The School runs Partnership PhD Mobility Bursaries programmes that allow a small number of research students to visit overseas partner institutions as part of doctoral training and field research. In this blog, Do Young, a final year PhD student in the Department of Geography and Environment, spent visited the National University of Singapore for his doctoral research and shares his experiences.
As a PhD exchange student from the London School of Economics and Political Science, I visited the National University of Singapore from January to March 2016. I was attached to the Department of Geography which is well-known for its excellent faculty and students. During my visit to NUS, I mainly conducted fieldwork for my PhD thesis project by doing research interviews and collecting reference materials from libraries, newspapers and websites. Although three months were relatively a short period of doing research, I also tried to attend department research seminars and audit lectures as often as possible to spend my time productively.
Regarding the fieldwork for my PhD thesis project, which is entitled ‘University as real estate developer: locating the East Asian university in the urban process’, I conducted 18 research interviews. My advisor at NUS, Dr Tim Bunnell, helped me to find potential interviewees. Most of my interviewees were very kind and happy to share their experiences with me. The Singapore/Malaysia Collection at the NUS Library was one of the primary sources of my data collection. I was able to find rare materials that I could not find if I had not been to the library. I believe that the exchange programme was crucial to my successful fieldwork
Along with my fieldwork, I participated in various activities. Firstly, I regularly attended research seminars of the Department of Geography. There are two research group seminars I engaged: Social & Cultural Geographies Research Group (SCG) and Politics, Economies and Space Research Group (PEAS). I also presented my research at the SCG seminar. The dynamics of two groups were different, but both encouraged students to participate in seminars actively. I was impressed that masters students also came to seminars regularly and actively shared their thoughts.
As a PhD exchange student, I was able to audit lectures and seminars I was interested in. The module about urban policies taught by Profs Norman and Susan Fainstein was especially interesting to me. The module allowed me to visit two government agencies: The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Housing Development Board (HDB). By listening from them and asking questions, which I wondered before, it was a good opportunity to improve my understanding of urbanisation processes in Singapore in relation to my thesis project.
Lastly, I had a meaningful time in Singapore not only for my thesis project but also for my student life. NUS is a very international university where you can meet a lot of students from different countries, just like LSE. Perhaps, there are more opportunities to meet and talk to them since many of them live on campus. It was fun to live and study on a huge campus like NUS after spending a few years at a compact one of LSE. I cannot even count how many restaurants and canteens there are in the campus. I often miss good people and food from there and would like to recommend other students to take this opportunity to explore another world.
About the contributor
Do Young Oh is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography and the Environment. His thesis examines the role of the university in urban development in South Korea and Singapore from comparatives perspectives.