Hometown: Napoli, Italy

 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a Bachelor Degree in “Communication” and an Honours Degree in “Communication, Advertising and PR”, obtained respectively at the Università Suor Orsola Benincasa (2007) and Edinburgh Napier University (2009).

In 2010 I started  my PhD at QMU and I now have my doctorate. My PhD project examined the contributions of Facebook to citizens’ political participation in Italy and United Kingdom and my main research interests include social media, the Internet and information, media and political communication, persuasion, and citizens’ political behaviours.

Today I am a member of staff of the Media, Communication & Performing Arts Division at QMU and teach in a series of modules. My lectures, seminars and workshops focus on new and traditional media, public relations, activism, politics and research methods. In addition, I am also involved, i.e., administrator/researcher, in the AlcoLOLs project, an innovative project running in six Edinburgh high schools and aimed at helping, through dialogue techniques, young people to make confident, informed, choices to navigate situations involving alcohol safely.

I came to Edinburgh ten years ago and I am just astonished of what I have achieved since then. To pay the bills, while studying towards a degree (my second one), I started working in hospitality, first as a kitchen porter then as a waiter. After graduation, I worked in a call centre, possibly the worst job I ever done. In 2010 I started my PhD here at QMU and I was born again.

How did you come to choose this course of study and why QMU?

When I was an undergraduate student I really enjoyed the dissertation process. At the time I asked to my dissertation supervisor “how do you do this for a job?”. He told me that I would have to become a researcher and most likely complete a PhD.

After graduation I considered all possible career paths. However, after studying so many years I decided that I was not ready to continue with my studies and started looking for a job in the communication and PR industries. Timing could not be worst, the financial crisis exploded and employment opportunities were scarce in these areas.

I worked in different places, even in a call centre, a job that I hated so much as people constantly shouted at me for things which were not my fault and I could do nothing about. This experience was a real eye-opener for me. I wanted to have a career change and start studying again, possibly a master’s or even a PhD. Unfortunately it was not that easy as I did not have enough money to fund my studies and I needed to find a bursary. While browsing the web I came across a job advert from QMU. The University was offering bursaries for full time PhDs, I knew that this was an opportunity and decided to apply.

Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?

Edinburgh is my city, possibly even more than my hometown Napoli. I came here ten years ago to learn English and I never left since then. It is an international city with a vibrant cultural environment; it is fun; full of students; and there are numerous employment opportunities. The views are stunning; it is the perfect size, not too big not too small; and wherever you go you can feel history around you.

I came here when I was 22, I was very young and immature. Here I grew and became, I would dare to say, a man. I feel so attached to this city and there is no other place in the UK where I would live. I just love Edinburgh, it gave me everything I have now.

 

"In terms of support I had everything I needed - great supervisors, support in terms of data analysis and personal development, funds for attending international conferences. I am very happy with what I got"
Isidoropaolo Casteltrione

The Course

What did you hope the PhD would give you?

As mentioned I definitely wanted a career change. I have always been intrigued by academia, by the idea that you can write about things which will remain there and people can remember you for. Also I have always considered the university lecturer as a very important figure in a young person’s life. Lecturers play a part in crafting future generations, they do not only teach about subjects but also need to convoy values and work ethics, I feel it is a privilege.

How did you find the work load? Could you comment on the support available to you?

Doing a PhD is not easy, it must be difficult, otherwise what’s the point? If everyone could get one it will not be so special. Hence, yes the work load is challenging but it is appropriate to the nature/level of a PhD. In terms of support I had everything I needed - great supervisors, support in terms of data analysis and personal development, funds for attending international conferences. I am very happy with what I got.

Did you work during the course?

I did not have to work as I received a bursary. As part of the bursary I had to do some teaching, and I must admit that it can be challenging juggling between teaching and PhD work. However, I am aware that bursary winners need to give something back to the University. I am very grateful to QMU, so it was never a problem for me. In addition, teaching is part of your professional development and it enables you to develop key skills if you want to work in academia.

Can you give an outline as to why you received a bursary?

I would say because I am amazing. Just joking of course. I am not really sure to be honest. I did not have a master’s so I thought that I would have a disadvantage there. However, at the end of the interview I knew that I did well. I am always very cautious about things but I felt very positive about it. I think what made the difference was my enthusiasm and drive. Maybe the interview panel felt how determined I was.

I can never forget when I received the e-mail telling me that I had won the bursary. I was on holiday in Italy and when I told my dad he started to cry. He gets too sentimental about things for my likings, but I guess his reaction told me how proud I made him.

How did your bursary help you with your studies?

It was crucial. I do not think I would have been able to complete a PhD, studying full-time, if I had to work at the same time. As said, a PhD involves a lot of work. Some people do it without a bursary and I think they are amazing, but the bursary really enabled me to focus on my work.

What advice would you give prospective PhD students?

I do not want to scare you guys but if you chose to do a PhD be aware that tough times will be ahead. It is the most difficult thing I did in my life and it requires a lot of self-discipline. Do it only if you are really motivated and chose a topic that you like because you will be stuck with it for three,four years of your life.

Is there anything good? Yes, I think you will develop some skills that you can get only by doing a PhD. Which ones? Well, you will have to find out by yourself as only when you do it and complete it you will understand.    

What obstacles did you encounter (if any) and how did you overcome them?

At times you just do not see the end of it and ask yourself what’s the point. The only way you can get through these moments is by carrying on with your work and not giving up. Also do not be afraid to ask for help and speak to the people who care about you, they will always be there for you. A final advice: get a dog - mine is called Bella - and enjoy the beautiful walks on Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill; they will help you to clear your mind.

Life after graduation

What are your future plans?

I want to continue working in academia, particularly as a researcher. This is what I like and this is what I want to do with my life.

Anything that you might have done differently?

There are always things that you could have done differently and better… but looking back I would have done everything I have done again, and do not regret anything. Do not get me wrong, I have made mistakes, and many of them, but I learnt from these mistakes; because of them I grew as a person and as an academic, because of them I am where I am now… so I would not change a single thing.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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Course Information