Aksinja Heinze, Summer 2019

The BEAR 2019 Summer School was one of the most unique opportunities I was ever given to expand my academic, cultural and world horizon. Studying an MSc degree that focuses on Russian politics and foreign policy and being a German who lives in the United Kingdom, my interest was naturally drawn to the way Russia and the European Union shape their relationship with Central and East European countries. I was particularly compelled by Kristina Kallas lecture on Russia’s compatriot policy in the post-Soviet space. However, all lectures given during the summer school were equally diverse, fascinating and thought-provoking. Student participation was strongly encouraged and being able to hear from experts in the field was an enriching experience. 

Beyond the stimulating lectures, the simulation games that we held on our last day allowed us to use the knowledge that we had gained over the course of the week to try and resolve the frozen conflict in Transnistria. The opportunity to step into negotiators’ shoes demonstrated the difficulty of trying to solve a conflict like this and highlighted the need for further research in this area to better understand the motivations of all parties. 

Even though we had a very busy class schedule, Université de Montreal staff and students ensured that we were well taken care of and enjoyed an exciting program after classes. I made so many incredible friends who showed me around Montreal and provided us with an insight into Quebecois culture. 

The Summer School provided me with crucial inspiration for my master’s dissertation and allowed me to explore a topic I had not studied before. It was an amazing experience that not only advanced me academically but allowed me to make exciting memories for life.