deserved pizza –


After over 12 hours in the SELCS Common Room – or as we know it ‘home’, we finally finished our documentary!


Sailing on the Danube with the Hungarians – Day 7

Wednesday is slightly different from previous schedules as we are now approaching the deadline for documentary film submission! Given the day for film editing, we are also provided the opportunity called ‘Foreigner Talk’, which a number of guest speakers will give an interesting lecture on cultural/linguistic relevant for about 30 minutes. There are two main sessions, each lasts for 2 hours (4 lectures per session), with one hour lunch break. Due to the slight confusion of the room location of the talk, there were not many at the start of the lecture, but more and more were attending later in the session. The first lecture was given by Dr Eszter Tarsoly who made a brief introduction by talking about her PhD thesis. She also proposed a number of questions relating to daily life and our language use. For example, she mentioned about her experience of being asked whether she was a Polish in a café. It turned out that almost everyone has more or less a stereotype or perception on how people from a particular region should pronounce certain languages. More interestingly, when such a stereotype does not fit the reality, people’s first instinct would go ‘oh, you don’t sound (stereotypical nationality)/you can’t be (stereotypical nationality)’ rather than ‘so my stereotype is not correct’. This phenomenon triggered our curiosity about linguistics and cultures. The second lecture by Dr Froso Argyi focused exclusively on linguistics, particularly childhood. The topic ‘heritage language’ has been so important as nowadays a substantial amount of people are at least bilingual. Moreover, of those people, there are many who have parents speaking one language whilst grown up in a different language setting. She talked a lot about why maintaining heritage language (the language one acquired that is not spoken in the majority environment) is important and how we can do that. Her proposal of ‘healthy linguistic diet’ sounded really interesting, and her talk on how being bilingual can affect our daily life (e.g. being beneficial to our health) made us really think about how we should balance/acquire new languages in this rapidly globalised world. Dr Kim Schulte who is currently in Spain gave us the third lecture via Skype. Amazing to try a Skype lecture and see him being so engaged. His lecture turned more specifically to one type of people – Romanians who immigrated to Spain. The similarity of Romanian and Spanish made Romanian immigrants quickly settled in the new country and they could easily adapt to a new language without feeling loss of home. However, what is particularly special is the second generation. As they tend to be able to fluently switch between Romanian and Spanish (Valencian too!), they gradually developed a new language which mixes Spanish and Romanian. This language is later interpreted as their unique (bi)cultural identity. This interpretation is so engaging as many of us here at UCL are also bilingual, it seems fun if we actually do a small research to see whether bilingual/multilingual students do create a special language and whether they represent their unique cultural identity!

-Yeiwei from the Hungarian Group

Sailing on the Danube with the Hungarians – Day 6

The beginning morning of the second week, we started by having 2 lectures, both focusing on Romany communities, by Dr Stewart and Dr Tremlett. In the first lecture by Dr Stewart, instead of passive learning, we were asked to take a little quiz on Kahoot which involved 10 questions about Romani people. In this interactive quiz, a question popped up on the screen, and 4 options were given and we had to choose an answer within a given time limit. Then we would get to see both the correct answer and the statistics of each option (how many chose each option). By seeing the correct answer, he would then start to elaborate on them by introducing a lot more in depths. In addition, it was interesting to see that sometimes the wrong answer was chosen by the majority. This then gave him an opportunity to explain more on why this answer is not correct. For example, one question asked about how we define who is a Roma, as many of us were not as familiar about this ethnic group, each option had considerable support, ranging from with Romani blood, to having family history of their particular language speaking (btw, this is the correct answer). One interesting thing he mentioned in the lecture was the totally different result you get when you search “gypsy” and “cyganie” in google images. Although the weather this morning was not ideal, Dr Stewart’s lecture swept away all the bad moods and got everyone very engaged.



