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Spanish and Portuguese



I spent five years in total as a graduate student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, with the first four of these funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I completed the MPhil in European Literature and Culture in 2006-07, and then conducted research for my PhD in 2007-11. The MPhil was sufficiently flexible to allow me to explore diverse interests in Spanish and Italian and to try out different critical approaches before settling on an area of study for my doctoral work. During my PhD in Golden Age Spanish, I was able to strike a balance between independent research and expert guidance, engaging in a true dialogue with my supervisor and with the wider academic community, before presenting my findings and interpretations in my doctoral dissertation.

The standard of teaching and supervision that I received in the Department was outstanding, and the excellent resources available within the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and on a university-wide basis contributed to the progression of my work. However, these important aspects of my time in Cambridge were only part of the picture. I attended a broad range of research papers and organised the departmental Spanish seminars in the second year of my PhD, and I undertook some teaching during my time in Cambridge as well. My supervisor oversaw the development of my academic profile, providing invaluable advice on publishing and conference presentations, whilst the Faculty and University organised an extremely useful programme of graduate training, preparing doctoral students for life beyond the PhD. 

I was fortunate enough to secure a temporary college lecturing post in Oxford, followed by a Junior Research Fellowship at Christ Church, Oxford, and I am now a lecturer at the University of Exeter, all positions for which my time and experiences in Cambridge prepared me extensively.


  • Dr Geraldine Hazbun (Lecturer in Medieval Spanish Literature, St Anne's College, University of Oxford).

 I was an undergraduate at Cambridge and staying on to do graduate study there, both an MPhil in European Literature, then a PhD, was the best decision I ever made. The MPhil course was impeccably organized and taught, and the diversity of the cohort made for a stimulating experience both intellectually and socially. I found the balance between taught seminars and independent research to be just right, and was able to pursue my specialist interests at the same time as gathering a broader and more solid knowledge of theoretical and critical issues. The Faculty also offered a wide range of seminars and events that gave me an insight into research culture at this level, helping me to better contextualize and think about my own work. I also particularly appreciated the detailed, personalized, and honest feedback that came with assessed work, advice which I took forward into the PhD.

As a PhD student my experience was equally positive. The training provided on the MPhil, and the dissertation I wrote that year, stood me in excellent stead to undertake a larger piece of writing. I could not have asked for a more supportive and knowledgeable supervisor, whose guidance and wisdom helped me to make the transition to doctoral work and gain in confidence all the time. The Spanish and Portuguese Department felt especially welcoming and sensitive to the needs of its graduates. I had the opportunity to teach both language and literature to undergraduate students, and even to undertake some lecturing, which was vital training for my future career. 

I came such a long way with the support of the graduate framework at Cambridge that I was successful in my first application for a permanent academic post. I enjoyed my graduate experience at Cambridge wholeheartedly and think of it with great memories, and with gratitude.


  • Mrs Helen Lima de Sousa (Affiliated Lecturer, holder of the Santander Post-Doctoral Senior Studentship in Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies, Clare College) 

As a PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Cambridge I received a great deal of support from my supervisors, who were always keen to listen to my opinion and guide me in the direction of readings that I had not yet come across.  Concurrently, the University Library provided a wealth of resources that proved fundamental to my research project, including a number of rare documents, such as travel accounts of Europeans visiting Brazil in the nineteenth century.

Aside from my research, as a PhD student at the University of Cambridge I have had the opportunity to develop other vital areas of academic work. T he Faculty-run workshops cover an array of important issues for graduate students, including how to give a lecture, how to make the most of library resources, how to get work published, and how to organise academic seminars and conferences. I found the workshops relating to teaching particularly useful, as from my first year as a PhD student I was involved in supervising and teaching undergraduate students in subject areas such as Brazilian literature, Mozambican poetry, and translation from Portuguese into English. I even had the opportunity to supervise a student on their year abroad project on the Brazilian writer Rachel de Queiros!  Furthermore, I found that the Spanish and Portuguese Departmental Seminars, which are organised entirely by second-year PhD students, are great for networking and allowing graduate students to experience yet another important element of life as an academic.

In all, I believe that the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Cambridge provided me with the opportunity to gain a well-rounded experience of academic life, from research, to teaching, to organising conferences and seminars.  

This well-rounded experience enabled me to progress smoothly and swiftly to the next stage of my academic year, and I am now undertaking a Santander Post-doctoral Senior Studentship in Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies at Clare College, University of Cambridge. 


  • Dr Collin McKinney (Associate Professor, Department of Spanish, Bucknell University, USA) 

I came from the United States with a BA and MA, and completed my PhD in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in 2007. As I think back on my time at Cambridge I feel that it was the ideal place to complete my education. I found the atmosphere in Cambridge ideal for someone completing a graduate program. The frequent seminars and workshops were intellectually stimulating as well as a great opportunity for networking. The facilities were more than adequate, and the MML Library and UL provide everything a graduate student could hope for when working on a thesis. I also went to as many of the workshops (preparing CVs, job interviews, etc). as possible, and felt sufficiently prepared when the time came to find a job.

Without a doubt my relationship with my supervisor was most important factor in my success beyond graduation. Not only did my supervisor guide me through the preparation of my thesis, she also helped mentor me and prepare me for life in academia. I can think of no better way to learn what it means to be a teacher-scholar than by observing the fabulous individuals in the MML Faculty.


  • Dr Deborah Martin (Lecturer in Latin American Cultural Studies, UCL) 

After completing undergraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, I spent four years at Cambridge University as a graduate student, first as a student on the MPhil in European literature (2003-4), and then as a PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese (2004-7). 

The MPhil was an excellent grounding for further study. It provided lots of opportunities for discussion with academics from across the Faculty, and the teaching was of very high quality. It gave me the opportunity to try out a range of theoretical and critical approaches as well as the confidence and academic support to refine a PhD proposal and start doctoral work the following year. During the three years of the PhD, the support I received from my supervisor and from the Department more widely was outstanding and invaluable. The Department sponsored my PhD during a period of financial hardship, whilst my supervisor provided sound guidance on many aspects of doctoral life and things like publishing and job applications, as well as expert subject knowledge. There was a wider support network there, too: a Departmental mentor was available to me for PhD-related discussions in her specialist area, and seminars and events meant that I got to know other members of staff in the Department. I was also given the opportunity to gain teaching and lecturing experience during the second two years of my doctorate, which is all-important when applying for first jobs. I am certain this enabled me to secure mine, at the University of Bath, where I started as a Lecturer in Latin American Cultural Studies in 2008.

The research facilities and environment at Cambridge are second to none, and were hugely beneficial to my graduate experience, as was the overall friendliness and supportive atmosphere provided by Spanish and Portuguese. My time there prepared me very well indeed for the next stages of academic life, and the friends and contacts I made there continue to be essential.