The international environment coupled with the beautiful location, inspiring faculty and smart peers among the PhD students is definately making the EUI a unique place on the continent. The close ties between professors and PhD students and Post-doc fellows is another great feature that I have barely experienced elsewhere to this extend.
The compulsory courses offered are quiet common for PhD graduate programms. Beyond the those a wide array of electoral courses are offered that mirror the interests and diversity of the faculty. Furthermore the many workshops and lectures with dustinguished academics from outside the EUI form a platform of constant inspiration and exchange for young researchers.
Last but not least the EUI also tries to enhance the exchange with practioneers. Although in my perception there is still room for improvement on this issue. Through inviting more practioneers as fellows from different fields -not only EU institutions- such exchange could be further enhanced. Despite all the advantages, if you do not want to stay in academia or go to EU institutions in your professional career after the PhD the possibilities to build a network or gain from exchange with others during your studies at the EUI are rather slim. In the end the EUI largely remains an ivory tower. But definately the nicest one I have seen up till now.
The "EUI bubble" is enhanced through the wide range of possibilities of leisure activities that are organized wuthin the EUI framework (not to mention the Bar Fiasko). From a gym to a chess club a lot of activities are offered. Just that this even enhances your social live also being attached to the institute.
Also this week I was able to participate in a methods workshop on qualitative comparative case studies by Professor Claudius Waageman from the Goethe Universuty of Frankfurt. It was held at the newly established Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS), a joint venture of the University of Bologna, Pisa and Florence, which establishes an integrated graduate school for the social sciences in Florence. The rooms at Palazzo Strozzi in the heart of the cities old town are breathtaking. Participating in the course I enjoyed the possibility to exchange views with PhD students from outside the EUI world.
Just yesterday the school (SNS) was officially inaugurated with a lot of tamtam, local politicians and academic celebreties. The inaugural lecture was held by Professor Sydney Tarrow from Cornell University. Safe to say, one of the grandfathers of social movement studies. His talk on the US as an "infrastructural state", which in his view is dominated by a security paradigm that grew out of the war-torn history of the country and is hollowing out important democratic principles was critical and at the same time very interesting. Although the evidence presented was mainly anecdotical and descriptive the narrative was quite convincing.