Béla Zsolt Szakács
What is your area of research? How long have you been working in this field? How long have you been lecturing at PPCU?
I am dealing with Medieval Arts, mainly with Architecture, Christian Iconography and the preservation of national monuments. These areas have been in the focus of my attention since I was a university student, which means, for three decades now.
However, my interest turned towards the problem of historic monuments more recently, as I was working on architectural topics.
When you were a university student yourself, did you ever study abroad? If you did, what courses did you take?
During my university studies, I have not studied abroad, but after graduation I have spent two semesters in Bonn. I was both attending lectures and conducting research there in the topic of medieval art.
How did you choose the country and the university, and how much information did you have about the courses and the lecturers before your visit?
The choice was obvious, as we were living in Germany with my wife-to-be and the University of Bonn has been a reputable centre of Art History in Germany. I chose my lecturers on the basis of my area of interest.
Have you got any recent teaching experience at foreign universities and with the students of these universities?
When I participate in foreign conferences, I usually meet colleagues and we discuss our experiences about the academic world. I also deal with foreign students studying in Hungary.
I was a guest lecturer in Krakow, Sofia and Yerevan. I have conducted research with several colleagues, in Paris, in Dresden and in the East-Central-European region.
Your lectures here, at PPCU, are very popular with foreign students. To what reasons do you attribute this?
I try to raise topics that are general enough to be discussed by anyone regardless the country they came from with aspects and references that are characteristic for Central-Europe or for the university. Thus, it is advantageous to study those at PPCU. (i.e. Central-European Art, the relationship of art and liturgy)
How easy is it to find the way to your guest students, to reach them and to get on with them?
In the most cases I have met inquisitive, enthusiastic students I was glad to work with.
Are you able to make time for your foreign students out of the tight timeframes of the lectures?
Sometimes it happens that they ask me about the cultural heritage of Budapest and I willingly give advice as an art historian.
Can you contribute to broadening your foreign students' horizon about Hungary and Hungarian culture?
Since my courses always have Hungarian references, I hope, those can help my students get to know our country better.
What do you like about teaching foreign students?
Each and every university has its own unique traditions. I find it really interesting to see how these different methods are compared or set against each other.
My firm belief is that both students and lecturers can learn a lot from it.
Could you mention any differences between Hungarian and foreign students in terms of their needs or expectations?
Even in one group, students differ a lot in their backgrounds or their prior knowledge, and I have to adapt to this diversity. Naturally, foreign students sometimes need more guidance than those studying in their home country. Once you know how to handle it, it does not cause any problems.
How can you introduce your foreign students to our university, its past and its spirit?
As my courses are bound to the cultural heritage, religious art, church history and liturgy are in the focus. It could not be more appropriate elsewhere than in a Catholic University.
Do you ever give your Hungarian students advice on where to spend their Erasmus scholarship? What aspects do you take into consideration when you do so?
If they contact me, I am open to give them advice on this question. You only have to balance out the needs and the opportunities.
Last but not least, when you have spare time, how do you usually spend it?
As a medievalist, I am interested in everything ancient, even if it is not part of my research. I like dealing with pre-classical music and the world of movies. I also grab every chance to travel, which is indispensable in my profession.