Why do we all like summer so much? I only met a couple of people who dared to say they didn't like it. And deep down, I know it wasn´t really true. Who could say no to ice-creams, evening strolls, cycling, fresh salads, sunbathing…? No idea.
At Europa Media, when we think of summer we add something else to that list. Our European Funding Academy. Why do we make this connection with the summer months? Why are we so fond of it? We talked to Ömer to learn more about it and understand its story.
When did the European Funding Academy start?
It started back in March 2007. When we first came out with this concept, we ran a course every season. But it was the summer edition that was the most popular. It was so popular that it became a brand on its own. We used to call it the ‘European Funding Academy - Summer Edition’, or shortly, the ‘Summer Academy’.
Why do you think the Summer Academy gained much more popularity?
It was the whole concept. Trainers and participants loved it. We can say it was like an all-inclusive holiday. Lots of studying and learning in the day, combined with some fun activities in the evening. And the location was special. At the beginning, we organised our courses by the Lake Balaton, one of the Hungarian most-known tourist destinations. The beautiful countryside which surrounds it offers plenty of outdoor activities which suited everyone. Its volcanic hills are perfect for some light hikes, which is just what you need after a whole day sitting down learning about EU project management. And not only that. We also organised wine tasting activities, boat rides...I mean, imagine the beauty and the sense of mindfulness gifted by the reflection of the sun in the water in the evening... Wonderful, right? We could stare forever at the small ripples formed by the gentle warm summer breeze, the reed slowly rocking back and forth... It was just perfect.
Are there any stories you can tell me about that very first course?
Oh yes! I remember clearly that one day was incredibly rainy. Just like a couple of weeks ago here in Budapest. It rained so heavily that the ceiling started leaking! And of all the places where the leak could be, it was right on top of the projector. That day we filled out many buckets of water...
And on the following day, a bird flew in. It started spinning around the room and we were all staring at it. Some of the participants were shocked, others scared, some amused… And then it just left. As it flew in, it flew out. I guess EU project management wasn't its cup of tea.
What is the idea behind the European Funding Academy?
The main idea was to have a fully-fledged programme. We wanted to put together all available information on EU programmes in general, from LIFE to CIP, LLP and of course the Research Framework Programmes. Initially, we pushed a lot the e-learning. In fact, before coming to the face-to-face course, participants had to start learning and filling out exercises on our Moodle-based e-Learning platform about three weeks in advance. There was also a common chat where the participants were split into groups and they could start interacting with one another and the trainers. The response was excellent but we just couldn't upkeep it. After a couple of years, we had to stop as it was simply too time-consuming.
Apart from studying hard, participants could also do some sightseeing and take part in all sorts of social activities. Even when we moved the Academy from Balaton to Budapest we wanted to keep the social component. It was key for us.
How would you describe the Academy in three words?
Wild, fun and insightful.
Interesting choice of words. Could you tell me why?
Because it can go wild, it is fun, and it is insightful. We provided everything that was needed to get fully involved in EU projects.
I'm curious here, how did it go wild exactly?
Well, there is a famous party town in Balaton, Siofok. There, there is a bar famous for setting fire to the counter, and then the bartenders would start dancing on it. Crazy. Of course, I only heard this second hand (cough cough). The course participants were in their twenties, thirties… So they had the strength to study and party.
Did the Academy change over time?
The main difference is that the e-learning activities have been left out. The effort behind was simply not sustainable. However, funnily enough, the online component is back now for our upcoming European Funding Academy next month.
And something else we had to change is the length. We took into account our participants´ feedback and reduced it from five to four days. Having one day less means participants can travel on one day of their working week.
Is there anything you would like to change in the future?
We want to bring back the combination of distance learning and face-to-face. Now we have a different system, and because of this year’s particular situation, we have had to include many e-learning exercises into our courses. For sure we’ll keep working on this, we have many ideas in mind.
This year is fully online for the first time. How are you going to provide that same feeling of unity?
Sharing certain experiences can only be done when you are physically present. Bringing together people with different backgrounds and nationalities in one room was great. The room was filled with energy.
That is something which cannot be ensured in a fully online course. But we are doing our best considering the little amount of time we had to adapt to those strange circumstances. We’re lucky in the sense that the number of online platforms available to make learning more interactive is endless.
This year at the Academy you will be able to play games, quizzes, polls, and we´ll organise even small competitions amongst participants. In the end, it is a different format. Who knows what the response will be. Perhaps participants may even prefer it!
If you would like to join us on our Online European Funding Academy, click here.