Clareta at RSS

"The RSS is a unique opportunity to take some time to reflect on your research in a completely new setting."

As a PhD candidate I found the ideal way to combine research, acquiring new academic skills, meeting peers from around the world and having fun: taking part in a summer school. Since I started my PhD in political science at the Tel Aviv University (Israel), I have participated twice in the Radboud Summer School (RSS), once in 2017 and again in 2019.

The RSS is a unique opportunity to take some time to reflect on your research in a completely new setting. For one thing, I was physically in a completely different environment - the peaceful Nijmegen, the Radboud university facilities, the unusual flow of time and pace of work. Second, I got to describe my research to many PhD and MA students from diverse disciplines and research fields from around the world. This was a real challenge and a great opportunity to practice conveying my topic and its importance to others, and answering different questions and critiques. Finally, it was a meaningful opportunity to acquire new academic skills.

In 2017 I took the “Qualitative Methods” course, and learned how to use the Atlas.ti software, for qualitative data analysis and research, as well as the methods of structured and semi-structured interviews. In 2019 I took the “Perfecting your Academic Writing Skills” course, which has completely exceeded my expectations. This course was the accurate combination of frontal lectures and writing time, which in fact made it a “guided writing retreat”. Each of the participants was working on his own project, and as diverse as they were, we all felt by the end of the week that we got a lot of value from the lectures, the one-on-one sessions with the course leader, and the group session with our peers. Feedback on your writing from instructors and peers who are not familiar with your topic is invaluable, because it is a reflection of your ability to convey your research clearly to wide and diverse academic audience. We also learned a lot of useful tools and tricks for academic writing. In addition, the course leader, Ms. Sarah Dresden, was amazing! She was clear, super sharp and extremely kind. Her review of my work was extremely helpful in upgrading the quality of my writing, and I was able to notice my progress during the course itself.

Alongside the academic program, and not less important, there was the social aspect. The RSS has a broad social program that enables you to get to know the participants of other courses too, and create new social and academic ties. I think my favorite part of the program was the cruise on the “Pancake Boat”, where you get to enjoy the views of the Waal river, eat a huge pancake (you can it as much pancakes as you can actually, but for me one was more than enough), and talk with your new friends. I also enjoyed the welcome and farewell receptions, in which some drinks and appetizers were served, while we got to know each other.

As a bonus, Nijmegen is a lovely town, with very developed bicycle infrastructure, a beautiful city center and a very soothing atmosphere. I spent the entire week cycling around and it was very relaxing (and might even be considered as some sports).

To conclude, to me, the RSS was the much-needed escape from routine, that enabled me to view my research in new light, and reflect on it. I think such opportunities should be seized with two hands!