Marc Lewis, PhD candidate from the Bangor University (UK) chooses the Ruhr University for a research stay

 

“Would you like to go to Germany next year?” asked Stefan and Gwilym, my Bangor University PhD supervisors as we gazed at the rain clouds drifting along the Menai Strait that separates the Welsh mainland from the island of Anglesey. I immediately replied “yes please” not being a man to turn down a free offer, or the prospect of better weather.

 

After writing a business case for the research stay, meetings with our international exchanges officer and a lot of Erasmus paper work and arranging things I descended into the U-Bahn at Bochum Hauptbahnhof on my first morning. It felt a long way from my quiet Severn Valley market town home of Y Drenewydd / Newtown. The differences of scale were striking. Y Drenewydd has a population of only 13,000 compared with 370,000 for Bochum and Bangor University has only 11,000 students compared with Ruhr University’s 43,000.

 "I was struck by the similarities between the Ruhr area and our southern valleys and north-east border regions"

My initial impression of Ruhr University was of a futuristic architectural dystopia, academia meets ‘Bladerunner’? However, I need not have worried. The University administration soon processed me and issued my student ID card. I paid my ‘social contribution fee’ and then I met my supervisor and mentor Achim Henkel, Dean of Study Affairs for the Faculty of Social Science. His knowledge of the University and the region, and his love for them and their people, was something that continued to shine through the next three months of my stay.

 

Achim Henkel showed me around the campus. He introduced me to the Welcome Centre for International Researchers, they immediately booked me on to Dr Iris Wangermann’s Intercultural Training Day, as a sociologist I found her exploration of German cultural characteristics fascinating. He then introduced me to the central and faculty library staff. I was also allocated a desk in the faculty library PhD student’s room.

  "I had such an academically and culturally useful and interesting time"

Life soon assumed a routine. I would work on my thesis for four or five hours before lunch on campus. In late afternoon I would take a train to another Ruhr city and explore it by tram or on foot. My PhD is on the potential socio-economic effects that an all-Wales integrated transport system might have. I’m asking would it contribute to promoting the economic development that we so badly need and reduce our high levels of poverty and deprivation? Consequently, these trips were also part of my research. I was struck by the similarities between the Ruhr area and our southern valleys and north-east border regions, which have a similar heritage of coal-mining and iron and steel production. I also undertook some research interviews with University experts on the current situation, and post-industrial future, of the Ruhr area. At weekends I travelled all over North Rhine-Westphalia, but particularly to Düsseldorf and Köln.

 

Was it worth it? Certainly! I had such an academically and culturally useful and interesting time. I was also very impressed by the helpfulness and friendliness of all the German people I met, and the weather was great!
Vielen Dank RUB and Erasmus!
 

 

Lewis Pic

Marc Lewis, PhD candidate from the Bangor University (UK), conducted a successful research stay at the Faculty of Social Science in 2018

The exchange was funded by ERASMUS+ and is also open for PhD candidates from RUB, who would like to visit Bangor or other partner universities