Alumni Impressions

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GUSEGG Alumni

Arwa Elabd, Austria, GUSEGG 2018 Student

 

If you read the advertisement about the Summer School for the first time, you immediately associate the description to the academic ambience, in which you are going to spend two weeks. You are looking forward to the unique opportunity to seek professional development, surrounded by educators not only from different countries all over the world but also differ in their disciplines. It is a great chance to connect with people from the same field of study, as well as enrichen and expand your own thoughts and beliefs.

But the description for this Summer School is not as accurate and true, as it should be. What the organizers do not reveal is that, yes you spend two weeks with people from all over the world, you become so close with strangers that you are best friends within a few days. It is very shocking how deep conversations can go and how naturally the communication flows. The person who shares the room with you becomes like a sibling, with whom you talk to for hours until the tiredness finally overcomes you; you experience that kind of intimacy that you only know from your family and best friends.

Similar to many other concepts that are lived in our current society, we have to realize that friendship as well, is a social construct. We are always taught that you have to know someone for the longest time before you consider someone a friend; but the Summer School proved us the opposite. It is definitely about time, precisely about how you spend the given time together. It is about the late-night conversations on the swing with a person you barely know but it feels like they have always been part of your life. It is about giving up sleep to jump into the pool in an unorthodox time – and temperature – just to share a laugh with each other. It’s about sharing silence together. It’s about giving hugs in the middle of a stressful day to give someone the space to breath. It is about sharing meals together, and fight over salt and the last peach. But most importantly it is about deconstructing stereotypes: about talking to each other, instead about each other.

Yes, the summer school is a great opportunity for the professional development, for learning how to write academically and speak in public, about mediating and mediating change, about deconstructing social concepts but more importantly, the greatest outcome is the feeling of community, the sense of belonging and the wonderful friendships that arose during these two weeks.  

 

Jarrel DeMatas, Trinidad and Tobago, Summer School Participant 2016

 

My Gusegg; A Series of Fortunate Events

My GUSEGG experience has been one to treasure;

From the hassle of travelling but even that was a pleasure,

For someone who had never travelled by train;

I knew that after this experience I would have a lot to gain.

 

After reaching Seggau castle I was awe-struck by what I had seen;

The view was amazing and the surrounding; pristine,

I was ushered to my room and made a bee-line for the bed;

Exhausted and relieved that I had made it to GUSEGG.

 

At first I was timid, no friends and in a strange land;

But I finally came up with a master-plan,

I signed up for all activities, my timetable was crammed;

Sports, karaoke, castle tours, and science slam.

 

Of all the events what I enjoyed the most;

Was meeting new people from all over the globe,

Two weeks of intellectual exchange and culture on show

I was grateful for the chance to represent Trinidad and Tobago.

 

But very little can beat the amazing food;

At least two rounds at the buffet was my personal rule!

How happy I was for during the second week;

An exercise program was introduced; by the pool we would meet.

 

The schedule was packed, very little time to rest;

But as far as Summer Schools go this was one of the best,

It’s been an incredible experience and I’ve made new friends;

If I had the chance to do it all over, I would gladly do so again.

Erin Yunes, Canada, Summer School Participant 2016

 

Thank you very much for the opportunity to attend GUSEGG 2016. It is an experience that I believe every student should have. The morning lectures expanded my understanding of the world. Listening to the amazing faculty challenged me to both consider a variety of critical issues in the international landscape as well as forced me to reflect on my own limitations and vision. The seminars in the afternoon were focused on my interests. Although the smaller classes were hard work, my classmates and I created a comfortable environment of dialogue and exchange. The academic quick fix and sound writing workshop helped me to construct my writing in a different way. My thought process is now dedicated to research design and considering what readers want to know and what they need to know.

Although the academics were amazing, the most rewarding aspect of GUSEGG was getting to know the other students. The summer school setting is one of the only experiences I have had learning in a wide range of academic levels. As a 4th year PhD I tend to be exclusively with students who are strictly focused on research. Being able to collaborate with incredibly smart and compassionate bachelors and masters students from across the world helped me to consider issues from a variety of perspectives. Although it is sad to leave this inspiring community I will keep the lessons I learned at Seggau Castle with me for the rest of my life.

Thank you again for this amazing opportunity. I hope I have a chance to study in Austria again.

