Conversations at the Grill and in the Classroom: Thanks to My St. Lawrence Advisor | St. Lawrence University

Conversations at the Grill and in the Classroom: Thanks to My St. Lawrence Advisor

Lauren Weeks

Where would I be without Professor Juraj Kittler’s guidance? In all honesty, that’s something I try not to think about. Instead, I think about the advice that he has provided over the past couple of years that shaped my academic career, and helped guide my personal interests in the direction of a picture perfect study abroad experience.

Sophomore year, I registered for Professor Kittler’s course, Media Industries, in the Performance and Communication Arts (PCA) department. His wacky little sayings and endlessly entertaining stories in his Eastern European accent was quite the first impression, especially at 8:30 a.m. “The Agora…it’s so important,” he would preach to us until we proved that we understood the importance of this ancient Greek space used for public markets and conversation.

As the semester progressed, my interactions with Professor Kittler outside of the classroom became more frequent through our mutual love of writing and my involvement in the sports section of The Hill News, St. Lawrence's student-run newspaper.

I mention The Hill News because it allowed me to talk with Professor Kittler, who is the faculty adviser, in a new space and make the transition from student and professor, to adviser and advisee, and eventually mentor and friend; a connection that took time to advance to where it is now. Looking back, if I was given a dollar every time I had to tell him to pay attention and stop distracting us during our weekly editorial board staff meetings, I would be going to this school for free!

Our annual staff retreat at St. Lawrence's Catamount Lodge was the first time I witnessed how much Professor Kittler cared about the students at St. Lawrence. I had a conversation with him about not having an adviser, and not knowing my major, while helping him skewer vegetables and make burgers at the grill. Mid-flip of a patty, he offered to take me on as an advisee without knowing much about me. What had I just gotten myself into?

Turns out I had gotten myself into long conversations, drinking a lot of espresso, and being told continuously to get my feet off his very special coffee table in his quaint, tucked away office lined to the ceiling with books on the third floor of Griffiths Arts Center.

One conversation, however, left a lasting impact on me. I went to his office, sat down on his couch, put my feet up on the table, and said, “After a lot of debating, I think I want to go to Copenhagen to study abroad. What do you think?” I’m not sure if he was more disappointed that I put my feet on his table out of habit, or that I had said Copenhagen rather than Prague, which sits in his home of the former nation of Czechoslovakia.

A long conversation later, and I was convinced. He expressed how studying in Prague might be a better choice for me personally, and academically, considering my area of study is communications. He was correct. His enthusiasm to further my academic interests and understand where my personal ones lay led me to make one of the greatest decisions of my life.

Studying in Prague for four months allowed me to immerse myself in the culture that Professor Kittler had talked so fondly about. I fell in love with the city of Prague, and was able to take nine trips, exposing myself to eight countries and 11 cities across Europe.

Professor Kittler even traveled to Prague for a conference and ended up participating in my art and architecture field trip. He asked more questions of my Czech professor, Marie, than my class had the entire semester- sticking true to his character back in America.

When I returned home, Professor Kittler recommended me to be the peer advisor for the Prague program, which led to a position in the Center for International and Intercultural Studies (CIIS) office on campus. This position required me to work directly alongside of him as the faculty advisor, holding informational sessions and answering questions for a program and experience I loved so deeply.

One chilly winter day, he welcomed another student and myself into his home to discuss our trips and eat one of his favorite Czech meals, Svíčková, which is beef sirloin in a cream sauce with a side of dumplings. In Prague, I hated that dish. At Professor Kittler’s house, the irresistible smell, warm fireplace and comfortable slippers offered as we stepped in the front door, changed my impressions. I had two full plates.

Since I met Professor Kittler two years back, his guidance has allowed me to experience a position with The Hill News, the CIIS office, and a study abroad opportunity I will always remember. He encouraged me to pursue the things I loved with a smile on my face, never settle, and always keep exploring.

St. Lawrence is a special place, and Professor Kittler is a testament to that. Put yourself out there. Make that connection with someone, because I can guarantee you that they want to help. I am forever thankful for the guidance from the sincere, kooky, and brilliant man that Professor Kittler is. If St. Lawrence happens to becomes your home, stop by his office for some coffee and great conversation. But remember, don’t put your feet on his table!