Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Field School in East-Central Europe

The Field School in East-Central Europe is cross-listed as Anthropology/Sociology 4030. It is worth six upper-level credits, and it combines academic study with field trips to locations in central and eastern Europe.

The course has no formal prerequisites, and it doesn't require any specialized knowledge of the cultures and languages of this region. But prospective students should be mature, healthy, adaptable and respectful of cultural differences.

The program

The field school is an inter-disciplinary venture that provides the opportunity to explore rarely visited parts of Europe, and to encounter authentic people in authentic communities. Although the program begins and ends in one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations — Prague — the itinerary is designed to expose students to less glamorous and yet perhaps more intriguing sites. Two of these — a Romani ghetto in eastern Slovakia and a mountain village in the Transcarpathian region of western Ukraine — accord unparalleled opportunities for participating in the lives of people who live far from the hustle and bustle of stereotypical mainstream Europe.

The field school builds upon Thompson Rivers University's long involvement with the Roma of eastern Slovakia. Back in 1993, a group of our students was instrumental in the implementation of one of the first and most comprehensive community development projects focused on East European Roma. This early initiative led to the production of pioneering works documenting the lives of Slovak Roma, such as the National Film Board's The Gypsies of Svinia and the ethnography Svinia in Black and White. Similarly, our Ukrainian destination in the Carpathian Mountains has been a popular field work site for TRU students for more than 20 years.

The immersion into the lives of Slovak Roma and Ukrainian villagers — facilitated through placement with local host families — provides most of the material students need for fulfilling the academic component of this program.

Barring unforeseen obstacles, the 2018 itinerary shall follow this structure:

Week 1 (early May 2018)
  • Arrival and orientation in Prague, Czech Republic
  • Travel by train to Prešov, Slovakia
  • Roma in the city: socialist era urbanization vs. post-communist ethnic cleansing
Week 2
  • Roma in rural settlements: participant observation in a settlement near Prešov (students select degree of immersion with assigned host families)
Week 3
  • Travel by bus to Uzhhorod, western Ukraine & local orientation
  • Village life in the Carpathian Mountains: participant observation in a rural community (students stay with host families)
Week 4
  • Travel by bus to the High Tatra Mountains in eastern Slovakia; optional excursion to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland
  • Return to Prague, Czech Republic

Living conditions

The locations on our itinerary are all safe and free of political disturbances. In most of them you will find well-stocked stores which carry many of the consumer goods available in Canada. Restaurants are plentiful, with food and drink cheaper than in North America or western Europe. For accommodation we will make use of university residences, simple hotels and local types of housing. In some locations the accommodation will be a pleasant surprise. In others, notably the Romani settlement of Svinia, it will be decidedly rustic.

Photos

You can see more photos in the Field School Photos.

Program and academic fees

As a six-credit course, ANTH/SOCI 4030 requires prospective students to register and pay appropriate academic fees as well as a program fee. The latter covers all travel in Europe, local field trips and excursions, accommodation with breakfast and some other meals, remuneration for host families, and other program-related expenses. The 2018 program fee is $2,975. TRU students qualify for a $500 travel bursary, and an additional $250 discount is available to applicants who confirm their participation by the end of October 2017. This is in recognition of the field school's 25th anniversary. Please note that international airfare, travel insurance and immunization are not included in the program fee and must be paid for separately by each participant.

Application

If you are seriously interested in this program, please contact the professor, Dr. David Scheffel, either in person (AE 125) or by email. You will be asked to submit a preliminary application and to pay a deposit on the program fee.