 

 

Matthew Alexander Cline, USA, Summer School Participant 2016

 

If someone was going to tell me six months ago that the Graz International Summer School would be transformative life experience, I would be dubious. Coming from a small university town in rural Georgia to the bustling, energetic, and cultured city of Graz, Austria, seemed to be a dream come true! However, when Eva Trinkaus presented passionately about the GUSEGG program to the incoming international students at the University of Graz, I was swayed to apply. It seem to be a way to kill time before my short study abroad program in Berlin, while also a place to work on my undergraduate thesis in History. To my greater surprise, I was accepted to the program, and, little to my knowledge, going to enter one of the most transformative periods of my life! GUSEGG introduced me to the greater academic world, from its great diversity of perspectives, beliefs, and personal identities. Student body are some of the most open-minded individuals I have ever met, engaging and challenging some of the most dynamic issues the world faces. Subjects like Gender Relations, Social Inequality, and Wealth Disparity spark heated debates that often confronted my own original establish beliefs on these sensitive issues. However, despite are differences, we transgress into state of common unity for the desire to change the world we live and continue the pursuit of new knowledge. Outside the lectures and seminar courses, the students and faculty nurtured life changing experiences. It was amazing to see how traditional academic power relation was lax to encourage full intellectual dialogue, many of which are establishing future scholarly research.

Perhaps the lasting effect for me was restoring my sense of trust, knowing that there are people who shared some of the same personal challenges that I was confronted with in both the United States and in Austria! Having the opportunity to connect with the other international students provided a sense of inclusivity, something of which we are often denied when we are part of the scholarly world. To be part of the sharing in the life stories of others, both positive and tragic, left a deep mark in realizing that we are not all the same. In fact, GUSEGG brought us all into a new special community that shall having lasting impact in are life journeys. To quote the musical line of famous American Broadway show, Hamilton, in its song “My Shot”, reflects the impact how young revolutionary scholars and leaders can have lasting influence on the world we live in; “This is not a moment, it’s the movement. Where all the hungriest brothers with something to prove went? Foes opposes us, we take an honest stand. We roll like Moses, claimin’ our promise land. And? If we win our independence? Is that a guarantee of freedom for our descendants?” In the same way, we, as students of the Graz International Summer School, have the same chance to define and alter the communities, countries, and greater world from knowledge and passion from this amazing program!           

 

 

Nuria Mina Riera, Spain, Summer School Participant 2016

 

Seventy-four students and over thirty highly-qualified lecturers from twenty-nine nations shared a fortnight of both knowledge and personal experiences at charming Seggau Castle, from July 3rd to July 17th 2016. Throughout these two weeks, students have been exposed to a wide variety of academic perspectives regarding the issues of transformation, transgression and trust. As originally expected, the Gusegg experience has successfully achieved to broaden our minds as both students and individuals by means of both morning lectures on history, economics, feminism, ageing studies, sustainability and law, to name but a few, and afternoon seminar modules which focused on and deepened into such topics. What is more, students have been encouraged to transform their mindsets by means of considering interdisciplinary modes of thinking, as promoted by the dot group discussions, in which students from different fields of study joined to formulate questions and comments to the lecturers. In addition, the summer school also offers the possibility of presenting the students' research to the community by means of the academic poster presentations. Once the summer school finishes, students can also write a seminar paper related to the afternoon seminar they have attended in order to both further their knowledge and to practice their academic writing skills.

Nevertheless, the scope of this summer school reaches much beyond regular class-based knowledge teaching. In my view, the participants in the Gusegg summer school form a well-bonded community, which benefits from its multicultural, multilingual and multiracial ensemble of both lecturers and students, as well as the interconnected, though ample, fields of study included. One of the most relevant facts that foster such a sense of community is the readily availability of the professors to discuss any academic issues, as well as to provide aid in the personal research interests of the students. Moreover, Gusegg's success at bringing different peoples together also lies in the non-academic activities organized, namely meditation and running with the professors in the mornings; several sport competitions; evening activities, such as karaoke, film viewing and the hilarious international presentations; competitions, such as the science slam; an excursion to Graz and to Maribor (Slovenia); and last but not least, relaxing late evening time spent at the tavern. 

All in all, the Gusegg Summer School is a unique experience which any student can benefit from because of its thought provoking discussions and the long-lasting friendships formed.

 

 

Carly McAskill, Canada, Summer School Participant in 2016

 

The Graz International Summer School Seggau (GUSEGG) 2016 (“Transformation, Transgressions, and Trust in Europe and the Americas”) was an extraordinary experience that deepened my understanding of current European and international affairs within the context of transformation, transgression and trust. It was an unforgettable experience that truly impacted who I am as a researcher and has made me very interested in how we can create and facilitate interdisciplinary platforms where complex issues can be discussed in inclusive and cooperative environments. Through the keynote lectures, seminar modules, networking opportunities, presentations, field trips, panel and small group discussions, I had the pleasure of reflecting on aspects of individual, social, political, religious, cultural, literary, regional, economic, cohort and national identities. Overall, GUSEGG helped me to connect with academic fields in order to transcend boundaries and empowered me to deepen how I address the challenges in my life as a woman, researcher, artist and teacher.

