A week of Ukrainian – Ukraine group

These seven hours of Ukrainian with Marta Jenkala were the best language classes I have ever had. She managed to give us an insight into a language that seems so complicated at first in a such a little amount of time. She brought us on a journey around Ukraine, presented us the words, the food and some festivals and, in the end, a bit of the Ukrainian culture. The first difficulty that we students had to overcome was the alphabet and therefore that was the topic of our first session. To be honest, I found it really frightening at first : “a whole new alphabet, that I know almost nothing about and that I cannot even read !” What a challenge ! I went home and practised it, using the huge frustration that I had – because I could not read – to practise it as much as I could. Once you stopped struggling with the alphabet difficulties, understanding Ukrainian becomes much more accessible, as Marta kept repeating. Ukrainian Slavonic roots, but with a significant number of loan words from other languages, including Latin, and in the end, once you can read, there are a lot of words for which you can guess the meaning. Now, at the end of the week I can introduce myself, say what I am doing in life, where I come from and ask someone about those things. I can also tell the date and count, but also order in a restaurant or ask for the price of things. I was so surprised with all I learnt that I wondered how Marta managed to teach us so many things so quickly especially in that particular context where we do not have the pressure of exams ! So the real question is: how is she conveying her passion for Ukrainian? I had the chance to conduct an interview with her that could give some answers to that question.

Marta started to teach Ukrainian at SSEES in 1999. But how did she come to Ukrainian? It is important to underline that it is her mother-tongue : it is her roots and her story. She grew up in England and so English became the language of her environment. She then decided to learn French at UCL. For her, who was already bilingual, it was a thrilling experience. At the same time she started to teach Ukrainian at the Ukrainian Saturday School of Ukrainian in London. After she graduated, she became a French teacher and was then recruited by UCL as a Ukrainian teacher. She realised that teaching a language made her love it even more. It must be the main reason why it is so interesting for us to learn it from her! Her teaching philosophy can be summarised in three main points. First, she likes to remind students how things can be easy. Instead of focusing on how things can be difficult, she prefers to point out the easy side of things. For example, instead of explaining to us that the alphabet was really hard, she kept insisting on how easy it was to understand so many words once the alphabet is mastered. Her second belief is that a class needs to be challenging for everyone. In order for everyone to stay focused and interested, it is important that different students who have different levels in a language work on something that requires a bit of reflection. Everyone does not arrive in a class with the same background, and therefore not the same level in a language. It is actually a thing that she really likes : working with international students creates this diversity of backgrounds which allows to appreciate different ways of approaching the same language. In our Ukrainian group, some people already had a Slavonic background, some already knew the cyrillic alphabet or also knew a Romance language. Finally, she likes to regularly check with them if they are following well and making progress individually.

In the end, one of the major reasons she is such an amazing teacher is her passion for our work and for Ukrainian itself. As she said, she loves it even more now that she needs to make other people love it and learn it, but her strongest feelings come from the fact that Ukrainian is the language of her mother. When I asked her what was her favourite word in Ukrainian, she hesitated for a long time. She explained to me that there are so many that are so interesting that she could not really pick a single one which would reflect her linguistic passion. But if she really needed to pick one, she would go for ‘mama’ or babusia’, the words mother and granny.


Post Scriptum: Trip around the German Danube/Urlaub an der deutschen Donau

I was very lucky to be able to travel to the Danubian region in Germany after having learnt about it during the UCL Global Citizenship summer school. It was very coincidental as I booked my travels well in advance of the summer school, without even realising I would be travelling around the Danube!

My visit was mainly around Southern Germany and I paid visits to two of the German Danubian cities: Ulm and Regensburg.

I first visited Regensburg, a city with plenty of UNESCO world heritage sites. I saw the Steinerne Brücke, which I was told was the oldest stone bridge in the whole of Europe. Undoubtedly, it hangs across the banks of the Danube. Unfortunately, Germany currently has lots of construction all over the country, and the Steinerne Brücke is being refurbished whilst I was there.


Steinerne Brücke (under construction)

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България – Log Entry 12/6/2014


In the last lecture of the summer school, the guest lecturer, Edina, started off by introducing the role of Multilateral Development Banks in the development of countries in and around EU, she then went on to share what she has learnt while working on the Danube Strategy and similar projects. I found the latter part very thought-provoking, especially at the point that for whatever projects, they will not work without people being responsible. In the Danube Strategy, even though some people are not well-paid, their commitment has made the Danube Strategy possible. Back to this summer programme, although we do not gain credits for taking the course, every crew member has devoted much effort in it. Sometimes, we think that we are working harder on this project than our modules during term times. I will never forget, walking out of the Science Library at 4 am on Friday. It was unbelievable: we spent the whole night editing the film! I guess it was one of the very few moments when I see the sunshine, feeling exhausted, but very proud of what we have made, which you will see in just a couple of hours, freshly produced.

