During the fourth year of Political Science at the University of Rennes in France, Hermel enrolled at the IUS, for a year’s specialization course. We asked him three questions prior his return to his own country.
1. You have come to the IUS after having already spent a year away at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Why then, a year at Sophia, in Italy?
Actually, Sophia was not new to me as I had already heard about it. However, I came to the decision to enroll only when upon meeting some teachers from the IUS at the Summer School on Economy of Communion held in Lisbon in 2012. I realized that the topics which these teachers spoke about, and which I found very interesting, were available only at the IUS: the economy of giving, the principles of communion and of fraternity for political action... are a very original contribution to research.
At my arrival, I found a great openness: for example, I was able to take a personalized program, taking part in courses from the first and second year. At the same time, we are not only “brains”... One looks to an integral formation that allows for the building of deep relationships amongst us. It is an exceptional environment and it is in this, according to me, where Sophia’s richness lies.
Sure, Sophia is still young and has a long road ahead, but if I compare it to other university experiences, I see its incredible potential.
2. The inter-cultural dimension of the IUS goes through, and beyond, academic work hours. What has been your own experience?
Here we live 24/7 with people from all over the globe. This is an incredible diversity –if we think of Sophia as a small university in the midst of the Tuscan countryside – and it has touched me deeply because it brings to us the figure of the “world-man”, as Chiara Lubich has said. In overcoming prejudices and mental schemes, one acquires a true and tried “habitus”.
Here it is quite normal to speak three or four languages on a daily basis, as well as to eat a food from Congo at lunchtime, and to participate in a Brazilian or Arab feast at dinner! But inter-culturality cannot be reduced merely to these aspects (however important they may be: but to share a meal is to start an intercultural dialogue already!). The ambiance at Sophia allows you a deeper touch, it asks you to enter into each other’s culture. Thus, what you deepen during a lesson works deeply down, within you, because the others are people with whom you live, they are not just names in a book.
For example, the different ways of life that divide the North from the South of the world, do not remain as a postcard in this setting... My friends from the Congo and from Egypt have helped me to ask myself the right questions and to query also my own, and Europe’s responsibilities.
I shall miss this “global village” in miniature. It is not by chance that, in September, I will be starting a Master on the topic of globalization. For this reason as well, I want to commit myself to the ‘Progetto Mondo Unito’ (United World Project).
3. In short, how would you define this year at the IUS?
The world ‘balance’ comes to my mind, because Sophia is a school of life ... jokingly, I could say that I have discovered that to study Aristotele and to wash dishes has the same dignity.
I think that I will miss these few months for the rest of my life, even though I must return to France, in just a year I have garnered the novelty of the IUS a hundred per cent. And this experience is not finished yet, rather, it is up to me to bring the ideas and the life of Sophia to my own environment. And of course we can count on one another in going forward.