4 Reasons for Going on a Research Visit

Erasmus semester during your Bachelor studies, going oversees during your Master’s or even doing a second degree in another country - for most of us Ph.D. students, international experience is part of our extensive academic training.

So why would you consider to do a research visit abroad during your years as a Ph.D. student?

Surely, there might be plenty of reasons (e.g., money, time, personal circumstances) that stand in your way to actually take this step, pack your things and research abroad for a couple of weeks.

However, having almost reached the end of a fabulous three months research stay at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (ASCJ) at the University of Southern California (USC), I would like to briefly share with you four reasons why I think it’s still important for Ph.D. students to cross the national border:

1. Maintain and expand your network

Ideally, when going abroad, you are going to visit a research institute or department where you work together with scholars who have a similar research interest as you have. Although these research connections usually emerge during conferences, there is oftentimes less time to actually discuss research questions and ideas at those venues in more detail. A research visit can therefore be very useful to maintain these networks, to exchange research perspectives, or even to plan and do some collaborative work.

In my case, I was actively reaching out to an institute that matched with my Ph.D. project – which was not very easy given that my field of research is not very popular in communication science. Yet, visiting the department of Media, Economics, & Entrepreneurship at ASCJ has shown me that there is actually a great and engaged community dealing with topics like media, communication and the market. In fact, participating in events and panels dealing with Fintech, investor relations or strategic financial communication has provided me with many useful and valuable connections – not only in academia but also in practice.

2. Get to know to other research institutes

Visiting another research institutes surely requires you to be open-minded towards new working environments, cultures, and ways of living. In the U.S., for example, student life takes place on campus. Be it student associations, faculty meetings, football games, or sport clubs – you don’t necessarily have to leave campus to meet with colleagues or friends.

Interesting for me was to see that Ph.D. students do not seem to have regular meet-ups here at ASCJ, such as Ph.D. clubs or Ph.D. lunches as I have been used to at ASCoR. On the other hand, there are scheduled events at ASCJ where faculty and Ph.D. students present their work to their colleagues and get acquainted with each other. Hence, visiting another research institute can provide you with interesting insights how other departments in the world work and how life as a Ph.D. student differs in comparison to your home institute.

3. Get exposed to new research perspectives

Furthermore, visiting a research institute abroad provides you with the opportunity to getting to know to many interesting scholars and practitioners. Some of these opinions and experiences might be quite different to what you are used to. But at the same time, this might give you useful insights and - as in my case - a new perspective on your Ph.D. project.

During my stay at ASCJ, I was invited to visit the Bloomberg office in Los Angeles to find out how Bloomberg terminals work and to see how certain news articles can have an influence on market prices. Furthermore, I was given the opportunity to be a guest student in several courses at ASCJ. By listening and participating in some of the lectures, I have not only learned about other teaching approaches, I also got familiar with new research perspectives. In fact, by having learned about critical theory and having visited practitioners at work, I have gained key insights for my Ph.D. project that I would otherwise have missed out when staying at home.

4. Step outside your comfort zone

Speaking English the entire day, networking with US colleagues and practitioners, and getting familiar with the U.S. university system – the first days or weeks at a research department abroad might certainly be overwhelming. However, I think it is crucial to step outside your comfort zone and to embrace these new challenges.

I mean: Where else do you get connected with potential interview respondents on an uber ride? And where else do you get to go to New York to give a guest lecture and talk with colleagues and practitioners?

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