A Tremendous Will To Learn and Teach: A Very Personal Response to Last Week's Conferences

06/02/2014 19:13

On 30 and 31 January, the Department of British and American Studies organized the 3rd Student Conference on Inter-American Studies and the 4th Triennial Conference in British and American Studies titled Humans, Humanity and the Humanities. As I was part of the support team, I’ll present an insider look at the conferences rather than an objective point of view. Still, you might be interested in learning what you’ve missed if you didn’t attend. And maybe you’ll consider coming next time, as these events are organized for anybody interested.

Marián Kabát, one of two students representing Comenius University

The Student Conference was opened by Mr. Lacko’s keynote speech, presenting us the path towards “Fifty Shades of A” – A standing not only for America but also for advanced, aggressive or absurd (all of them adjectives fitting for the U.S.). After that, he was followed by students with their presentations on the day’s topic: “The USA – A Common Enemy or the Savior of Americas?” During the conference days, students from 10 different countries (Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Morocco, Guatemala, USA and, of course, Slovakia) exchanged the results of their research on the relationship between North and South America and the second day, on the minorities of the Americas. As I had a presentation a year ago myself, I must say that it is a great opportunity for each one of the students to be on the opposite side of the lecture hall for once and to be able to face criticism.

The keynote speaker Heidrun Moertl speaking on indigenous peoples of the Americas

In the afternoon, the “adult” conference started with Mr. Mistrík’s Slovak presentation which was interpreted simultaneously into English by Mr. Šveda. This speech with the title “What Are the Humanities For?” left a deep impression on both students and professors, as it dealt with the origins of studying and reminded all of us why we’re at university and how much could be done better in the process of research, especially by the cooperation of professors with students. The “adult” conference went on for the rest of the afternoon and the other day, and although I didn’t have a chance to see the other presentations, I’m sure the standard must have been high after such a fabulous start.

The keynote speaker Rakesh Bhanot on the point of teaching

In the evening of the 1st conference day, there was a reception in a nearby restaurant. Does it sound unprofessional when I say that this was my favorite part? However, it was not because of the delicious food that had been served. The reason was the chance of meeting the conference participants from the neighboring countries as well as from the most exotic ones, or even from my own university; and also finally learning something more about (instead of from) our professors, their work at the department and the organization of it. When I came back to my apartment in the late night hours, my French roommate was wondering why I would help at the conference in my free time. Her question quite surprised me as I thought it was even more common to volunteer at universities in the West. The point made me think thoroughly about my own motivation and after a few days, I was able to summarize my reasons: I met many talented and interesting people from my home country and abroad, I got to know people that I can learn from much better than one does in classes, I found out what happens behind the curtains of the institution I study at, and most of all, it was the best time I’d had in months. Yes, I’m pretty sure I’d always do any of these in my free time, for free.

 

Moreover, I believe that it was truly motivating for every listener to see how much knowledge one can accumulate over the years of conscientious work. The cooperation of students and professors proved that despite the hindrances which the humanities face nowadays, there is a tremendous will to learn and to teach.

Jana Černičková

Photos: Pavol Šveda

 

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