Networking towards independence

Paradoxical as it may seem, PhD fellow Rafael Lomeu thinks being an independent scholar is reliant on building a network of colleagues and friends.

Portrait photo of Rafael Lomeu

Rafael Lomeu (Photo: Nadia Frantsen / UiO)

Photo: Nadia Frantsen, UiO.

Since I knew one of the goals of doing a PhD is to become an independent researcher, which involves a great deal of autonomy, I had not realised how important building a supportive network would be. Interestingly, when I look back at the past 18 months, I recognise that my journey would have been much more difficult had my focus on becoming an independent scholar overridden the importance of establishing contacts with the amazing people I have crossed paths with.

The stereotypical image of the lonely PhD student meets… life

I moved to Norway from Brazil to start my PhD at MultiLing, and that meant facing many challenging conditions. Being away from loved ones, coping with long, dark and cold winters, trying to learn a new language, and, of course, doing the many activities related to the doctoral training itself. Luckily, I was welcomed by kind and supportive colleagues, supervisors, professors, and administrative staff. This support was crucial for my emotional well-being, an aspect I had not realised I would have to keep in check so conscientiously. So yes, the stereotypical image of the lonely PhD student working late into the wee hours to meet a deadline might hold true sometimes. However, I have been trying to find the optimal balance between work and life, a remarkable attitude towards work usually found in many Norwegian workplaces. As a result, I have learned that doing a PhD does not have to be a reclusive endeavor, and made great friends.

Reflecting on one's own life, identity and language practices

Moreover, due to the ethnographic nature of my research, during my first weeks in Oslo, I started establishing a network with Brazilians living here. Again, I was fortunate to meet incredibly helpful people who were willing either to participate in my research or to introduce me to other people. As I get to know the participants better and the strategies they use to raise their children multilingually, I reflect a lot about how issues related to migration, identity and belonging affect their lives (and mine!).

Establishing an academic network

Another important aspect of my research training involves taking courses at the University of Oslo and elsewhere. The PhD students and professors I have met have, in general, been very generous, in that they have given me great feedback on my work. Also, getting to know their work better has helped me improve my sense of the current research being done in sociolinguistics. Besides, the international collaborations between MultiLing and other departments abroad have also been contributing to the establishment of my own academic network. I am very excited about the prospect of spending a few months in Australia working with my co-supervisor at the University of Technology, Sydney, and in South Africa, hosted by the Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research at the University of the Western Cape.

Support of network has an encouraging effect

So far, doing a PhD at MultiLing has been a very exciting and rewarding experience. Of course, there have been times when I was very stressed out, unsure of certain decisions, and doubted the quality of my work or even my capabilities. However, relying on the support of the network I have started to build has helped me to find the tracks again and carry on doing my best. I can anticipate the coming 18 months will be even more intense – and just as rewarding.

By Rafael Lomeu
Published June 5, 2018 11:36 AM - Last modified June 7, 2018 4:53 PM