Work & Study: Work meets research

Monday, 06 May 2024 00:00

It’s quite common for international students to work during their studies. But remote jobs, online work or foreign language tutoring aren’t the only options. Especially for PhD candidates who just embarked on their challenging yet rewarding journey into the academic realm. That was my case as a PhD candidate, at least. My work experiences have given me what I hope is a unique perspective on research and academia which ultimately helped me to navigate the global landscape of higher education.

URRlab teambuilding
Teambuilding at the URRlab.

Working in research as a graduate student

Working within the Urban and Regional Research Laboratory (URRlab) has been a pivotal experience in my academic career. My ongoing contribution to the projects, funded by the Czech Science Foundation, delves into issues surrounding the integration and status of foreigners, the dynamics of suburban gated communities, and the contemporary conditions of socialist-era housing estates. As an early career researcher, I've had the privilege of being a member of a great team engaged in several projects, presenting me with a chance to try my hand at research for the first time. From conducting fieldwork and data analysis to collaborating with other interdisciplinary teams, each project has been a great opportunity for my growth and intellectual exploration. However, at least initially, the work was not financially rewarding - nor sustainable - and I had to deal with only short-term contracts. Still, this one-year research experience made me realise that I would like to pursue an academic career. That’s how I decided to apply for doctoral studies in Social Geography and Regional Development. (Below: The author, right, receiving an M. Vlček Scholarship from CU's Vice-Rector for International Affairs, Eva Voldřichová Beránková)

Vlcek award 1

Postgraduate studies

My journey as a PhD candidate has been a transformative experience. Guided by my dedicated supervisor and surrounded by a stimulating academic community, I've had the opportunity to really refine my own research. As all PhD students receive a monthly scholarship, it also brought me more financial stability. Yet the most important was the possibility to finally dive deep into activities related to my research, as well as lecturing and mentoring students. I immediately joined two already established courses popular among the students. At the same time, I helped to create two new ones. Although being a lecturer or thesis mentor is a voluntary part of the studies, there is a humble but appreciable remuneration as well.

Internationalisation coordinator

In addition to my academic pursuits, I have had the chance to fill the Internationalisation Coordinator position at the Geographical Institute, leveraging my international background and experiences to promote academic collaboration and cross-cultural exchange. Having studied in several countries during my Master's studies, I've gained a deep appreciation for the richness of diversity and the importance of fostering international connections in academia. In my role, I work closely with the faculty, its students, and institutional partners to facilitate international research collaboration, academic exchanges, and joint initiatives. This position allowed me to expand my network even further and get involved in the Charles University Student Ambassador Programme, 4EU+ activities and more besides.

Navigating the path forward

As I reflect on my diverse work experiences, I realise that the journey was not all plain sailing; far from it, it was often a bumpy ride. However, I am grateful for the opportunities, challenges, and moments of growth that have shaped my academic trajectory. From my research endeavours at URRlab to my role as an Internationalisation Coordinator, each experience has enriched my understanding and deepened my commitment to advancing knowledge and fostering collaboration in academia.

Last but not least, I would like to encourage all, but especially international students, to reach out to me, other student ambassadors, and the faculties and explore opportunities, as there is always an abundance of opportunities for new initiatives and improvements. And especially the PhD students should take the initiative and explore all opportunities and resources available for enhancing their skills and gaining diverse experiences beyond their own research.


About the author
Adel Petrovic is a PhD candidate and lecturer at the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development and an Internationalisation Coordinator at the Geographical Institute. With a Bachelor's in Political Science and two Erasmus Mundus Joint Master's degrees in Comparative Local Development and Urban Studies, she brings a diverse academic background to her work. Her doctoral research, titled Socio-spatial approach towards understanding identity construction: urban transformations in the Prague Urban Region investigates the complexities of identity formation amid urban change. She is currently studying abroad at the University of Zurich for a six-month doctoral fellowship.


About Insight
Insight is our newest feature at Forum EN, offering valuable student perspectives. The aim is to describe - with greater insight and detail - the experience of being at Charles University, providing a glimpse into everyday or even extraordinary moments that might otherwise be 'lost' in the rush of academic life. 


Author: Adel Petrovic
Photo: Adel Petrovic personal archive