By Lauren Elsie White |

As a PhD student the opportunities to visit other universities across multiple continents rarely present themselves. So, when the University of Glasgow offered grants to visit the University of Sydney, it was one I could not pass up on applying for. The University of Glasgow offers the Principal’s Early Career Mobility Scheme, where funding is awarded for early career researchers (ECRs) to visit partner institutions. I was successful in being awarded funding to visit the Boden Institute and the University of Sydney, and went for three weeks in April and May. I have just got back, and thought I would share some thoughts on the trip.

When I was in Sydney, I tried to meet as many people as I could who worked in my research area as well as present to as many audiences as possible. One of the key components of this award was networking and setting up connections between the University of Glasgow and the University of Sydney, and I definitely did not want to waste the opportunity. I presented to a variety of groups and organisations, such as the Charles Perkins Centre and Children’s Hospital in Sydney.  It was a great experience to meet others working in a similar field, as well as to get feedback on my work from those who are not exposed to it on a regular basis. They found the results of the research very interesting, particularly the parents’ views on regulation of food advertising. This feedback was invaluable, and has allowed me to gain a different perspective on my work.

I was also re-drafting my literature review chapter when I was in Sydney as I had a deadline at the end of the trip that I could not move (a variety of factors led to this). I was a bit worried before going on the trip that I would not get this done, despite not really having the choice. However, the trip actually provided a really great chance to get some writing done away from my ‘home’ office. As I didn’t really know anyone there, and had access to a desk and a variety of well-stocked coffee and cake shops, I was able to really zone in on my writing. I also had a lot of meetings and presentations to do when I was there that ate up quite a bit of time. So, the time that was left during the working week HAD to be about writing and re-drafting. It helped to focus my mind, and hopefully my literature review is now much more improved (still waiting for feedback).

I was also really fortunate in the fact that my partner came with me to Sydney, which made the trip even more exciting! Being able to share the experience with him, as well as to do all the fun touristy stuff was great. We tried to use our time out there as much as possible. We did so many fun things – kayaking under the Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunrise, eating out, a wine tour, the Blue Mountains, the Botanic Gardens, the Sydney Opera House, wine, Bondi Beach, hikes, and some more eating out! We loved being in a city with so much to do that no matter what day it was, we could always find somewhere to visit or explore. The coffee scene in Sydney is also top-notch, so we spent the majority of the time highly-caffeinated. One particular favourite was a coffee shop called Grumpy Donuts – see picture!

This trip was really valuable for a number of reasons. One, I got to meet many leading researchers in my field and tap their brains for some juicy knowledge. Two, gaining feedback on my work that was positive was a real confidence boost and I am now really excited to get on with the final part of my PhD. Three, I got to travel half-way around the world with my partner and we only had to pay for his flights and expenses – that is crazy and really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

This trip really allowed me to begin to establish myself as a researcher, rather than ‘just’ a PhD student.  Being able to establish connections that will lead to exciting opportunities in the future is something that is really important during your PhD – especially if you want to remain in academia, like I do.  In a world that is increasingly competitive and works around short-term contracts, having a variety of connections can only be good.  Also, I got to visit Sydney, which in itself is enough reason to apply to a grant like this!

 

Lauren Elsie White is a 3rd year PhD student based at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow. Her PhD examines parents’ and stakeholders’ views regarding the regulation on online advertising of unhealthy food and drink to children. Lauren has just recently completed a trip to visit the University of Sydney, Australia.

 

Image 1: By DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
Image 2: By Lauren Elsie White