Students and lecturers from five countries traverse borders and quash national stereotypes in Ohrid
Lake Ohrid is one of those exquisite places which can entice even night owls into getting up and enjoying the sunrise or a 7:30 a.m. swim. The special ambiance of the ancient city has made Ohrid the venue for the DAAD Summer School supporting the dialogue of and with South-Eastern European countries for the third time. From 21st to 31st August, 18 students and 10 lecturers from the universities in Chemnitz, Vlorë (Albania), Niš and Vršac (Serbia), Prishtina (Kosovo) and Skopje and Ohrid-Bitola (North Macedonia) explored conflicting truths in academia and the media and questioned stereotypes about each other’s cultures. “Lazy”, “bad drivers”, “hospitable”, “loud” and other labels of the Balkan countries were discussed as the first example of features that some find true but others do not. “Conflicting truths” even became a running joke throughout the week, as everyone was becoming more attentive to competing perspectives and started pointing them out at every occasion.
After each country presented their analyses of local issues that have led to major debates, the participants engaged in several practical workshops. We learned how advertisers lure us with deceitful statistics, how to summarise data in our research projects and how the media framing of story perspectives is different from the murder framing we know from movies like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. We also took a peak at the newsroom of the local TV Miki, where we had an insightful Q&A session with the journalists and got to see a real radio programme in the making during our visit of Super Radio Ohrid.
As the group got to enjoy most meals and coffee breaks as well as a city and boat tour together, we were able to socialise well with each other. During the traditional dances evening, we united over common Balkan rhythms and steps in the dances of each other’s cultures and quickly picked them up. The real sense of collaboration, however, had to be achieved during the group work task, where the students had to learn to cooperate in mixed teams and conduct small investigations of conflicting truths by interviewing people in the streets of Ohrid. After overcoming small challenges with the different work personality types, the teams managed to deliver six impressive presentations of their investigations, which uncovered many sides of controversial issues such as the (over)tourism in Ohrid and the region’s UNESCO future, the law on smoking in closed spaces and white lies and politeness.
It is difficult to share all the experiences from the eventful week in a blog post, so check out Radmila’s impressions in her video of the Summer School: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTpV3BNCBmM&feature=youtu.be
(Master English & American Studies, 4th semester)