Are you travelling overseas on a research trip? In this new blog series of 3, Georgina Collins provides a guide on working in different cultures and environments for researchers. In Part 1 she takes on case studies such as researching in: Africa, South America and Asia. In Part 2 (coming soon): What to Expect when Researching Overseas & How Best to Focus your Time. Part 3: Planning your Overseas Research Trip.

Clearly, planning and conducting research overseas involves very different challenges in various countries. The brief guides below provide some examples of issues you may need to contend with when planning a research trip abroad.

Researching in Africa: Senegal

Practical issues

  • The flights are really expensive considering the distance (around £500 minimum from the UK) and at present there are no direct flights to Senegal.
  • Take American dollars to exchange once you are there, and a visa card for any withdrawals.  Senegal is primarily a Muslim country, with some Christians, mostly in the southern region of Casamance.
  • Depending on the time of year, the heat can be stifling and sunstroke can be a problem.  Drink lots of water and get in the shade when you can – just make sure it’s bottled water.
  • Few people speak English (check if English is the first language of the African country you may be visiting), but you will get by on basic French.  And learn a few words of Wolof, the lingua franca – that will help your trip run smoothly.
  • The country is generally very tolerant and respects both Islamic and Christian holidays.  Bear this in mind when you are travelling, as most amenities will close on public holidays, including banks.
  • The only restriction on clothing is that women are expected to wear long or at least knee length skirts or trousers in Senegal (may not be the case in other African countries).  You will need a number of vaccinations before you go, and take malaria tablets.

Communication issues

  • Senegal is developing rapidly, however funding is still an issue and access to computers and printers etc can be problematic.
  • Problematic access to IT also cause problems when trying to contact individuals prior to your trip.  Don’t be put off.
  • Once you arrive in Senegal, people will be exceptionally helpful and you will be able to organise your trip very quickly face to face.
  • In Senegal, networking and building contacts comes naturally as everyone knows someone who can help!

Research institutions in Senegal: There are a number of higher education establishments in Senegal. The most well-establishd universities are the Université Cheikh Anta Diop (linkto: http://www.ucad.sn/) in the capital, Dakar, and the Université Gaston Berger (linkto: http://www.ugb.sn/) in the former capital of Saint Louis.

Researching in South America: Belize 

  • One of the first things to consider is whether you are travelling at a sensible time of year.  The hurricane season is usually from June to November, so get updates on any weather warnings before you travel.
  • If you are planning well in advance it may be worth avoiding the hurricane period altogether.
  • You will need a number of vaccinations.
  • Make sure you have good medical insurance as facilities in some parts of the country are limited and assistance can therefore be costly.
  •  As a British national you will not need a visa if you are planning to stay 30 days or less, but you will need to pay a departure tax which is 35 US dollars.
  • English is the official language.
  • Be careful in certain parts of Belize City.  There are ongoing problems with gang related violence in certain districts.

Research institutions in Belize

There are two universities in Belize:

  • The University of Belize (linkto: http://www.ub.edu.bz/) has the most extensive academic library collection, although spread across four locations.
  • The University of Belize central campus is in the capital city of Belmopan and there other campuses in several locations throughout the country.
  • The central campus library in Belmopan City is well staffed and organised and open every day apart from Sunday.  It has scanning and photocopying facilities as well as wifi.
  •  Galen University has a partnership with the University of Indianapolis in the US and is therefore used to catering for visiting scholars on short-term research trips.

Researching Asia: Hong Kong

  • As a former British colony, English is widely spoken in Hong Kong.
  • If you are a British citizen, you will normally be given six months entry to Hong Kong without a visa – as long as your passport is valid for that length of time.
  • However, if you are planning on travelling further into mainland China you will need to organise a visa before you get to the border.
  • It is typhoon season in Hong Kong from April through to October, so check the weather if you are planning to travel over this period.
  • Many public facilities may shut down during typhoon season, which is worth knowing if you are planning to conduct research there.
  • Take out good travel insurance, as medical care can be very pricey.

Research institutions in Hong Kong

  • There are a number of universities in Hong Kong. The oldest and most well-established is the University of Hong Kong (linkto: http://www.hku.hk/), which was founded in 1911 and is internationally renowned.
  • Visiting scholars to the University of Hong Kong can apply for a Reader’s Ticket to give them up to three months access to the library within one academic year.
  • The University of Hong Kong online library catalogue allows you to plan much of your library research before you travel.

Technical facilities are also advanced with easy photocopying, scanning and printing services should you need to bring work home

Photo Credit: Mario Mancuso/ Creative Commons