The two Monicas in Budapest overlooking the Danube River.
This missive comes to you from Veszprém, Hungary where I am teaching American literature at the University of Pannonia as part of a Fulbright Award for this fall semester. While I love the students, the food, the culture, I am acutely aware of my stumbling Hungarian—a language that is related to Finnish and not part of the Indo-European family of languages. To each of you, I say "Jó napot kivánok." (Good day!)
During the past few weeks I have been enjoying meeting the fourteen Fulbrighters who are teaching high school classes, lecturing at various universities in Hungary, and conducting independent research. Imagine my surprise when I discovered another "Monica" from New York State and that we are both posted in Veszprém. Monica Houser is here with her husband and three children inserted into a Hungarian school; she is teaching math at a bi-lingual school not too far from this town.
You might wonder what these opening paragraphs have to do with MALS, but from my perspective, they have everything to do with MALS. The whole point of liberal studies is to broaden one's horizons, to appreciate and experience the beauty and values of different cultures, to learn to look at the world through another's eyes—all explicit goals of the MALS core courses and electives. Let me give you one brief example of being brought "up short" by a different way of doing things. In August I submitted a tentative syllabus of American literature selections about the early explorers, Native American legends and poetry, Puritan texts, captivity narratives, women's writing, as well as the usual Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman and Dickinson. What was totally novel to me was the response I received: "We haven't heard yet from the government what academic holidays we will have this semester, so it would be wise to create both a 14-week and a 12-week syllabus." WHAT? You can imagine how flummoxed I was by that response! Definitely something new I needed to adapt to.
And that is just one example of becoming a world citizen that MALS is committed to. The texts you are exposed to, the unsettling of your childhood assumptions, the challenges to your thinking are all part of a transformative experience to enable you to think out of the box, research quickly in order to solve problems, and apply strong writing skills to any task.
Meanwhile, you might be wondering "who is minding the store?" while I am out enjoying the beauties of Hungary. Professor Paul Morris, one of the troika who teaches LST 532: Memory and Denial in the Italian Holocaust, is overseeing the daily operation of the program.
Nevertheless, I want to ask you a question: How about writing a short article for the next MALS Matters? How about persuading a friend to take the MALS adventure? How about...? Do you have an idea for us? We look forward to hearing from you.
And so I leave you with this lovely night image of the Danube River flowing through Budapest.
Monica Weis, S.S.J.