Participating in the CARNiVAL Cape Town Doctoral School was an experience I will never forget. Not only did it enhance my academic knowledge, but it also provided me with a cultural experience so very different from my own background.
Attending the school gave me the opportunity to network with academics in and out of my own field, providing me with thought provoking insights into areas that I have yet to consider upon my PhD journey, such as learning about my academic brand. Furthermore, the classes were all really useful and applicable to my PhD, specifically those regarding qualitative data, theory building and the use of coding. The classes provided the opportunity for both group discussions and group activities, which allowed me to access valuable insight from not only my peers but other academics in the room. I particularly enjoyed being part of a group again as sometimes the PhD journey can feel lonely. Here I felt like part of a team again – something I hope will last when we return to Coventry. By staying in such close proximity to each other, the school provided an informal setting to have relaxed conversations about my research with others that I would not necessarily have such easy access to back at University. These conversations really gave me time to discuss and work out some of the struggles I have been having in my PhD, as well as building up a network of new people who I feel I could approach should I need to back at Coventry.
Furthermore, the school provided me with a safe environment in which to formally present my research during a 25 minute presentation slot. This was a great opportunity for me to present to some of those in the field as well as academics with other interests, which meant that the questions I received were quite diverse and great for PRP practice. After the presentation followed a mentoring session where I had the opportunity to receive one-on-one feedback with four academics. The feedback session really allowed time for me to ask questions on elements of my PhD that I am struggling with and gave the academics chance to provide me some really useful things to think about and action when I get home.
Alongside the academic side of the school, we were fortunate to participate in some cultural activities which were (of course) the highlight of the two weeks! Although Table Mountain, Cape Town stadium and Robben Island were particularly spectacular, I really enjoyed the trip to the township where we were joined by some of the local children.
Overall, the trip has been an amazing experience both in terms of helping me progress forward in my PhD and building my network (both socially and professionally). I have enjoyed every element of the two weeks in the most beautiful setting and would like to personally thank all those in the CARNiVAL team who provided me with the opportunity to attend as well as those members of staff that made the trip possible – Thank you!