Zoltán Kántor

What is your area of research? How long have you been working in this field? How long have you been lecturing at PPCU?
I was born in Temesvár (Timisoara, Romania) where I studied sociology. I was also deeply involved in the revolution of 1989 that started in my home city. Growing up as a member of a minority group (Hungarian father, German mother and living Romania) it was perhaps the most obvious thing that I will study nationalism, national minorities. I publish in this large field. I have publications in more than 10 countries and languages. I write articles on national minorities, ethnic parties, kin-state policies, nationalism.
I started to teach at PPCU in 2001. Since 2009 I am employed by the faculty, and I was the Head of the Political Science Department in the first years.

When you were a university student yourself, did you ever study abroad? If you did, what courses did you take?
Coming from Romania, Hungary was the first foreign country I studied in (political sciences at the Central European University and Faculty of Political Sciences at ELTE; Nationalism studies and Minority studies at the Central European University and at ELTE, Faculty of Sociology).
Thanks to my scholarships, I was fortunate to have the most famous scientists in my field as my professors.

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?
I have studied for an academic year at the University of Edinburgh. I chose Scotland as I was interested in the national issue in a country outside our region. I studied Nationalism studies there.
I studied in Edinburgh the following year after the Scottish Referendum on Devolution. I was well informed on what is going on there.

Have you got any recent teaching experience at foreign universities and with the students of these universities?
Yes, I am a regular guest lecturer at the Babes-Bolyai University in Kolozsvár. I teach at different departments since 2000. Now, I have two permanent courses at the Faculty of History (International Relations).

Your lectures here, at PPCU, are very popular with foreign students. To what reasons do you attribute this?
It is good to hear this. I do my best to offer the students both a theoretical grounding of the field (nationalism, national minorities) and bring a lot of examples from our region, focusing on the particularities.

How easy is it to find the way to your guest students, to reach them and to get on with them?
As I spent years in an English speaking academic environment, I am used to the American and English style of teaching. Western teaching style involves the students much more. This is what I try to do as well. I do my best to approach our Hungarian students in a similar way.

Are you able to make time for your foreign students out of the tight timeframes of the lectures?
I always find some time to talk to the students before or after class, in case they have a deeper interest in the field, or if they have any questions on Hungarian politics.

Can you contribute to broadening your foreign students' horizon about Hungary and Hungarian culture?
Absolutely. As we speak about the nation and national minorities, the students get a lot of information on the Hungarians living abroad, on the minorities in Hungary, including the Romany minority.

What do you like about teaching foreign students?
I feel very comfortable teaching foreign students, as I got university training in English language. As I involve them in the teaching procedure, we got information on the situation of the minorities all over Europe.

How can you introduce your foreign students to our university, its past and its spirit?
We are deeply concerned about values (both scientific and moral), so guest students got the same in this regard as our Hungarian students.

Could you mention any differences between Hungarian and foreign students in terms of their needs or expectations?
The major difference is that we teach the Hungarian students for 3 or 5 years, so we have time to know them better and adapt to their needs. Erasmus students are here for one semester; here I have to focus on teaching everything that is possible in 12-13 weeks. Plus, I also have to speak much more on the context, history of this region. As an average, Erasmus students seem to be more committed to study. I would say, those who decided to spend a semester in a foreign country are probably the most interested students. It is probably also true that the most interested Hungarian students go abroad to study. It is based on selection. I have both Hungarian and Erasmus students in my class, then there is no difference. Hungarians are as active as foreign students.

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?
I usually tell them that they should use any opportunity to study for at least one semester in a foreign country. The experience of getting to know another country (and through this process reflecting on one’s own country) is invaluable. One will come back as a wiser and more sensitive person. Obviously, the knowledge they acquire is also valuable.
I also tell my students, that our region is at least as interesting as the Western-European countries, and I suggest that if possible they should choose some East-Central European universities.

Last but not least, when you have spare time, how do you usually spend it?
I do not really have spare time :) But when I do, I spend it with my family, and I grab any opportunity to cook. Cooking is my hobby in the last ten years. But my biggest hobby is my field of study. I am both a lecturer and a researcher.

 

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