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Participants Share Their Thoughts About FISI 2005

Claudia Langa, Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania
Teodora Magdalincheva, Sofia University, Sofia, Bulgaria
Annie Tubadji, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK

FISI 2005 Would Not Have Missed It For The World

Claudia Langa
Undergraduate student,
Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania

You all know how difficult it is to select a summer school out of the hundreds of programs that are organized every year. It took me a few weeks of research to decide, but the result could not have been more memorable.

The main reasons for choosing this program in the first place were the distinguished scholars that taught the courses and the subjects that seemed very interesting for my future career. They have not disappointed me in any way, as all the courses I have attended were outstanding. During my first week in FISI I have attended three courses in the afternoon and enjoyed mornings and evenings with the dear friends I have made among the participants and the organizers.

Even through I was one of the few students among the teachers enrolled at the course taught by Shelley Friend and Dana Goodrich from the Northwest Vista College in Texas on Cooperative Learning and Cultural Sensitivity, I enjoyed it very much and it made me realize that I would like to teach at some point in my future career.

If you imagined that European Law classes are boring, you have not met Prof. Jo-Carby-Hall of the University of Hull, and Diane Ryland of the University of Lincoln, UK. They have transformed the law course from the usual dull course nobody wants to attend in the University, in a lively and entertaining discussion upon the European Union in all its aspects. During their stay in Pamporovo I had the chance to talk to them informally, learn a lot both on EU and other topics and exchange information about Romania and UK.

During the second week I attended the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution course taught by Prof. George Siedel, University of Michigan, Business School, MI, USA, which was very helpful in providing examples of real negotiations, learning through role playing and I am sure that this course will be of great value in my future career. On the way back to Sofia I was able to interact informally with Prof. Siedel providing him with insights on Romania and learning a lot about USA.

Prof. Alexander Billon’s course Global Business Strategy: Globalization, Multinational Corporations, and the Nation-State offered me the opportunity to learn more about the current global trends and I appreciated discussing the case of China.

One of the most interesting courses was, in my opinion Southeast Europe in the Context of the New Dynamics of the Euro-Atlantic Relations taught by Dr. Dinko Dinkov and Stoyan Stoyanov, University of National and World Economy, Sofia, Bulgaria. Due to the courses I had to attend the first week, I could only participate to the second week of the course taught by Stoyan Stoyanov, the simulation of the Cyprus case. I loved the way all the participants got involved in this simulation, discussing and negotiating everywhere, during meals, over a cup of coffee or along a walk in the mountains, taking the matter seriously, maybe too seriously sometimes. Next year I hope that I will come back to FISI 2006 as I would like to attend Dr. Dinkov’s course and learn from Stoyan’s experience this year in Washington DC.

FISI 2005 was more than just an academic experience for me. Even through I ended up attending more than the three classes I have initially enrolled at, time flew so rapidly during all the interesting courses, still leaving me time to enjoy Pamporovo, a great mountain resort and all the hotel facilities offered by the organizers.

Speaking of organizers I would like to thank them all for the job they have done in organizing this outstanding event. Even though not everything went as planned, as we couldn’t visit the caves due to the heavy flooding at the bottom of the mountain, the organizers managed to involve us in other activities and planned a trip to Smolen, to visit the local museum. I enjoyed most the two hikes to Snezhanka Telecommunication tower, one of them with my dear friend Mimi and the other one with a large number of friends.

Even though FISI was located in a beautiful location, a great hotel: Murgavets and benefited from the presence of experienced scholars, it would not have been such an amazing experience without the participation of remarkable people of all ages and backgrounds. I made so many close friends which I started missing from the moment I left Pamporovo and I am sure I still will years after the event. Some of them promised to visit Romania (one of them already did), I hope all of them will and I will return to Bulgaria soon.

I was impressed by the Bulgarians’ knowledge of Romania and glad I could explain a bit of the mystery of Count Dracula. Even though our countries are so close geographically and from a cultural point of view, to our surprise they are not close in inter-human relations but we hope we can change this in the future.

My comments could go on for many pages but I think that it would be better to EXPERIENCE than to read.

Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity and I hope to see you all next year because I would really love coming back!

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Teodora Magdalincheva
Undergraduate student,
Sofia University, Sofia, Bulgaria

It is difficult for me to describe all my feelings, concerning FISI 2005.
When I was applying for it my friends said to me: “You just need to experience it”. So I did…

FISI 2005 provided unique educational environment with people from different countries. The curriculum was designed to explore a wide range of political, economic and cultural issues. The program combined the remarkable academic courses with social and recreational opportunities. The lecturers distinguished themselves by their professionalism, erudition and dedication. Most of them provoked us into discussing the issues we were talking about, so that we could feel involved in the process of teaching and sharing knowledge, ideas and passion. The approach of the professors made us not only listen to them, but hear them and contemplate on the problems we were presented. Actually it was an impressive mixture of teaching, talking, thinking and of course having fun. For instance, I have never thought that the legal principles of the European Union could be so interesting. But with Prof. Jo- Carby Hall from the University of Hull and Dr. Dyane Ryland from the University of Lincoln, UK they really were. Their course was very interactive. We were not just delivered lectures – we could ask provocative questions, disagree with some statements, express our own points of view. The Negotiation and Conflict Resolution course with Prof. George Seidel from the University of Michigan, USA helped the students not only to improve their negotiating skills, but to realize the essence of common interest and the necessity of benefit for both sides. An overall picture of the current situation in Southeast Europe was drawn by Prof. Dinko Dinkov and Stoyan Stoyanov from the University of National and World Economy, Bulgaria.

