International Educator - January/February 2013 - 37
deeper knowledge of the world, especially Russia and Eastern Europe, since the 1940s,” says Kenney, and close connections remain. One of those who took part in the program back in the early 1990s is Tomasz Basiuk, who received his PhD from the University of Warsaw and until recently was director of the American Studies Center. Basiuk graduated from high school and started university in the United States while his father was a Polish diplomat in New York, then transferred to the University of Warsaw. Even then, some of his classes in the English department were taught by Americans who were there from IU as part of the exchange, or were taking part in the Fulbright program. Even during that time there was ready access to American literature and films. “There wasn’t really censorship within the university within the department,” he recalls. Today the university offers a wide range of courses in English, and foreign students come from the United States, Europe, and Asia. “Some departments set up a replica of their regular curriculum,” but taught in English, Basiuk says.
Overcoming Reunification’s Unique Challenges
URING THE COLD WAR, Germany held a distinctive position in Europe as the only country divided between East and West. When the Iron Curtain was torn asunder, the country had to revamp universities in the eastern part of the country, while maintaining contacts with its former communist allies. “We had to keep the bridges, not tear them down,” says Nina Lemmens, director of internationalization and communication with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). One of the first things the country did after the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989 was to evaluate all the faculty members at universities in eastern Germany, says Klaus Dicke, who until recently was spokesman for the Universities Members Group of the German Rectors’ Conference. “Some professors stood the test and became professors of the renovated university system,” particularly in fields such as physics, chemistry, medicine, and German language. Professors in fields such as law, economics, and political science were replaced, mostly with those from the western part of the nation. In scientific subjects such as biology and chemistry, “there was a very good teaching tradition in the former GDR (East Germany),” Dicke says. As the higher education system in eastern Germany was revitalized, modern buildings and equipment were installed. At Friedrich Schiller University Jena, where Dicke has been rector since 2004, the number of students has boomed, from 5,000 in 1990 to 21,000 today. In the past, most students came from within an 80-mile radius of Jena, but this year the majority of the new class of freshmen came from the western part of Germany or from other countries. The university has been particularly successful attracting foreign students to study subjects that are research intensive, such as optics and physics, he says. Both individual universities and DAAD have worked to draw foreign students to the country, and 2011 was the first year the number of foreign students exceeded 250,000. Altogether, more than one-tenth of Germany’s university students came from other countries, particularly China, Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, and Austria. Dicke says the ERASMUS program has had the biggest impact on fostering exchanges. While the Bologna Process has encouraged mobility by making university degrees comparable, he says it can be hard for students to squeeze in study abroad if they need to complete their bachelor’s degree within three years. To draw foreign students, DAAD makes appearances at about 200 fairs each year, and has offices in a number of foreign countries. DAAD’s goal is for every German university student to have an international experience. About half are expected to study or intern abroad, Lemmens says. For others, the hope is to have “an international experience at home by meeting international students.” The interaction with international students enriches the lives of German students, the university where they attend school, and society as a whole, Lemmens says. Dicke says the presence of international faculty and students is crucial for scientific research, and for non-scientific subjects they introduce different perspectives. “For the creativity and flare of universities, it’s quite important to be international.”
The increased competition for international students, and increased mobility within Europe, has impacted Western-style institutions in the region. Initially, those who had the abilities and language skills flocked to the schools in Hungary and Bulgaria. But demand for a Western-style education changed markedly when Central and Eastern European countries joined the European Union. Hungary was among the first wave of former communist countries to join in 2004, while Bulgaria joined in 2007. “Many Bulgarians who would have been coming to AUBG now go elsewhere in Europe,” Huwiler says. Today many students at AUBG come from the former Soviet Union. Huwiler recalls that in 2007 there were three Russian alums. This year, about 50 entered the university. The Bulgarian language and culture are similar to that of Russia, and the former Soviet Union has few Western-style universities. Things have also changed at CEU, which primarily drew students from the immediate region in its early years. Now the school has about 1,500 students from about 100 countries. About 20 percent are from Hungary and 10 percent are from the United States, Johnson says. With that diversity, students find “I am neither a majority nor a minority. I am a citizen of the world,” Matei says. Many of the students from the developing world have never been outside their home country before, he adds. Some students come from areas prone to conflict, such as Israel and Palestine. At CEU “it’s a safe place for people to debate issues in a respectful way.” IE
SUSAN LADIKA has been a journalist for more than 20 years, working in both the United States and Europe. She is now based in Tampa, Florida. Her last article for IE was “Transforming Lives” in the November/December 2012 issue.
J A N + F E B . 13 INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR