Postgraduate Study Abroad at UC Berkeley, USA

Duncan Cooper
Friday 5 May 2023

Thomas is a Postgraduate Student and PhD Candidate in Russian and Social Anthropology. Thomas studied at the University of California, Berkeley in Semester 1, 2022-23. He has kindly agreed to share his experience.

Student sitting infront of a lake

In short, my exchange programme to UC Berkeley has been a life-changing experience.

During my stay here I have been able to gain access to the library’s extensive collection of books and privileges to online archival databases that the University of St Andrews does not currently provide. An example of this is Berkeley’s access to the online database Eastview, a collection of digital archives of various newspapers, journals, and articles published during the Russian Empire, Soviet Union, and post-soviet period to the present. Access to these materials has enriched my research by broadening the scope of my primary sources in my project.

Additionally, the Postgraduate community at UC Berkeley has been very welcoming. Soon after arriving, I joined the Institute for European Studies’ (IES) graduate and visiting scholar colloquium. For this initiative, we would meet once every two weeks to listen to each other’s research and provide informal feedback on written work. For my own presentation, I shared my Masters dissertation, which prompted a fruitful discussion on how to rework the piece into a smaller paper to publish in an academic journal.

As well as my involvement with IES, I have also greatly enjoyed the engaging events hosted by the Institute of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES), which also works closely with IES in organising their events.  Often these events invited distinguished professors from around the United States. While attending these events, I met other PhD candidates in the field of Slavic Studies (more closely aligned to my own research interests). Through these connections, I was invited to join the Slavic Postgraduate Working Group ‘Slavic Peripheries’, which, similar to IES’ colloquium, I was able to workshop my research and ideas for a chapter for my thesis.

The most rewarding part of my exchange experience has undoubtably been the connections that I have made while being here, both personal and professional (more often than not, a mix of the two). Through new friends, I have had the immense privilege of seeing more of California: from Lake Tahoe (photo), to Monterey, to the redwood forests north of San Francisco, with plans in the making for heading off to the wineries in Napa Valley and eventually to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park. These places, experiences, and friends will be the things that I remember most fondly and vividly from my time here. There aren’t words to express my gratitude for what will be an unforgettable period of my life.


Thank you to Thomas for sharing his study abroad experience.

If you would like to find out more about Postgraduate exchanges, or studying abroad in general, please email [email protected]

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