Researching Racialised Urban Landscapes in the USA

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This June and July I travelled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA to conduct my dissertation research with the help of the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund. The focus of my research was the production of racialised urban landscapes through a process known as gentrification, in which urban investment redevelopment initiatives are unequally distributed according to class and race. In just six weeks I held interviews with 20 residents of the neighbourhood I was studying, and met with local churches, non-profits and community development organisations. I learned a great deal about the various processes affecting the residents of the neighbourhood, and gathered more than enough data to write my final year human geography dissertation.

Before I left, I had been concerned about how I would be received in the neighbourhood. Gentrification is often a controversial topic, and people tend to have strong opinions about how their neighbourhood is changing. In some cases, people have been evicted from their homes as the area in which they live was slated for complete redevelopment. Gentrification also disproportionately impacts those who are already socially marginalised. Therefore, I was eager to be as sensitive as possible when conducting my research. Fortunately, everyone I met was welcoming and friendly, and people were very keen to share with me their experiences of neighbourhood change. I stayed with a local family for the duration of the research, which also helped me to get to grips with the local context and the nuances of the neighbourhood I was studying.

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While in the USA I also took the opportunity to visit a friend in Washington DC, just a short drive away. Through a contact of my friend, I had a personal tour of the US Capitol building, which was a surreal experience!

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I am extremely grateful for the grant I received from the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund. Without it, I would not have been able to afford to go to Pittsburgh and conduct my research. I recently presented my research during a conference to academic staff from my department. They were very positive about the research, and the findings that I had extrapolated, so I am hoping it will form the basis of a strong dissertation.

Working with Equines at the American Fondouk in Fes, Morocco

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I spent two weeks at a clinic in Morocco that provides free vet care to horses, donkeys, and mules in the city of Fez. As I am a vet student, I was working alongside veterinarians to provide the best possible care for these animals. The work was very rewarding and it was great to know that I was supporting the livelihoods of the families using the animals everyday to perform tasks such as carrying water and goods. Below are some photos from my time spent there.

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MAD – AGASCAR

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During this summer, thanks to the go abroad fund, I have been able to travel to the north of Madagascar as a research assistant in various ecological terrestrial and marine projects.

I have spent 2 weeks in the temperate deciduous forest of the Mahajanga province and 2 weeks at the marine study site of Operation Wallacea in the stunning island of Nosy be. During the time in the forest, I was part of the researcher team in 3 different camps, Matsedroy close to a sacred pond, Mahajanga in the middle of the forest and Antafiameva, close to the estuary of a big river.

In these sites I had the opportunity of knowing fantastic people, from the very passionate and insipiring science team to the native Malagasy local guides and catering company.
The daily schedule was pretty tight and we were mainly conducting surveys on birds, herpetofauna, invertebrates, plants and lemurs. Twice a week we would have a workshop to analyse the data collected under the guidance of the numerous PHD students present on the site. At nights, when no lectures were on the science team, the research assistants and the locals were gathering together to try and conversate with each other even if most of the times no common language was spoken. It’s at times like this that I could really experience the Malagasy culture and enjoy the fact that it is possible to connect to each other without words. Once the work at the terrestrial site was completed, I moved to the marine site, where during my first week I attained the PADI open water qualification. The marine site was still characterised by a very tight schedule but being at the seaside, it did not even feel like it. During my second week of staying I conducted some underwater benthic surveys, surveys on the health state of the coral reef and on the health of fish.

At Nosy be, I would have two lectures a day on marine ecology and identification of marine species so that I was able to collect data with accuracy and precision.
The trip has been probably the best experience of my life, and honestly speaking I was never really worried of anything in particular, but I have been incredibly curious and ended up acquiring numerous skills and meeting really happy and enthusiastic people.
Being an Ecological and Environmental science student, the opportunity that go abroad fund offered me was valuable and enjoyable. I made incredible friends while I was supporting the studies on conservation and sharpening my skills and ability as an ecologist. The trip made me understand that what I decided to do at university is really what I want to do for the rest of my life and made me know a little bit more of the stunning Malagasy culture. I would really thank the Go abroad fund for the opportunity that has given me and gives to other student like me!

Research in Ravenna

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This summer I travelled to Ravenna, Italy, with the help of the PGAF. My aim was to finally visit the mosaics and art of the Byzantine world that will be making up a large portion of my masters dissertation. With this in mind, I outlined the monuments that I felt were the most vital to my thesis and organised my time accordingly so that I could fit everything in to my four-day experience. I was worried about how my limited time might constrain my ability to see everything I had wanted to.

The journey took me from Edinburgh to Bologna then on to Ravenna, we left at 4am and arrived at our flat at roughly 15:00. Our host was an incredible woman called Anna, who’s father had been a famous sculptor in Ravenna by the name of Augusto Bartolotti. Anna spent the first hour of our arrival showing us his works which was a brilliant introduction to our trip, especially as two history of art students. He even had a street named after him and three of his works are standing in the Dante Museum to this day.

Over the next few days we ventured to San Vitale, which was so awe inspiring it takes your breath away – my phone over heated because I took so many photos. The contrast between the old and new art that adorn the inner walls is something that was not so apparent from photographs. You do not quite realise how striking the juxtaposition is until you are standing right under it. We managed to see Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Battistero Neoniano, the Arian Baptistry, Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, the Dante Museum, Dantes Tomb, Basilica di San Francesco and many more.

