Irena Kalhousová is currently a PhD student at the London School of Economics, working on relations between Central European countries and Israel. She is a Chief analyst and a member of the Program Committee at the Foundation Forum2000. Irena holds an M.Phil. degree in Contemporary European Studies from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
I applied for the NORTIA Bursary in the last year of my Ph.D. It was one of the last opportunities to get to know better another academic institution while still being a student. My first choice was the European University in Florence (EUI). Being on my list of universities to which I applied for my PhD five years ago, I was truly curious to visit the institution and to spend some time there. And I was not disappointed. I came to Florence in the middle of the spring semester and as such, I had a chance to attend seminars and conferences organized by the Department of Political and Social Sciences. Not surprisingly, many of those events were focused on issues related to the EU. Academics, diplomats, politicians, as well as officials from both Brussels and member states apparently enjoy coming to the EUI to present, explain, and discuss theories, policies, strategies, and the future of the EU. Coming from LSE where most of the EU related issues have been lately limited to discussions about Brexit, this was a rather refreshing change which reminded me what so many people in the U.K. tend to forget – that actually, Brexit is not at all the most urgent topic in the EU.
Together with updating myself about today’s EU, my stay at the EUI was academically very enriching. I found most professors and fellows at the EUI very accessible. They were willing to discuss and even read parts of my thesis. Their feedback and ideas helped me to look at both the theoretical and empirical parts of my thesis with fresh eyes. On top of it, I had a great discussion with other PhD students at the EUI. Coming from all over Europe and having an experience with different academic institutions, it was really inspiring to spend time with them discussing our academic projects.
Coming to Florence in the time of intense writing as the deadline for my thesis has been fast approaching, I appreciated the tranquillity of the EUI campus. The breath-taking view on the city of Florence from the library at the Badia Fiesolana, a classical garden at the Villa Schifanoia, or Villa Salviati, the seat of the Historical Archives of the EU, those were places where one could find an ideal stress-free room so needed in the time of stressful writing.
And of course, then there is Florence. A beautiful city where arts made by great Renaissance painters, sculptors, and architects can be found literary on every corner. Even if you are not a big fan of the Renaissance, in Florence, you will become one. And the fact that as an EUI student one can visit most of the iconic places for free surely helps to enjoy fully the city.
To conclude, ten weeks that I spent at the EUI thanks to the NORTIA Bursary were simply great. A beautiful place, superb academic quality, friendly people, combined with Italian food made my time in Florence unforgettable. I am truly grateful for this chance.
Applications are now open for the 2019 NORTIA bursaries. To learn more, visit the UACES website: https://www.uaces.org/funding/nortia/COMMENT