Lingua Franca today & tomorrow
Lucian CIRLAN in conversation with Pawel PUSTELNIK
Getting to talk to Lucian during the WSCF Lingua Franca summer camp was quite a challenge – always running around trying to make everybody satisfied with the event organized at a place close to his heart, Miclauseni, Romania. After all, for him, a Lingua Franca coordinator, the camp is a point of honour.
Pawel Pustelnik: How did you become interested in WSCF and the position of Lingua Franca coordinator?
Lucian Cirlan: I studied Orthodox theology here in Romania and then I continued in Strasbourg, where you can find a large ecumenical center, so I became interested in the ecumenical movement and I have tried to find out more about WSCF also before the call for Lingua Franca coordinator position was launched. My first contact with WSCF E was through the website. I also came across your sister organization, EYCE. I have tried to apply for several meetings and events organized by WSCF, and I was selected to be a participant of “Gender: Revised?!” joint study session of WSCF and EYCE in Budapest, in November 2012. At the same time I have applied for the position of Lingua Franca coordinator and fortunately I was selected for the position. Of course, I was very glad and happy about this. Immediately after that we started to organize and discuss about the camp.
PP: What were your expectations when you were preparing your application for this position?
LC: I should say I had a lot of expectations regarding this project. Of course, I had also some activities and I was involved in cultural NGOs working with youth here in Romania before. In fact, this is my first international project as a coordinator and a member of the preparatory committee. I had a possibility to participate in ecumenical and youth international meetings before, but I did not organize one. So it was a challenge for me, and a new challenge always brings expectations. One of the biggest expectations was to make this edition of Lingua Franca summer camp to be an original one and I expected from the ERC members and also from the staff members in Berlin to provide me with more information about this in order to start preparation of this event. Also a possibility to meet some students and a lot of new cultures and traditions, even if, as a Romanian, I am from Central and Eastern Europe region, it was a challenge.
PP: It is also a chance to meet a lot of new people, isn’t it?
LC: Indeed, it was a possibility to encounter a lot of students, ecumenical youth from various parts of the region. I heard about that LF targets on students from central and Eastern Europe. I just felt it like this is the right moment for me to do a next step in an ecumenical movement as a student, and try to improve the ecumenical movement here, through student organization, through WSCF, here in this part of Europe.
PP: What were your fears when you were starting this project?
LC: I can connect this question with the previous one because one of my expectations was also that the fundraising for this project had been concluded, but I quickly found out that it was not so. We immediately started to work on this. So one of my fears was that we are not going to have enough time for the proper fundraising process for this event, because we have to remember that this is an important event for WSCF and we need a lot of financial and also human resources to organize such a camp. Another issue was that I still continue to improve my English, so it was also a challenge to improve my language skills. So in a sense it was worrying, but it was also a challenge, so I took it as an opportunity.
PP: How do you describe working with an international team in the preparatory committee?
LC: I would say that it was a very original experience, because we also had an intercultural background. In our preparatory committee we had Orthodox and Lutheran members, so it was an inter-denominational preparatory committee. Also, working together, being from different parts of Europe, and starting to prepare this project, it was a very interesting chance and activity. At the same time it was very challenging, because we did not have a possibility to organize our preparatory committee meeting immediately after having selected the members of the preparatory committee and we started to work online, using Skype. You can imagine how hard it is to do teambuilding via Internet…
PP: Not the best option, indeed.
LC: However, there was very nice atmosphere among us and we all were motivated about this camp, about this program, about the venue that was chosen for this camp and we started to work hard on this. I think the fact that we are here today at the LF camp in Romania, is also thanks to the preparatory committee worked together hard and successfully. It was a unique and original experience for me to work in this intercultural space with such many people. But I would also like to add that we had the chance to have the Regional Secretary of WSCF-E in our preparatory, committee, which was a very important aspect and he made a very good input from his side, but also other preparatory committee members, who had previous experience, including Lingua Franca, but also other events of WSCF. So we had a rich and experienced team and this was really good, because we had a possibility to share our previous experiences in order to build this program for the participants.
PP: The venue seems to be a perfect place for events like this. We have got both the castle and we have got the monastery, they have great facilities and accommodation. How did you uncover this jewel?
LC: The venue is not new for me, because my hometown Târgu Neamț is actually 30 kilometers from here and this venue now belongs to the local church… It is quite strange and interesting at the same time, because all the time during my study in Iasi, which is the biggest city in the region, I would go by the main road which is near the venue, but I have never entered the monastery area until the last year. In 2012 when we organized here a project with the local church – a project for the students from the theological seminars. It was a summer school; much like a summer camp, but with a lot of sessions and trainings. Our target people were future ecumenical leaders of our local church and the Romanian Orthodox church. So then, last year, almost in the same period, we had a possibility to discover this venue, which I think is probably one of the best venues here in the area where you can organize such an event. You can feel this special atmosphere that you can discover only here, in this part of Romania.
PP: Lingua Franca was conceived as a program mostly for Central and Eastern Europeans to help them with their English skills. How did you manage to address this goal during this camp?
LC: All the time during our days here we keep reminding that the Lingua Franca has a long history in the activities of WSCF. Of course, the main goal of Lingua Franca remains to improve the English skills of the participants. But this year we thought it would be nice also to have a theme of our summer camp, and we chose a theme with specific sessions on this topic, keeping in the same time the language sessions as the one of things of main importance. But also we added a new part of LF for this year: a social project during which we help the local community. Regarding particular English courses, we decided to have English lessons every day for around 1 hour. The participants had an opportunity to have native speakers as facilitators of the sessions. They could continue the discussions during this session and in that space improve their language. We think it is an important space for them. After the language sessions they continued the learning in another space. They were helping the community here during the mentioned social project. In the end I would like to underline that improving and using English was not the thing of that hour, which was dedicated to specific language training session – the whole summer camp is a possibility for participants to improve their English skills; for example theological knowledge in English, ecumenical experience, youth topics, hobbies. The participants of Lingua Franca summer camp had the possibility to improve their English skills here, and hopefully also after this event they will be more interested to continue improving them and to participate – why not – in the future activities of WSCF.
PP: Lingua Franca as a project will go on . What do you see as the good direction for the program to develop in the future?
LC: I think that Lingua Franca is a huge chance for the ecumenical movement in this part of Europe. I am very glad that this project is aiming at involving students and youth of this Eastern and Central Europe. Of course, every year you have to choose a new country and a new location – and it is very good for Lingua Franca to be organized in different countries and to encounter different cultures and different people there. But I also think that for Lingua Franca there is a possibility of adding something new every year. It can be also a conference, in can be a summer school, having more academic sessions, having social work, having English sessions, having ecumenical experience and ecumenical leadership training… The possibilities are endless! I’m very confident and I would like to underline that I would like this program to go on and to be improved every year and to motivate more the youth in this part of Europe to get involved in the ecumenical movement and to get new relations with WSCF and of course SCMs in the other countries. I think especially in this part of Europe, but why not with Western Europe? Why not with the UK, Germany, Finland, France and so on? I think this is more like a link program between the SCMs all over Europe and LF should remain like an important activity for WSCF Europe.