Central European University, the institution where I studied for a semester in 2012, is a graduate-level university in Budapest. CEU describes itself as a “crossroads university” with a distinctly Central European focus, a place where students and faculty originate from around 100 countries and where disciplines are not only pursued individually but also deeply engaged with each other. CEU provides master’s and doctoral programs in 2 schools (Business School and School of Public Policy) and 14 departments (Cognitive Science, Economics, Environmental Sciences and Policy, Gender Studies, History, IR and European Studies, Legal Studies, Mathematics, Medieval Studies, Nationalism Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Public Policy, Sociology and Social Anthropology). My personal experience with the departments of History, Nationalism Studies and Political Sciences were excellent, both in terms of substance and instruction.
Since CEU has a generous $880 million endowment provided by George Soros, it is one of the most resourceful educational institutions in East-Central Europe. With its location in the heart of the region, close ties to the principle of open societies, and highly diverse students and faculty, CEU has an incredibly sensitive and receptive position for trends from both the east and west of Europe.
In my limited experience, I found the university’s crossroads identity to be quite tangible. Even at Cornell, I’d never encountered such a wide range of people and focused-yet-transcendent research projects. My instructors, who had that ideal combination of intellectual brilliance and a knack for teaching, were not just academic experts but also active participants in their fields. (One of my professors was the EU representative to Moldova, who, after negotiating Moldova’s membership and facilitating its post-communist transition, taught me a class. On post-communist transitions.)
Even more exciting (to the historically- or politically-minded, at least) is the fact that the Open Society Archives is right next door to CEU, with the Open Society Foundation itself maintaining a huge presence in Budapest. Not only does it have THE archive of Radio Free Europe records, but it also houses the largest samizdat collection in the entire world. Nothing short of the academic playground of my dreams.