All the lecturers were always willing to answer our questions even long after the end of the class. It helped us to remove the traditional barriers between professors and students. For two weeks we could attend different classes, listen to prominent speakers and participate in simulations that expanded further our practical skills.

However FISI 2005 was not just about spending time in the classroom. Off- classroom program was even more valued. All participants, professors and staff were given the opportunity for real cultural exchange. We could discuss the political and economic situation in our countries, play cards, dance, talk about our families or take a walk around the resort. And any of us searched for and appreciated his interaction with the others.

We all had different fields of interests. However we all tried to learn more about the ideas and the experience of the other people. The FISI participants were eager not only to enhance their intellectual vitality and professional development, but to make a lot of friends. Now we see a lot of each other, write e-mails, speak on the phone. That’s what really matters.

Of course the resort where the summer adventure took place tended to the success of FISI 2005. The remoteness, quietness and grandeur of the Rhodope Mountain helped to create the unique atmosphere. During our stay in Pamporovo a state of emergency was declared in Smolian municipality because of the heavy floods. We remained completely cut off and the railway and car traffic was blocked for 2 days. However the extreme situation did not darken the experience and even made us more united. Due to the efforts and the adequate measures, taken by the FISI staff, people leaving earlier were successfully transported to Sofia so that they could not miss their planes and be at work on time.

The richness of a broad range of academic and professional backgrounds, the stimulation created by intellectually engaged students working together, the depth and diversity of the FISI faculty and staff, and the magnificence of Rhodope Mountain made FISI 2005 a really memorable experience.

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Annie Tubadji
Graduate student,
University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK

Have you ever felt as if time stopped and let you have a full moment only for yourself?
Well, I had my moment in time, moreover not only a moment but a full fortnight in Pamporovo at FISI 2005.
I have realized it better than ever now that I am back here at my work place.
I am entering my office. Follow me!

This is my desk. Work stuff has been piled on it since the day of the departure, the analysis is still waiting to be further edited, the line ministries are sending their recommendations and inquiries all day long. All that everyday turmoil crept on my desk, mounted on it during my two weeks of absence and is now staring at me with self-content expecting to see my dismay. Yet, I am looking at it and I am smiling. And it is quite a relaxed and happy smile. Why not?

Yes, why not? I have spent two weeks of working on my negotiation skills and I am eager to try some of the new tricks learned there on my colleagues and bosses to prove that my innovative ideas for the analysis and the strategy are really useful. And now I know how to persuade them better than before.
And why not a smile? Ha – a message from Albena on my desk! Before my departure for FISI in Pamporovo we had a quarrel on the importance of CSR. She challenged me to fetch a proof that CSR is considered an issue of importance in the EU. Well, well. I am equipped now for our next meeting. At FISI I met Prof. Jo-Carby-Hall, we discussed a lot on CSR and EU and he provided me with the right papers I can support my thesis with in this work challenge.

And why not a smile? I’ll go around the coffee machine – maybe Valentine will be there. He always brags about his experience with the UN. Let’s see what he can say now that I have been the UN Secretary General. Moreover, as the UN SG I almost solved the Cyprus problem during the FISI simulation. Hahahahah, while he had been only a UN clerk. No, seriously speaking, the SEE FISI course simulation arose many questions that I would love to debate with experienced people like Valentine or maybe even Neil Buhne, the UNDP RR in Sofia at our next meeting.

Let me see this paper on my key board. Ah, a note from Boss. Strategy, strategy – my first task after coming back from FISI is to draft the social strategy 2007-2013. Well, what a pleasure and what a powerful tool to remember right now the FISI debate on Aid or Trade during our Global Strategy course.

Ok, ok. My desk is drowning in paper but I don’t have time to fiddle with it. So, I am taking my sit in front of the computer and starting it. The Outlook opens. Thousands of e-mails. About numerous events and issues. Some of them have already passed in history during these several days off. Tension and desire to catch up with the time lost increases. And… and… and here it is. A small smiling e-mail message from my new sweet fellow from Rumania who has created a yahoo group for all of us – the FISI 2005 troop. I join the yahoo group. And friendship, smiles, laughter, dear faces and kindred souls touch my life again through short e-mails and calls. And peace and happiness are my reality once more. Another pile of work e-mails follows. Ok. I’ll read them in half an hour. It’s not that much of an effort now, isn’t it? - Now that I feel the power of so many hearts beating together with mine. Hm, it’s time to go home. As usual – tired… what can the end of a mid-week work day offer? No! Wait a minute! I’d rather go to the British Council Library first – to check up for some of the books recommended to me by my new Harvard friend – Prof. Kramer. It will be interesting to see what kind of books such a remarkably intelligent person likes.

Definitely – I’ll go to the British council now! Come! I only have to lock the door of my study first. Where are the keys from the cabinet? Oh, this hand-bag!! I can never find… Look! Ha :) Do you remember it? The small thread bracelet that our Cooperative learning and cultural sensitivity tutor gave to each of us at the end of the course! “Take your piece of memory with you,” her message was. Yes, dear Shelley, I took my piece of memory – one of the sweetest memories called the bliss of new friendships. You were so right!

What else, friends? If you want me to tell you what FISI 2005 means to me and you want me to keep it short and sweet – let me then put it in a concise final sentence: FISI 2005 empowered me with knowledge and skills, inspired me with new ideas and enriched me with the treasure of so many wonderful kinships that make a true difference in the way I’ll be feeling my every day now on. What else, my dear, but a big and heart felt: Thank You!
Going out of the office on my way to the library in the rainy evening I hear the clinging of Pamporovo bells in the falling rain drops song and I smile.

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