In the Aging, Communication and Technology seminar (Ageing with Technology: “Digitally Ageing/Digital Ageism”) professors Dr. Kim Sawchuk, Dr. Line Grenier and Dr. Stephen Katz led my classmates and I through an interdisciplinary approach which considers the “art of ageing” in connection to computer-mediated communications and networked societies. Using insights of critical ageing studies scholars in Europe and the Americas, we learned about the predominance of “decline narratives” associated with ageing and ethnographies with older adults. This experience inspired me to contemplate and develop my responses through interdisciplinary analyses. Additionally, the seminar contributed to my knowledge on theories of media, mediation and mediatization.

As a new PhD student in Communication Studies at Concordia University working under the supervision of Dr. Sawchuk (director of the ACT Project at Concordia University), the privilege of attending GUSEGG provided me with a very unique opportunity to bond with my supervisor as well as make strong connections and friendships with other researchers in the aging, communication and technology fields. Some of my favorite memories include: being able to use my bold personality and sense of fun to be the master of ceremonies for the International Presentations and co-hosting karaoke with Dr. Peter Goggin.

A few very special moments of the summer school experience have remained with me. While sitting on the terrasse at Seggau Castle with Dr. Sawchuk, she said to me, “Carly, I am happy you are here.” At the time, we were admiring the beautiful view with some delicious wine in hand. Similarly, it puts a smile on my face to think back to busting a dance move with Dr. Grenier on the dance floor during our final night at GUSEGG. As well, to remember Dr. Katz’s caring gesture as he gave me two pieces of paper full of the resources he had hand written with, what he called, “my dementia starter kit.”

Currently, the strong connections I made with fellow researchers continue to develop with the conversations we are having about our applications for the European Network in Aging Studies (ENAS) Conference in April 2017. Ultimately, GUSEGG was an invaluable experience that has impacted who I am as a woman and deepened my commitment to interdisciplinary research. Thank you to the ACT Project, Dr. Sawchuk, Dr. Grenier, Dr. Katz; the Seminar 06: Aging, Communication and Technology members; the GUSEGG team; the Seggau staff; and fellow summer school attendees for making my experience so incredible. I hope to see you all soon and wish you all peace in your life, love in your heart and success in your goals. 

 

 

Kushal Agrawal, India, Summer School Participant 2014

When we talk of the Graz University International Summer School or GUSEGG as we know it, we talk about diverse cultures, broad perspectives, wide approaches, informative sessions and crazy nights filled with fun. I could find students from all over the world at one place united, to incorporate their thoughts about ‘Transformation and Change: Europe and beyond’. Although the offered six modules were all very diverse in nature, we had morning collaborative seminars, where all students got together and learned about different modules to get an overall gist of the topics, and also at the same time gave their perspective thoughts on it. Group discussions among students, panel discussion with the professors, and presentations gave us a broad and intense approach to look at a topic from various angles. But it’s not only about the study; if the days were filled with intensive study, the nights got more intense and crazy, but with fun. We had a wine tasting night, pool parties, sports tournaments, dancing workshops and tours and excursions. Getting to know people from diverse backgrounds and cultures was not only amazing but also very informative. The Professors and administration staff were very supportive and flexible with students, and hence that made the overall experience an unforgettable memory. These 2 weeks of GUSEGG not only gives you academic knowledge and chance to earn ECTS, but also shows you how life should have proportionate amount of study and fun both at the same time.

Caru Coetzee, South Africa, Summer School Participant 2014

Pre Departure

It is every South African student’s dream to go and study abroad. Unfortunately it is also every student’s reality that for South Africans this is nearly impossible. Our currency is too weak, our government does not give many scholarships and our educational system is completely different to those of European or American schools. However, I saw this near impossibility become a reality when I started researching summer schools to attend at partner institutions of the University of Stellenbosch. I sent in my application video after a frustrating week of trying to find a quiet place to film in Stellenbosch. When I saw how many mistakes had been made in my video and how many students had entered, my heart sank in my shoes when I realized my chances were about as much as finding water in the Kalahari Desert. I was completely surprised when I got the call from the International Office of our University to hear that myself and my classmate, Cecile, had been awarded the spots at the summer school of our choosing. But the fun was only beginning …

Summer school

Flying to Vienna, I was tired, had just finished a paper on company insolvency and helped my mom with her 50th birthday party. I really needed a vacation and the long travel time took its toll on me. But all of these silly worries faded away as soon as I arrived at summer school. There were 77 incredibly diverse and dynamic students from 26 countries. Most of them came from Europe, especially the Balkans. It was fantastic, to say the least. I could not have wished for a better experience. The lecturers were amazing and challenging, and experts in their fields of study.