After his lecture, we proceeded to the second lecture given by Dr Tremlett. Similar to Dr Stewart, she also spent years studying about this particular population. Thus, her speech focused a lot more personal on her research. What was of particular interest was her life story that linked her to this research. Dr Tremlett mentioned that she firstly had a placement at a NGO, which she got to in touch of the Romani people, which then extended to 2 years due to the growing bonds; not surprisingly, inspired her PhD degree.

In the afternoon our group work together for our film. It’s a tough work when you have to compress a 45-miniute conversation to a 3-minute short film. Unfortunately a lot of wonderful stories about Enikő, the interviewee, has to be cut. Because of the noise during the conversation, we also need to match the audio recorded by an iPhone and the video recorded by a digital camera in order to make it clear enough. However, we don’t want to make it so boring and let the interview go through all three minutes, so plenty of pictures are added to the video. While we were looking for background music, some Hungarian ones just attracted us. They are extremely suitable and fascinating, some of us just can’t help of dancing under the music.

-Maggie and Yiwei from the Hungarian Team

Sailing on the Danube with the Hungarians – Day 5

This morning, a group of us travelled to Lewisham to interview our subject whilst the rest of us attended the lecture by Lily Kahn on Jewish life along the Danube. The group in Lewisham were invited to spend the morning speaking to Enikò in her home and learnt all about her life and experiences in London. Eniro was very open to talking to us which made the experience of interviewing very enjoyable. She shared her pictures and different objects that she brought with her from Hungary. We came back into central London with her on her journey to work (at the dentist).

The rest of us came to know Isaac Edward Salkinson, who was an Ashkenazi Jew born in Shklou (Lithuania). If you are wondering what Ashkenazi means, it is the way Eastern European Jews identified themselves. Salkinson had an adventurous life, settling first in Vilnius, where he met intellectuals of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment. Then he moved to London where he joined the Jewish community present in the city in the East End. In London, he decided to convert to Christianity and then became part of the London Missionary Society. He was sent to Vienna by the Society in order to translate the New Testament into Hebrew. Nevertheless, in Vienna he met Peretz Smoleskin who convinced him to translate Shakespeare into Hebrew. Salkinson translated Othello and Romeo and Juliet, but the most interesting thing about his translations is that he managed to “domesticate” the Christian and mythological content of the Shakespeare’s plays making them understandable for a Jewish audience.

In the second part of the day, we looked at the differences and similarities among Danubian languages. We were encouraged to read translations of the same Biblical line in all the languages and to pick up the words we could understand. We also read a folk tale in Boyash, a Romani language closely related to Romanian.

-Harriet and Clara from the Hungarian Team

Sailing on the Danube with the Hungarians – Day 4

In the morning lecture, we learnt about the history of Danube regions. The Danube river has both brought people together and separated them. Philip Barker brought his expertise on the subject of linguistics and included some thoughts about his research on political language in 18th Century Hungary. We also learnt a little about the tragic life of Hungarian poet Attila József – whose name, thanks to our language lessons, we can now all confidently pronounce.

In addition, we found out about people who were encouraged to settle in different areas in the Danube region and had also brought their cultures for integration. For example, the German/Hungarian catholic church in today’s Novi Sad in Serbia marked the migration of German and Hungarian colonists. Croatian pagan ceremony is also a unique feature in Mohács of Hungary.

However, conflict existed along with cooperation in the Danube regions. When German colonists settled in other places, they brought not only new technology, but also their cultures which were against by local inhabitants as Germanisation. Such conflicts were accumulated and eventually resulted in many of the tragedies. One of which is Holocaust. A story from today’s lecture was about the Shoah memorial in Budapest. Jews during the Second World War were taken to Danube to be shot and pushed into the river. Before their execution, they were required to take their shoes off. All those shoes left by the bank became the strongest proof of this genocide in Hungary. The statues of shoes that commemorate this are used to warn people never to forget this history.

We finally found a Hungarian who can be the subject of our project! Thus, after the lecture, we went to the dentist where she works to meet with her. She is an extremely bubbly person who appeared very keen to tell us about her life. We split up into groups so as not to overwhelm her. Some of us took up the task of photographing her, others planned for the documentary footage and some of us wrote this log book.

