Serving to Learn in Budapest and Beyond

2017. december 15., péntek

Karoli Gaspar University has once more welcomes a group of students from Calvin College.

The partnership between the two schools has been around since the 1980’s, when Calvin College would send choir and band tours to Hungary, and it was strengthened in the 90’s when Calvin College faculty helped to establish Karoli’s English faculty. Over the life of the partnership, the relationship has grown, and one of the ways it has done so in recent years is the development of Service-Learning for the Calvin students. Service-Learning for the Calvin students in Budapest started around 2011, when Dr. Jeffrey Bouman, director of Calvin’s Service-Learning center, first led Calvin’s semester abroad program. Service-Learning is a way for students to become part of a reciprocal relationship with the communities that they are in, both offering their skills (usually their skills as native English speakers) and receiving the grace and understanding of the communities that surround them during their stay.

The program also has a set of excursions built into it, taking the students to historically significant places in central and eastern Europe. The first such excursion took the students to Krakow, Poland, where they visited the Auschwitz concentration camp. For the second excursion the students traveled to the Transylvania region of Romania, where they had the chance to meet with organizations that are working to rebuild social capital and trust in the Jiu valley region. The third and final trip was to Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where they learned about the events of the Balkan conflict. Each excursion is accompanied by readings related to the focus of the excursion: Castles Burning, by Magda Denes, generally accompanies the Krakow trip, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, by Slavenka Drakulić accompanies the Transylvania trip, and Love Thy Neighbor: a story of war, by Peter Maass accents the Sarajevo excursion. These readings help the students understand the complexities of the histories of the places that they are visiting.

The excursions work together with the Service-learning give the students a sense of the issues facing the central and eastern European region, as well as the various approaches being used to address those issues. The program aims to give the students a sense of the complexity of the areas history as well as an understanding of how that history affects the day-to-day life of the people living in the area now. The service-learning placements also help the students to develop a stronger connection to Budapest, adding a web of social connections that help to make the city feel like a home. While the students are here for a relatively short time, only from late August until Mid-December, the program happens annually, so new students arrive each fall to serve and learn.

Bastian Bouman

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Reformed Church in Hungary

Address: H-1146 Budapest, Abonyi utca 21.   

PO Box: 1140 Budapest 70, Pf. 5

Phone/Fax: + 36 1 460 0708 


Our church through American eyes

We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.