What on earth are you still doing on campus?
“I’m working on a paper about the subject of my dissertation: international commercial courts. It has to be submitted by the first of September, which means I don’t get to have a holiday this summer.”
What’s your stress level like?
“It’s not too bad just yet. I’m on schedule. The main thing bothering me is that it’s kind of lonely here on campus in mid-August. There’s not an awful lot going on here at the moment, although it’s not too bad at the departments in the Sanders Building where I work.
“The hardest thing to deal with is the fact that even the Food Court is closed this week. This means I have to get my lunch from Spar now, even though I love having a warm lunch in the afternoon.”
How is your dissertation coming along?
“I’m currently in my second year, which is when I’m supposed to be writing chapters of my book. I’m reasonably on schedule. The only thing is, sometimes I have to write papers in between chapters, but that’s what you get when you’re an academic.
“So why am I doing this? Because you have to publish and show others that you’re doing this for your future career. It’s just that sometimes it takes up time you could be spending on your dissertation.”
What’s so interesting about international commercial courts that you’re willing to devote four years of your life to them?
“The Dutch commercial court was not founded until January 2019. Prior to that, companies always had to go abroad to settle commercial disputes. This is relatively expensive for small companies, which made it harder for them to file a dispute.
“Since the Netherlands and several other countries have now established their own courts of law, they have engaged in much marketing and many campaigns to raise people’s awareness of their existence. It’s interesting to watch how they’re going about that.”
I’ve read a lot of horror stories about PhD students’ lives. For instance, I’ve heard that many of them suffer depression and that their position at their department is complicated. How are you in those regards?
“Things can be complicated, but if you have the right personality, it can also be a great position, actually. And my department happens to be cool – I can always turn to colleagues if I have any questions, and they like to help me out, even now that my supervisor is on holiday.
“Most of my former fellow students are now lawyers and have to deal with non-stop cases for their law firms. I am given tremendous freedom to research and do whatever I fancy, and I get to attend conferences abroad where I talk to people working in the same field, which is very interesting and educational, not to mention enjoyable. You just have to be disciplined, be able to deal with all that freedom and be able to set good boundaries. If you manage to do all that, it’s all fine, and you won’t be overworked.”
Speaking of discipline, when will you be able to take a break again?
“I’m going to visit my family again in Corinth, Greece, in September. I visit them three times per year. Do I miss them? Of course I do. But I knew what I was getting myself into when I embarked on my PhD here in Rotterdam, and I’ve always wanted to live abroad.”