Summer School Review
Rather than being idle all summer long, many of us participated in summer schools: from a course on citizenship to insights into global challenges, from a methods summer school to one on European integration. Unfortunately mostly online (with one exception!), they were engaging and insightful, and something we also wanted to share with other interested students. We have composed reviews of our summer schools, so that they could be an inspiration to you next summer.
Institute: Center for Comparative Conflict Studies, at the Faculty of Media and Communications (FMK), Singidunum University
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Topic: You can choose from six different summer school courses. I did the course ‘Citizenship in the 21st Century: Fragile Rights, Unequal Societies, Divided Cities and Global Movements’. Other choices included ‘Feminist Peace and Security Studies’, ‘Rethinking Peace Education’, ‘Violence, War and Trauma’, ‘International Intervention and the Myth of the “International Community”’ and ‘Justice after Mass Atrocities’.
Duration/time: Last week of June, six days (Monday to Saturday), two synchronous sessions and one asynchronous session per day plus readings.
I chose to follow the course ‘Citizenship in the 21st Century’ taught by Dr. Igor Stiks, because I am very interested in issues of inclusion and exclusion, identity and belonging. During the summer school we met two times per day online, discussing the readings and the asynchronous sessions, where we mostly watched relevant documents and interviews on the topic of citizenship. The materials would vary from an interview with Hannah Arendt to a documentary about the student occupation in Zagreb in 2009. Taught from a critical perspective, we focussed initially on the development of citizenship as a concept and its various reconfigurations especially towards the end of the 20th century, reading authors such as Habermas, Harvey and Zizek. We also looked at gentrification and activist movements such as Occupy Wallstreet to analyze what activist citizenship means. Most interesting were the last two days, where we immersed ourselves into issues of citizenship in (post-)Yugoslavia, something that I previously knew very little about.
Although the summer school was online – which actually worked well for my schedule – I really enjoyed it a lot. There were great discussions and I think having these discussions live in Belgrade next year would be an immense amount of fun (especially for EPS students who have not gotten enough of Maxine David yet, as she is teaching the course on International Intervention ;)).
Institute: Agder University
Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Topic: European Integration Summer School
Duration/time: Three weeks
Originally, this summer school was supposed to be organised in a hybrid format: all students would hotel quarantine in Kristiansand for a week whilst taking online classes, after which all teaching would be in person. Unfortunately, the Norwegian restrictions did not allow for this to happen. I still chose to accept the invitation, even if the idea of three more weeks of Zoom was somewhat daunting!
All in all, I am glad I did so. The classes were generally very interesting and diverse, covering all aspects of European integration, ranging from historical accounts of competition between the EU’s predecessors to contemporary comparisons with regions such as the ASEAN. Most days saw two new teachers from universities all around the world enter the Zoom call, which definitely kept things interesting. Also particularly enjoyable was the fact that all classes finished by 14:00 each day, making the whole thing somewhat less strenuous than I had feared it might be.
I was less thrilled with the 4000-word paper which needed to be submitted two weeks after the summer school in order to complete it. In the end, however, it only took me a few days to write it. Maybe all the papers I have written in this past year have actually made me more efficient!
Institute: Olympia Summer Academy, in association with the Institute of International Relations, Navarino Network and European International Studies Association.
Location: Athens, Greece
Topic: Leadership and Global Governance Challenges
Duration/time: Four days, 7-10 July 2021 (normally this summer school is longer, but due to the pandemic the organisation opted for a shortened version).
The Olympia Summer Academy takes place in the heart of Greece’s capital, Athens. The city, with its rich history, provided the perfect venue for this year’s summer course. Over the course of four days, several professors from various disciplines gave lectures on a variety of global governance challenges. With two two-hour lectures per day, many different topics were addressed, which left the afternoon free for students to explore the city.
The topics covered included lectures on the theory of global governance, public diplomacy, American and European global leadership, democratic challenges and the pandemic. The different backgrounds of the professors accounted for some interesting perspectives. Additionally, as many of the professors associated with the summer school are either Greek or have lived in Greece, they offered a view on global challenges from the perspective of Greece. Particularly interesting in this regard were the lectures given by Wolfango Piccoli, in which he addressed the development of democracy in Turkey and therefore touched upon Greek-Turkish relations. Similarly, Dimitris Keridis, who gave a lecture on European Leadership in a Post-Brexit Europe, also works as a member of parliament for one of Greece’s governing party’s, offering a unique perspective on European cooperation.