I learnt the most from other students and chatting to them about their lives and experiences. I heard personal stories of the Balkan wars, of the current situation in Crimea, of Egypt, and of the life of a New Yorker. We formed a running group and ran in the afternoons, played waterpolo in our lunch breaks and spent the evenings after our program hanging out on the patio. I got to know people that would have never entered my realm of existence had I not gone to Austria. I met these amazing guys from Kosovo, a country of which I had heard probably once or twice in my life. The Austrians bought me beer and Shoko-bons. Waseh, originally from Afghanistan but living in the Netherlands, bought me hot chocolate and I could speak Afrikaans to him and he spoke Dutch to me. I learnt all about the European Union from Michal, a Slovakian, and Karol, a Polish Canadian. Neza taught me about Balkan politics and Sebnem taught me about Turkey’s secular state.

We had moot courts, guest lectures, a film evening, dance and karaoke nights, ate amazing food, held heated debates on everything from feral chickens to euthanasia and even visited Slovenia for a day. I learnt so much academically, but even more from the people around me. I had lunch with a woman from Croatia doing her PhD in South African literature and spent an hour chatting to her about life at home. I heard all about the Czech gangster hiding in Cape Town and about the death of Yugoslavia from Robert Austin, our lecturer from Toronto.

Cecile and I did a presentation on South Africa, which included throwing Fizzers at people. We also had a presentation in our summer school groups about everything that we learnt, and it was such an enriching experience presenting this with students from all over the world and who are all studying in different fields.

Be sure to go with an open mind, spend time socializing with the other students and be willing to listen to their stories. If you go over there, determined to view the world from your own perspective, then you will be disappointed and disillusioned. Be prepared to see the world as other people see it, especially concerning religious and cultural differences. It will make you a better person, as I know it made me.

After summer school I spent 3 days in Salzburg, and two of the guys I had met at summer school came with me for the weekend. It was so much fun having them with me, and we saw so much of Salzburg in one weekend.  I also spent 3 days in Vienna, during which time I also had the pleasure of visiting Michal and Barbora in Slovakia and they showed me around all the local spots. You will most probably meet some people at summer school who also have similar travel plans to you, so keep this in mind when making plans to travel after summer school.

Returning to Stellenbosch

As I am writing part of this, I am sitting in Vienna International Airport waiting to board a flight to Frankfurt. I am tired, sunburnt, broke, wearing chocolate-covered shorts and all my clothes are dirty. I want to stay forever and I want to go home immediately as well. I made such amazing memories, I cannot imagine rocking up to a double Company Law 471 lecture at 8am on Monday morning. It seems unreal, and I don’t think I can face it. But I also know that life goes on, and my life has been made richer by the experiences I have gained in the past 3 weeks. I learnt to ride underground trains by myself at midnight, got lost and found myself again in broken German, learnt to drink beer like a true European, picked up about 3kgs from eating bread and apfelstrudel, realized all shoes hurt after about 5 hours and that South Africans are about the coolest people you will ever meet.

I cannot wait to go back. My experiences are my own and I will probably never be able to recount all of them to my people, and that’s fine. Because they are mine and mine alone, and I like it like that.

Looking back on the past 10 days since I have come home, I can honestly say my summer school experience has changed me. I am more relaxed, but take my studies more seriously. I make time to hear people’s stories more often. I am more aware of the crime going on around me, and the development that still needs to happen in South Africa. My mind has been expanded, my worldview widened and I am so happy that I get to bring some of the knowledge I gained back home with me. I would encourage each and every student to use all the means possible to go and study at a different University. Whether it be for 2 weeks or 2 years, it will do you the world of good.

The quote I based my application video on was based on the quote of St Augustine, and it said that the world is a book and those who do not travel live on only one page. That is definitely the truth, so go out there and see the world.

I am so glad to be home, but I am already planning my next trip. Definitely to the Balkans.

