Being a visiting PhD student at the Department of Education - Stockholm University (2023)

Simon Küth from Universität Siegen, Germany, visited our department during the spring term. Read an interview about his experience as a visiting PhD student in the HELP research group.

Being a visiting PhD student at the Department of Education - Stockholm University (1)

Hi Simon, you have been visiting our department for almost four months now and we are curious to hear about your experiences. How did it all begin?

–Well, I wanted to go abroad during my PhD and I thought it would be better sooner rather than later, so at first I should go to a university in Denmark. But then Covid19 started and… well, we know the end of that story. When I started thinking about it again a few years later, I researched universities and groups that I thought were interesting and Stockholm university and especially the HELP group were in my top three, so I wrote you and Max an email and you replied within a week you were happy to host me. This was a huge relief! I was very happy, I still am, of course!

How lucky we were that you approached us, as it was a pleasure to meet you and we also feel that you contributed to our research team in a good way, in discussions, presenting your research and of course working with your supervisor. here, Maria Weurlander . So when you decided to come here, how was the reception on arrival?

-Maria was so nice to receive me the first night. Traveled by train from Germany (14 hours!!) and arrived quite late. It was great to finally see her in person. But generally accommodation was a concern of course: I knew this could be difficult as I had experience from a previous visit to Umeå university in Sweden where I ended up in a hostel for the first week or so before I could arrange anything. I thought it would be even more difficult here in Stockholm, so I asked Maria early last year and she put me in touch with the International Housing Office at Stockholm University, which I immediately contacted. As a visiting researcher, you can apply through them for accommodation for a temporary stay of up to one year. I would recommend applying as soon as possible, at least several months before residency, as your application is placed in a residency queue. Two months before I arrived I was offered a room to rent which meant I knew where I was going and it started very smoothly.

Good to know, I think many international students benefit from this information. What about your department presentation?

–Upon my arrival I was impressed with the welcoming atmosphere of IPD. On the first day, my supervisor Maria also helped me. I was immediately organized with a room in the department, keys and a card for the printer, many thanks to Eva and David among others of course. I even have a home page! So it was very easy to get started. The guest researcher room is a great room for hanging out, as this is where everyone hangs out. A lot of people came in the first few weeks to say hello, not just to say hello, but for example Emma came and said whatever she could to help me – it was really nice! There I also met Rubén (Comas Forgas), Daniel (Blixt) and Liv (Alsterlund Hagberg), among others, who helped me with all things, even piloting my first studio here.

Speaking of piloting your studies: in a few short sentences, could you tell us what you were working on while you were here?

–In addition to my home university stuff, like grading papers and preparing my teaching for June, I invested in two smaller studies here at SU, both somehow related to instructional planning, a study with student teachers and one with teachers. I am interested in teaching and learning lesson planning and trying to find explanations for the problems that beginning teachers really face. The data collection will be almost complete by the time I leave, so everything went very well, thanks of course to Maria and all the good people at IPD who helped me reach students and teachers. It is too early to tell results!

Glad to hear you had a productive stay! What about opportunities to talk to people outside of your office and your immediate work, how was that?

–Since I've only been here for four months, I didn't expect everyone to leave their private lives and spend a lot of time with me, so I went to a lot of museums on the weekends, which was great. I was also able to reconnect with some old friends from my time in Umeå. I am also interested in Cinema – Filmhuset is a great place for all filmmakers! Of course, I met PhDs, Blanca and Alexandra from the HELP team, for example, and we met several times, which was really fun. I also participated in many of the special PhD activities such as the weekly Fika on Tuesdays. By the way, Fika breaks are a chance to practice your Swedish, it was fun!

But to link it back to work: it's great with the HELP team when you discuss research, not teaching or organizational issues, but what people actually do in terms of research. It's comforting to hear about someone else struggling with data collection or planning a project or contribution, and it's great to know that colleagues have published a paper. The PhD seminars are also very interesting, for example I remember Cormac giving a great talk on a hero's journey in research and we had an in-depth discussion on Blanka's first paper which was very constructive.

Yes, the social aspects of a visit are also important, and of course, we hope that you can continue to develop our relationship and that you will present your research from this visit at the SHERN seminar eventually, as it is online. One question that makes us curious is if you think there is anything in particular that is different about your experience as a PhD in Germany?

–Yes, actually, the biggest difference is in the relationship between supervisor and PhD student, where there is usually a much stronger hierarchy in Germany. I have an amazing supervisor in Germany, we work very closely and more evenly, so to speak, than usual. But I know many German PhD students who struggle because you depend much more on that person who also evaluates your thesis at the end. As here, I understand that because you have many advisors as a PhD student, you can listen to their opinions and make your own decision about how to proceed to a much higher degree.

Yeah, that's interesting, I think there are probably some hierarchies here too, but they're not as visible. Is there anything else you would like to comment on?

– Yes, I was very lucky because the HELP team had both the writing retreat, which I was able to participate in and get to know a little better, as well as the conference on Research in Higher Education, organized by Maria and others from the department. The conference was really a great opportunity to get an overview of the field and what is happening in Sweden. We PhDs had the opportunity to conclude the conference with some reflections of our own. It was a great event!

Yes, you have chosen a very good time for your visit. With that I want to thank you for this interview and for your contribution to our team! Hope to see you again Simon!

-Thanks me too! Kisses så jättemycket to everyone at IPD and SU in general, who made me feel so welcome while I was here!

Interview: Klara Bolander Laksov, professor of Higher Education and co-head of the Learning and Practices in Higher Education (HELP) research group

Last updated: May 22, 2023

Fonte: IPD See more


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