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Students de-construct News on Europe on the shores of Lake Ohrid

Graduate students and their teachers from Albania, Macedonia, and Serbia took part in an eight-day Summer School in Ohrid, Macedonia in August as part of the DAAD-supported project DIgesting Crises in Europe (DICE): Deconstructing and Constructing Media Texts in Dialogue.

The project was the third collaboration between TUC’s English Department and universities in the Balkans. This year’s project partners were the University of Vlora (Albania), the “St. Kliment Ohridski” University – Bitola and Ohrid (Macedonia), Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje (Macedonia), and the University of Nis (Serbia). The first two summer schools, held in 2013 in Ohrid, Macedonia, and in 2014 in Vlore, Albania, focused on academic writing.

The topics of the Summer School’s seminars and workshops included discourse and content analysis of texts from various media sources, media ethics, and newswriting. Throughout the Summer School, the participants worked on mixed teams to produce texts and presentations as well as to discuss questions about the role and responsibilities of the media. Students also had the opportunity to get to know each other informally during excursions to local sights as well as during special meals and entertainment.

Prof. Josef Schmied, TUC Professor of English Language and Linguistics, received the grant in a new DAAD program “Dialogue with the countries of the Western Balkans”, which replaced a similar one on academic staff development, unfortunately discontinued in 2015. It aims to contribute to the strengthening of the civil society, the development of democracy, and the dismantling of ethnic conflicts in the region. In doing so, the program aims to support the sustainable development of academic teaching and research, particularly for young researchers, as well as cross-border collaboration within the region.

Comments from the Summer School participants illustrate that the aims of the DAAD program had been fulfilled.

“When I applied to the summer school, I was skeptical,” said an Albanian MA student during the final presentations. “I knew almost nothing about Macedonia, only that they have conflict, the Macedonian people and the Albanian people. Now I know Macedonia and Macedonian people through my own eyes, and they were very nice, very hospitable. It will be impossible to forget your hospitality. I would recommend that all students attend the Summer School because it is very fruitful. It was such a great experience for me.”

Her sentiments were shared by a participant from Macedonia, who said, “The most important thing is that we met great people here. We’ve learned a lot about the media, and about writing skills. I wish we could stay longer. We don’t want this whole thing to end.”

The instructional team, comprised of professors and lecturers from TUC and the partner universities, agreed that the Summer School had fostered intercultural understanding and dialogue. This is also expressed in the anonymous student evaluation: "I really enjoyed every single minute being here, because despite learning a lot about media world (sic.), I also made some really good friends".

During her concluding remarks, Professor Armela Panajoti from the University of Vlore, Albania, said: “I’m really impressed by the spirit of the Summer School. We had a very dedicated team, and I liked how the students engaged with the professors. It was good that the students could work together despite the fact that they did not know each other. It seems like the students have established long-lasting relationships with each other.”

Prof. Schmied enjoyed the enthusiasm of all participants, in class and during excursions: “The visit to the regional television studio in Ohrid gave students an opportunity to discuss with professionals, who impressed them by pointing out: ‘We are not in this profession to be loved’". He has already started drafting a new DAAD project with more partners for 2018. (Author: Mindy Krull)

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Matthias Fejes

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