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My PhD Transnational Visit Experience in ISER, at the University of Essex

My name is Xhiselda Demaj and I am a Ph.D. student at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, in Italy. My research interests are in the fields of Economics of Education, Family, Migration and Children's Human Capital. In my research, I employ microeconometrics techniques to investigate the process of determination of socioeconomic inequalities in our societies, with the purpose of understanding intergenerational mobility and mechanisms of social exclusion. In particular, I focus on children's development and young people's well-being, trying to understand which factors contribute more to shaping early life inequalities.

I would be happy to share my Ph.D. visiting experience, which took place at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), at the University of Essex, from April to August 2023. I started my visit thanks to the Transnational Access Visit (TAV) programme opportunity. From April to May 2023, I was a transnational visiting fellow, and my research was funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the COORDINATE project. Then, I also applied to continue visiting ISER, and my application was successful, allowing me to extend my visit until August 2023.

The main goal of my PhD transnational visit was to receive feedback on the second chapter of my PhD thesis, which is a paper focusing on “The Impact of Center-Based Childcare Intensity on Children's Non-Cognitive Development”, providing evidence from Understanding Society, the UK household longitudinal study. I started this project during the COORDINATE Summer School, at the University of Essex in June 2022. In addition, my goal during the visit was also to start working on the last project of my PhD thesis, which is a preliminary work evaluating the effects of a policy reform in the UK. During my visiting in ISER, I made some progress on both my chapters, and I received useful feedback to improve my research.

I also had the opportunity to present my work in an ISER internal seminar and to receive valuable feedback from researchers and professors working on the Economics of Education and Child Development based in ISER. My paper was also accepted for presentation at the Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2023, where I interacted with many researchers coming from different international universities. During my stay in the UK, I presented my paper also at the Workshop on Fertility Health and Human Capital, at the Queen’s Management School (QUB), in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This was an extraordinary opportunity to meet many researchers and professors working on Child Development and Early Life Inequalities from different universities.

Overall, my visiting experience was a valuable aspect of my doctoral education. In ISER, I experienced a prestigious and stimulating research environment that allowed me to interact with many well-known economists in my areas of interest. This exposure enriched my academic understanding and fostered my research skills. The exposure to a different academic culture and perspective was another essential aspect of my visiting experience. Engaging with fellow students from diverse backgrounds further enriched my academic journey, increasing my global perspective.

My time at the University of Essex was not only about research. I had the opportunity to visit many places around Colchester, where the University is located. I visited the Dedham Valley, where the famous artist John Constable used to depict his paintings. I enjoyed Charles Dickens at the Mercury Theater in Colchester, I had the chance to enjoy the seaside in Brightlingsea and Mersea Island and to visit London more than once.

Overall, my Ph.D. visit to the University of Essex was a unique experience, which positively shaped my research activity and interests. I am delighted I had this opportunity, which allowed me to increase my expertise with Understanding Society and, at the same time, to benefit from such a stimulating research environment. I am very thankful to the COORDINATE project and to the European Union's Horizon 2020 for funding my research, allowing me to work on my research papers and increase my expertise in my fields of interest.

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