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An Experience in Belgium

My Summer School Experience in Belgium

By Kaylee Osowski, online rep


Sometime in the autumn quarter of 2018, I got an email from Doc Martin. (You probably did too.) It was about the Children’s Literature Summer School at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, which she would be teaching at. I skimmed it and deleted it. Later, someone asked about it on Microsoft Teams and I learned that there was a possibility iSchool attendees could get credit for it. (Thanks to whoever inquired about it!) I had been considering doing one of the iSchool summer abroad courses but didn’t know if I could get that much time off. The summer school course was only five days long. I checked the program fee and flight and accommodation prices. I compared the number to credit prices at the UW. The cost of going to Belgium, staying there, and paying for the program would be less than the cost of the same number of credits through the UW. Sign. Me. Up.


The program this year (its second year at the University of Antwerp) offered students the opportunity to participate in one of four strands or focuses — diversity, fantasy, fairytales, or comics — or a mix of each. As someone who only read comics in the Sunday newspaper growing up, I was trying to become better versed in the area. I put the comics strand as my first choice.


Those of us doing the summer school for credit were required to complete readings and short assignments in advance of the program. (If you decide to go next year, start on the assignments early!) With professors and Ph.D. candidates leading the workshops, in the comics strand, we explored how comics work, queer comics, children in comics, child-animal relationships in comics, how comics are used for communicating science, and how the Holocaust is depicted in comics. Compared to the other strands, our group was pretty small — roughly 7 to 12 participants per workshop. This allowed for everyone to share their opinions and thoughts on the comics we analyzed. We also had people from a variety of countries — China, Germany, Iran, The Netherlands, the United States — and backgrounds — Ph.D. candidates, a teacher, an author, a librarian. This provided unique perspectives and applications of ideas and theories.


During the first few days, I was slightly concerned that perhaps I should have done a mix of the strands, but in the end, I was happy with my choice. Being in one strand allowed me to focus and build upon what I was learning and to get to know the people in my strand better. Aside from the workshops we also attended lectures that covered topics in all of the strands. Doc Martin gave the opening lecture complete with original music. Another lecture highlight was everyone singing along to the Back Street Boy’s “I Want it That Way” when Joe Sutliff Sanders, University Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, played the music video as a part of his lecture.


A seminar walk and excursion were also built into the course. I participated in a walking seminar focused on “The Materiality of the Children’s Book.” We went to the Museum Plantin-Moretus, a printing museum in Antwerp, and bookstores in the city to consider trends in children’s book’s materiality. Program participants were able to sign up for the walking seminar of their choice, but the excursions were assigned based on strands. The comics strand went to Brussels to explore the Belgian Center for Comic Strip Art (commonly known as the Comic Strip or Comic Book Museum) and found comic strip art throughout the city. A few of us stayed in Brussels to sample some beers chat.


Along with learning more about comics than I ever would have ever discovered on my own, I got to learn about projects and papers people from different professions and countries were working on and bond (network) with them at the Geeky Cauldron. (It’s a pub that’s half Harry Potter and half SciFi themed.) The program simultaneously felt long and short. I had in-depth conversations with people that made me feel like I had known them for years. Those five days helped me to see the connections as well as the gaps between the children’s literature and library and information science fields and consider and discuss the opportunity and need to work together and apply our ideas in research projects, libraries, and schools.


This experience was the highlight of my time at the iSchool — and not just because of the Belgian waffles, chocolate, fries, and beer. But just an FYI if you decide to attend, UW’s Graduate School, which processes transfer credits, requires official transcripts from the institute awarding credit. Because the Summer School program never had to create and send transcripts for participants before it took about two months after receiving my completion certificate to finally get the six program credits added to my Degree Audit Report. While those two months were stressful, going to Belgium and getting two iSchool classes worth of credits was a fantastic experience.

If you have questions or would like additional information don’t hesitate to email me at osowskik@uw.edu. You can also find some information about the 2020 program at uantwerpen.be/en/summer-schools/childrens-literature/.






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