The Danube (Intercultural Interaction)


The Danube (Intercultural Interaction)

The Danube explores both sides of the river’s role in bringing cultures together and keeping them apart, through history, politics, environmental science, literature and more

Course outline


The Danube is Europe’s second longest river and one of its great waterways. Rising in the German Black Forest, it runs through Austria, then Slovakia, where it forms the border with Hungary, then plunges down into Hungary itself and on into Serbia, for some while forming again the border with Croatia, then heads East, once again a border river, now the long border between Romania and Bulgaria, before losing itself in the great delta on the Black Sea where Romania borders Moldova and Ukraine, on its way, shaping some of the great cities of Central and South East Europe - Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade.

This course uses the study of the Danube as a means to explore the challenges of a world that is interconnected and, thus, to encourage students to reflect on the values of global citizenship that such interconnectedness requires.

Language sessions

Students choosing The Danube will study not only the river but also the languages spoken along it. Each group will learn one of the following languages: German, Romanian, Serbian, Slovakian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Yiddish - in just a few hours over the fortnight.

These sessions aren't just about being able to order a coffee in Budapest - they are used to give greater insight into the culture of each country, and how languages and cultures, on the one hand, and language and identity, on the other, relate to each other in the region.

This is what one student had to say last year:

“The language teachers made us believe that we actually know the language we studied after as few as three or four lessons. In class we often used just the language but somehow we still learnt so much about the culture and the people and the structure of that language. In the closing presentation all the members of my group introduced themselves in the language we studied. It’s amazing!”

Read more about the innovative language sessions on the UCL Teaching and Learning Portal

Timetable and outputs

Students will be allocated into groups that focus on one of the Danubian countries to focus on during the course, and will learn the language of that country in just a few hours. 

Lectures include:

  • The Danube in International Politics.
  • Upstream and Downstream: Moving of Peoples along the Danube - Invasions, Migrations, Expulsions.
  • The Danube: The Artery of Europe

  • The Environmental History of the Danube

Outputs for this course include:

  • Each group will contribute posters to an exhibition on one of the Danubian countries and Global Citizenship
  • Groups will expand and edit jointly the Danube-on-Thames website
  • Participants will engage with London's Danubian communities by making a short documentary film 

Each group also has language sessions covering the language of the country they are focusing on.

As a source of information and inspiration, participants are encouraged to explore the East European Language Trails project.

Course leader

Eszter Tarsoly

Eszter Tarsoly

The cultural conflict and exchange that the Danube facilitates as it meanders through Europe is a great microcosm through which to consider wider global cultural issues.

Students really engaged with the course last year - especially the language sessions - and we look forward to building on the collaborative aspects of the work with a new cohort this year.

Eszter Tarsoly is a Senior Teaching Fellow in SSEES. You can learn more about her here.