Romania 2015 Exploration Seminar

Conflicting Currents: Romania and Georgia in a Turbulent Black Sea

Berlin 2015 poster thumbnail

August 24 – September 24, 2013

Sponsoring Units: Honors Program, Undergraduate Academic Affairs & Comparative History of Ideas, College of Arts and Sciences

5 credits: Honors 384 (Interdisciplinary, VLPA/I&S, and W (note:all 5-credit Honors core class are "W" courses) OR CHID 471 (VLPA/I&S)

All UW students are welcome to apply, priority given to College/Interdisciplinary and Departmental Honors students and Comparative Literature majors.

Information Sessions

  • Jan. 16, 2:00-4:00 & Feb. 6, 2:00-4:00, CHID Lounge, Padelford C101
  • Feb. 26, 4:00-5:00, Honors Seminar Room, MGH 211B

About the Program

The Black Sea region catapulted to prominence in 2014 with the Sochi Olympics, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Immersing ourselves in the cultures of Romania and Georgia, two countries on opposite shores of the Black Sea, and taking a foray into Bulgaria, we will gain an understanding of the turbulent dynamics of the region: given its location between East and West, the region has often experienced conflicting cultural and political influences. Currently, Romania and Bulgaria, on the Western shore of the Sea, are members of the EU and NATO; Georgia, on the far Eastern shore, finds its membership in the EU and NATO in limbo, its relationship with the East growing. Historically, however, all three share certain traits: all have at one time formed the border between East and West; all have been colonial outposts for larger Empires -- Ancient Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Ottoman Turkey, and Russia. Because of the geo-political context, all host multi-ethnic populations that have grown and changed with multiple migrations; and yet, all have distinct cultures that flourish within a multi-ethnic setting. We will explore this multicultural diversity and consider the ongoing process of negotiating issues such as nationalism vs. international affiliations and national identity vs. minority rights in the formation of functioning, pluralistic societies.

Theorists of multiculturalism suggest that cultures are overlapping and interactive, but still maintain distinct features which individuals and societies wish to preserve. Using the countries we visit around the Black Sea as living textbooks, we will explore the concept of multiculturalism, and the ideal that different cultures can co-exist, inter-relate and influence one another in a peaceful and productive way. We will focus on how citizens and governments in this region negotiate national identity in a multicultural setting, exploring post-colonial power structures, the reinvention and reclaiming of their diverse cultures. We will also examine how the Black Sea itself, as a conduit between East and West, and as a site of multiple migrations of peoples over centuries, has become a microcosm for studying the dynamics of multiculturalism and the possibility of developing a transnational identity.

In all three countries, field trips, lectures, and museum visits will acquaint us with ancient and contemporary history to synthesize an understanding of this fluid region of the world. Reading literature, art, and history as cultural documents, we will track the complex unfolding of diversity. In Romania, we will begin our journey in Bucharest, a cosmopolitan capital, then move southeast to Constanta, Histria, and the Danube Delta, home to Islamic, Slavic, and Romanian communities. In Bulgaria, we will visit the medieval capital Veliko-Tarnovo, noting its ethnic and religious diversity. In Georgia, from our base in Tbilisi, we will explore the predominantly Georgian culture of the Caucasus Mountains, and compare it to more multi-ethnic regions in Kakheti to the East, and in Guria and Batumi, on the Black Sea.

During our travels, students will meet with local scholars, politicians, and artists to gain first-hand information about the region and the role of the Black Sea in fostering diversity. They will engage in self-reflective activities, including posting pictures and captions on our program blog, and exhibiting their photos and texts in Suzzallo Library after we return to Seattle.

Academic Credit

Students will receive 5 credits which will fulfill Honors Core requirements (Interdisciplinary Studies) or CHID requirements.

Conflicting Currents: Romania and Georgia in a Turbulent Black Sea

Honors 384 or CHID 471, 5 credits
Instructors: Mary Childs and Ileana Marin

Theorists of multiculturalism suggest that cultures are overlapping and interactive, but still maintain distinct features which individuals and societies wish to preserve. Using the countries we visit around the Black Sea as living textbooks, we will explore the concept of multiculturalism, and the ideal that different cultures can co-exist, inter-relate and influence one another in a peaceful and productive way. We will focus on how citizens and governments in this region negotiate national identity in a multicultural setting, exploring the different textures of these diverse cultures. We will examine how the Black Sea itself, as a conduit between East and West, and as a site of multiple migrations of peoples over centuries, has become a microcosm for studying the dynamics of multiculturalism and the possibility of developing a transnational identity.

