This is my very first blog post sharing experiences as a EU Fellow in Oxford. In this post I will focus on the very first impressions and on the welcoming by the Oxford community. A few other posts will follow soon, for instance about inspiring academic events and about the practical life in Oxford.
Getting settled in Oxford
These first two weeks were nicely occupied getting settled in my new working and living environment, in a country where many things seems to work differently (not only to drive on the left side of the road, also locks often turn the other side around, and even some taps do…).
As this is my first blog post from Oxford, I find this a good opportunity to share some information about the European Studies Centre (ESC) where I will work and conduct research this academic year, and about St Antony’s College which hosts the ESC. In the next post I will tell about some fascinating events that already took place the past two weeks. After that, you can read about some personal experiences of my new student-like life and as a visitor in Oxford. So first, the working environment.
The European Studies Centre: a rich diversity of experts looking into the issues Europe is facing today
First, some things you need to know about the European Studies Centre (ESC). As explained in their forty-years anniversary publication (2016) by the former director professor Paul Betts, the ESC is a study center dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of Modern Europe. It hosts a rich variety of workshops and conferences on the issues facing Europe today, such as migration, inequality, border-construction, human rights, law, privacy, material culture, nation-building and EU politics.
Besides its permanent Fellows, the Centre has Visiting Fellows from several parts of the world working on European affairs. And I am proud to be one of them, coming from the European Parliamentary Research Service. Being a ‘hard scientist’ myself (a physicist by education followed by PhD research in bio-engineering and complemented with a postgraduate in Business Administration), it is a wonderful experience being surrounded by a wide variety of social and political top scientists, post-docs and students. Amongst the typical disciplines in the ESC there are international relations, politics, sociology, history, anthropology, journalism… while I am basically a ‘hard scientist’, even though I deal with foresight methods to support politicians’ preparedness for possible future concerns and opportunities. In these two first weeks I already see an impressive potential for ‘cross-fertilisation’ between our different disciplines.
You can find more information on the staff, the academic visitors and their research interests to the ESC website: https://www.sant.ox.ac.uk/research-centres/european-studies-centre/people.
St Antony’s College
The European Studies Centre makes part of St Antony’s College of the University of Oxford. St Antony’s College, founded in 1950, is a cosmopolitan, vibrant community of more than 450 international graduate students specialising in the social sciences and humanities, known globally for its stimulating intellectual life and rich cultural environment. The College also hosts visiting experts from the world’s leading universities and think tanks, and offers one Senior Fellowship to the European Institutions each year. This year, for the first time, the fellowship went to the European Parliament.
The structure and funding of the university, the departments, and colleges seems rather complicated… I wonder if you need a special degree for understanding how all entities work and how they are organized within the University of Oxford. My easiest comparison is the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), my own Alma Mater, which has a quite transparent faculty structure.
Victorian style housing of the European Studies Centre
The European Studies Centre is located in a handsome Victorian house, built in the 1870’s in central north Oxford. It gives somewhat the feeling of a family house, with a cozy ‘common room’, and a high number of rooms used as offices. And in annex there is a seminar room that can fit about 60 seats. The whole setting has a kind of ‘family’ notion, which in a certain way reflects the way we work together.
Many of us are new!
Not only the visiting fellows are new at St Antony’s…
The European Studies Centre also has a brand-new Director, Dr. Hartmut Mayer. Hartmut joined the European Studies Centre as Director very recently: on the first of September 2017. He has been, and will remain, a Fellow and Tutor in Politics at St. Peter’s College where he has been teaching politics and international relations since 1998. Hartmut definitely is not new to the Centre! He has been involved with the ESC ever since his graduate student days at St Antony’s College, Oxford going back to 1994. Later he served in an advisory capacity and has seen the growth and changes of the Centre for more two decades. I think he will have a heavy agenda, as he is combining several director and professorship’s roles and is surrounded by staff and fellows full of new ideas. During the events we had so far, Hartmut demonstrated an amazing insight and background in a wide range of European topics.
Further, St. Antony’s College welcomes a new Warden: Professor Roger Goodman. We had the pleasure to be invited for a welcome word and informal drink by Professor Goodman, who is the sixth Warden of St Antony’s College. (His research is mainly on Japanese education and social policy – anthropology).