„This is one of the best things the IP offers you: the feeling of being European“

In the last interview concerning the Erasmus Intensive Programme which was held by the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at the end of May, three participants – Anna Filipek (Poland), Marta Correia (Portugal) and Camille Courbin (France) talk about their experiences from the two weeks of studying Early Modern literature in Prague.

How would you describe, from your point of view, the Erasmus IP?

Anna Filipek: To put it simply, the IP has been a magnificent experience – both in academic and cultural terms. It has broadened my horizons both on Shakespeare and his cultural environment. I have also enjoyed the experience of studying under diverse methods of teaching and working closely with excellent students from a number of European universities, which was very stimulating. The host university made me feel most welcome and IP coordinators went to all lengths to ensure that everything would work fine during these two wonderful weeks. And the experience of Prague as a culturally rich city has also been unforgettable…

Marta Correia: More than intensive, I would say intense. Useful, interesting, exhausting and fun, too.

Camille Courbin

Camille Courbin

Camille Courbin: The Erasmus IP is a very intensive two-week course. It allows students to discover new topics and to get acquainted with people from different countries. This is why it is very enriching. We also got to work hard and thus to go beyond our limits.

In what way does the theme of the IP relate to your subject, specialization or interests?

A. F. : The IP relates mostly to my interests, since I am planning to major in translation studies. However, I have always been interested in Shakespeare  – what is it that makes his work so special? The IP has brought this enlightenment. The way I see it now, the magic of Shakespeare rests in the paradoxical elusiveness of his real-life characters – the fact that you may interpret the same character in two contradictory ways, and find evidence for both interpretations in Shakespeare’s text.

M. C. : The IP theme relates to my interests in the sense that I am a literature student and enthusiast, although I am not working on Early Modern literature. I am specialising in women’s studies and I am writing my dissertation about Virginia Woolf . However, seemingly unrelated topics can merge and I was able to apply concepts and theories I am interested in to the texts we studied in Prague.

C. C. : I am doing my MA thesis about Shakespeare, so I was already familiar with Renaissance literature, which was the topic of the IP. It allowed me to find out more about it and see it in a different way.

How did you become involved in the IP?

A. F. : I learned about the IP thanks to Professor Marta Gibińska of my home university, who most kindly invited me to participate. It was also she who had earlier the brilliant idea of involving our university in the programme.

M. C. : As an MA student at the University of Porto, I was approached by Professors Fátima Vieira and Rui Carvalho Homem to join the group participating in the IP this year.

C. C. : My thesis supervisor, Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, who was also involved in the IP as a teacher, asked me if I wanted to take part in it and I accepted.

Was it demanding to take part in such a programme?

Anna Filipek

Anna Filipek

A. F. : It was certainly demanding, both in terms of pre-programme preparation and the actual Intensive Programme. A student had to read his or her Shakespeare very closely and attentively, and then go through a number of critical articles assigned for the particular seminars. The programme of the two weeks in Prague was also quite tightly packed, with seminars in the morning, lectures in the afternoon and individual work in the evening.

M. C. : Was it demanding? Demanding is an understatement! We all worked very hard as was clear every Friday when everybody did their presentations. I was quite amazed at what people put together in such little time. Demanding but so rewarding…

C. C. : As classes were already over at my university, I could focus on the IP only. I just had to leave my thesis aside for a moment. As for the IP itself, it is intensive and we had presentations and exams, so it was demanding in a way, but I tried to adapt to it, and I surprisingly succeeded.

What are your impressions of Prague and the Czech Republic?

A. F. : Most positive. As to Prague, I had never been there before and I have been absolutely enchanted by the city. Once you steer aside from the most frequented tourist attractions and stroll through the picturesque streets of the Old Town, every nook and cranny has some pleasant surprise in store for you. It is truly a beautiful city whom the visitor may try to conquer, but he will eventually be conquered himself… The only reproach I have is about the constant rain we had during these two weeks – but, well, it was not really possible to arrange good weather during IP preparations…

Marta Correia

Marta Correia

M. C. : The best possible, but then I think we were spoilt. All we saw was excellent organisation and friendly faces, we were taken to the theatre, out for drinks in lovely places, the food was superb and we studied Shakespeare for two weeks… I mean, what’s there not to like? The language is tough, though.

C. C. : Prague is a very beautiful city, which looks like none of the cities I visited before. I tried to go sightseeing during my free time. I managed to book a guide and thus I could visit the main monuments and places of the town. I will certainly come back to visit more. However, I had the impression that Czech people, particularly shopkeepers, did not quite like tourists, especially when we do not make the effort to speak Czech. But their behaviour completely changed as soon as we could utter some basic Czech words. I think they appreciated the effort.

What would you say was the major contribution of the IP for you?

A. F. : It is not easy to select a single major contribution. The diversity of perspectives on Shakespeare that I have seen and taken during these two weeks has, I guess, had the greatest impact on my approach to studying – not only the works of the great bard, but any subject in general. The IP has also shown me that I can face challenges on an international level and rise to them (though my final IP paper still remains to be written…). Last but not least, I have all of a sudden discovered what an interesting country lies just across the southern border of my home country.

M. C. : I was very happy to be a full-time student for two weeks and to meet so many people, both students and tutors, from different countries who are working on so many different and inspiring projects. Sharing ideas, perspectives and methods will definitely have a memorable impact on my identity.

C. C. : The IP helped me to go beyond my limits, to get a better level, even in only two short weeks. You get to know more about your capacities and about yourself in general. Also, it allowed me to become more self-confident since we had to give presentations in front of all the students and teachers. It reinforced the feeling of being a part of the team as well. Indeed, the presentations had to be made with our seminar group, and since it was demanding and intensive, I felt solidarity from all of us and it was awesome. This is one of the best things the IP offers you: the feeling of being European and part of same team, although we came from very different countries. Even though the IP was hard, the overall feeling I have is very positive because when I think of something negative, it happens to be a blessing in disguise.

Anna Filipek  is an MA student in the Institute of English Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, inexhaustibly fascinated by languages. Translator by profession and an avid reader by pleasure. As a means of protest against modern intellectual stagnation, she undertakes various cross-university initiatives and engages in student projects such as organising conferences and publishing volumes of post-conference materials. Award winner of the 2010 European Daniil Pashkoff Prize for Creative Writing in English by Non-Native Speakers; also awarded a scholarship by the Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education.

Marta Correia, aka, Martička  is an MA student specialising in women’s studies and working on a dissertation provisionally entitled „Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas  – The Past, The Present, into The Future“. She is also an English language teacher, a job she loves but that doesn’t allow her a lot of free time. When she manages to have some time for herself, would you be surprised if she said that reading is the first thing that she wants to do?  Walks on sandy beaches bring her peace and the company of cats a sense of well-being. Travelling and languages are also an important part of her life.

Camille Courbin  is currently finishing the first year of her MA in English in Montpellier. Last year, she graduated from the Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux III, where she got her BA in English: she spent the two first years in Agen and the third year in Chester (UK) as an Erasmus student. Her MA thesis focuses on the dark sides of the end of Shakespeare’s Romantic Comedies.

Photographs: Anna Filipek, Marta Correia, Camille Courbin

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