German/Austrian Reflections: The Danube Strategy – Reflections

I was slightly taken away when this elegant lady walked into the room and immediately bombarded us with self-reflective questions like

“Why did we chose to take up this Summer programme “The Danube”?”

Well, I never really seriously gave this a thought as I was like “Well, this Summer programme sounds interesting. Let me give this a go.”

This was the beginning of a quite interesting sharing of “The Danube Strategy: An EU initiative”. I wouldn’t say that it was a lecture as she gave us her perspective of the Danube strategy and most importantly what she learnt. The way she presented it was as if we are in the shoes, experiencing the same thing as she is and I have learnt a lot from what she has presented.

“When info travels, it becomes distorted.”

“Politicians do not necessarily think and act for the benefit of the society”

“Equality and Trust is very important for Co-operation”

“Find your Heroes”

This sums up what she has learnt from the Danube strategy and what I have learnt from her account.

Romanian Group Log Entry – Reflections on the European Investment Bank

Today’s lecture raised some interesting questions regarding the role of Multilateral Development Banks. Taking the particular example of the European Investment Bank, the speaker described the various benefits of an institution that could lend money directly to states and companies. This money came from a fund that received deposits from individual members of the EU and through the sale of bonds on global markets. The European Investment Bank is able to allocate funds to different projects. Many of the examples we heard about concerned the Danube and were therefore of particular interest. Indeed many of the European Investment Bank priority areas for developing the Danube region correspond to the ways in which the river Danube enhances the mobility and connectivity of Danubian citizens. In addition, by investing in new bridges, the European Investment Bank mitigates the more divisive impact of the river.

Notwithstanding these positive aspects of the European Investment Bank’s work in the Danube region, some issues clearly remain. For example, the European Investment Bank makes loans, but it always expects to be able to get the money back. This means that some projects may be overlooked when they cannot convincingly demonstrate that the bank will be repaid. Questions from the audience addressed this issue in particular. In the case of a loan made to a private company, the European Investment Bank may set conditions which stipulate a specific business structure which, while increasing the likelihood of repayment, may adversely affect workers’ wages. Of course, the loans from the European Investment Bank are creating jobs, but they are also sustaining a system in which workers’ wages are kept very low. An alternative example was raised concerning public transport. One of the conditions for investment directed towards the regeneration of the tram network in a European city was that the prices of tickets should be raised. The European Investment Bank justified their position by arguing that tickets were extremely cheap even relative to the local economy, however, some members of the audience found this problematic. For the users of public transport, experiencing a large rise in the prices of tickets may cause financial hardship.

The European Investment Bank could enhance its role in supporting European economies in more radical ways. For example, the bank could subsidise prices in order to ensure the least well paid are still able to afford food, energy and housing. This could be funded through additional taxation on companies whose profits are, after all, simply the surplus value generated by workers through their productive activity.

Day 9 – Serbia Group

Today we heard a lecture from a representative from the European Investment Bank about the EU Danube Strategy.  We learnt that political objectives often prevent the impication of local projects and we realised that there is a conflict between the global and the local.

For the rest please come along tomorrow at 10am in the Roberts Building to see the rest of our work!

Romanian Group Log Entry – What Global Citizenship Means To Us

The process of watching all of our film footage and editing the film was gratifying; it was enlightening to see all the hard work and efforts of the group over the past two weeks. Footage from various parts of London and different people, individual research carried out for the poster and website and the group’s interaction in choosing the best video clips were all strong examples of global citizenship.

This programme was all about communication – through communication we reached an understanding of others and other cultures, in addition to developing various practical and social skills. Global citizenship starts with the individual, which then progresses into a team or community – all of which carry the power, competences and empathy needed to impact society. Channelling cultural difference into a positive project such as the one we undertook combines logic and knowledge with creativity and communication. As Daisaku Ikeda, (founder of Sōka Gakkai, a Nichiren Buddhist lay association) said:

“The differences between people need not act as barriers that wound, harm and drive us apart. Rather, these very differences among cultures and civilizations should be valued as manifestations of the richness of our shared creativity.”

