Research stay abroad or How to get into my Rome Office
Dear online readers, my name is Philipp and I am a PhD student of archaeology at the universities of Mainz and Erlangen (Germany). This year I am enjoying the full academic jet-set life with all its facets. Right now I am on a six-week stay abroad in Rome to use the wonderful libraries of the city for my research.
Academic jet-set life – The right balance
Doing a PhD sometimes brings a real academic jet-set life with it. In addition to conferences and workshops abroad – which are fundamental to furthering one’s academic career by raising one’s profile and establishing contacts – research stays in non-native-speaking countries are almost an integral part of a PhD student’s CV these days. Even if your supervisors’ motto is that the dissertation has absolute priority at any time, all these things must not be neglected for a possible post-doc career.
That doesn’t make it any easier to find the right balance in your annual planning among writing the dissertation, first publications, talks and research stays abroad. The most important tip from my side would be to discuss these things openly with your supervisors and to inform them regularly about your annual planning.
What do you think?
Research stay abroad
Depending on the topic of the dissertation, stays abroad are an essential part of the PhD life. In my case, excavations in Tunisia or the stay in Rome are of central importance. Rome is historically the center of archaeological and historical research on North African in Europe. Important institutions such as the German Archaeological Institute, the British School at Rome, or the École Française have been the starting point since at least the 19th century of much North African research. Therefore, literature can be found in the libraries of this city, some of which is not available at all university libraries in German-speaking countries.
Where would you like to do a research stay?
Stays abroad can be financed by various programs. Sometimes they are already provided for in graduate colleges and covered by them. Furthermore, many universities have exchange or funding priorities to some countries and partner institutions. If none of this applies to you, there is still the possibility to apply for travel and research grants. I, for example, got a research grant from the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Last but not least: For a shorter self-financedresearch stays, you should find out if there are research institutes with guest rooms. Sometimes they have rooms available in spring, fall or winter, which you might be able to get for a small amount of money.
Do you have any experience or tips in this regard?
Prepare and enjoy
Once you have done all this, there is nothing standing in the way of your stay abroad. Remember: Preparation is everything. Before your stay, find the archives and libraries with the sources and literature you need. Write down a work plan in which week which resources will be researched and consulted. My tip: Make sure that you scan as much as possible digitally, so that you don’t find out after your stay that you have forgotten something. You can write everywhere but the literature, sources, etc. may only be available abroad. Secondly, you should also pick out which research institutions offer workshops, conferences or evening lectures during your visit. This is not only a possibility to make contacts and get to know people, it is also a welcome change from the exhausting working days in the archive or the library.
Last but not least, don’t forget to enjoy your stay. Use the weekends to explore the city and its sights. In my case, this is easier said than done in Rome. There is so much to explore here that six weeks are not even enough to do so. Especially in my case as an archaeologist and historian, it is also important to have seen the important churches, archaeological parks or museums once. This is also the purpose of a research stay and therefore not necessarily just „free time“!
Are you currently planning such a stay abroad?
How to get into my Rome Office – Finding my working rhythm
A new working environment always requires a new working rhythm. Some of you have already changed universities several times during your studies and know the first phase at the beginning well. Give yourself the first few days or the first week to get into a comfortable rhythm in an unfamiliar and new city. Your productivity may not seem so high at first, but it will increase as your stay progresses. You may rotate between multiple libraries and archives or visit the same library regularly like your workspace at home. If your host institution also has its own work place it is perfectly fine to use them as your home office – in my case as my “Rome Office” – for one or two days a week to write your dissertation.
I hope these tips will help you to decide for a stay abroad or to approach the upcoming stay in a more structured and relaxed way. Research is exciting and should be fun.