Well, my time as a Visiting Research Student at the London School of Economics and Political Science is over. Six months can go by so fast! But it has been a truly enriching experience, as the master’s at LSE had already been. This post is just to wrap up and to draw an overall conclusion for myself and give some recommendation which may be of help to others.
What do I think?
To start with what’s at the very end of the PhD time: Just talking to other PhD students made me feel more sure about what I wanted to do after the PhD, and I found others who follow the same path. Just being able to talk to people in another university system about current or coming struggles related to this career path helped me to see opportunities (as well as obstacles, I have to admit) that I wouldn’t have thought about if I stayed home. I hope others felt the same way! In short, getting to know new people helped me personally as well as the progress of my thesis.
Talk to others, support each other and expand your network!
However, I have learnt that it’s not feasible to go anywhere just to go away. I knew LSE well since I did my master’s there. So I knew which facilities were open to PhD students and which courses would benefit me and my work. Of course there were surprises, it would’ve been boring without them, but getting a pretty clear picture of what is to be expected certainly helps. Six months might sound like a lot of time, but if you lose two months or so because you have to adjust to the place and hunt after basic information like course information, these months are over very fast without any real input. Also, don’t forget – make sure that your supervisor there knows your topic and your research area well!
Choose the institution carefully so that it fits your needs!
In sum, it was incredibly enlightening to go to another university for a few months. Many people have written and said this before, but changing your perspective can do wonders do your work. In my case, it certainly did. It’s not that I ran out of things to do before I boarded the plane to London, but I wasn’t brimming with ideas either. Just talking to other people – familiar with my subject or not – helped me to see my project in a new light and helped me to come up with many new ideas. This meant (and still means) a lot if work, but I think my thesis improved quite a bit because of this research stay. Also, I see my home university in a new light, especially the things I initially took for granted. Going away may be great, but don’t forget that coming home also is.
Go abroad to get new ideas and a new perspective on your work!
I could say so much more, ranging from how you also need time off when you’re gone as well as that it’s of course not all jolly all the time, but I believe I mentioned the main points. Just go for it if going abroad fits your topic and your needs. It takes a whole lot of preparation, but it is definitely worth it.
I would do it again in a heartbeat – but now it’s time to go back home. There are many exciting things in store and I promise I will be able to share some of them soon!