Hamid is in the third year of his PhD studies at the Doctoral School of International Relations and Political Science at Corvinus University of Budapest.
After attaining his master’s degree in political analysis and public policy at a Russian university, Hamid was working as a tour guide in his home country, Morocco. Suddenly, travel opportunities were limited due to the global pandemic, and he could not continue his job. “I have always wanted to do the PhD, so I started applying for programs. First, I wasn’t successful because there is a big competition for scholarships. I have realized that publications would help me”. So, Hamid started to work on book chapters and own research. Publications weren’t among the application requirements for the Hungarian doctoral programs, but they helped him to get recognized.
From Morocco to Budapest
Hamid has applied to Hungarian universities through the website of the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarship. A very important document that he had to upload was the research proposal that describes the topic he aims to investigate during his doctoral studies. Thus, he had to contact the doctoral school earlier to get a letter of endorsement. “I had to see whether there is a supervisor who can support my topic”. After he has found support, he submitted a big package of documents online, and the pre-selection happened in Morocco. Afterward, the interviews with the universities followed. He waited for the decision until June. “The application process was quite long but very rewarding in the end”.
Hamid has earned the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarship, and he was accepted by two Hungarian universities. “Corvinus is one of the fewest universities in Hungary that offers a PhD program in political science in English. I choose Corvinus and Budapest because of the reputation of the first as a leading educational institution in Hungary, and the second as a beautiful city offering many opportunities” – he explained. In the beginning, the capital city attracted him primarily. Later, he also realized that Corvinus offers many opportunities for international students, like a diverse community of international students, exchange programs, language courses and even sports activities. “Maybe the Hungarian language is something I have to work on”. Hamid laughingly explained that he doesn’t need the local language that much because he can use his English almost everywhere in Budapest.
Hamid started his studies during the time of Covid restrictions, so it was hard for him to adjust in the beginning. But he has appreciated the flexibility that the doctoral school provided right from the start. “In my doctoral school, we have the chance to learn by ourselves. It offers us a flexible system to earn credits. It encourages us to go to conferences, to publish, and it provides us the environment where we can work” – he explained. “Each semester you have a set of goals that you have to accomplish, and we have to regularly update the supervisors on our achievements”.
Otherwise, doctoral students do not have many short-term deadlines. The program provides the freedom of working on the own topic and years to complete important milestones. “Corvinus provides us an environment to work but it is up to us to show our talent”. Academic freedom at the university contributes to the productivity of students and the quality the research. “I think that Corvinus is focusing on the quality of research, not the quantity”. Therefore, PhD students aim to publish in reputable international journals. This not only boosts the ranking and the reputation of the university, but the research can also help solve societal problems. Hamid always keeps the public good in mind because his topic is focused on practical issues.
Research on real-world issues
His research focuses on migrant integration policy. He investigates the cases of Maghrebi immigrants in France and Spain. They are immigrants from the Maghrebi region in the North of Africa, mainly Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. “They constitute one of the biggest migrant communities in Spain and France”. These people have diverse background stories: they come to Europe to study, to work, or to live there for the long-term. Others cross the borders of the EU illegally. “The question I am investigating is not whether to accept these immigrants but how to integrate them”. Hamid is focusing on what policymakers could do for immigrants to feel less excluded from society. “My perspective is that the policymakers who are launching programs for integration have to consider the perspectives of immigrants too when they are trying to include them into society”.
By using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods for data analysis – expert and stakeholder interviews as well as European Social Survey data – Hamid is trying to analyze this relevant issue to provide evidence-based policy recommendations for migration policymakers. “I am doing this research not only to earn the degree but to contribute to real-world issues”. He aims to connect academic research with practical situations to find solutions for common problems. “My suggestion for policy makers would be to focus on social cohesion aspects, like strengthening the trust between the migrant community, the mainstream society, and the government. This would generate some general trust in the society, and it would motivate immigrants to be involved in the economic and societal life of the country”.
Living with your research
By investigating this complex and relevant topic, Hamid wants to become a reputable expert in the field. His primary goal for the future is to become a researcher and provide advice to policymakers. He is also considering looking for job opportunities as an expert of migration because he is sure that the PhD degree would provide him credibility. To achieve these goals, he is focusing more on research now, but he also taught some classes in the past years as it is a requirement of the PhD program. “It was challenging for me because I had to learn about a new field. But teaching was an interesting process because I could learn from the students in my class too”.
Considering all the challenges of the past years, he states that the PhD is a huge commitment. It requires patience and sacrifices. “For example, your proposal might change. Maybe you will have to skip some parts that you have worked on for many months. But this should not discourage you from continuing because it is part of the learning process.” Many friends of Hamid wonder how much he is dedicated to research.
– he explains.
This commitment can lead to big successes and a lot of fun. Doctoral students have the chance to travel and build networks. Hamid also attended conferences and short-term programs across Europe, the Middle East and the United States, thanks to the PhD student status and the support of the university. “The possibility to meet like-minded people from different backgrounds with who we can share our research is my biggest inspiration” – Hamid told us.