PhD Candidate, Anthropology
International Visiting Graduate Student from Austria
“It is a great privilege to be challenged to travel beyond comfort zones.”
As an International Visiting Graduate Student (IVGS) at the University of Toronto’s Department of Anthropology, I am hosted by a leading expert in the field of sociocultural anthropology. In my current field research in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area], I explore the daily choices of medical professionals regarding patient requests for female genital cosmetic surgery, such as hymenoplasty, in light of current biomedical technologies and the related moral and ethical frameworks: What kind of requests are approved and on what grounds?
Pursuing academia was not a legacy journey for me, as I am the first member of my family to earn a university degree. My journey started with a certificate in fashion design before I moved from my small Austrian hometown to the diverse, metropolitan city of Vienna. There, I quickly ventured into studying sociocultural anthropology at the University of Vienna, where I earned an undergraduate degree.
I further collected experiences in applied anthropology, participating in politico-critical short movie productions, body-art performances, and the production of community-based TV and radio programs. Exploring options of study and research possibilities outside Europe, the University of Vienna supported my academic year studying at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut and granted me my MPhil.
Collecting international experiences, building professional networks, and developing academic skills on an international level are crucial parts of becoming an academic. Therefore, when I embarked on my doctoral studies at the University of Vienna, I envisioned pursuing research in collaboration and conversation with experienced anthropologists at North American universities, a vision shared by my PhD committee.
Since then, I have worked towards implementing this vision in various ways: I enjoyed the privilege of spending a year at Yale University as a Visiting Assistant in Research, followed by teaching as an adjunct at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. From there, I moved up to Canada and started working on my field research in Toronto, where I have been since the beginning of 2017.
While affiliated with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, I have been fortunate to work closely with my academic host, who always inspires me to explore new and original ideas and inquiries. I am profoundly intellectually stimulated by our regular, open, and enriching discussions and interlocutions. Also, she continuously encourages me to present my research at conferences and colloquia in Canada and the USA and encourages me to do archival research.
I further benefit from being affiliated with the University of Toronto by auditing graduate seminars and attending academic and non-academic workshops; all of these opportunities are not only great for networking, but they have substantially deepened my knowledge about my field of research, enhanced my academic skills, and generally broadened my intellectual horizons.
Being an IVGS at the University of Toronto is a great privilege to learn from highly experienced leaders in one’s field of study, to be challenged to travel beyond comfort zones, to enlarge one’s professional network, and to enjoy the benefits of a richly diverse and active urban campus environment. Should you consider applying to the IVGS program, I would encourage you to keep constant communication with all involved parties, especially the host you plan to work with, as well as the administrative staff, all of whom work very hard to make this campus a vibrant academic atmosphere.