European Waves

Barcelona Research Seminar 2022

On January 17-18 the Barcelona Research Seminar took place. Over the course of two days, students from both the EPS first and second year present their research projects and engage with academics and other students to improve their thesis proposals.This year’s edition unfortunately had to be held online, yet some students attended the seminar from Barcelona after all. First and second year students look back on their experience of this year’s seminar.

 

BRS 2021/ 2022 Edition – Online by Julian Theseira (first-year)

When applying for the EPS program, one component of the program that stood out to me was the Barcelona Research Seminar. I appreciated that EPS students would have the opportunity to present their thesis ideas in the middle of their first year and receive feedback that would enable them to iterate and refine their thesis proposals accordingly. I had also looked forward to everyone enrolled in the program potentially meeting up in Barcelona along with the faculty members. 

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic including the emergence of the fast-spreading Delta and Omicron variants however meant that the Barcelona Research Seminar had to be held virtually for the second consecutive year. Students who had already made travel plans could still travel to Barcelona and join virtually from there. I chose not to travel and joined the seminar online from my dorm room in Prague. 

Entering the third year of the pandemic, I had grown habituated to virtual meetings and online classes. I found the keynote lectures each morning of the Barcelona Research Seminar stimulating, even though they were delivered virtually. The lectures spurred thinking about different research methods and how to choose the appropriate methodology for a project. Staying engaged in lectures online was however more taxing than doing so in a physical classroom and I was therefore thankful that more breaks were scheduled into the virtual Barcelona Research Seminar. 

First-year EPS students had to pre-record their thesis project presentations beforehand. The presentation videos and slides had been shared with faculty and students ahead of the Barcelona Research Seminar. I appreciated this aspect of the programme as it eliminated the potential stress of presenting my thesis project live online. I also liked that it gave me more time to reflect on and process the thesis projects of my classmates. Second-year EPS students however had to present their thesis projects live virtually. The virtual format was not a barrier to faculty members and student discussants giving constructive and rigorous feedback on the thesis projects, although technical glitches did interrupt the flow of discussions from time to time. I personally received helpful suggestions of directions I could take with my thesis.

The Barcelona Research Seminar concluded with a series of parallel methodology workshops. I chose to join the workshop on experimental research in the social sciences given by Professor Theresa Kuhn of the University of Amsterdam as it was a methodology that was not covered in the EPS curriculum. As most participants were unfamiliar with experimental methods, Professor Kuhn spent most of the workshop introducing fundamental concepts. I personally enjoyed learning about a research method that I had never used before. Professor Kuhn had envisioned the workshop being more participatory and interactive, and students did engage by asking questions. The virtual format however may have constrained some of the more organic interactions and discussions that could have emerged from an in-person workshop. 

After the formal conclusion of the Barcelona Research Seminar, there was also a European Waves meeting. While I was not in Barcelona, I felt included in the meeting and appreciated that my ideas and suggestions as a contributing writer were heard. I am looking forward to the upcoming articles and podcasts that European Waves will release.

Overall I found the Barcelona Research Seminar engaging and it stimulated thinking of how I can proceed with my thesis project. I felt grateful to receive rigorous feedback on research design early enough so that I can still make substantive changes to my eventual thesis project. I appreciate the EPS consortium’s commitment towards nurturing student research via the Barcelona Research Seminar and find it to be one of the distinguishing features of the program. While I felt included in the virtual Barcelona Research Seminar and found the online programme engaging, an in-person seminar would likely have been even more enriching due to the stimulating conversations and encounters that can happen serendipitously in a physical setting. As I work on refining my thesis project, I look forward to the entire EPS programme hopefully meeting in Barcelona next January.

 

BRS 2021/2022 Edition – in person by Paulina Frank (first-year)

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, this year’s Barcelona Research Seminar once again took place under unsteady circumstances. It was uncertain until shortly before the seminar started whether it could take place in person or not, and unfortunately the event had to be moved to the online environment. Nevertheless, the majority of the first-year students decided to travel to Barcelona, mainly because tickets and accommodation had been booked in advance, and also not to miss the unique opportunity to meet the second-year students in person. Personally, I was also keen on going to Barcelona, as I will be spending my second year there and this occasion would therefore allow me to explore and get to know the city in advance. 

The aim of this two-day seminar was primarily for all participating students to strengthen the idea of their Master’s thesis and to receive feedback. The first-year students recorded the presentation of their thesis proposal in advance so that the professors and other fellow students could review it online beforehand. The advantage here was that we could practice and revise our own presentation several times, but also had the opportunity to provide well-considered and constructive feedback to our fellow students. The second-year students gave their presentation live during the sessions and received direct feedback from all participants. 

