30 March 2012
By Sarah Davies
My current job is in Arizona, in what is, allegedly, the world’s most unsustainable city, right in the heart of the Sonoran desert. Unsustainable or not (it is), the weather here through the winter is truly delightful by European standards: 20C, sunny, and almost constantly dry. I first arrived some years ago as a visiting researcher, for an initial trip of three months, in January; had I visited in August (when temperatures top 45C) I’m not sure I would have been so keen to stay.
Whatever the reason, it’s certainly the case that, every spring, my department has a steady stream of international visitors – students or faculty on research visits, sabbaticals, or study-abroad programmes for anything from a few days to a few months. I love this time of year. Suddenly the department is busy with an influx of interesting people, all of whom are keen to collaborate, engage and discuss, and who bring different kinds of research interests and projects. It’s a breath of fresh air; a chance to stretch your mind out of the routines of immediate colleagues’ – and your own – concerns and questions.
Few of these visitors are funded by my department, but it’s certain that we get a lot of benefit from them. They come on fellowships, such as the Fulbright scheme, or on funding from PhD programmes, or through their own departmental or travel funds. All sorts of things result: talks and seminars, longer term collaborations, or – as in my case – jobs and research projects. I can’t see any disadvantages to these kinds of exchanges: it’s a model I’m keen to repeat when I get the opportunity.
Have others experienced international travel and visits in this way? How did you find it? And is it better to be the visitor or the visited?