János Barcsák

What is your area of research? How long have you been working in this field? How long have you been lecturing at PPCU?
My main field of interest is literary theory. I have taught courses in literary theory for more than two decades, but my interest in the field broadened and widened when we started our disciplinary MA program about a decade ago. I am especially interested in deconstruction and poststructuralist approaches. My other area of research is British Romanticism, especially the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
I started teaching at PPCU in 1994.

When you were a university student yourself, did you ever study abroad? If you did, what courses did you take?
When I was a student the communist rule in Hungary was just starting to loosen up a bit, so opportunities to study abroad were slowly beginning to open, yet they were very few. However, I was fortunate enough to participate in two newly opening programs: I studied as an undergraduate at Lamoni, Iowa in the United States for a term majoring in literature and then I won a Soros scholarship to pursue graduate studies at the University of Oxford for a year reading literary theory.

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?
In the first case I chose the only program available at the time for undergraduates studying English at ELTE (the university where I studied), in the second I applied for the most prestigeous scholarship that was available for graduate students at the time. I knew very little about these places before I arrived.

Have you got any recent teaching experience at foreign universities and with the students of these universities?
I don’t teach at any foreign university, but I have taught courses in Germany as an Erasmus guest lecturer.

Your lectures here, at PPCU, are very popular with foreign students. To what reasons do you attribute this?
First of all, I did not realize that my courses were so popular among foreign studenst, but I am happy to hear it. About the reasons the students should probably be asked, but I’d like to believe that one reason is that I always try to make my students think: I encourage them to see beyond common sense answers to problematic issues and to formulate and defend their positions articulately.

How easy is it to find the way to your guest students, to reach them and to get on with them?
So far I have only had good experiences with foreign students.

Are you able to make time for your foreign students out of the tight timeframes of the lectures?
My foreign students so far have not required extracurricular attention. Most of their particular difficulties could be handled in a brief discussion in the breaks between classes or via an exchange of emails. However, should they need it, I’d be more than willing to help.

Can you contribute to broadening your foreign students’ horizon about Hungary and Hungarian culture?
Hungarian culture is not directly discussed in my classes. However, I often use examples that come specifically from Hungarian culture.

What do you like about teaching foreign students?
I like it that they bring their different cultural experiences, their different perspectives into the class discussions. The discussions often involve sensitive issues and it is always good to have people who see those issues from a completely different point of view.

How can you introduce your foreign students to our university, its past and its spirit?
I try to do my best at what I do. I always come to my classes with something to give to my students and try to conduct the classes in a spirit of intellectual freedom and open-minded tolerance.

Could you mention any differences between Hungarian and foreign students in terms of their needs or expectations?
I find that my foreign students are often more conscienscious than the majority of our native students and they are often better able to appreciate what they are getting.

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?
Since I am the Erasmus-coordinator of our Institute, I often advise students on Erasmus partner universities. I usually try to assess their intellectual needs and abilities and help them find a place accordingly.

Last but not least, when you have spare time, how do you usually spend it?
I love to play basketball with my friends. I also enjoy cooking and photography.

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