7 August 2023
Photo: Sara Santos
As part of her doctoral studies, Lisa Marie Brinkmann completed a 5-week research stay in Aveiro, Portugal, in the spring of 2023. Brinkmann is examining student motivation and engagement in portfolio work in French class. In order to do this, she conducted a case study in an eighth-grade class in a Hamburg school. During her stay abroad, she had the opportunity to analyze her research findings. We spoke with her about her research stay.
Lisa Marie, thank you for taking the time to talk with us about your stay abroad. You spent 5 weeks in Aveiro, Portugal, where you analyzed the research findings of your doctoral dissertation.
Why did you opt for a stay in Aveiro?
The supervisor of my supervisor, Prof. Dr. Helena Araújo e Sá, and other experts in the field of romance languages education form the team at the Universidad de Aveiro. I also knew many of the colleagues there from the LoCALL project. For me, it seemed to be the perfect place to evaluate my own findings according to grounded theory with MaxQDA, a software program used for qualitative data analysis.
And what was your time there actually like?
In addition to working on my doctoral dissertation, I had the chance to talk a lot about my research. For a start, I had discussions about my analysis and choice of software; moreover, I was able to draw inspiration from discussions with colleagues, other doctoral researchers, and researchers. These discussions developed throughout the workday: in the office, in the hallway, or during meals.
During one seminar, I was able to present my work to other doctoral researchers and professors and, subsequently, even held a workshop on grounded theory. The workshop participants were able to conduct analyses based on my work, which had been translated into Portuguese. This was a win-win situation, because only one of the other doctoral students there had dealt with grounded theory before. This enabled the colleagues to learn something new, and I was able to gain valuable new perspectives on my findings. This change in perspective was very valuable for my further work.
What were your highlights in Aveiro?
In my seminar, I found others to be very curious and appreciative of my work. That really motivated me for further work. I also found motivation due to being very detached from everyday life back home. I had time to prioritize analyzing my findings and my doctoral dissertation and to take part in subject-specific discussions on a daily basis.
In addition to these expert exchanges, I found the daily exchanges on local politics and events with colleagues at the office to be very valuable. To be part of active events and to experience life in Portugal was particularly rewarding. The exchange also really helped me with the language: my Portuguese definitely improved in that time. Within the international team there, we communicated in different languages: with some colleagues, only in English, Spanish, French, or Portuguese.
Of course, the Portuguese way of life is very agreeable. The weather was warm and the sea is on the doorstep. All my colleagues, including my supervisor, were very open and welcoming. They always made me feel that I was part of the team and invited me to any outings. Each week, there were many lunch breaks together with great conversations.
It sounds like you had a really exciting and inspiring time!
How did you finance your stay, and how long did it take to plan?
I applied for a research scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in November. The application took me about a month. Among other things, I needed a schedule for my stay, which I had to agree upon with the partner university. Unfortunately, the funding application to the DAAD took a very long time to process, and I did not receive notification about the funding until very shortly before the start of my stay. Nevertheless, the planning worked out well, and I was able to find accommodation and book a flight in time—it all worked out in the end.
What is your conclusion? What recommendations would you give to colleagues who are keen to take the step abroad?
It is worthwhile for all colleagues to take the chance to spend some time working and researching abroad. In addition to the obvious advantages for your research, a stay abroad helps one to expand their intercultural and language skills.
I would also recommend finding out early about the bureaucracy involved with a stay abroad in order to take waiting periods for funding and applications into account when planning.