Each year, UC Berkeley and Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Belgium offer an exchange program for up to four doctoral candidates from each university to complete research for their dissertation during the summer or fall. “Our students come back exhilarated,” says Sam Castaneda, the Director of the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs Program at Berkeley. “They also return with more cultural understanding,” he adds.
The ULB awards Berkeley students grants of 2,500 Euro (~$2,750) to cover flight and living expenses during their short-term stay at the University. Applicants propose a research project and contact a faculty mentor at ULB to sponsor their investigation. This year, Berkeley doctoral students James McIvor, Andrew Reddie, and Andrea Horbinski were selected to participate in the program.
Horbinski, a Ph.D. candidate in History with a Designated Emphasis in New Media, will conduct research on the history of Japanese comics from 1905 – 2012. In Brussels, she plans to focus on the evolution of Franco-Belgian comics and compare them to those in Japan. “The research program has provided me with a fortuitous and welcome opportunity to take a sidetrack in my dissertation research that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have been able to take,” Horbinski says. She notes that the exchange will give her an opportunity to write in a peaceful environment.
“At this point my main goal is to write the best possible dissertation that I can, and I’m confident that the VSPA Program will enable me to do that.”
ULB students who conduct their research at UC Berkeley report that the experience helps them focus on their dissertations and grants them a new perspective. Sameea Ahmed-Hassim, a Political Science and Sociology doctoral candidate at ULB, is currently conducting research at the Office of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at Berkeley. She decided to move abroad because she was interested in cultivating an international experience and gaining a deeper understanding of American academia.
As Ahmed-Hassim nears the end of her exchange program, she reflects on the opportunity, noting that it has allowed her to challenge herself and grow. “I have been influenced deeply by the ethos that Berkeley exudes, from its strong sense of freedom of expression and a strong work ethic to its pursuit of excellence,” she says.
“Along with the friends I have made and the knowledge that I have gained while experiencing life on this beautiful campus, Berkeley has had an impact on me that will last for the rest of my life,” Ahmed-Hassim adds.
The deadline to apply for the 2016 University of California, Berkeley, and Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, Visiting Student Exchange Program is February 1, 2016.
To learn more, visit the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs Program website.