Rebecca Hassanova - Interview



I am a 29-year-old from Upper Hungary. I am Hungarian, went to a Hungarian school, my mother tongue is Hungarian
I graduated from the Comenius University in Bratislava with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law.
While I was doing my PhD at the Pan-European University, the CEA Junior Programme came up as an opportunity. As I have always loved learning and teaching, I was immediately interested. I aslo got to know the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the Pan-European University, who is a researcher of the Central European Professors’ Network coordinated by the CEA. She knew that I was interested in this subject and comparative law, so I came here on her recommendation.
. In the meantime I have not broken off my relationship with the university in Bratislava; every Thursday I travel to Bratislava to teach international law and international relations at the university.

How was the application process?

In April, I was contacted by the Dean of the Faculty that such an opportunity existed. She knew that I would be defending my dissertation in August, so she assumed that I would be free and that I would be interested in this fellowship. I was in a hurry to get my papers in, so I quickly chose "vaccination" as my topic, but I was reassured that the option to change was given, so I took it later - I was doing a thesis on war criminal law and wanted to pursue that.
While I was waiting for feedback, the Academy communicated regularly with me and then invited me for a personal interview. In August, there was an open day in Budapest, where I was given a brief insight into the life of the Academy, the training programme and of course a taste of life in Budapest, where the programme is based. In September, we had our first big meeting with the newly admitted junior students in the form of a freshers' camp, where we talked a lot, cooked and got to know the university's location, Miskolc. A week later, the work started.

How did the move go?

When I applied for the programme, I was living with my partner in Bratislava, who was not too keen on the idea of me moving to Budapest for four years. But he knew I wanted to do my habilitation one day, and CEA was the next logical step for me.
So he supported me and I started looking for a flat in Budapest. Now I live in Budapest from Monday to Thursday and in Bratislava from Friday to Sunday. It's manageable, I was a bit scared at first, but I got used to it. After four years we will decide where to settle down.
The academy sent us several housing options and offers, but in the end I didn't take their help because it was easy to manage on my own. But if someone needs support with this, they can count on the Academy's help.

Where do you see yourself in a few years and how will the CEA help you on the way?

I see more opportunities within the CEA as it works with a lot of universities.
The PhD course in Bratislava was also very good, every course has its strengths. But here I can meet a lot of distinguished academics, constitutional judges, people from the Supreme Court - which I think is a huge opportunity.
The Academy itself is doing very interesting research projects. I like it so much that if I had the opportunity to stay here after the 4 years of training, I would definitely continue my work with them. I would be sorry to leave the university in Bratislava, but I am confident that I would still be able to keep in touch with them, as I am now, and I wouldn't mind if life brought us to Budapest.

Was there anything you were worried about before you came here?

We were informed when we applied for the programme that we would occasionally have to go to Miskolc for conferences and lectures. That was one of my concerns, whether I could bring together the Budapest-Bratislava-Miskolc triangle. I can say that it has been solved, because we don't have to go to Miskolc very often, so keeping in touch with the university there doesn't take up much time and energy - we often keep in touch online. Thanks to modern technology, almost everything is possible.
Fortunately, the management is also open and willing to compromise, so that even the most difficult situations have been reconciled and managed in a reassuring way.

What is everyday life like at the Academy?

We have different kinds of days. There are conference days, when we work within the Professors' Network or attend a conference at a university, for example. We learn something new, talk to the professors - I really enjoy these days. Other days we do office work. We work together with other colleagues, for example, if there's a conference, we help organise it. Sometimes we help with emails, administrative tasks and organising conferences. We often write articles or prepare for teaching, learning and of course research.
Writing and publishing articles is an essential part of the job, as we try to create as much content as possible on comparative law for as wide a public as possible.
In all cases, we have scientific, academic tasks and assignments.

How supportive is the CEA professionally?

I have been working on international humanitarian law of war. My current topic is international criminal law, including torture. It has many aspects, for example psychological, which is why it is interesting for me. As far as the CEA is concerned, they support me in everything I can think of. For example, my dissertation that I wrote in Bratislava back then, the CEA was happy to publish it in English, which is a huge thing for me.
So they help me with everything that helps my professional development and everything I think of, for example, they make sure that I get a lot of useful input, so they organise conferences on criminal law or there was an international summer school on criminal law in Thessaloniki, and they give me maximum support to participate in those.

How do you have time for research as well?

I can do research in parallel with my tasks here, and what is particularly helpful is that the management tries to organise the tasks and the work in such a way that everyone can work on their own topics.
In this way, my research work is supported in a concrete way, as I have the opportunity to meet interesting and professionally respected people in an environment and with a professional network that would not be possible without the CEA Junior Programme. CEA is a stepping stone in this respect.

What other opportunities does the CEA offer?

Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of this opportunity because I was afraid that with my job in Bratislava and here, I wouldn't be able to fit it in, but for those who want to learn a language, CEA offers free language courses. Some learn Hungarian, some learn German. So I think that language learning, for terminology but also for other aspects, helps juniors to achieve their goals and to realise their research.

What is it like to live in Budapest?

I already knew Budapest because I am Hungarian. I grew up in a big city, so I like the atmosphere. You can go out anytime and find anything you want. There's life, for sure, you can party, have dinner, coffee. The transport is great. I leave my car on the outskirts of town, so it's quick and easy to get around. I feel very comfortable in Budapest and the institute is in a very good location.
Our days are very pleasant. We are not only colleagues but also friends. We organise a lot of activities together, we go on excursions, visit museums and exhibitions together.

How do you see the grant financially?

We get a monthly stipend and we can live well on that. It pays for housing and public transport and food and things like that. We don't have to pay for books, and the summer universities/conferences and, as I mentioned, the language courses are paid for by the institute. As for work and research, they pay for that, we just have to cover our own private expenses.

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

I tend to set myself small, immediate goals. When the fellowship ends, I imagine I could be working either within the Academy or through the Academy, possibly in a ministry here in Budapest. I would like to become an associate professor within the next 5 years and I am confident that this will happen. As a distant goal, I would like to continue on the academic path, doing research. That's what I feel at home in, that's what I want to continue.

Who would you recommend the CEA Junior Programme to?

I would recommend it to people who are comfortable in academia, who like this environment, who like to read a lot, talk a lot, learn about law. I have colleagues who used to work in law firms and they also love it here at the CEA very much.

Isn't it a disadvantage that the Academy is so young?

I feel that it is not a handicap but an advantage. The Academy is still new and we are treated like first-born children. Everybody is very flexible, the atmosphere is very good and we work together to find solutions to everything. I feel that the fact that it is a new institution has been good for us so far.

What has been the best experience for you at the CEA so far?

Our participation in the Oxford Debate in Warsaw! There we debated with a small group about the right to privacy. We made new friends, with whom we are still in touch to this day.
I also had the opportunity to talk to Péter Kovács, a judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, after a conference, which was a really great experience and meant a lot to me.

What message do you have for future juniors?

Don't be afraid of anything! The CEA is a stepping stone to professional life. You rarely get so many opportunities in real life at once and it would be a shame not to take advantage of them.

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