UCL is just a stepping stone, both for the project and for the people involved, a stepping stone that we can carry with us in order to become the best global citizens we can be.

Deň deväť- Slovak Group

Today we had a very interesting lecture about the development challenges in the Danube region. It provided us with an entirely different approach notably to the financial and political challenges faced within the region, expanding our knowledge in addition to an understanding of the culture and social aspects in the Danube explored in previous lectures.

One particular part of the lecture focussed on the diversity of the political system in the Danube. Although politics ‘does not always do what society needs’, it highlighted for us that despite the fact that political systems in the Danube may be very different and that there may be other differences such as residential segregation, the Danube acts as a medium to unite the countries along it such that they are inextricably bound.

Romanian Group – Reflections on Global Citizenship

Today’s lecture was pretty insightful. We learned how global politics can be shaped around rivers. Their strategic roles in warfare and ability to cause fissions and divisions gave geopolitics an interestingly daunting aspect.

In our academic classes, we moved on with a deeply interesting discussion about the words cloud simulated just after we were introduced to the programme. We were essentially looking to understand why and how our opinions, feelings and preconceptions about ‘global citizenship’ changed over those 7 – 8 days.

‘Education’ definitely dominated; indeed, it’s such a vast and varied concept that it could practically cover the rest of the words. Our concerns, however, revolved around the others. While some of the students viewed tolerance as an essential prerequisite, others viewed it as mere passivity, a feeling that could be associated with indifference and mediocrity. I thought ‘acceptance’ would be more appropriate than ‘tolerance’, since a sense of belonging is more important than a predisposition to ‘let be’.

Curiosity is one word which we felt did not fit the global citizenship umbrella particularly well. Many of us agreed that it was quite pretentious a feeling, focused on the self rather than on the outer world. In that, it had an equally-divided double connotation: while curiosity could be welcome as showing interest and importance into others’ lives, it could as well be condemned as intrusiveness and self-elevating pity (for others). Given the fact that everybody is not on a level playing field, it is understandably difficult for people to share their problems and tensions with others who are not in the same predicaments. This is something we could relate to our own experiences while seeking to interview Romanians in Walthamstow. We realised—better late than never—that instead of “I want to know more about you”, we had approached people with an “I want to help you”, they would have been more willing to open up to us. Hence, we feel trust and empathy should be paramount.

Another word, or rather phrase, we strongly believed should have come out more than the others is ‘net contributor to the world’. Above and beyond all, life happens at the level of actions, and not just words nor thoughts. Change is the end result of a logical sequence: thoughts that are expressed into words, which are then translated into actions. For how does a mind full of thoughts cause a difference in the lives of people thousands of miles away from us? We should be having both the willingness and courage to act in times of need—at all times. A net contributor gives much more to the world than he takes from it, displaying both selflessness and the courage to act.

The last word led to an important realization, a sense of awakening in us, I should say. We felt that the aim of this programme should be to realize that our deeds will help make a positive impact, and not mere thoughts or philosophies. Indeed, many agreed that if we took out some time each day to help the community, the vulnerable, anybody who needed help, the results would be concrete, i.e. we would in effect become global citizens. Someone even mentioned trying to open up education opportunities for the needy foreigners, which I thought was a remarkable thought. We felt these could be useful suggestions for next year’s programme which could make it an even bigger success.

After pondering for a while, I realized that the global citizenship programme did have its intended effect. In thinking the way the students did in class, in wanting so strongly to make a difference and not simply conjure up theories around it, they were already acting as global citizens… the required values, attitudes, and feelings had already been embodied. After days since we first encountered those words which we perhaps abstractly understood the first time and after playing an engaging role in the programme; I, for one, feel less foreign a foreigner now.

A Belated Log for 09/06/2014 – Hungarian Group

With the morning session reserved for filming, we convened at 2.15 to begin the final week of the summer school. The language session was focused on cuisine and ordering food in Hungarian.
It was at this point that we learned of the loss of the camera and all footage filmed over the weekend. Fortunately our subject was available for a retake and, with a new camera in hand, a group member was dispatched to rectify the mistake.
The day was rounded off by an enjoyable evening during which we were served examples of the food that we had been learning about earlier in the day. Although all certainly knew how to order pörkölt and nokedli(egy pörköltet es egy nokedlit kérek ), none could quite summon themselves to bring their newfound knowledge of Hungarian into use. The food had a superb depth of flavour and was a great introduction to Hungarian food. The evening was rounded off by the sight of one of the cooks demonstrating his skill with a whip.

The whip