Europe is both exotic and familiar: It is easy to see the continent--from the Azores to the Urals, from Malta to Franz Josef Land,in a variety of images. This environmental salmagundi is mirrored in a rich ethnic-linguistic, cultural, economic, and political diversity, which may be surprising when considering Europe's modest size.
Far beyond the fact that explorers named America after a medieval European saint, the connectedness of the United States to the (old/new) continent remains undeniable. And, in a way, the same appears to be true for the rest of the world. Even as Europeans rule less of the earth's real estate, their notions, attitudes, and practices continue to have strong global impact.
Proceeding from the above observations, the field of European Studies prompts us to utilize Europe (1) as a storehouse and source of time-tested, on-going, and fresh experiences, and (2) as a readily available workshop-laboratory in which to observe various approaches to universal challenges in a range of contexts (from architecture to traffic, from circus management to multi-lingual packaging).
Since Europe is one of the smallest of inhabited continents (with a shrinking resource base and a checkered record of orderly coexistence), the themes of European Studies echo global issues in a sharply urgent manner. They are primarily people-issues, addressing the troubling/promising aspects of individual and group identity, ethnic, class, and gender relations, assimilation and tolerance, heritage and belief, just to mention a few. It has been asserted that the combined aim of delving into these matters is to create conditions for post-ideological consociation, in which many diverse human beings coexist and flourish in close proximity.
Theories may exist in translation, but reality speaks to us best from the street, from the cafés, and from the pages of local press. Therefore, European Studies places considerable emphasis on studying, and demonstrating a useful knowledge of, at least one foreign language.