My name is Laura Fey, and I'm a third-year PhD student in the Strategy group at the University of Edinburgh Business School. Through my ESRC funding I had the amazing opportunity to visit my second supervisor, Royston Greenwood, at his home institution, the University of Alberta, for the month of October. We worked together on one of my PhD papers. I hope by sharing my experience in this blog post that I can encourage others to go on an institutional visit.
Institutional visit to University of Alberta, Canada

I arrived in Canada at the last weekend of September, right in time for beautiful autumn colours and some really sunny, 20-degree days. I was warmly welcomed by Royston, the PhD office and my PhD colleagues. I got a student card to allow 24/7 access to the business school including access to different study spaces and social areas.

Each week there were presentations by scholars which brought the whole faculty together, as well as PhD events where PhDs from different departments presented their work. Socializing was really made easy through all these events. Royston and I used the first day to set my aims for the four-week stay and to discuss how we would be working together. In addition to my work with him, I had the chance to join seminars by Jennifer Jennings about becoming an academic.

In the first seminar, I talked to 1st and 2nd year students about my PhD journey so far. The second week of my visit started with the Canadian Thanksgiving tradition. I got invited to a family brunch by one of my PhD friends and to a Turkey dinner at a faculty member’s home. Lots of faculty members came and I really enjoyed the warm, family-like atmosphere of the department.

Time really flew by, and I had some of the most intense working weeks of my PhD. I met Royston nearly every other day and my first supervisor, John Amis, joined us for my third week so that the three of us could work together on our paper project. I felt incredibly well supported and learned a lot. I spent my lunch breaks and dinners with other PhD students, went for long walks exploring Edmonton's River Valley and worked in nice cafés.

Being away from home and my usual routines meant that I could really dive into my PhD work, read classics like Lawrence and Lorsch and Burns and Stalker and have walks and talks with faculty members of my host institution. I was deeply impressed by the time and effort everyone from faculty and PhD side took to talk about my research as well as to share their ideas and advice.

I was able to develop a full paper draft over my four weeks stay and to present my work on my last day at University of Alberta to faculty and PhD students. The opportunity to work so closely with both of my supervisors and to gain feedback from faculty members and PhDs outside of my network at the University of Edinburgh Business School was very helpful for my academic development as well as my personal PhD experience.

After my four week visit, I took the chance and had a two-week holiday in the Canadian Rockies. It was one of my big dreams to do a road trip through the Rockies, see frozen waterfalls (temperatures got as low as minus 27 degrees), hike and watch the amazing wildlife (bison, elk, moose, bighorn, deer).

I was very impressed by Parks Canada, the national parks organization. Wildlife is forbidden to be hunted as well as to be fed. This means that animals are not afraid of humans, but they also do not come too close, allowing you to observe them in their natural behaviour. A beautiful experience that I hope to keep in my memory for a lifetime. I am very grateful for the past six weeks.