When the theme “Sport for Development” connects universities across continents

The FURG campus
Thursday 7 September 2017, 14:50 - Text: Božena M. Baluchová, Simona Šafaříková

They say that there is no such thing as chance. Be that as it may, the beginnings of collaboration between Palacký University (UP) and the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG) in Brazil could have been by chance and/or due to a passion for the theme of “Sport for Development”. In any case, thanks to the support of the ERASMUS+ programme, students and teachers at both educational institutions can exchange mutual experiences.

It all began in 2016, with a meeting of two colleagues interested in the same theme – “Sport for Development” – at a conference of the ISSA (International Sociology of Sport Association) in Budapest. There a teacher from the Department of Development and Environmental Studies at the UP Faculty of Science, Simona Šafaříková, who also works at the UP Faculty of Physical Culture (FPC), got into a debate with a teacher from the Federal University in Rio Grande, Billy Graeff. He dedicates himself to spatial and territorial relationships and connections in the context of huge sporting events, such as the World Cup or the Summer Olympic Games. On the initiative of Dr Šafaříková, it led to cooperation between the two universities, with the support of the ERASMUS+ programme (international credits mobility KA 107 – mobility with partner countries).

First successful visit to Olomouc

Dr Graeff visited Olomouc for the first time in April 2017, in order to connect with 12 teachers from all over the globe at the UP Faculty of Physical Culture’s International Teaching Week. He held a lecture and a workshop for students at FPC on the theme of sporting mega-events and their influence on the local society – “The Impacts of the Olympic Games in Rio on Brazil”. He gave a similarly aimed presentation with the emphasis on local development within the subject “Development Opportunities of Latin America” at the Department of Development and Environmental Studies at the UP Faculty of Science.

Regarding his first experiences with teaching at a Czech university, Graeff said, “For me it was a challenge to come to a country which speaks a complicated language in which I cannot express myself. My fears quickly dissolved, however, for all the young people here speak fluent English, and the workshops at UP went without a hitch.” In terms of research, Dr Graeff had the opportunity to meet with several teachers and doctoral students, not only at the UP Faculty of Science, but mainly at the UP Faculty of Physical Culture, with whom he is now working together on themes for future projects. Contacts between his home university in Latin America and UP will certainly develop in more depth in the future.

At the end of June, Karina Molina of FURG also had the opportunity to visit Olomouc for the first time, when she had a “staff meeting” at the UP Foreign Affairs Office. She spoke highly of her stay, sharing her experiences in international cooperation with her Czech colleagues and taking with her new ones, especially within the framework of the ERASMUS+ programme.

Personal intensification of cooperation in Rio Grande

At the beginning of summer, Dr. Simona Šafaříková made her first work trip to Brazil, in order to personally intensify the promising cooperation, and met with people at FURG’s Rectorate and Foreign Affairs Office, and she also taught classes there. In June she lectured at the Education Institute’s Department of Sport on methods of qualitative research in the field for Bachelor’s students there. The possibility of research cooperation at ICHI (Institute of the Humanities and Information) and ICEAC (Institute of Economic and Administration Science and Accounting) at FURG is also taking shape.

Regarding her stay at FURG, Šafaříková said, “The trip to Rio Grande was of enormous benefit to me, and a challenge at the same time. I taught in Spanish with a touch of Portuguese, but luckily the students understood me. They had extremely interesting questions about the situation in Europe, and in Czechia specifically. Several students said they would like to spend a semester studying in Olomouc at some time.”

The first student from Olomouc (from the KPC) to go to Rio Grande was doctoral student Jiří Mališ, in June. His study stay lasted three months and he remembers it thus: “As a student I attended several lessons by Dr Alan Knuth. The lessons were conducted in a very friendly manner and there was always a lively discussion between the students and the teacher. Lessons there are not strictly led by an initial presentation and do not have such strongly structured content; the teacher often poses open questions and students are used to discussion. I also had the opportunity to teach the philosophy of sport for a semester. I had the feeling from my students that they are much more influenced by spirituality, especially regarding ethics. Another interesting discussion was on the theme of criminality, which – compared to the level in Europe – is quite high in Brazil. Thanks to the cultural differences, I was often enriched by the many dialogues, and the new experiences got me to think about the discussed themes from a different perspective.”