As we write this – in late December of 2021 – it is especially satisfying to record our plans for the fall of 2022. The reason is that these plans are being laid after some exceptional experiences in Europe this past fall.
For starters we are delighted to report that none of us – faculty and students – were afflicted with COVID-19. To wit, the risks associated with the pandemic in Europe did not in the least define our semester at the Steger Center; neither did they impact the program’s excursions. With considerable help from our colleagues in the Global Education Office, we planned ahead. We took the necessary precautions. We reminded ourselves frequently that in spite of our vaccination status, the public health risks were real, and we needed to be extra careful. And we were. And we are thrilled to report that we all stayed safe.
The emergence of the Omicron variant is naturally figuring in our thinking about the fall of 2022. We will continue to be vigilant in our planning, to be sure. We will again require vaccinations and boosters for all program participants. We will monitor the public health situation in the cities and countries we plan to visit – more on those destinations below. We are optimistic that we can once again enjoy safe travel in Europe over the course of the fall 2022 semester.
It is now generally accepted that COVID-19 will be with the world for some time. Emerging strains of the virus will in all likelihood continue to make foreign travel challenging. All of us became accustomed to filling out the health documents when we traveled within Europe, and we also enjoyed the privilege of the Swiss Health Pass. Still, we were all too aware that the virus was present in Canton Ticino and in all of the places we visited. Hence, the below should be read with this “new normal” in mind.
Some might say we were just lucky this past fall. Perhaps we were. But from our perspective (as faculty leaders), all of the students understood the importance of masking, social distancing, eating outdoors, and reporting to one another and to us any health setback they experienced (there were three or four head colds, but all COVID tests we took were negative).
On to happier topics . . .
Before we get to our plans for this coming fall, a few pictures are in order.
This is among Scott’s favorite pictures from the fall of 2021. He often tried to capture moments just before the students would pose for the shutter. This one shows Ellie, Destiny, Andrea and Krystal in Marathon, Greece, following a delicious seaside lunch. If memory serves, the laughter was provoked by Caroline (who managed to duck out of the frame just in time).
This picture was taken at dinner with Joseph Joseph in Nicosia, Cyprus. Joseph is an old pal of Yannis’s – a Professor Emeritus at the University of Cyprus, and former Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States. Joseph’s soft-spoken voice was perfectly matched by his adoring eyes, his generous smile and his illuminating stories about his upbringing in a poor household in eastern Cyprus. This would have been well before the island’s independence, before the ethnic tensions of the 1960s, and before the Turkish invasions of 1974.
Those invasions left many parts of the island virtually uninhabited, and some completely uninhabited. The below pictures shows the sprawling seaside city of Varosha, near Famagusta. Abandoned by tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots in a matter of hours, the buildings, hotels, apartments and homes of Varosha have sat empty since July of 1974. These photos were taken from the northern edge of the city thanks to the “opening” of a narrow stretch of the Varosha to tourists. “They’ve turned it into a theme park,” Costas Constantinou warned us. It was a strange experience to see the endless expanse of this ghost city, still deserted after nearly 50 years. This must be one of the most valuable pieces of uninhabitable land on earth. And the Greek Cypriots who hold property claims in Varosha continue to be left in a sad state of legal and political limbo.
These are just some of the topics we explored during our time on the island.
Ghost city of Varosha, outside Famagusta in the northern occupied territory of Cyprus
Now to the fall of 2022 . . .
We are planning three program excursions next year. Once again, we plan to visit Lausanne and Geneva in order to give students an in-depth look at the international organizations that are at the heart of our program’s curriculum. Next fall we will prioritize the World Health Organization in addition to the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, as well as the International Olympic Committee. And the plan, once again, is to be based in Lausanne, as this permits easy access to Geneva. Oh, and – ahem – it also allows us to be close to our friend Zoran’s Café le Simplon where we can enjoy French cuisine in a ridiculously civilized outdoor setting.
And as we did in 2019, we are planning to travel from Geneva to Brussels to visit the European Union institutions and NATO Headquarters.
This past fall (2021) several of the organizations we had hoped to visit in person were closed (due to the coronavirus). Nevertheless, we were able to hold Zoom meetings with officials in the place of on-site meetings. An ICRC representative – Elodie Schindler – was kind enough to speak with us on the lawn outside the ICRC headquarters. And we were grateful that the IOC opened its doors to us for not just one, but two meetings and a fabulous lunch as well as a museum visit.
Needless to say, the work of all of these organizations continues apace during COVID, and it will continue this fall no matter what happens with the pandemic. And our program should continue as well.
The Geneva-Lausanne-Brussels excursion will comprise our first field trip of the program, and it will take place in mid to late September.
We continue to believe that a great number of Mediterranean issues – some quite old, others new – deserve elevation in the context of this program. Thus, we will return to Cyprus and Greece. In both countries we will deepen our engagement with local faculty and institutions to build on an already sound foundation provided by our friends Pavlos Koktsidis and Costas Constantinou at the University of Cyprus, and old John Nomikos, Director of the Research Institute for European and American Studies, in Athens. And in Greece we are hoping (no promises yet) to include a two-day trip to the country’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, in the north of the country.
Lunch with Pavlos Koktsidis in Salamis, Cyprus Dinner at Calypso’s with Caroline and John Nomikos
Because our field excursions to Cyprus and Greece involve discussions of Turkey, we thought it was time to build an excursion to Istanbul into the program. Thus, over Thanksgiving break we are planning a five-day trip to this historic city.
We have long meant to get to Turkey, but the country’s politics of late have not proved – how shall we say . . . ? – especially inviting. After further reflection we decided not to let this get in our way. And besides, with the Turkish lira falling in value (not to mention the all-important attraction of the country’s culinary offerings) we feel the opportunity costs can be managed. Plus, non-stop flights to Istanbul from Milan’s Malpensa airport are affordable. More soon on what this trip will involve.
The courses we will offer in 2022 reflect several changes – all positive – that we have made in the Political Science Department as well as the International Studies Program. Professor Stivachtis now holds the Jean Monnet Chair at the University, and his leadership of the Center for European Union, Trans-Atlantic and trans-European Space Studies means that we can expand the profile of CEUTTSS and its many programs at the Steger Center.
OK, so these are the plans thus far. None of this is written in stone yet, of course. And if we’ve learned anything this past two years (and mindful of Machiavelli’s teachings), we must be prepared to change course if the situation demands it.
We are fortunate that the Steger Center permits a safe and convenient base of operations for the program. We are also fortunate to have Sara Steinert Borella as the Executive Director of the Steger Center on board.
The European Affairs in a Global Context program began in 2018. By this point we feel that we know a thing or two about how to make this entire experience substantive, stimulating and memorable for our students. This is not a “recreational” study abroad program. The courses are very challenging, the workload is quite heavy, and the itineraries of our excursions are demanding. All of that said, we are confident that we will do incredibly important work together. And it will be a blast for all to boot.