This course is structured in three parts. In Romania, we will go back twenty-five centuries to see how much the sea contributed to people’s lives, economic development, trade, security, and their understanding of the “other.” In Bulgaria, we will examine what it means to live on the border between East and West within a multi-ethnic context, and to develop a tolerance for others while holding on to one’s own identity. In Georgia, we will explore the tension between a traditional culture and individuals who desire change. In all three countries we will access the culture through a variety of media: literature in translation, cinema, art, and history. Students will the opportunity to meet with and engage in dialogue with peer and local experts.

Housing in Romania

In Romania students will be housed in the centrally located University Guest House, “Academica”  and in Georgia students will stay with host families with another member of the Experiential Learning Seminar.

Program Staffing

Directors

Mary Childs, Lecturer, Slavic Languages and Literature

Ileana Marin, Lecturer, Comparative Literature
Dr. Marin has taught Comparative Literature courses as well as interdisciplinary ones for the Honors Program. During her teaching career in Romania she made strong connections with the host universities for the Exploration Seminar 2013.

Program Expenses

This program will cost $3,700 per student. Course costs include accommodations, classroom and library use, field trips, admission fees to all museums and exhibits, group meals, $300 CHID fee and transportation in Romania. Students do not pay additional for tuition. Course fee does not include an IP&E concurrent enrollment fee ($300); airfare ($1,000-$1,200 roundtrip, depending on when and where you buy your ticket); personal spending money.

The Financial Aid office can provide student loans for not only the cost of the course, but also travel, food, and other related costs, such as travel after the class is over, provided you are a fulltime student. In addition, short-term loans are available to cover pre-travel expenses.

IP&E will automatically charge student accounts for all program payments and fees.

Financial Aid

Students may use their regular financial aid and scholarship funds for study abroad. The exception is any scholarship in the form of a tuition waiver. Tuition waivers cannot be used to pay study abroad program fees. You may want to check with the Office of Student Financial Aid in Schmitz Hall for more information.

There are funding opportunities through the Global Opportunities Program, and the Office of International Programs and Exchanges also maintains a funding opportunities list.

Travel

To Bucharest

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to Bucharest, Romania. The program will pay for train transportation within Romania. All transportation to scheduled program excursions is also covered. Act quickly to reserve the lowest fares; you may wish to explore budget fares offered on websites such as Travelocity, Cheapoair, Orbitz, and Expedia, as well as Council Travel on the Ave.

Within Romania and Georgia

In Bucharest and Constanta we will walk from our hotel or dorm to nearby museums and sites on our schedule. We will take city buses or metro (in Bucharest) for more distant sites. Between cities we will travel by Intercity fast trains, as they are the safest means of transportation. To Histria and the Danube Delta we will ride air-conditioned busses.

In Tbilisi, students will either walk or take buses and the metro to lectures, museums, and other sites. We will occasionally take taxis together when we need to visit a site that is not centrally located.  Students will be encouraged to walk as much as possible in order to facilitate exploration.  We will take 4x4 vehicles with expert local drivers on our field trips out of Tbilisi.

All participants must have a passport that is valid for not only for the duration of the program, but for 6 months after the program ends. It may take as long as six weeks to obtain or renew a passport.

Application Instructions

Selection to the program is competitive and acceptance into the program will be decided based on application materials, interviews, and student's demonstrated motivation to challenge themselves intellectually across academic disciplines and cultures and to work both individually and in groups. The program director is seeking students who are interested in exploring a completely new cultural territory about which they might have learned from thrillers (films and novels) and National Geographic Magazine. The perfect candidates will be adaptable and sociable, ready to take the challenge of immersing into a culture that may surprise them with a combination of Western and Eastern values.

For More Information

For more information about the Exploration Seminar in Romania, please contact:

A unit within Undergraduate Academic Affairs
211 Mary Gates Hall : Box 352800 : Seattle, WA 98195-2800
206.543.7444 : 206.543.6469 FAX
uwhonors@uw.edu
Creative Commons License Unless otherwise noted, all public content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License