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"My time at EUI": alumni's reminiscences


Benedetta CottaWriting a Ph.D. in the Political and Social Sciences Department has been a truly unforgettable experience for me. Growing up and completing part of my undergraduate studies in Florence, I already knew the European University Institute by name. Still, it wasn’t until the moment I started my Ph.D. there that I understood the real value of doing research in a highly specialised, multinational institution of such magnitude. The seminars offered by my Department, the fabulous opportunities to brainstorm with my professors and colleagues have truly broadened by academic horizons and provided me with invaluable tools and bright ideas for my research. Moreover, thanks to EUI funding, it had been made possible for me to carry out an extensive amount of fieldwork in various European research centres and universities, to present my research at international conferences and workshops, as well as to attend excellent language and methodology courses. My time at the EUI had been a truly unique period in my life: apart from the wealth of opportunities to hone my academic skills, it was an exceptional multicultural experience that had created a strong foundation for many lasting friendships.

Benedetta Cotta (Ph.D. 2016)

Joseph LaceDoing a Ph.D. at the EUI surpassed what were already my high expectations. While you are expected to start work on refining your Ph.D. topic from day one, the first two years involve course work that will not only broaden your knowledge base but also allow you to refine skills that are directly relevant to your project. At the EUI, you will not only have full access to the faculty who are generous with their time, but also the continuous stream of academics that come through the Robert Schuman Centre and the Max Weber Programme for research stays or post-doctoral work. Researching in the hills of San Domenico at the EUI’s incredibly well-stocked library, overlooking Florence city centre just a 20-minute bus ride away, is what I would describe as the ideal working environment. Take a break and you are guaranteed to meet friends, who happen to be from all over the world, talking in the corridors, reading in the garden or having a coffee on the terrace.

Joseph Lacey (Ph.D. 2015)

Milena TripkovicBy offering me a place in the Ph.D. programme, the European University Institute has provided me with an opportunity to experience a truly unique academic journey. As a lawyer in the Department of Political and Social Sciences, my initial sentiment of being out of familiar context was soon replaced by admiration for the variety of fields that one can engage with at the EUI. In no other academic institution would I have been so encouraged and supported to write a truly interdisciplinary thesis, which combines law, political science, criminology and political theory. And even if the quality of one’s research ultimately depends on individual abilities, being at the EUI provides a sense of comfort in knowing that every thought and idea can be discussed from so many different perspectives. 

Milena Tripković (Ph.D. 2014)

Yves PetersDoing a Ph.D. at the European University Institute is an incredible experience. Having so many nationalities in one place, with so many different backgrounds and approaches—all working on their doctoral thesis or post-doctoral projects—makes for such a valuable academic environment. The professors are often leading scholars in their respective fields, and their training and supervision of EUI researchers is of the highest standard. The fact that you can discuss your research just like that, over lunch or over a beer, makes for an amazing situation and Ph.D. experience, both in terms of the quality of research and social interactions. The EUI library provides the researchers with a wealth of resources making it difficult to get used to the lower standard of many other places. This all is set in a fantastic location, overlooking the Tuscan hills, offering great food, coffee, wine, and ice-cream. Ironically, one only realises the academic strength of the EUI in full once the Ph.D. is concluded. While the experience is incredible at that time, a lot of its value becomes clear when you realise the scholarly network that you suddenly have, as well as the comparative academic advantage you have over those who did not go to the EUI. If I could do a second Ph.D. at the EUI, I would not hesitate in doing so.

Yvette Peters (Ph.D. 2011)

Julia Hermann

Writing a doctoral thesis at the EUI is no doubt a unique experience. Studying together with interesting and highly motivated people from all over Europe (and beyond), having academic discussions while enjoying delicious Italian food on the mensa-terrace with a breathtaking view over Florence, looking into the Tuscan hills, the cyprusses and olive trees, while racking one’s brain trying to solve a theoretical problem, having a picnic in the library garden, rowing on the Arno, exploring the Tuscan countryside – the combination of all this forms an unforgettable experience which culminates in the defence of a Ph.D.-thesis. At the EUI, on the hills above Florence, I grew academically, made long-lasting friendships and found the love of my life.

Julia Hermann (Ph.D. 2011)

Mi Ah SchøyenThe European University Institute is a highly inspiring place that provides you with a setting that gives you every opportunity to grow both intellectually and at the personal level. I have sometimes been asked whether I would make the same decision again, to join the EUI, if I could turn the clock back. To me that's an easy question. Moving to Florence was a decision that I never regretted. The combination of a high class faculty, a rich programme of academic seminars, workshops and lectures that give you methodological skills and substantive insights, together with outstanding supporting facilities (such as the library, administrative staff, the language centre) make an excellent offer. What is more, with so many nationalities represented, the EUI is a great place to learn about cultural differences and make lifetime friends regardless of national boundaries. In addition, Florence obviously has a lot to offer beyond the EUI and is well worth taking some time out to explore.

Mi Ah Schøyen (Ph.D. 2011)

Sergi Pardos-Prado

A Ph.D. programme at the European University Institute can become a deep intellectual and human experience. The diversity of native languages, cultural backgrounds, and past personal experiences makes the EUI a true sociological laboratory. Apart from strong academic training and opportunities, the EUI can certainly provide an inspiring and unique human setting that I will never forget.

