Olga Lenczewska, a final year undergraduate at St Hugh’s celebrates a successful year abroad.
Olga Lenczewska is in the final year of her BA in Philosophy and Italian. Her academic interests include Immanuel Kant and his legacy, political philosophy, aesthetics, and 20th-century European literature. During her year abroad in Italy, Olga has conducted research for the Italian National Research Council, written a novel, and interned for several journalistic platforms. Having secured an internship at the National Italian Research Council, Olga went on to produce two research papers and was later invited to present her work at the International Kant Congress as the youngest ever speaker. Her own account follows below:
In the spring of 2015, I conducted a research internship in Rome at the Institute for Population and Social Policies of the National Italian Research Council. I worked under the supervision of Professor Daniele Archibugi, a specialist in the political theory of international relations and globalisation. Together with several other professors from the institution and three other interns, I worked on a research project concerning European Union citizenship rights and their protection. The project was coordinated externally by European Alternatives and funded by the European Commission, Directorate-General Justice. Our role was to produce a number of academic papers (case studies) analysing various transnational legal issues related to the notion of EU citizenship, and subsequently providing international policy analysis. The two papers I wrote discussed, firstly, religious freedom in Europe in the context of cultural integration policy and, secondly, the rights of ethnic minorities in Europe through a specific court case that appeared at the European Court of Human Rights. The papers are being published by several different academic institutes, such as the Tawasul Centre for Research and Dialogue and the National Italian Research Council itself, and have also been transformed into educational materials in order to be used at high schools and universities across Europe.
I was offered the internship by Professor Archibugi, whom I contacted about a completely different issue related to my year abroad – he read about my work here at Oxford and my past work experience, and invited me to conduct the internship in Rome during my year abroad. I was sure the project would be a challenge, as I would have to learn about things about areas that I had not worked on before; all the other interns, unlike me, were masters or PhD students in the areas of political theory and international relations. But I caught up, immersed myself in the knowledge needed, and immensely enjoyed my time at the National Italian Research Council, finding my task extremely stimulating. The most interesting aspects of the internship, apart from expanding my knowledge and improving my research skills, involved: academic collaboration with Italy’s top specialists in political theory, getting to know how it is to work at such a renowned academic institution, and raising my awareness of the most pressing social, political, and legal issues of our times. Despite the responsibilities that came with such an internship, the atmosphere at the Institute was very friendly and rather relaxed. We would often have lunch together and meet after work to explore Rome. I am very glad to have been given the opportunity to expand my academic horizons so much.
In addition to my internship, this September, I had the opportunity to present at the International Kant Congress in Vienna – the biggest philosophical event of this kind, held every 5 years. This was a great privilege, especially because I was the youngest person presenting at the Congress. My paper, entitled “The Evolution of the Concept of Freedom between the Critique of Pure Reason and the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals”, appeared in the Ethics section. I found the discussion that followed my presentation very stimulating, as I had a chance to discuss my ideas with world’s top Kantian scholars, to learn how to argue for my position, and to think of how my paper could be further developed. The Congress, overall, was a great opportunity to meet in person influential and inspiring academics from all over the world, and to attend their lectures. The proceedings are currently being published by De Gruyter.
Because of these experiences, I started seriously considering doing a masters in social policy or international relations and then working for an international governmental organisation; in the end, I decided to pursue a masters and a PhD in philosophy instead, but I definitely want to stay connected to the topics of global justice and cosmopolitanism and to continue studying them through the philosophical angle.