In the Bascilica di San Francesco lies a surprise. Just under the apse tourists were gathering next to a small window, which we initially assumed would contain the remains of a saint or martyr. In fact, the space under the apse was flooded with water and filled with coy carp who swam happily over a submerged mosaic. It was one of the most unexpected sights we saw in Ravenna but possibly one of the most exciting.

The one site on my list that I did not manage to see was Sant’ Apollinare en Classe. This was disappointing but I can look forward to seeing this on my next trip there as I left happy but wanting to explore even more of what the beautiful city has to offer.

My trip allowed me to witness, as closely as possible, how the ancient eye might have seen the fantastic art of the Byzantines and just what and effect this could have had upon them. In a world with no televisions and internet I can only imagine how the iconography and glittering colours may have inspired the people that gazed upon them.

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San Vitale Mosaic Work

 

Procession Mosaic Sant Apollonare Nuovo

 

Portrait of the Emperor Justinian

 

Basilica di San Francesco flooded chamber

More than I Bargained For

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I applied for a disbursement from the Principal’s Go Abroad fund in order to purchase flights to travel to a conference in August, in Zimbabwe. It was not just a regular conference. It is Zimbabwe’s biggest annual scientific congress that is convened by the association of medical practitioners in Zimbabwe and tends to gather doctors from all over the country. This year, it ran under the theme: Innovation in Healthcare and I went there with the distinct aim to communicate with attendees about a technological intervention that I have been working on, to improve access to safe medicines in Zimbabwe. In addition to networking with doctors at this event, to my pleasant surprise, I managed to snowball and obtained information about three additional major events where health professionals gathered in the months of August and September to discuss issues concerned with the good governance of and access to medicines in the country; giving me additional, previously unforeseen opportunities to network with more doctors and potential collaborators also developing tech-solutions to healthcare problems in Zimbabwe. Although it hadn’t been part of my original mission, I also had the opportunity to give input in deliberations around a new piece of legislation that’s aimed at regulating health insurance providers and tweet some of the key points of the discussions.  I really got bang for my buck by being in Zimbabwe between August and September.

Internship in China

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I felt very lucky to receive the generous support from the Principal Going Abroad Fund for my academic and practical trips aboard during this summer. I attend an academic conference in China University of Political Science and Law about Legal Pluralism and made a presentation On the Nature of Law and Legal Pluralism. It was a precious opportunity that I received many comments from the participants and also built up my network with the Chinese Academic circle. I also attended the World Congress of the International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy in Lisbon, Portugal and present a paper On the Methodology of Rights Theory, it was also a rewarding journey for my research.

Another part of my trip to China is an internship in China Commercial Law Firm and it was my pleasure to work with Lawyer Huang Weibin. His expertise in Chinese Civil law has gave me insight of how Chinese rights law works in theory and practice. By shadowing his daily work, I got a rare opportunity to how rights dispute occurred and solved in a full legal procedure.

With the sponsorship of the PGA, I benefited a lot from the trip to China and I learned that Chinese rights theory has its uniqueness, but also has its connection with the western right theory. Therefore, we should take it seriously.

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Working with the wild animals of Bolivia’s jungle

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During the summer, Principals Go Abroad funding gave me the opportunity to travel to Bolivia where I worked as a volunteer at an animal rescue centre. The centre works within the local community to help rehabilitate animals that have been injured or mistreated and to educate about conservation in an area where an abundance of other social problems means the issue is low priority. I was assigned to work with an elderly jaguar Juancho, who suffers with numerous physical and mental medical problems as a result of years of mistreatment at a local zoo. It was an incredible experience to form an unforgettable bond with a magnificent animal and I learned so much first hand, about feline behaviour and management which will be of huge benefit working with cats in the future. The vet at the centre was willing to spend time explaining the various treatments I was giving Juancho and talk about ways to increase his exercise level and minimise stereotypic behaviour. The centre payed a huge amount of attention to every detail of each animals wellbeing and personality, and through thoroughly recording behaviour it was really interesting to appreciate the huge impact a cats environment has on its mood and mental wellbeing. Although sometimes difficult, it was really interesting to see the long term effect that trauma had taken on the animals at the centre. I really hope to work with exotic and wild animals in my future as a vet so appreciating how trauma and habituation to humans often prevents reintroduction of wild animals was highly invaluable. During my stay I also had the chance to work with a wide variety of other animals and had the opportunity to watch the vet treat wildlife that was brought into the centre from the rural surroundings.

The centre itself was in an amazing location in the middle of jungle and I had a brilliant experience meeting many likeminded people from all round the world with a shared passion for conservation and animals. On the trip was able to learn some basic Spanish which I have continued to work on since coming home, with lessons planned next term.

Before leaving I was worried that I might not agree with how the animals were being cared for at the centre and that the work at the centre may not be legitimate. I had spent a lot of time researching the centre but I was still relieved to find their main values and aims were similar to those I hold important. I was also worried about safety on the trip as I had never been somewhere so culturally different with a reputation for being unsafe. I was so reassured when on my way home I realised that at no point on my trip had I felt unsafe (except from hearing the stories of the deadly venomous snakes lurking in the jungle). This has given me a huge confidence boost for any future trips as I now feel more able to solo travel.

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The beautiful Juancho, pulling his funniest face to smell in his jungle enclosure.

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The volunteers of Comunidad Inti Wari Yassi rescue centre