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Blog by Ms Barbara Gross

Ms Barbara Gross, academic visitor at the Centre for Multilingual & Multicultural Research, writes a blog for the department.

Blog by Ms Barbara Gross who visited the department September - November 2016

Ms Barbara Gross was an academic visitor at the Centre for Multilingual & Multicultural Research in the Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication from September to November 2016.

I am a PhD-student at Free University of Bozen-Bolzano (Italy) at the faculty of Education, where I work on the interrelation between individual and social factors affecting multilingual education. At the end of my second year I decided to go abroad. Doing a research period abroad is an extraordinary opportunity for every PhD student. It allows one to widen their horizon, to think about the own research in another environment, and to recognise the manifold similarities and also differences in teaching and researching in different institutions. I chose Birkbeck, University of London and the department of Applied Linguistics and Communication for various reasons. First of all, I looked for professors, which could be interested in my research and from whom I could learn a lot. Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele immediately accepted my request, which reflected his openness for exchange. Secondly, in accordance with my research interest, I wanted to stay in a multilingual and multicultural environment, which London is great for.

I spent three months at Birkbeck, University of London, enough time to get to know the institution. I have to say that students have many advantages in studying here. First of all, I appreciated the high readiness to help of the staff, their kindness and open-mindedness – from professors to administration staff. Thanks to the manageable size of the department, it is possible for professors to consider individual student needs, students' cultural and linguistic background as well as their extra-university obligations, such as their jobs. In this regard, lectures are held in the evenings, thereby enabling students to work and study during the day.

During lectures I could observe a highly interactive approach, where students actively participate in discussions and bring in their experience and express their own opinions. It was easy for me to meet other students and to get in touch with them. I could learn a lot from them, as they are students with different cultural, linguistic and educational backgrounds. Thanks to these diverse backgrounds – which also characterise the professors– a real interdisciplinarity is assured. Apart from attending lectures and studying in the well-stocked and well attended library, I had the opportunity to write a paper on “The Relationship between Multilingualism and Basic Human Values among Primary-School-Children in South Tyrol”, co-authored by Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele, which we submitted to the International Journal of Multilingualism.

It was a very intensive and great time at Birkbeck and I would recommend it to anyone. It is an enriching experience, not only professional, but also personal.