The FNR’s INTER Mobility programme enables exchange between researchers based in Luxembourg and abroad. We speak to Dr Spero Paravantis from the University of Luxembourg about his six-month research stay UC Berkeley in the United States and the tremendously positive effect the exchange continues to have on his research.
Dr Spero Paravantis’ field is Contemporary European History. From September 2017 to March 2018, he visited UC Berkeley in California, United States, specifically he was invited and hosted by Prof Jeroen DeWulf, Director of the Institute of European Studies.
“UC Berkeley is the top ranked public university in the World, with unbelievable resources for its researchers. To be accepted as a Visiting Scholar at such a prestigious university is a great opportunity to take advantage of those resources,” Dr Paravantis states.
The financial support associated with his INTER Mobility grant on one hand enabled Paravantis to focus on his research stay, and on the other hand also to bring his family, both factors which he remarks were hugely important to him:
“Certainly, the financial support was crucial in order for this to happen. Without the support of the FNR I could not have taken my family, and I could not have gone for that length of time without them. The support provided by the FNR also had a qualitative impact on my stay, as I was able to focus solely on the experience of being there and not to worry about my finances. I was therefore able to take advantage fully of all Berkeley had to offer, and to have the time to make acquaintances and professional contacts.”
“Huge benefit to my professional profile”
During his stay, he worked on his CORE Junior project, presented his results to the Berkeley academic community, attended classes and finished his book: a key aim of an INTER Mobility stay is knowledge transfer for the overall benefit of research in Luxembourg.
Paravantis also had the chance to audit lectures in European history, and one event he attended that stood out was a lecture by Francis Fukuyama, once of the best known specialists on international relations in the world.
“The research stay had a tremendously positive effect on my research, especially in terms of writing and presenting it. Frankly, it was inspiring being there. Even the buildings and scenery had a beneficial effect on my work, in terms of inspiration,” Dr Paravantis remarks.
The impact of the stay went beyond inspiration – Paravantis’ host at UC Berkeley made him Senior Fellow of the Berkeley Institute of European Studies – a rare honour:
“I am one of only 17 fellows, and the only one from the BENELUX. It is an immense honour, and I was also asked to be the IES’ representative here in Luxembourg for any scholars wishing to go the Berkeley, or for Berkeley scholars wishing to come here.”
As a Senior Fellow, Paravantis can return to Berkeley once per year to give a lecture on his current research: “Having this as a professional affiliation is a huge benefit to my professional profile, and allows me to keep in close personal contact with my colleagues there, in addition to allowing me to develop my academic reputation by sharing my research with them,” Paravantis says.
Paravantis also points out that 2018 was and 2019 will be the most productive years of his career so far, which he believes was made possible by his stay at UC Berkeley:
“As academics, we create knowledge from our research through writing, publishing and presenting our work. To do this, we need time to research, but also, just to think. We need to plan and organize our research into something coherent that moves beyond unprocessed information, into something that actually represents a contribution to human knowledge of a certain topic.
“The FNR certainly helped me do that during and after my stay at Berkeley. For the FNR to support such trips is important for researchers to be able to produce the types of output that I mention above; that actually contribute to knowledge.”
Implementing what has been learned
Being in a different academic environment for half a year also enabled Dr Paravantis to see his usual surroundings from a different perspective, reflecting on how isolated academics can sometimes become:
“Here in Luxembourg, it is easy to do things a certain way, or to have certain research priorities, simply because that’s the way things are. An exchange like this, where one may go and live at another institution for an extended period of time, breaks that isolation to a degree. It allowed me to see the type of research priorities that Berkeley has and supports, the way in which Berkeley staff teach their European history courses, how they view other institutions and practices, and conversely, to share with them how we do things here.
“All of these experiences taught me a great deal about academia and teaching, and I have tried to implement the positive elements I observed there, into my professional activities here in Luxembourg.”
About Dr Spero Paravantis
Dr Spero Paravantis is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Luxembourg’s (UL) Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH). His main areas of academic interest combine early Cold War and transnational European history post-WWII. In addition to his position at the C2DH, Paravantis is a Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Institute of European Studies and Visiting Professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy.
About INTER Mobility
The aim of the INTER mobility programme is to promote the exchange between research groups from public research institutions in Luxembourg, and leading research groups abroad. The programme aims to foster innovative, internationally competitive research – and support the exchange of key knowledge and technological know-how.
INTER mobility allows for exchanges in both directions:
- Researchers working in Luxembourg to go abroad, or
- Researchers from abroad to come to Luxembourg.
The programme may also contribute to bridging the gap between the research communities in the public sector and in business and industry – exchanges with foreign companies are highly welcome. The programme has two annual deadlines – one in January and one in June.