Monday, September 3, 2007

School Days

Today marked day three of the Day of Knowledge, extended due to September 1 falling on a Saturday this year. Erik found out that the opening convocation for first-year students at IFNU would start around 10 a.m., so we all made our way to the university. The plan was for Lea and Carter to play in the park and, if a public celebration was accessible, for all three of us to observe. As we approached the university, it became clear that there would indeed be a public ceremony - students were lining up across from the university's main building according to their departments. Students do not just enroll in a general education program at the university. Rather, they join a department in their first year. Unlike their American counterparts who can take years to choose a major, Ukrainian students begin their university studies in their major.

About 30 minutes before the ceremony began, the students were given instructions about moving to their departmental sections in an orderly fashion. The reminders continued until the students heard that the procession would begin in 90 seconds. The university rector (president), vice-rectors, mayor of L'viv, head of the regional assembly, and other notables marched across the street, and to a dais in front of the statue to Ivan Franko which was surrounded by blue and yellow flags. A student choir stood on the steps, along with senior members of the faculty and onlookers. The rector made a few remarks, followed by Vice Rector Kyrylych (who visited Kansas and our home a couple of years ago), and many others. The students played a prominent role in the event: students brought in the banner of the university, as well as a globe and other symbols of education; they performed in the choir; and senior students were called to the front as part of the assembly. But, students are students the world over, and many of the attendees talked on cellphones, flirted with one another, drank beer, and otherwise attended the ceremony only by virtue of physically being there. It was a nice, concise opening to the school year.

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