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Take a step back… at Birkbeck!

Visiting Scholor within ALC writes a blog about her experience.

Dr Amelia Lambelet, Université de Fribourg

You may know that moment in your academic career, when you begin to have doubts about your scientific capacities; you may have a PhD, you may be doing post-doc research, but somehow you feel that you are not really making progress in your field. Too much pressure, too many little things to resolve and no time to really deepen your knowledge… This was my state of mind at the end of 2014. As I was also having doubts about my English proficiency, I thought that a scientific stay in an English-speaking country would be a good option to “practice English and science”. And what better an environment than Birkbeck to do it? As I knew Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele for some time, I asked him if a scientific stay in the Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication at Birkbeck would be possible for me, and received an answer the same day acknowledging that YES, I was invited!  No sooner said than done, I asked my Research Institute for a short leave and then booked my flight to London for the 23th of February!

Staying one month in Birkbeck has been for me like a (computer) reboot: partial blackout at the beginning, time to open my eyes and mind, and then a new energy to persevere in my projects. I have had the opportunity to meet extremely interesting people; some of them working in other fields than mine and therefore giving me another perspective on my own research. I have also had the chance to teach at the undergraduate and postgraduate level in Jean-Marc Dewaele’s lectures – which was not planned in my first mental visualization of a scientific stay, but ended up being a wonderful experience. I enjoyed so much speaking with Birkbeck students, a very international and motivated audience…Thank you guys for the discussions during and after the lectures!

I also have had plenty of time to write several papers, and finish some other things that I had set aside during the last months (for instance, a final report of an important state-funded project). In the end, my stay at Birkbeck has been more than fruitful: I came back with a complete new vision of my latent potential, as well as with various papers submitted and ideas for future projects – one of them in collaboration with a colleague that I met during my stay in London and for which I have been gathering the first data today!

On a more personal note: as we were having Afternoon Tea at the London Review Bookshop, next to the British Museum ( during my first week in London, Jean-Marc Dewaele gave me the best advice one could receive at my stage of career: Try not to focus on stressful situations, and use every opportunity to connect what you know with what other people know; the more you move forward, the more you will see joint research ideas, and small but interesting collaborations with colleagues worldwide. This is exactly what happened during my stay in Birkbeck and is still happening since my return here at the Institute of Multilingualism (University of Fribourg, Switzerland). I will never forget this advice and I really hope to stay in contact with each and every person I met during this stay!