Jacob Habinek

Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary
Charles University, Czech Republic

Jacob Habinek
Biology

With a double major in General Biology and Religion at UCSD’s Revelle College, Jacob is planning to pursue graduate studies in Religion after finishing his undergraduate degree.

He will divide his year abroad between Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary (fall 2003) and Charles University’s Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education (CERGE) in Prague, Czech Republic (spring 2004).

In explaining his desire to participate in the Education Abroad Program as well as his choice of universities for the EAP experience, Jacob wrote:

Education abroad presents a unique opportunity to develop an understanding of other cultures in an organized and academically challenging way. I realize how important developing a greater understanding of the world around me will be.

Hungary and the Czech Republic offer fascinating and complementary studies in the sociology of contemporary religion. As formerly Communist countries, both have had for most of the twentieth century institutionalized attitudes against religion. In the post-Communist era, both have been fairly successful at integrating themselves into the West, but nevertheless demographics indicate that the two have taken noticeably different paths in the reintegration of organized religion into social life, with Hungary reverting to a Roman Catholic majority, and the Czech Republic retaining a very large proportion of atheists in its population. The study of religion has a highly interdisciplinary nature, drawing from art, sociology, history and literature – all of which I would be able to study within and outside the classroom in attempting to develop a greater understanding of religion as part of the greater wholes of Hungarian and Czech societies.

In a recent letter, Jacob commented:

While there is little I can pursue here with regards to my Biology major, Central Europe offers a fascinating number of opportunities for the student of religion, having been a meeting place of religious traditions for nearly a thousand years and many times a model of coexistence or a flashpoint of religious conflict during that tenure. In the current era, the major traditions are re-emerging after suppression during the Communist years, often following very different paths and their role is still complicated with regards to everyday life.

To improve his understanding of these complex situations and developments, he is taking Sociology, Anthropology and History classes during the fall semester, and learning Hungarian as well.

Jacob’s interest in this particular region is not purely academic: he also has an interest in becoming acquainted with the area from where many of his ancestors hailed.