Roma Community, Intensive Language Course, and a New Educational Philosophy
Three components make RGPP such a unique non-degree academic program. First, it offers intensive academic English preparation. Second, students receive regular tutorial in the selected academic discipline and a first-hand exposure to MA-level classes at CEU. Third, students find themselves in a vibrant and diverse community of Roma individuals that otherwise would not be easily accessible.
Csaba Olah (Csabi) is a Hungarian Roma alumnus, and he describes his motivation to apply to the Program exactly along these lines. Three equally valid reasons, all of which are of equally prioritized in the Program. Csabi is one of those fortunate alumni who not only earned their MA, but also work in a field that is closest to their heart.
Q.: What are your most vivid memories about the Program(s)?
Csaba O.: I have many important memories from my time in the Programs. What particularly comes to me when I think about the aims of the Program are the TOEFL exams and my scores because I was really satisfied with my results, and I saw that all my efforts paid off.
The community meant a lot to me for many reasons. I got to know many people, and I am still in touch with several of them. Even before learning about the Roma Program, it was a big dream of mine to know Roma people from other countries and learn about the situation of Roma communities through their lens. Knowing that I am a part of a community that shares certain experiences kept me motivated throughout the years.
Q.: Why did you apply to the Program(s), and why did you decide to apply to a Sociology MA?
Csaba O.: I applied to RELP because I really wanted to improve my English skills. At that time, I was already considering taking a language course. The RELP program was not even available yet when I first learnt about CEU. I was intrigued by CEU’s educational model, and when I found the RELP call, I felt the things I had been looking for – a diverse Roma community, a language course, and a new educational philosophy – would be provided there. At that time earning an MA degree was among my long-term goals but I did not have a clear idea about the specifics. Towards the end of the RELP year, I started to reconsider the timeline of my MA aspirations, and I started to work more actively towards it. Objectively, however, I knew that I would need extra preparation to submit a good application package and pursue and MA program. I thought the components of RGPP – the opportunity to audit MA courses, the tutorial in an academic subject, and the academic English classes – would increase my chances of being admitted to an MA program.
I took tutorial classes in Nationalism Studies and Sociology. There were the two of us in the group and we had great tutors. Eventually, I applied to a Sociology MA because I felt that in that program, I could learn the fundamentals and I could also gain a more complex understanding of social explanations. Particularly, I was very interested in how nation states in Central-Eastern Europe had influenced the development of the Romani identity in this region, and how the Romani peoples can reinterpret these processes. I wrote my MA about the media representation and framing of the forced eviction of Roma in a Hungarian locality.
Q.: In your opinion, who should apply to the program?
Csaba O.: Looking back, the Program primarily is for those who want to study in a graduate program, but they could use some additional help to increase their chances of getting in. The Program is for those who seek to develop their English in an excellent and unique environment. A regular language program cannot offer you such a setting where you constantly interact in English.
Q.: Why did you want to earn an international diploma and why is it important that more Roma students graduate from international Master’s programs?
Csaba O.: The international accreditation of the diploma was not the most decisive factor for me. I was rather interested in the ranking and the quality of the education. I wanted to study at CEU because I was convinced by its reputation and results. However, I do think that in academia Roma are still underrepresented, especially when it comes to publishing scholars. From what I have seen through my studies and attending conferences, it is highly beneficial when Roma are not only research interests in social sciences, but we take the roles of researchers and scholars.
Q.: What have you done since graduation, and what are your plans?
Csaba O.: When I finished my MA, I knew that for a couple of years I wanted to work in positions where I could gain practical experiences and I wanted to develop a deeper understanding of the realities of Roma communities, with a focus on young Roma people. I felt I could only be a credible professional or scholar if I built extensive and complex relations with diverse groups of Roma. I thought the best way to do that was working in grant making and community development.
Ever since I learnt about OSF RIO, I have wanted to learn about their vision and work with them. They caught my attention when I was an RGPP student because they were the first ones who found a way to talk about the need of increasing Roma representation not only on domestic level, but internationally. Therefore, after graduation, I applied for an internship with their office, and I stayed with them for almost 2 years. 3 years ago, when I applied to REF for a country coordinator position, I had the same aspirations. In my position, I work on a project that supports vocational education students.
Recently, with two other Roma Program alumni, I have also started working on a project as a grantee team of the RSP’s iLab. This new project of ours is exciting to me for several reasons. First, I am very happy because we are working on this together with other alumni, and second, with these newly acquired skills that I gain through the iLab, my colleagues and I can help Roma businesses grow and achieve their goals.
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