Report on the Thinking Canada Study Tour 2010
October 28th, 2010
Anita Demény, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
From the very beginning, the Thinking Canada 2010 program was an ambitious undertaking. Admittedly, its aim was to give us students an understanding of Canada that was both detailed and comprehensive, academic and practical. Adhering to this, the schedule was prestigious - and packed, its informal motto being "exhausting and exhaustive". Even so, I guess we all had our doubts about how much can possibly be achieved through a trip like this. I must say, personally it went far beyond all my expectations.
We were a diverse group, representing almost 20 different countries in the EU and coming from very different academic backgrounds. We were composed of students of American studies, international relations, economics and law as well as languages and journalism. The first real challange was to get to know each other, and throughout the tour we learned a great deal not only about Canada but about the challanging differences existing within the European Union.
Similarly to this wide range of variety, during the tour we had the opportunity to meet people both in Europe and Canada who were of very diverse standing and backgrounds, highly qualified and experienced in different fields. Bringing in such a plethora of perspectives on closely related issues was probably the greatest achievement of the tour. Also, we had the rare opportunity to get a glimpse into very 'up-to-date' issues such as the CETA negotiations and talk to politicians, diplomats, CEOs and others involved. Their great professional insight and the chance to see the mechanism at work was one of the most exciting features of the tour. We were also presented with deeper insight on the Canadian banking system, the structure of governance and many other issues including (but not limited to) immigration, education, language policy and urban planning. I had no idea before how closely the federal structure of Canada resembled the pooling of souvereignty in the European Union, to me it was a very interesting feature to discuss, especially seeing how some of the problems we both face as a consequence are much the same.
Talking to people in leading positions was not the only thing we got to do, though. In order to immerse ourselves in history, we visited the Canadian War Museum and the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, where we got to experience Canada's development through time and the major forces shaping it into what it is now. Moreover, we had meetings with Inuit students, speakers from the First Nations, representatives of several NGOs, social workers and (last but not least) ordinary citizens, which helped tremendously in giving us a view of the human dimension of Canada.
It would be hard to pick anything as the most special or enjoyable thing we experienced and I will not even attempt to do so. There were far too many amazing things to remember, be it visiting the Asia Pacific Foundation in Vancouver or hunting for a laundromat in Montréal. Personally, I adored going biking in Stanley Park, the pure natural beauty of the area was such a massive contrast to being surrounded with densely placed, tall buildings. Vancouver was also especially interesting to me due to its location, as it was the first Pacific city I’ve been to. I hope that in the future I can spend some time doing research on Pacific relations with special regard to crime, education and human rights.
Overall, the tour was fantastic and what I believe is a huge, true success story. We have learned a great deal, have been shown an entirely different world waiting to be further explored, and I'm confident that we will put all this valuable knowledge to great use in the future. I cannot thank the organisers and the supporters of the tour enough for making this possible for us. If I had the chance, I would definitely want to do it again. One of the great challanges for the next tour will undoubtedly be the time management issue, but I firmly believe that thanks to the devoted participation of the organizers who claim to have learned a great deal as well, the next Thinking Canada tour will be just as amazing as this one was.
Anita Demény has a B.A. in Sociology and is completing a master’s degree at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest in International Relations, specializing in human rights. She says this about herself: “My interests are a bit all over the place, as my main focus is intercultural communication and multiculturalism, but I wrote my bachelor thesis on transatlantic relations after 9/11 while my master thesis deals with the effect of globalisation on Chinese national identity and popular culture. As a hobby I sing, watch movies and started learning Japanese. Anita was a member of the study group that visited Canada in September 2010. We thank her for this contribution.