Planning an overseas research trip

In planning for an overseas, there are five important factors to keep in consideration:

  • Funding
  • Budgeting
  • Building contact
  • Practical issues
  • Technical issues

Funding will be one of your first considerations when planning to research abroad. If overseas research is an integral part of your PhD but you have no separate research grant as part of your scholarship, it is very difficult to get funding.

Speak to individuals in the Research Support Services at your university, who can advise you on sources of funding relevant to your discipline, and also assist with funding applications.

Some organisations do have small grants for early career researchers and researchers in general that can be used for conducting research abroad. Some of the main external funding bodies are:

Budgeting

When calculating how much money you need, bear in mind the following costs:

  •  Flight, insurance and possibly a visa
  • Accommodation
  • Travel within the country
  • Library access/overseas university registration
  • Books and photocopying
  • General living expenses
  • Vaccinations and medication (malaria tablets, for example, can be very expensive)

Remember that you will probably have to continue paying for accommodation and bills at home at the same time

Building Contacts

Before heading abroad on a research trip, try to get to know as much about your destination as possible and build contacts before you go. This will make your stay so much easier and save time at the start of your trip.

In some countries where issues are primarily dealt with face to face rather than on the phone or by email, this may be difficult. If you are struggling to contact people, get advice from experts at your university. The University of Warwick has a large international community and therefore acts as a pool of useful information.

Speak to a representative in the International Office (of your university) who specialise in the region you are intending to visit. He or she will be able to advise you on the education system there, may have contacts at the overseas university where you wish to research, or be able to put you in touch with Warwick students from the region you want to visit. This advice is relevant to those wishing to research overseas at a university as well as to those planning to conduct field research abroad.

Student Society members may also be able to help you out in either of these scenarios. Take a look at the list of cultural societies in the Student Union on your institution’s website (for Warwick,  http://www.warwicksu.com/societies/cultural/). Email them or go along to a meeting to get advice on researching in their home country.

Practical Issues

With funding and contacts in place, you are ready to plan your trip

If you wish to work at a university overseas, bear in mind that term dates may be very different to in the UK, and that libraries and archives may be shut outside of these dates.

Book flights (and get your visa) early to avoid any increase in prices closer to your intended travel time.

If you are planning to find cheap accommodation whilst you are there, it is still advisable to pre-book a decent hotel for the first few nights until you find your bearings.

Where possible order local currency or currency that is easy to change on arrival should there be no cash points at the airport.

Speak to your doctor to find out if you need any jabs, and make sure you have these done in plenty of time for your trip. Information on vaccinations, as well as other health and safety issues, can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

External academic societies and networks may also be able to put you in contact with someone who works overseas in your discipline. Consider posting a message on relevant academic networks such as H-Net, the Humanities and Social Sciences Online forum, or SSRN (linkto: http://www.ssrn.com/), the Social Sciences Research Network.

Technical Issues

Take any equipment you will need for your research with you. It may not be that easy to find technical equipment or assistance once you are there.

In some developing countries, computer access is limited, so a laptop is essential both for recording your work and skyping home (and perhaps a headset and camera).

Printing out documents can also be an issue, so if there are documents that you may need in hard copy, such as copyright agreements for any interviews conducted, print these before you go.

For interviews, get hold of a digital voice recorder. The best ones are those you can plug directly into the USB port of your laptop. The recordings will then be much easier to store and edit.

Finally, take a camera and take photos of your trip so that you can make a record of it on your e-Portfolio.

Photo Credit: rifatjamanamm/ Creative Commons