November 27, 2023, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham
Developing research and professional skills in Transylvania
When I learned about the Overseas Institutional Visit (OIV) scheme in our induction I was immediately interested in applying, but as a researcher with an overseas focus I was aware that it shouldn’t be a fieldwork trip in disguise. Instead, I organised my OIV so that I was based both at the University of Babeş-Bolyai (UBB) and local NGO in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, so that I would develop methodology skills at UBB and relevant academia-adjacent experience to boost my postdoc career options.
My supervisor was very supportive and helped me with contacts, and I had some of my own. At UBB, my supervisor connected me with a Romanian academic who is very experienced using big data and network analysis in historical research. He gave me lots of guidance on the available digitised archival records and the best ways to use them. We workshopped my research questions so that I could prepare the best possible database and data collection to address those in as detailed and rigorous way possible. I had periods of independent practice with the software and databases, with periodical progress reviews when he would advise on my data collection and database design.
Alongside my research skills development at UBB, I was based at an NGO that works to improve high school history education. They run workshops for Romanian high school teachers to improve their ability to engage their students critically with historical narratives and to develop greater independent thinking about the past. I knew the organisation from my time working at LSE and with my supervisor’s agreement I got in touch with the NGO’s director. She invited me to produce an evaluative report of their history teaching project. I spoke to teachers, observers, speakers, the workshop facilitator and NGO staff. My report is now being used by the NGO’s directors and advisory board for future planning.
In total I was in Romania for six weeks (April – June 2023). I already knew the city and have been learning the language here in the UK, so I was in a good position to set up an OIV there. It was a great opportunity to improve my language skills and immerse myself in Romanian culture. The placement also allowed me to use analytical and research methods developed in the Social Sciences Research Methods MA and the advanced training modules such as interview techniques, ethnography and data presentation.
My OIV has definitely enhanced my research and my CV. I gained advanced technical and analytical skills that I am now using in my thesis, and had many discussions about my research that have stimulated many ideas for my analysis. It was hugely beneficial to spend time in a Romanian academic context, and I personally felt very moved by the surprise and enthusiasm I encountered when Romanians outside of academia learned that I studied Romanian history. It was motivating to see in action the contemporary relevance of my research topics in Romania and the broader region through my discussions with NGO staff and history teachers.
Megan Palmer is an ESRC social and economic doctoral student at the University of Nottingham, supervised by Dr Jonathan Kwan (UoN), Professor Elizabeth Harvey (UoN) and Dr Klaus Richter (University of Birmingham).
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