Although the seminar took place online, there was the possibility for the students who were present in Barcelona to follow the seminar at Pompeu Fabra University. This allowed us to briefly experience student life at the university, as we could follow the seminar from the classrooms here and could enjoy lunch at the cafeteria.On the last day of the seminar, we were given the opportunity to participate in more specific workshops that were interesting for our respective research. I myself attended the workshop for ‘Elite interviewing’ with Dr. Tomáš Weiss, which was very stimulating and informative. 

After the end of the seminar, we had the opportunity to spend the rest of the day exploring all that Barcelona has to offer. Almost every evening, students ended up together in a restaurant to eat tapas or in a bar to drink sangria.As the Barcelona Research Seminar is the only occasion during which the first and second-year EPS students meet, it formed a unique opportunity for all of us to interact. It was very special to be in such a large group because we were really able to get to know each other and to exchange views and opinions, both on the seminar itself, but also on personal matters. I think during these few days in Barcelona, completely new perspectives have emerged and some new friendships have developed. The second-year students, who are currently spending their second year in Barcelona, as well as those from the other cities, made a great effort to show us around the city and to include us in EPS student life. They organised gatherings and sightseeing tours, shared their experiences of the programme so far and gave us valuable advice for the upcoming semesters.

Personally, I also considered the Barcelona Research Seminar as one last opportunity to see most of my fellow first year students again before we eventually split up in February. Having concluded the first semester of the EPS programme in Prague, this trip to Barcelona formed a good occasion to celebrate.

Finally, at the end of the two-day seminar, we had our first European Waves Meeting in person. In my opinion that was a special experience and one of my main highlights in Barcelona as we were finally able to exchange our thoughts and ideas in person. As the platform is organised by both first and second year students, the meetings have so far only been online as we are widely scattered across Leiden, Prague, Krakow and Barcelona. It was great to finally get to know each other properly in person and to collect many new suggestions for future articles. The reunion was an excellent way to wrap up this year’s Barcelona Research Seminar. 

 

BRS 2021/2022 Edition – in-person by Covadonga Solares (second-year)

As my fellow classmates have already introduced you to the specifics of the BRS program, it is my intention to give you a glimpse of what it meant to visit the ever so beautiful Barcelona and to have her become the venue of one of EPS’s flagship events. Fortunately, Gaudi’s muse was not a stranger for me, as coming from Spain allowed me to enjoy various stays in the city in the past, but Barcelona is the kind of place you never regret going back to: it never ceases to amaze you. For us students, it seemed like the perfect place to escape to after an exhausting post-holiday exam period, especially when taking into account the weather Leiden, Krakow and Prague welcomed us with in mid-January.

For an event that focuses on research and thesis drafting, it was a much-appreciated contrast for it to be held in the vibrant, buzzing, and picturesque Barcelona. The city had so much to offer and we dived into it with no hesitation whenever we had any free time: soaking in the coy winter sun and the sea breeze on Barceloneta Beach, or meeting up at the Carmel Bunkers to catch the sunset, the city spread out under our feet. One of the things that I appreciate the most about having the chance to attend two editions of the BRS is being able to meet other EPS cohorts. Unlike the previous edition, which had to be held online due to soaring numbers of COVID infections all across Europe, getting together not only with my second-year classmates but also with the new batch of first-year students was a priceless experience, and one that undoubtedly increased our cohesion as a program. Being brought together in the same city was a great introduction to the second semester, and it fostered the creation of several groups in which second-years organised welcome activities for the new-comers in Krakow and Leiden. 

Barcelona was a much needed remedy to the overwhelming burden the pandemic put on us. After two semesters of online teaching, that prevented us from even stepping into the grounds of Charles, Leiden and Jagiellonian University, walking into the halls and classrooms at Pompeu Fabra felt almost surreal, as the campus was humming with students chatting in hallways, making the most out of their lunch break in the cafeteria or attending lectures behind glass doors. Despite the event having to be moved online in order to take the necessary precautions, those of us who wanted to attend it from UPF still had the chance to do so, and for me it made the experience a little closer to normal. Also, as my track unfortunately will not take me to UPF, it was a great chance to get to know the institution and to see such an international and modern campus first-hand. 

I already mentioned it in the piece about the Brussels Field Trip, but the Barcelona Research Seminar only reaffirmed my belief that all of the curricular events that the consortium has planned in our academic program to bring us all together once again are a cornerstone of the EPS experience, the key to building the close-knit community that we are. I must confess that the only thing I could ever blame BRS for is leaving in me the sadness of not being able to join next year’s edition.

 

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