Why a PhD abroad?

As I affirmed already, and quite assertively, I am Italian 😏

When I got the confirmation that my PhD interview was successful I was in Jordan - I lived there for a while.

The PhD was going to be in Liverpool.

One could say that this was the script. That I was "fated" to do a Phd abroad.

Often people tell me that "I am always around, travelling", that I am never at home, that I am all around the world - first of all, my dad, who is calling me "stradaröla" (the one that is always on the way, for somewhere). Once my brother said to his friends that my job was to travel, to go to some places to study people. That made me laugh. But he was partially true, isn't it what an anthropologist does?

I don't really feel like that, "a traveller" I mean. I grow up in a small village, in a narrow valley in the Alps. My first 20 years were almost without travel. I was speaking a rough English until I was 23. 

But I was never so convinced of something as that I would have done my PhD abroad. 

You know those feelings, those feeling that it has to be just like that? 

I came a long way, to be even more honest. Life was a gym - of Erasmus, Exchange programs and all the other beautiful opportunities offered by Mother UE. Each of them opened my eyes to the world outside of the valley.

So here now I am, in Liverpool. Doing my PhD. Abroad.

In all this irrational convictions, there are some precise reasons why I wanted to do a PhD abroad.

Firstly, Academia in Italy is just... well, it is just...difficult? Someone described it better than me, saying that it really "sucks". I am not authoritative or "senior" enough to really express many opinions on that. Although, it is quite tragicomical that often among Italian colleagues we discuss similar stories of broken academic promises - of funding, positions, possibilities of research, of brain drain, favoritism and jobs  advertised for positions already assigned - to the son of, to the daughter of.

Please correct me if I am wrong!

Secondly, PhD is about learning and training. I strongly believe that sometimes (often?), in order to be really stimulated, open-minded, and curious it is necessary to go out of our comfort zone. To challenge our limits, our weakness, our potentialities. This may be an "occupational hazard", what we call "positive disorientation" or "cultural shock" within anthropology. Basically, I am referring to the benefit of being so shattered by the new place that lots of unprecedented skills - like resilience, adaptability, lateral thinking and divergent approach to reality - appear and help you,  making you discover an alternative self!

Thirdly, the international environment is so flourishing and full of a potential that I would have missed if stuck in my national frame, speaking my own national language, reading mainly books in Italian, and dealing daily with Italian colleagues. I may be wrong, and this depends a lots on where you are doing your PhD. Also, it's not that if you do a PhD in your own nation you wont be connected with the wider community. I just think that being already abroad helps!

This post may continue. I am sure there are several other opinions, reasons, points of view on why a PhD abroad in unique...happy to know/receive any colleague opinions!

The beautiful Liverpool University_November 2019


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