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Pisa Summer School

Read the blog post of Lydia Hiraide, a BSc Politics and International Relations student who attended a summer school at the University of Pisa. Lydia received funding by Santander Universities.

I am very keen on travelling as a way to enrich my research, so I often spend a lot of time looking online for opportunities abroad. I was thrilled when I found the Politics Ontologies Ecologies summer school at the University of Pisa whilst searching on Google for summer schools relating to my field. I thought this would be a fantastic chance to discover a new city whilst engaging in some of the most urgent conversations and discussions ongoing in the field of my research. 

My experience abroad in Pisa will be one that I always remember. It was my first time ever visiting Pisa and my first time attending a summer school in person – I was very pleasantly surprised with the great balance between attending really challenging but interesting classes and being able to discover this magical city.  

Lydia, a young woman, sitting on a short brick wall with the leaning tower of Pisa in the backdrop.Everyday, classes started bright and early. Every morning I prepared myself a hearty breakfast before walking down the beautiful riverside to the University of Pisa. Once I arrived, I always found a few minutes to chat to others and settle in before the first session. Each session consisted of a presentation from some of the top academics in my field before some discussion. Then, with plenty of time for lunch, I tried a new spot to discover the local cuisine everyday. The food in Pisa was delicious – so different from the food back home. And there were so many different dishes to try!  

One morning during the summer school, each of the student participants shared our own research project which we discussed collaboratively. This was a great chance to practice communicating research whilst getting to learn about other peoples’ ongoing projects. It was very exciting.  

Some of the highlights of my experience in Pisa included discovering the town and its culinary delights in my spare time. The Leaning Tower is magnificent – a sight that photos simply can’t do justice! I also really enjoyed the opportunity to be in a room full of students and scholars working on similar topics to me. The discussions were extremely stimulating and I felt very lucky to actually meet some of the scholars whose work has been very important for my own research. It’s a special experience to be able to put a face to a name you’ve been reading for months. 

My top challenge attending summer school in Pisa was probably navigating the wealth of information that I was engaging with throughout my few days at the university. There was so much to read and so much to think about. I had to manage my time carefully and make sure I had enough time to read the material before the sessions – far enough in advance that I could engage

Close up of the leaning tower of Pisa with bright blue sky and white clouds in the background.with all of it in good time but close enough to the session so that it would all still be fresh in my mind. This is not an easy balance to find!

It was also crucial to write all of my new ideas and intellectual encounters down so that I could come back to them later. Summer
schools are really intense but what you get out of them is extremely valuable. My list of books and articles that I would like to read expanded hugely in my few days engaging with the faculty and other students at Pisa. The summer school helped me to reflect on which questions I want to centre in my own research and how I want to go about responding to them. The chance to explore all of this in a collaborative community has helped me to enrich and refine my current research project.

My top tips for students who are about to go abroad would be to try the local cuisine, especially dishes that you would not normally go for. You can discover lots of things about a culture through its food – it’s very interesting! I also think it’s important to build connections with other people during your placement abroad. Discovering a new place with new friends is a wonderful experience! I have kept in touch with some of the new friends I made during these special few days – and this has even led to collaborative work together beyond the summer school.