Especially for EPS-students whose interests go beyond intra-European relations, the Olympia Summer Academy provides an interesting and academically challenging summer course. Getting to explore Athens, with its rich history and beautiful sights, is a very welcome bonus.
Topic: The Europaeum Summer School 2021. Imagining Europe: Migration, Borders and the (Re)Making of ‘Europe’
Duration/time: 6 days (9-14 August; may vary in the following years)
This summer school has been promoted by Charles University – one of the four universities which make up EPS. As I am interested in the international affairs of the EU I decided to apply for the school, which offers a comprehensive insight into migration issues.
With the readings, lectures, and presentations offered, the summer school did indeed provide a complete overview of migration, both when it comes to general aspects as well as more specific issues. The main focus was on academic research proposals of participating PhD and Master’s students, who got the opportunity to receive feedback from two fellow students. Presentations were given amongst others on migration(s) and borders in the fourteenth century to digital labour migration. Besides the participants’ presentations, the school invited NGO chief executives and professors from partner universities across Europe.
The summer school was not only theoretical: The organisers involved participants in interesting debates and workshops – which was not always easy. The Oxford-style debate lacked volunteers at first, and the teams were organised last-minute. I volunteered to be one of the participants in the debate and it was both challenging and pleasant to present populist points and work with teammates. Networking-wise, I think these debates did create stronger connections between the participants. There was also a group workshop, where students were assigned into different teams. Those teams resembled migration related organisations (like IOM, Frontex, etc.), and students had to come up with a migration policy favourably to the organisation. Afterwards, the different groups came together to negotiate their migration policies.
The online format made it possible to gather more participants and guests from all over the world; however, it also came with some drawbacks. It was challenging to engage with the content from 10.00 till 17.30, although most of the days were thankfully shorter.
Institute: European Consortium for Political Research together with KU Leuven
Location: This year with KU Leuven
Topic: Methods Summer School
Duration: ~2 weeks (depends on the courses you take)
To bring a little more thrill to my summer I enrolled in the Methods Summer School from the European Consortium for Political Research. It is usually hosted with a partner university, which this time was KU Leuven. Leuven seems like a great place to spend part of the summer, but unfortunately this edition was hosted fully online. Nonetheless, the summer school is still an amazing opportunity for graduates, researchers, and professionals to advance their methodological and technical skills and their research projects. It offers a wide range of courses imparted by teachers from all around the world.
For what it’s worth, I had very enriching experiences in both of my courses: Python Research for Social Science and Comparative Historical Analysis. The former was a one-week intense boot camp, putting to test our ability to learn new concepts and practical applications on a daily basis. For my final project, I created a Web Scraper that collects data on the most-cited journals in Political Science from Cambridge Core. The latter was a more traditional course on methods by professor Markus Kreuzer. Here, the virtual session turned into lively in-class discussions (and pre-class via Perusall) about the practical implications of freezing history and geography when doing comparative historical research.
Overall, I deeply enjoyed being surrounded by diverse classmates coming from different backgrounds from Ph.D. students to full-time professors or policy analysts.
Institute: Agder University
Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Topic: European Integration Summer School
Duration/time: 3 weeks in June (+ 2 weeks to write a 4000 w assignment)
The digital European Integration summer school is organised by the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at University of Agder and usually takes place in Kristiansand, Norway. The programme recently turned 30 years old, however, due to COVID, it was cancelled in 2020 and was held online in 2021. Being ‘yet another class taught via zoom’ many participants cancelled or postponed their participation until the next year. However, I decided to still give it a shot.
This year, the programme focused on the issue of Differentiated Integration, but we also had lectures on the history of the European Union (EU), the political system of the EU, European identity, Euroscepticism, the European Neighbourhood Policy, European monetary policy, and other topical issues related to the European Integration. Moreover, we had an opportunity to listen to and debate with some of the most renowned scholars in the field of European Studies. For those interested in academic writing, there is also an opportunity to take part in an autumn colloquium and work on your (first) journal paper.
Frankly, after three semesters of online classes, I had a bit of zoom fatigue, which is why I would have preferred in-person classes or at least more interactive and engaging elements. However, at the same time, I understand that it is the best the organisers could do given current circumstances: the communication was top, and the amount of lectures and the workload was distributed evenly so that students did not have to spend eight hours in front of their PCs.
All things considered, I would definitely recommend sending an application next year, as I believe the old-fashioned, in-person format of learning is way more efficient than the digital one, and on top of that, you can meet new people and enjoy the breathtaking fjords of Norway!