Going to school – even though it's summer!

After a gap of two years due to the pandemic, the Summer School at the University of Debrecen has organised its traditional Hungarian-language in-person courses with 108 participants coming from 35 countries. In addition to language classes, students participate in language improvement, conversation, sports and cultural programs between 18 July and 12 August.

The programme has a long history, as the courses were first held in 1927, making this the 95th year of the Summer School at the University of Debrecen.

“The program, which has been operating continuously for almost a century, shows the unbroken interest in the course and is perfectly aligned with the international openness of the University of Debrecen, the traditions of which are hundreds of years old in terms of the peregrination of the students of the predecessor Reformed College, Elek Bartha said at the press conference before the opening. The vice-rector for responsible for academic affairs at the University of Debrecen emphasised that today’s students, like their predecessors, are happy to study abroad from time to time, and thousands of students come to the university from different countries around the world.

István Puskás, deputy mayor of Debrecen in charge of cultural affairs, first recalled his personal experiences when he participated in the Summer School of the University of Debrecen as a teacher.

“It is no coincidence that for me Summer School is more than one of the many cultural programs held in the city of Debrecen. Each summer, students of different cultures, ages and motivations, come to Debrecen from all around the world, for four weeks and with a single goal: to get acquainted with the Hungarian language and culture. All of this implies cross-continental connections for the city, as well,” emphasised István Puskás.

Most of the teachers of the Summer School teach at the Faculty of Humanities (BTK) of the University of Debrecen, and they have created a colourful and varied curriculum for the students coming to Debrecen.

“One of the greatest virtues of the classes is openness, as any topics of interest to students can be put on the agenda, and this is one of the reasons why the students here spread the reputation of the faculty, the university, the city and of Hungarian culture all around the world,” said said Péter Csatár, vice-dean for strategic and budgetary affairs.

In recent years, the earlier high proportion of German and American participants has declined, and most participants now come from Slovenia and Poland, but there are still students from exotic countries such as Sudan, Equador, Chile and Tunisia.

“I do not know who waited more anxiously, we or the students, but in any case, we are very happy to finally encounter them again in person. To be quite honest, we did not even expect that so many students would arrive,” said Péter Szaffkó, director of the Summer School.

He also added that the youngest student is 15 while the oldest one is 75 years old. Forty-seven of them are self-financing, thirty-four came with a scholarship from Tempus Nonprofit Foundation, and twenty-seven with other grants.

“The City of Debrecen and the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society has funded the participation of four, the rector of the University of Debrecen for one, the Faculty of Humanities for two, while Campus Nonprofit Közhasznú Kft., HUNÉP KLK Hotel Zrt. and the Trans-Tisza Reformed Church District for one student each. Further, one student was supported in the form of tuition waivers granted by the Lajos Némedi Scholarship, named after the former director of the Debrecen Summer School, and two participants from the same family by the Pál Lieli Family Scholarship, commemorating the former teacher and director of the institution,” the director said.

Of course, various units of the University of Debrecen, including the Confucius Institute of the BTK, also joined forces with the Summer School in the interest of the successful implementation of the course.

“Although our primary task is to familiarise people with the Chinese language and culture during the semesters, in addition, in cooperation with the Summer School and EDC Debrecen, we also organise Hungarian and Chinese language courses for the employees of foreign-owned companies operating in the region,” said Pál Csontos, the Hungarian director of Confucius Institute.

In addition, students also have the possibility to participate in language improvement, conversation, sports and cultural programs. Those who focus on improving their language skills can practice pronunciation in a phonetics class, expand their vocabulary in a vocabulary development class, or enhance their speaking skills by discussing a variety of topics in a conversation class. In addition, there are opportunities to learn and sing Hungarian folk songs, become familiar with Hungarian pop hits, discuss Hungarian literature, famous Hungarians, both former and current, or even the culture of Debrecen. In addition to classic sightseeing, there will also be a night visit and a church tour, and those interested can join a bike ride to the ruins of the medieval church in Zelemér. On weekend day trips, students can visit Hajdúszoboszló and Zsáka. As part of the traditional folklore evenings held every Tuesday, students can get acquainted with the food, costumes, songs and dances of a region.

The work of the Summer University is supported by four organising students, one intern from Miercurea Ciuc (Csíkszereda) and five students majoring in international studies in Debrecen.

This year’s course of the Summer School officially started with the opening ceremony in the Aula of the Main Building on Monday.

Press Centre