Becoming a Global Scholar: Event Recap and Advice on Internationalisation

| Vesna Curlic

On June 17, SGSAH held an event entitled “Becoming a Global Scholar: A Workshop for Doctoral Students.” This event is part of SGSAH’s efforts to get doctoral researchers to think more internationally about their work and careers. “Becoming a Global Scholar” was aimed at any doctoral student who was interested in making their PhD or career more international, even if they don’t feel like a global scholar.

The first panel was called “Global Languages of Research: Translating Scholarship and Careers Internationally,” which centered practical guidance for international careers and research. The first speaker was Professor Paul James Cardwell, a law professor at the University of Strathclyde. Professor Cardwell spoke from the perspective of someone who has sat on academic hiring committees, explaining the value of having international experience on your academic CV. Paul encouraged creating wide, international networks, which ECRs can pull on when interviewing for jobs in different national contexts. He reminded the audience that the questions asked, and the structure of the interviews would be radically different based on the local academic culture. Having a solid network can allow you to anticipate the unspoken expectations of different academic cultures.

In both the talk and the subsequent question period, there was a lot of discussion about how to form these networks. Paul emphasised that the pandemic has, in some ways, opened opportunities, because people are more present in a virtual space. This can make international connections easier. He suggested that PhD students “publicise” themselves in common virtual academic spaces, even if it feels uncomfortable. This includes keeping up with your institutional profile, plus websites like academia.edu, Google Scholar, ResearchGate, and SSRN. Paul also emphasised that it was important to look for opportunities to work with others on academic projects whenever possible.

The next speaker was Dr Alicia Hughes, who finished her PhD in 2020 and is currently working as a Project Assistant at the University of Glasgow. Her talk centered the inequalities of the academic landscape for early career researchers, and the ways in which global cultural experience plays into that. She emphasised the value of international experience, even in the face of a challenging job market. Alicia made a great point about looking for internationalisation opportunities that overlap with you are already doing. PhDs and ECRs are already quite overworked and she suggested looking for places where you can get the most value for your work. For example, invite global scholars when planning a conference or collaborate with international academics on an article. She even gave examples for how to think internationally while teaching – assign global texts where appropriate, but also try to pair local students with international students during tutorial activities. Alicia concluded her talk with a salient point about the way international education can be different depending on your circumstances. While funding is the most obvious issue, there are also visa restrictions, health requirements, linguistic requirements, and many administrative hurdles that make the landscape of international study deeply inequal.

The second panel was entitled “Challenges of Internationalisation in a Time of Crisis” and it considered the ethics around international mobility in our modern, tumultuous times. The first speaker on this panel was Professor Johanna Waters, who is a professor of Human Geography and the Co-Director of the Migration Research Unit at UCL. Johanna pulled on nearly 20 years of work in the field of migration and student mobility for her talk, including her own time abroad, in Vancouver, Canada, where she undertook her graduate studies. Johanna spoke about the cultural and social benefits of scholarly mobility, including the creation of international networks, as well as subtler social and cultural capital, like accent acquisition, clothing norms, and unique experiences, all of which can affect post-PhD life and job prospects.

Photo by Fernando Cabral https://unsplash.com/photos/tNDYN8jWyfM

Johanna then moved into a fascinating discussion about the ways in which scholarly mobility reproduces inequalities. Johanna first discussed the way that scholarly mobility reproduces privilege in the sense that privileged students often have more resources and family encouragement for international travel. She then discussed the ways that study abroad also created inequalities in the home countries, as students who were able to afford study in Western countries monopolised the most highly paid and prestigious jobs in their home countries. She concluded with a series of questions around the inequalities and accessibility of international study, which are guiding her current and future research.

The final presentation slot was for two representatives from the European University Foundation (EUF), Viktoriya Terzieva and Fabiana Minneci. Viktoriya Terzieva holds a Master’s in International Project Management from the University of Strasbourg and recently completed a Masters’ in Business Administration (MBA) specialized in Renewables and Energy Efficiency. She currently works as a Project Coordinator at the EUF.  Fabiana Minneci holds a PhD in Migration Studies from IGOT, University of Lisbon and now works as a Policy and Research Officer at the EUF.

Viktoriya spoke about Green Erasmus, a new initiative involving the EUP, which aims to assess and inform new policies around environmentalism and doctoral studies. In particular, she spoke about creating strong relationships between various international institutions and changing habits around internationalisation. She presented a hopeful picture for the future of sustainable internationalisation. Her talk was complemented by Fabiana, who presented the DocEnhance project, which is one possible vision for doctoral education that is rooted in both internationalisation and sustainability. DocEnhance is an open-access online platform for doctoral students to create international connections, learn transferrable skills, and assess future non-academic career paths. This new initiative emphasises the kind of skills and networking that has traditionally taken place during international internships and study abroad, creating a sustainable digital alternative.

All in all, the event tackled many of the main issues facing international-minded doctoral researchers today. Though there are a huge amount of issues facing current internationalisation efforts, these panellists presented a comforting vision for the future. Their thoughtful reflections and diverse experiences really accentuated the value of international education and the ways in which that sort of education can be more accessible and sustainable in the future.

Vesna Curlic is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Edinburgh, though she is originally from Toronto, Canada. Her current research examines immigration, medicine and ethnicity in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain. She can be found on Twitter at @vesnacurlic.

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