Lóránt Vass

What is your area of research? How long have you been working in this field? How long have you been lecturing at PPCU?
As an archaeologist and historian, my main field of research is Roman archaeology and history, especially provincial archaeology, Roman material culture, Roman crafts and other aspects that are related to Roman culture. I have been dealing with these topics for more than ten years, however, I am teaching at this university only for two years.

When you were a university student yourself, did you ever study abroad? If you did, what courses did you take?
Yes, I have…in Hungary. :) I was born, and I have finished my studies in Transylvania, Romania, so coming to Hungary to study was also considered going abroad, especially in the late 90’s and early 2000’s when frontiers between two neighboring countries were not so easy to pass as they are today.  I was studying as an exchange student at the Eötvös Loránd University and Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary at the Archaeological Institute and Department of Antiquities. International exchange programs were also available in Romania in the early 2000’s (one of them was called Socrates, and was established for the Eastern-European students outside the EU), and one could apply to study at western universities as well. However, the scholarship did not cover the expenses, and the severe restrictions on the mobility of Eastern-European students in western countries required a huge financial effort and support from the family. Unfortunately, I did not have the necessary financial background then...

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?
As I have mentioned before, I had chosen the country and university according to the conditions and amount of scholarship the universities and countries have offered, and which I could afford. Back then, Hungarian universities were a symbol of quality, and in our case (for the members of the Hungarian minority from Romania), also the symbol of our own cultural identity.

Have you got any recent teaching experience at foreign universities and with the students of these universities?
I am not, although I did have working experience with teachers from other countries during several international research projects I was involved in Romania and Hungary.

Your lectures here, at PPCU, are very popular with foreign students. To what reasons do you attribute this?
Really? I did not know that! :) Actually, I was not thinking about that until now. Architecture, religion, burial customs are usually essentials aspects of our culture, mentality and daily life, regardless of the historical period. Everybody likes to express his or her ideas and opinion in this regard which can result in a very refreshing and interesting scientific (and not only) debate during lectures. I always try to focus on general cultural, historical and archaeological processes which determined the evolution and change in the Roman culture and history, and I put great emphasis on discussions in my classes. Everybody can express his or her opinion freely, so our meetings are usually interactive. I think the best way to find out the right answer, is to ask the students themselves. Maybe they have another reason. :)

How easy is it to find the way to your guest students, to reach them and to get on with them?
I only had very good and pleasant experience with international students. It is very easy to reach them due to their astonishing and sometimes surprising openness. Maybe, because I am coming from another country, I can understand them better, I feel empathy for them which enables me, perhaps, to help them integrate into the new cultural environment. I have never experienced any kind of difficulties in dealing with them, so far. On the contrary, they are always surprising me with the varied cultural “packages” they are bringing with them.

Are you able to make time for your foreign students out of the tight timeframes of the lectures?
So far, I managed to make time for all my students, both Hungarian and international students.  I am very delighted if they show interest and contact me even after the lectures. I am always at their disposal on email or on social media. They can meet me even personally in extracurricular activities if it is needed. Giving advice related to the discussed topics, or their own researches, is part of my duties, I believe, so I try to give them a feedback whenever they are asking for it. I had very pleasant experience in this concern. I am still in contact with one of my earliest Erasmus students from Switzerland, Italy and Slovakia. Even if they have already left Hungary, and resumed their studies at their home universities, they are still asking me for advice concerning their research and work, inquiring sometimes recommendation letters as well. It makes me extremely happy that during their stage in Hungary we managed to set up a solid environment for academic discussion which was not confined merely to the time of their temporary stay.

What do you like about teaching foreign students?
What I like the most about foreign students, is their openness, their critical attitude to general problems and their interesting cultural and educational background. Hungarian students were formed within the frames of an educational system that was typical for this part of Europe, and which puts accent on lectures and transmitting information and knowledge, less on the active implication of students. For this reason, they are more reserved and shyer.  I was educated in this way too, so I am perfectly aware of the advantages and disadvantages of this system.  Foreign students, instead, are braver and more active at the classes and can express themselves in a more confident way, showing meanwhile a profound interest in the lectures and seminars. I must confess that I have learned a lot from them, and for that I am very grateful. Their mentality, attitude, arguments helped me to reflect even more upon some problems related to our domain and to improve my teaching methods as well as to broaden my own horizon.

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 always urge my students to apply for Erasmus scholarship since, beside getting familiar with a different educational system and culture, they have the unique chance to gain life experience too which they can use later both in their private and academic life. I think broadening their cultural horizon is the main task of these exchange programs. Openness and criticism are two main qualities which an intellectual or future researcher/archaeologist should necessarily inherit, and which they can gain during these scholarships.

Last but not least, when you have spare time, how do you usually spend it?
When I have a little spare time, I dedicate myself to the culture. I like to read interesting and good books (fiction novels or anything that is not related to archaeology), and I prefer to go to theatres, opera, meet and hang out with my friends. Meanwhile, I am a huge cinephile, I adore going to watch movies in cinemas, and to practice the Roman bathing habits in Budapest’s famous thermal baths.