What is your area of research? How long have you been working in this field? How long have you been lecturing at PPCU?
Being a historian, I am particularly interested in history of political (and social) Catholicism, the French counter-revolution, but the history of political thought and the historiography of the late John Lukacs have also a priority among my research interests. I am working on these subjects for almost 20 years, I have been teaching at PPCU since 1996.
When you were a university student yourself, did you ever study abroad? If you did, what courses did you take?
After the transition from Communism, in 1990/91 I was a student of the university of Geneva, where I opted for sociology and medieval history as core subjects.
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?
At that time, students had no information about the opportunities; there was no internet, or flyers or anything else like this. I did not know anything about the chosen university, neither about the courses nor the professors.
Have you got any recent teaching experience at foreign universities and with the students of these universities?
Of course, I am in regular contact with colleagues in Vienna, Cluj-Napoca/Kolozsvár, Lisbon, Paris, La-Roche-sur-Yon or Notre Dame. Regarding students, I have predominantly excellent experiences with our foreign students.
Have you been a guest lecturer at any universities abroad? Do you have work experience with teachers/instructors at foreign universities?
I was a guest lecturer at Cluj-Napoca/Kolozsvár, and at the University of Marne-la-Vallée, where the world-famous French philosopher Chantal Delsol taught. Actually, I am co-operating with her and her colleagues, but I have also been involved in a number of research projects with several professors at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. I am thankful to Professor Francis Python and the late father Guy Bedouelle.
Your lectures here, at PPCU, are very popular with foreign students. To what reasons do you attribute this?
The problems concerning the formation of civilizations and the regularities of their functioning are quite independent of disciplines, so they are of interest to many. My Francophonie may also explain that so-called „popularity”.
How easy is it to find the way to your guest students, to reach them and to get on with them?
It depends on the countries they are coming from. French students are more open to discussion than Hungarian students are. Their interest is more intense, their preparedness seems to be better than the Hungarian average. Others more easily adapt to the domestic student role – therefore they are less active.
Are you able to make time for your foreign students out of the tight timeframes of the lectures?
Yes, and that is perhaps even more important than the class lectures. I also do my best to strengthen them during our personal encounters, to encourage them in this environment, which is quite strange to them.
Can you contribute to broadening your foreign students’ horizon about Hungary and Hungarian culture?
At personal, out-of-class meetings, I try to enhance their knowledge about Hungary, a bit tied to the lessons’ themes.
What do you like about teaching foreign students?
It's a challenge. Somehow, a proof of the traditional vision of the university: an universitas capable of crossing national linguistic-cultural boundaries. It brings back something of the atmosphere of times past.
Could you mention any differences between Hungarian and foreign students in terms of their needs or expectations?
There is a higher proportion of foreign students who want to understand the actual subjects better and want to expand their knowledge about them. While following the course, they expect professionalism, as the lectures are not – or not always – in their mother tongue, so they need to understand the text well and process the material more precisely, because they do not have or only very limited background information that would provide background knowledge. This is also somewhat restrictive, because as a lecturer, we cannot refer to information obtained in Hungarian public education or everyday life.
How can you introduce your foreign students to our university, its past and its spirit?
I always try to underline that this is a university, which is Catholic – so it is a place of increasing knowledge and transmission of science, but its participants represent a dimension of higher value than science. I like to emphasize that this institution is also the legal successor of the University of 1635, and it is fairly important to me that the University forms also young people who may turn to the men of our age and are capable of secular apostolate.
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 would prefer not to give anyone a degree without one semester abroad, although I know this is not possible. At the same time, I believe, as it was also my personal experience, that a stay abroad expands incredibly a person’s worldview and strengthens his intellectual and professional self-confidence. It is important that young people who have gained experience out there take advantage of them at home.
Last but not least, when you have spare time, how do you usually spend it?
I love gardening, reading, writing-translating; I also like to go out and be with my family - like reading to my kids or playing with them.