Turbocharging my PhD in Cape Town

Lizette Vorster, Centre for Business in Society

If I could sum up the whole experience in one word it would have to be ”crammed”. From trying to fit everything into one suitcase straight through to rushing from plane to plane, just making the last boarding call. Even though the days were long, they were chock-full of educational and interactive sessions intermingled with fun adventures.

My notebook is full of valuable scribbles and reflective memos. Attending the school is certainly beneficial, especially for students at the beginning of their PhD journey. The array of topics made me consider the overall purpose of doing a PhD, beyond the nitty gritty details of an in-depth study into a particular subject towards the broader impact of my project and future research trajectories for post-doctoral studies. It helped me determine which areas I need to focus on next and gave a better picture of what the journey to VIVA looks like. Although every session was great in its own capacity the most memorable presentation (and biggest conference hit in terms of vivacious personality) was Dr. Alessandro Merendino with building your academic brand. Something most of us have given little thought to but will now never forget to take into account again, after all everyone wants their brand to be “so sexy” that your academic peers take notice.

Presenting my topic to people not necessarily familiar with my field was an excellent exercise in conveying the theory and project outline in a short amount of space. The questions and suggestions stemming from the audience’s feedback have highlighted a couple of underexplored areas in my research. These will be kept in mind and will definitely contribute to a well-rounded end product.

Although I have been to Cape Town numerous times it was very interesting to view the Mother City (and South Africa) through the eyes of a diverse set of other cultures. With almost 20 different countries of origin amongst the group it was a great exercise in interacting within a multicultural context. The school also offered excellent networking opportunities and a number of steadfast friendships and valuable network contacts have developed as a result of it.

It was good to get out of the conference room every other day and we saw some of the biggest attractions in Cape Town. Although we will have to come back to find Cristina’s baboon…

In my opinion the following photo best depicts the entire trip to Cape Town. We were constantly eating, even sessions and outings were catered for. As one of my fellow students remarked three days after getting back from the trip “I can’t even remember what it feels like to be hungry!” Luckily they don’t charge you for bringing more body weight back on the return flight…


I would encourage all students to apply for the next doctoral school. It is a very busy (and somewhat tiring) experience but so worth it!



Coventry University