Christopher Edyegu, Uganda, Summer School Participant 2013

On the 30th June 2013, I arrived for the 8th Graz International Summer School at Seggau Castle to find 95 students and 25 professors from almost 60 universities and 35 different countries. To be honest, I did not know how to proceed as I had never met so many people from such different and diverse countries and this was also my first time in Europe. How could I ever get along with them given that we are so different? Fortunately, Professor Guy Laforest’s wise words were the catapult that propelled me to action. He said that sometimes people have more similarities than differences but they tend to focus on that which separates them. Talking to fellow students, I realized that we have lots in common; we like the same music and movies, we have read the same books, share a love for football, among several other interests. Though international borders are becoming increasingly irrelevant, they still matter and these imaginary boundaries have the ability to restrict us by emphasizing our differences. Summer school taught me that if we can overcome the boundaries in our minds, we can be able to open bridges to find connections between us. We must develop ways in which we can use each other’s differences to enrich ourselves. The future of this world may depend on new patterns of relations across difference.

Whoever thought summer school would be all fun was greatly mistaken. Yes, we played football, volleyball, table tennis, did karaoke and several other fun activities but academics were our main priority. We engaged in rigorous academic work focusing on the theme of “Collective Identities: Nationalism, Transnationalism – Europe and Beyond." It was an international and interdisciplinary academic experience that required active participation in seminars and lectures. Between six to eight hours each day were dedicated to academic exposure. It was critically challenging and intense. But I must say that it was good for me. Before summer school, I avoided debates because I hated conflict but by engaging in academic discussions with lecturers and fellow students, I realized that I actually enjoy debates and I am good at it (something I did not know about myself). I realized that the conflict of minds is needed to expose us to other points of views and experiences.

Summer school helped me to find wholeness in my identity. In the last three years, I have lived and studied in Uganda (3 years), South Africa (3 years) and in Botswana (4 years). I also travel regularly in these countries. Considering all three countries home, I have always been divided about which was my "real home" and which one defined me. In summer school, I learned that all these countries form part of my collective identity and I don’t have to choose between them but I can incorporate them within my identity. I can gain from all these countries to form a fuller, richer identity. At the same time identity is not fixed so with each new experience (such as this summer school experience) we add a new layer to our identity. The key to staying grounded, I have learned, is to "think globally and act locally." My mind has been blown (positively) at summer school. I have absolutely loved my time at the Graz International Summer School at Seggau and I will look back at my time there with nostalgia.

Karim Friaa, Tunisia, Summer School Participant 2013

The Graz International Summer School Graz 2013 was a unique academic and cultural experience for me, since I generally enjoy working and sharing my ideas with students and professors from all over the world (Europe, Africa, America, and Asia) in multicultural environments. During the summer, after I had returned to my hometown, I didn't stop talking to my family, my friends and my professors about this event that provoked a positive ‘‘cultural shock’’, it gave me a lot of energy, hope and ambitions for my future studies. I really appreciated the academic staff of the University of Graz because of their professional organization of the program, for the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of the whole event and for the various activities which made my stay at Seggau castle very comfortable – it fostered learning and sharing nice moments with other participants. This summer school program had been a multicultural and multiethnic laboratory of remarkable academic relevance where I had the chance to discuss and comment on specific social, cultural and political situations in Europe and around the world based on the topic “Collective Identities: Nationalism, Transnationalism – Europe and Beyond" and the lectures organized by my professors Mr. Soeren Keil from Canterbury Christ Church University (UK) and Mr. Robert C Austin from the University of Toronto (Canada). Gaining knowledge through analysis, evaluation of skills, and panels of discussion was the common goal of all participants and the organizing committee. But it’s not all about studying; it’s also about meeting international students, and being engaged in a cultural exchange which not only broadens your academic horizon but offers you an international network of colleagues who all share similar interests, it’s also about representing your country and sharing your identity, culture, language with participants from many nations. I experienced diversity in a pleasant atmosphere of respect, responsibility, exchange, culture, knowledge, languages, sports (football, volleyball, tennis table, swimming pool), karaoke, watching movies, drinking coffee with friends during the night and during free time after lectures, very nice accommodation, special meals and very delicious desserts, enjoying the opening and closing ceremony, and visiting Graz. It was an experience I will never forget; therefore I'm planning to come to Seggau in 2014 as well. So, if you are interested in the GUSEGG 2014, don’t waste time thinking, do apply, maybe we will meet and we will share an interesting academic and cultural experience in July 2014.

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Contact for Students:

University of Graz (Austria): Office of International Relations
gusegg(at)uni-graz.at

Tel. +43 (0)316 / 380-3926

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