András Rácz

What is your area of research? How long have you been working in this field? How long have you been lecturing at PPCU?
I have been teaching at PPCU since 2010, however, there was a period of interruption between 2014-2016, when I worked in Finland, at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
My primary fields of research are the foreign, security and defense policy of Russia and the post-Soviet region, and Hungarian foreign policy towards these countries. Besides, at PPCU I also cover security studies as well as terrorism studies.

When you were a university student yourself, did you ever study abroad? If you did, what courses did you take?
I had two majors, History and Political Science.
During my M.A. studies I spent one semester in the United States at Beloit College (Wisconsin), studying mostly history. During my Ph.D. years I studied in Lithuania and briefly in Belarus. In Vilnius I took courses in Eastern European history and in Russian and Lithuanian languages, while in Belarus I studied explicitly Russian.

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?
Beloit College was an easy choice: I really wanted to study in an English-speaking country, and there was an exchange opportunity with Beloit. So I gave it a try, and I was lucky.
Thereafter, I was slightly more conscious. I choose the Institute of International Relations and Political Sciences of the Vilnius University because it offered exactly the combination I needed: a strong focus on Eastern Europe, including language skills.
And how I ended up at the Minsk State Linguistic University? I intended to study Russian in a native language environment, and back then studying in Minsk for a summer was approximately 5-6 times cheaper than in Moscow. In Belarus I probably had the best Russian language courses I have ever taken.

Have you got any recent teaching experience at foreign universities and with the students of these universities?
I am regularly lecturing at the Baltic Defense College in Estonia, and in October 2018 I gave a full Security Studies course at the Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania.
I have yet no experience with guest lecturing in civilian universities abroad (except occasionally giving lectures), but this will hopefully change soon.

Your lectures here, at PPCU, are very popular with foreign students. To what reasons do you attribute this?
I do not think that this alleged popularity would be my achievement in any sense. I am simply lucky because the subjects I am teaching are interesting for many foreign students.

How easy is it to find the way to your guest students, to reach them and to get on with them?
This question should be posed to them, not to me.
To be more serious, I do not think that concerning attitude I would have any problem with getting on with them. After spending so much time abroad in different places, I have the same international socialization as many of them does.
There is only one particular problem, but this one is solely on my side. I have to admit that sometimes I am late with answering all their emails. There are simply too many of these messages. Foreign students are often a lot more active in directly communicating with the lecturer than Hungarian students are, so it is not uncommon that after a lecture I receive a dozen emails, full of questions. On the one hand, of course, this is all great, and I am happy to see that students are really interested, and I am trying my best to help them. On the other hand, as the teaching workload at PPCU 3-4 times higher than at Western universities, sometimes one gets simply overwhelmed.

Are you able to make time for your foreign students out of the tight timeframes of the lectures?
I have the firm conviction that work and private life shall be separated. And if this applies to me (and it indeed does), then it shall apply also to my students, as we shall be equals. Hence, I never expected them to spend any extra time with me out of the study-related timeframes – and they never expected me to do so either.
Had there been such a request from their side, I would consider it, of course, and I would even have some ideas…but there never was.

What do you like about teaching foreign students?
Everything, and particularly that having more and more international students at PPCU helps Hungarian students improve their language skills and become more open and flexible.

How can you introduce your foreign students to our university, its past and its spirit?
To be honest, I never thought about this before.
If I had to convey any message, I would probably try to accomplish it by doing a good job, by being knowledgeable, fair, flexible and helpful. If I succeed with these, about which I am really not sure, I think it is already a good way of making our foreign students have a positive impression of PPCU.

Could you mention any differences between Hungarian and foreign students in terms of their needs or expectations?
Foreign students are usually a lot more active than Hungarians. Even if their language skills are not always strong in the beginning, this does not prevent them from asking. This is something I really like, because it makes me think as well. From this perspective, teaching foreign students is highly motivating for me.

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?
Yes, very often, particularly those students who are interested in Eastern European studies, as this is the field where I can give hopefully useful advices. Generally, I keep encouraging them to go as many times as they can and see as many places as they can. Even if they finish their studies slightly later, the experience they gain during these travels is a lot more valuable.

Last but not least, when you have spare time, how do you usually spend it?
Is ”By sleeping” a good answer? Actually, I am quite lucky, because I really like my job, so I often read about Russian and post-Soviet political affairs and history even when I am not at work. Had this not been the case, I would have long left the university sphere.
In addition to my work, my real hobbies are hiking and martial arts. I have been practicing karate for more than twenty years, and even though recently I have been struggling with injuries, I still try not to give up training.