Sergi Pardos-Prado (Ph.D. 2010)


AnnaSobczakHaving done my Ph.D. research at the European University Institute has been a real privilege for me. During my years at Badia Fiesolana, every day I was surrounded by great international minds in an intellectually stimulating environment on a Tuscan hill overlooking Florence. These times offered me incredibly memorable experience that not only enriched me with the necessary skills for my current position at the European Commission but also provided me with valuable personal contacts at universities and international organisations around the world that will last a lifetime.  

Anna Sobczak (Ph.D. 2010)

Kaat SmetsAfter visiting various academic institutions in  Europe and North America, I have fully come to grasp the remarkable nature of the European University Institute. It's unique international environment does not only provide one with the opportunity to get to know scholars from all over the world, subconsciously you also learn about academic and cultural differences through colleagues that practically come from all over the world. When at the EUI it is hard not to get hit by the research-vibe. There is always an interesting talk or workshop to attend. Moreover, the culture of constructive discussion makes that the EUI is a place where you can discover your best inner researcher. All of these features are topped by an excellent library, helpful and friendly staff, beautiful surroundings, and the opportunity to live in Italy the country of outstanding coffee, food, wine, and - for large parts of the year - beautiful weather. I would not hesitate at all if I had to make the choice to pursue my PhD at the EUI once more.

Kaat Smets (Ph.D. 2010)

Dorota Szelewa

Coming to the EUI was one of the best decisions of my life and I am grateful for having had this chance to join the Department of Political and  Social Science as a PhD researcher. I was amazed by the beauty of Tuscany and I never stopped appreciating it. But most importantly, I had an absolutely unique opportunity to receive training and intellectual stimulus from great academics. The scholarly exchange between researchers and professors from different policy fields builds an interdisciplinary approach to research. Thanks to that I managed not to close within one policy area, but I learned how to discuss many different aspects of studying social phenomena. The mode of academic exchange and the level of excellence have become blueprints for my further academic work. Since I left Florence and moved on with my career, I have always been asking myself this question: how would you do it if you were at the EUI?

Dorota Szelewa (Ph.D. 2009)

Igor Abdalla Medina De Souza

The years of my Ph.D. at the EUI are simply unforgettable. The Department of Political and Social Sciences provides a unique environment on both intellectual and personal grounds. In fact, we not only have the opportunity to be in touch with leading professors in our field, but also the administrative staff and doctoral candidates are interesting people from which we can draw a very rich experience.

Igor Abdalla Medina de Souza (Ph.D 2010)

Christian ThauerThe EUI is a truly exciting place: intellectually stimulating, culturally diverse and  interdisciplinary. I can think of no better place to do a Ph.D in terms of supervision, support and academic life. As I have experienced recently, having a Ph.D from the EUI is also helpful for succeeding on the academic job market. The Institute is known to be one of the leading academic social science institutions in Europe.

Christian Thauer (Ph.D 2010)

Tim Peace

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the EUI and can't think of a better place to write a Ph.D thesis. Being part of the largest doctoral programme in Europe means that you can interact with and count on the support of many other fellow researchers, some of whom will become your lifetime friends. The institution affords the opportunity to come into contact with world class academics, whether they be permanent faculty, visiting scholars or simply passing through for the many lectures, workshops and conferences that regularly take place. The intellectual stimulation of the EUI and its beautiful setting coupled with the cultural opportunities of living in Florence make for a truly unforgettable. experience.

Timothy Peace (Ph.D 2010)

Eva Anduiza

The EUI experience certainly counts as one of the best in my life. The challenging intellectual atmosphere, its multicultural and interdisciplinary character, and above all the quality, both human and professional, of the staff and researchers, have left a lasting impression on my academic career. 

Eva Anduiza (Ph.D. 1997)

Olaf OsicaThe  EUI doctoral programme exceeded my expectations. I was prepared for just a comfortable place to write my Ph.D. in the middle of lovely Tuscan landscapes. With the passing of time, however, I discovered EUI as a unique place where the art of studying and the way of living merge into a great life experience one can profit from through the entire professional career.

Olaf Osica (Ph.D. 2007)

ThomasPoguntkeWhenever I go to a major international conference in my field it seems that about half of the people in the room have been at the EUI either as researchers, fellows or faculty. What more can you say to show that the EUI is simply one of the leading institutions in its field.

Thomas Poguntke (Ph.D. 1989)

AmyVerdunDoing my Ph.D. in the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the EUI was rewarding in every possible. I enjoyed the fact I could work with leading scholars in the field, do fieldwork for my doctoral studies, and attend courses that provided an excellent basis for my Ph.D. thesis and indeed the rest of my career. The EUI offers not just an excellent doctoral programme but also a terrific place to be a postdoctoral fellow or visiting fellow as I experienced during the times I returned after I graduated. Having the opportunity to mingle with students from all over Europe and with scholars from all over the world has been tremendously important to me. As such it offers a scholarly place for the best and the brightest and hence creates a terrific network of students and scholars that extends well beyond one’s time at the EUI. I could think of no better place to do a doctorate, or spend some time as a postdoctoral fellow or visiting professor.

Amy Verdun (Ph.D. 1995)


Page last updated on 07 March 2017