Building international Links in Berlin

Bears, Beer, Curry-Wust and Medical Anthropology


It’s summer, and I am sitting on the train in Berlin, the city of Berliner bears, beer and curry-wurst. I stare out of the window. I have been here for six weeks now but every time I look out of the window I discover something new. I came here on Erasmus exchange as part of my PhD project; which looks at the daily life experience of people with dementia and their spouses in the community.

I am an anthropologist by background and am doing a PhD within the Centre for Applied Dementia Studies at the University of Bradford. I have collected and analysed all my data and am currently writing up my thesis as an ethnography.  Writing ethnographically is a craft, a skill that has to be developed just like other academic skills. A couple of months ago I made contact with the Medical Anthropology Research Group at the Freie Universitӓt in Berlin, and was invited to spend a couple of months at their Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology to develop my ethnographic writing skills further.

So here I am in Berlin developing my ethnographic skills and writing up the thesis. The institute has welcomed me warmly; they have provided me with a desk, a library card and a slot on their seminar series. I have presented some of my work for colleagues and they have given me valuable feedback, which helped me to shape the argument of the thesis better. I continue to discover new ways of developing my writing and I am feeling inspired, energized and motivated. These feelings are welcome in the hectic last couple of months of a PhD, the deadlines are quickly approaching and many things still have to be done.

Some may say moving away from your usual office in the end phase of a PhD is a risky business as you could get distracted by the new environment. Equally argued, stepping out of your normal surroundings can provide you with a fresh view which inspires and strengthens the motivation to finish. I haven’t had much opportunities to get distracted by all the city has to offer as I feel motived to write. Nevertheless, I take the occasional break and visit one of the tourist attractions, get acquainted with the town going for a walk to discover ‘berliner bears’ or finish the day with the typical curry-wurst and beer.


Building International Links

One of the things that attracted me to the PhD program at the Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) on Transitions in Dementia Care at the University of Bradford was their goal to build international links with our projects. They offer all DTC students, the opportunity to work with one of the internal experts that are linked with the DTC, by inviting the experts to visit the University of Bradford, and giving us the chance to visit their universities abroad. I previously wrote a blog about my visit to Professor Myrra Vernooij-Dassen at the University of Nijmegen who is linked with my project as international expert.

The opportunities provided by the DTC to build international links inspired me to develop my network further. Hence my recent visit at the Freie Universitӓt. Furthermore, this exchange has provided me with the opportunity to visit another international expert connected with the DTC, Professor Martina Roes at the DNZE in Wittenberg. Matrina has invited me to present my work for colleagues at DNZE. Drawing upon the DTC’s example of creating international links, I hope to build many more inspirational and supportive international links in the future.  Looking beyond our own institutions and building international links expands our intellectual thinking further.

Auf Wiedersehen in Bradford,

Denise de Waal