In 2013, during the third year of my studies at University College Roosevelt, I completed an academic internship at the Roosevelt Study Center.
Together with a fellow UCR student and with the guidance of Dr. Dario Fazzi and Dr. Anya Luscombe, I analyzed a 1950s radio program hosted by Eleanor Roosevelt and her son Elliott. The RSC had acquired this collection and very few scholars had ever used it as a source. It was thus incredibly exciting to work with such original material and to develop my own research project. By repeatedly listening to various episodes of the radio show and transcribing these, it soon felt as if I personally knew Mrs. Roosevelt. Her – quite distinctive – voice had become so familiar to me, as I am sure it had to many Americans at the time who listened to the show in the intimacy of their homes. I ended up arguing that Mrs. Roosevelt used her radio program as a platform to foster a greater involvement in civic affairs among her female listeners.
My internship at the RSC naturally exposed me to transatlantic and American studies more generally, for instance by talking to the staff members about their research projects and by exploring the treasures in the library. Hence, I became increasingly interested in these academic fields and took corresponding classes at UCR. I gradually figured out that I wanted to continue studying history with a focus on transatlantic relations and culture. However, upon graduating from UCR, I decided to first take a gap year to travel. While roaming around Asia, I would sometimes browse the Internet to look for suitable Master programs and one day I stumbled upon the dual MA/MSc International and World History program offered jointly by Columbia University in New York City (year 1) and the London School of Economics (year 2). I could not shake off the feeling that this specific Master’s program embodied everything I was looking for: a tailor-made program, an interdisciplinary approach, a focus on doing research, a qualitatively high level of education, and the opportunity to be taught by renowned professors in the field. Of course, the chance to study at two prestigious universities in two of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities contributed to my decision to apply.
And so it happened – quite surreally, to be honest– that I moved to New York City in August 2015 to start the first year at Columbia University. In September 2016 I moved to London, where I am currently finishing the second year at the London School of Economics. With just a few more months until graduation, I am happy to say that the program has been living up to my expectations and has even exceeded these. While there are certainly differences between the American and British educational system, my classes at both institutions have been incredibly stimulating so far, and interaction with professors and peers has always been encouraged. I have been able to explore my academic interests, and while I am still focusing on transatlantic studies (for instance in my class ‘presidents, public opinion, and foreign policy’), I have also grown interested in consumerism, the media, genderstudies, and the Cold War period. I am writing my dissertation on a combination of those interests. During my year at Columbia, I was also awarded a fellowship to do research on Radio Free Europe, an American broadcast organization that broadcasted to Eastern Europe during the Cold War and tried to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people (vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and communism). As part of the fellowship, I visited archives in Budapest and Stanford and got to present my research at two conferences. Needless to say, this was a great experience!
One of my most cherished memories of the past one and a half years was when I took the train up the Hudson River to the picturesque village of Poughkeepsie. Dr. Luscombe, who happened to be visiting Bard College nearby, had invited me to come to Hyde Park to pay a visit to Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill cottage and the FDR presidential library and museum. It was really special to, together with one of my former RSC supervisors, be at the home of the person who had contributed to sparking my interest in American history. Who knows where else Eleanor might lead me! I am looking forward to embarking upon new challenges after my graduation in July 2017.