The Best of Both Worlds

Since the beginning of this semester I have been combining a minor in social neuroscience with working as an intern-researcher at the VU Department of Organization Sciences and at the UvA Department of Political Science.

From day one I have been leaning towards the more “academic” side of political science, which also means that I am thinking about doing a research-master after I graduate. When shopping around for something useful to spend my fifth semester on, saying yes to the opportunity to work as an intern-research at two different universities was a no-brainer.

Because doing a PhD mostly falls as a natural continuation of a research-master, one of the things I was really interested in, was getting to know more about the life of a PhD-candidate is like. Before this internship I had my own idea of what doing a PhD required, namely being confined to a windowless room for four years and not being allowed to come out before surviving publishing three articles, a half-way burn-out, teaching a group of (at best) mildly interested first-year bachelor students, and painstakingly writing a book on some obscure untouched topic. Four months later I must admit that this view has been somewhat nuanced, but not complete debunked. Writing the book is not mandatory.

On my own part I had no idea what to expect regarding my tasks as a research-intern. Luckily I was assigned to two projects that could not have been more different in character. At the VU I’ve been helping research how professional care-givers deal with organizational changes within the new Dutch health-care policy framework, and at the UvA we focus on automated content-analysis of inter-elite political communication. Talk about methodological opposites. Because the two projects are so different my data-gathering quests have taken me from being an observer (among 150 middle-aged women) in a workshop on improving the efficiency and efficacy in professional caregiving, to the depths of the national archives in The Hague in search of speeches being given at party-conventions from 1945 until today. I’ve learned to do qualitative coding, have taken my first baby-steps in the realm of programming, and have participated in academic seminars on developing research within the field of political psychology.

When thinking back at my internship so-far, what mostly stands out has been the openness and trust that I have been met with by my colleagues and mentors. From day one I was encouraged to bring my own input into the research process, and have been taken seriously whenever I had something to add. Providing that my argument was sound and well-reasoned. The degree of autonomy that you have has also a pleasant surprise – especially in combination with (somewhat) flexible deadlines and working hours. I mean, who doesn’t like working from home in their pyjamas every now and again.

It might be a mild case of Stockholm-syndrome, but now that my internship is coming to an end those four years of solitude seem somehow a bit less unappealing.

Dit artikel is geschreven door Daniel Hansen. 

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