-Amy and Yiwei from the Hungarian Team

Sailing on the Danube with the Hungarians – Day 3

In our first lecture today we investigated the paradoxes that the Danube river has displayed throughout history. We saw how the river itself can be thought of as both new and old; the main course stays the same, but new material constantly flows down it. The Danube also allows civilisations and societies to flourish and develop but at the same time can be deadly due to floods, dangeous currents, etc. In addition, the Danube throughout history has allowed different societies to interact and meet, but at the same time has prevented contact between different people, keeping them apart from each other. Conflict and cooperation are another paradoxical element; the Danube connects countries and allows soldiers to sail up the river and invade but also allows trade to occur.

We then had a lecture on how to interact with strangers and convince them to take part in our Citizenship programme, in our portrait photos. We explored different scenarios, each one a different difficult situation we may have to deal with, and how to overcome them.

Finally, we had our third Hungarian lesson – today we moved on from simple expressions to learning about the intricate grammar of the Hungarian language. We learnt about vowel harmony, and how there are ‘front’ and ‘back’ vowels, and we also revised how to refer to our nationalities. Eszter also talked about cultural aspects and recent history in Hungary, such as the Sziget festival and the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ memorial. Overall, today we had another eye opening and exciting session on Hungary, and we are one step closer to becoming Global Citizens.

– Darius and Tahmid from the Hungarian team

Sailing on the Danube with the Hungarians – Day 2

Our second day on this program turned out to be as interesting as the first one! We had a tutorial about documentary filming from Dieter Deswarte, where we had the chance to film 5 shots and create a sequence. We were able to use the different filming techniques he showed during the lecture, such as long shots, wide shots, medium shots etc. He also showed us a couple of short clips from documentaries, to show us how filming has evolved, and he gave us feedback on the sequences we filmed.

In addition, he gave us really helpful advice on how to approach the person we want to film. We learned that we should be considerate and respectful, but at the same time we should ask follow-up questions during the interview to get the most information from our interviewee. Moreover, he gave us basic instruction on how to use the Adobe Premiere Pro software, in order to edit our shots and create a short documentary.

Later in the day, we had our second language session. We were surprised to realise that we could introduce ourselves and have a basic conversation, after just an hour of learning Hungarian! We learned how to pronounce many new words related to the Danube region and culture, after looking to pictures as well. For example, we saw a picture of a bus in front of the Parliament in flooded Budapest, and thought it was a boat! Our fun learning experience ended with learning a Hungarian children’s song, Bőrönd Ödön. We can’t wait for tomorrow’s session!

-Maria, Yiwei and Maggie for the Hungarian Group.

Sailing on the Danube with the Hungarians – Day 1

It all started with a group of students eager to understand the Danube. Well, not the Danube as a river, but rather as an element which connects people, changes perspectives and engages within the Global Citizenship debates. The Introduction session proved to us that we know even less than we thought we do. The Danubian languages appear to be more complex and tangled than country borders can predict. Still, that lesson ended up being a great starting point in understanding the broadness of the subjects we are approaching.

After that, we had a lecture about “Looking at Strangers” through portrait photography. It came at the right time, since even us, the crew of the same ship, were, at the beginning, just strangers. By learning how to engage with new people through photography we somehow applied the same knowledge to getting to know each other, so we did.

We then made our first steps towards learning the Hungarian language and were soon able to introduce ourselves and each other. The session was intense, as we were expected to speak straight away, however we all certainly enjoyed the challenge. We then discovered the world of Hungarian pronunciation and started learning some words we recognised from English, with my personal favourite being ‘szendvics’ (pronounced sendvich).

This session was followed by the programme’s opening ceremony, which involved an interesting (if fairly long…) lecture introducing global citizenship. The day then finished with a drinks reception, while a few of our party set off to begin the search for a willing Hungarian to become the subject of our portrait photograph and short film.

– Teodora and Amy for the Hungarian Group!