Well, there are quite I few topics I wanted to cover today originally, but then I felt I had to write a short piece on what happened in the last months. As some of you might have gathered, I went to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in October to work on my PhD. My home base is Leuphana University Lüneburg in Germany, but since I did my master’s there and my second supervisor, Prof. Simon Hix, is at LSE, I went back to London.
And well, the past three months were amazing. Thank God I will return in January for further three months!
What do I think about it?
Since I went to LSE as a Visiting Research Student, there are hardly any compulsory programme regulations that I have to fulfil. I can essentially do whatever I want, go to the classes I want, and still have all the rights of a regular LSE PhD student. In fact, the status of a “Visiting Research Student” only appears in the official documents, and for the rest of the School I am a PhD student like anybody else. Which is a good thing – I never felt treated like a mere “visitor”.
So, what did I do, apart from working on my thesis? I took a few courses on methods, for example. A general course on qualitative methods, in which I not only simply learned how to do a participant observation or an interview, but I actually went out and did both (see the article „(Un-) Welcome to Downing Street No. 10!“ for a summary of my participant observation)! Also, I learned how to do quantitative stuff, that is regression analysis, something I missed out on in my earlier studies. Well, numbers in huge tables and plots are my thing now! I will need all of this for my PhD research, so this will come in handy quite soon.
Apart from methods, I mingled with other PhD students out of class as well as in a regular workshop, where we not only talked with the professors about how to pursue our projects, but also had a ‘clinic’ (lovingly called “Academics Anonymous”) where we could talk freely about obstacles and challenges we face concerning our lives as PhD students. This was very helpful, seeing that other PhD students deal with the same things.
And of course, I met so many people. People who were enthusiastic about my research, people who were always there to give support on a plethora of issues, and people with whom it was just nice to have a chat and tea with.
So, I cannot wait to be back in January (even though I am technically not even gone yet – I’m sitting in my little room at my hall of residence while writing this) – this time with even more methods courses – I’m thinking about doing an advanced course in regression analysis – and again lots of opportunities to explore my favourite topics beyond my own research. There is more out there than the European Parliament!
I miss Leuphana University, I really do. But LSE is great, too – seeing new faces, getting new perspectives on my PhD topic. This is why I would recommend visiting another university for a few months during the PhD – and most universities do welcome visitors. Of course going abroad has to make sense somehow in the light of one’s own research.
In sum, week 10 of term is over – and it’s Christmas time! Almost, that is. Anyway, I wish everyone a great time with lots of mulled wine and mince pies (for the Brits)!