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Sunday 17 July 2022

7 things I liked about EERA’s Summer school in Porto, and 3 areas which could be improved …


Just as each one of us is unique, our PhD journey will also be unique. However, very often there are common elements. Being able to engage in networking activities with other doctoral candidates at an early stage of one’s PhD journey therefore proves to be a very enriching experience. This is why I would like to share with you my personal experience of participating in my first EERA - European Educational Research Association’s summer school.

To give you some background information, I just finished the 3rd semester of my PhD programme at the University of Luxembourg. My research topic is “Perceptions and attitudes of the vocational education and training actors related to soft skills needed for employment”, an extremely important topic, especially in today’s context in which local employers are increasingly challenged to find employees equipped with industry-ready skills. 

In this context, I am very grateful to have been one of the lucky few - and the only one from Luxembourg - accepted in EERA’s Summer School 2022 at the University of Porto in Portugal. I also wish to express my gratitude to my Doctoral School of Humanities and Social Sciences for their support of my participation in this 1-week intensive summer school.

Below, I list 7 things that I really liked about the summer school, as well as 3 areas which could be improved: 

  1. The host country - I love Portugal for many reasons, the amazing food being just one of them. However, what made me place the host country as my #1 was the time difference, which allowed me to gain 1 hour in the morning. All of our workshops began at 9 am, which for me was 10 am (Luxembourg time) and, as I am not an early bird, this was great for me.
  2. As a self-funded student, the summer school was an amazing opportunity to meet and interact with other researchers who are in the same research stage as me. It really helps knowing that one is not the only one struggling with the research design at times, for example in making sure that the proposed research questions and the methodology are aligned. 
  3. This summer school was a great chance to benefit from tutoring by experienced researchers. My group tutors were Xana Sá Pinto and Joana Lúcio, who both took their job to heart. I am grateful for their generosity, encouragement and support throughout the summer school. The doubts I was having about one of my research questions are now gone and I can focus with confidence on the current research design. 

4. The organization of the summer school was perfect! Only someone who has organized an event, themselves, could understand the complexity of the undertaking, how many resources are required and how much time and energy goes into the organization of such an event. There are the logistical components: placing all the participants into various hotels located within 10 minutes by metro from the university, arranging the meals, providing the buses for our trip to the University of Minho, assigning people to small groups by research topic and tutors to each group, planning the rooms, and so on. Then there is the matter of the programme: combining hands-on small group working sessions with plenary sessions featuring keynote speakers who are experts on topics of general interest for all researchers, plus organizing field trips. Kudos to the organization team, you’ve done an amazing job!  

5. This experience was a wonderful motivational factor! The PhD journey is quite a lonely one, especially for someone like me who is a self-funded student, and motivation has its ups and downs at times. It was extremely enriching for me to be together with other emerging researchers from a variety of countries/universities, and to learn about the diversity of their topics of research. In addition to the learning factor, I greatly appreciate the motivation and enthusiasm I feel now, upon my return home, to further work on my research project. 

6. I value the multicultural aspect of the training, enhanced by the diversity of participants, very much. Beyond our research projects, we also exchanged views about our universities, PhD programmes and supervisors. It was very interesting to discover that some universities offer different PhD programmes than those that we have at the University of Luxembourg. Our diverse backgrounds and experiences also contributed to the rich discussions and varied perspectives on the same topics of discussion, a valuable aspect of the summer school.

7.This event allowed us to establish direct contact with the editors of the Portuguese Journal of Education. During our visit to the University of Minho in Braga, we were offered the opportunity to get in touch with the editorial team of a prestigious education journal indexed by Scopus. The Board/Deputy Director, Iris Pereira, took the time, during her sabbatical year, to present to us the Portuguese Journal of Education and offer us some tips on how to approach the writing of a journal article and the publication process. Thank you very much!

As any PhD student, it’s part of my job to always suggest some things that could be improved, so below you will find my observations:


  1. Some of the participants had a hard time explaining their research in English, which made the conversation a bit challenging at times. A B1+ level in English would be, in my opinion, a minimum needed to participate and be able to properly interact with the other participants.
  2. We were not able to receive a participant list to see what universities the other PhD students were coming from. The GDPR is making the life of event organizers, entrepreneurs and researchers alike, a lot more complicated. Knowing that the GDPR was a legislative proposal of my political party (CSV) colleague, Viviane Reding, motivates me even more to be involved in Luxembourgish politics and hopefully get elected next year. 
  3. There were entirely too many pastries - you know how good the Portuguese pastries are… though delicious, two tables full of pastries at each of our coffee breaks were too much for me. I think I took home a few extra kilos from this summer school.

To sum up, EERA - European Educational Researchers Association’s summer school offered its participants incredible value. I highly appreciated the quality of the activities provided, the networking opportunities, and the motivational factor. 

I sincerely thank the entire team of EERA for another amazing job done and I highly recommend all EERA’s events to emerging researchers. I look forward to seeing some of the participants again at the Emerging Researchers’ Conference in Yerevan next month, whether face to face or online. 

Thank you for your visit, as well as for your interest in my PhD journey!  
Feel free to leave me your comments and suggestions, I’d be happy to hear from you.

#myphdjourney #myPhD

#softskillsforEmployment #employability

#employabilityskills #softskills #transversalskills #essentialskills #research #education #future


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