Earlier this year Dr. Grady Walker hosted an international Master’s student, Monserrat Mendez-Buvandel, who contributed to HyCRISTAL Project at the Walker Institute. Dr. Walker helped Montserrat with her Masters Thesis and worked with her on his award-winning Visual Research Methods approach. In this article, Monserrat discusses her experience at the University of Reading which was sadly cut short by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

My name is Montserrat Mendez-Buvandel, I am a Mexican master’s degree student who had the fortune to do a short-term stay abroad in the Walker Institute. During this time, I had the chance to meet lots of researchers who helped me understand, define and analyze the different stages of my master’s degree thesis, for example, the audiovisual methodologies or the results I collected.

Dr. Grady Walker was my first contact before coming to the UK for the first time, he and my supervisor Evodia Silva-Rivera knew each other from a conference they attended. The opportunity that he and Prof Rosalind Cornforth, the director of the Institute, gave me is something that I will always be thankful for because it helped me realize how important interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research is for the academic community.

When I first got to the Walker Institute I felt really welcome, even though I didn’t know anyone, the academics, the staff and the students who are in the Institute made me feel at home; one of the most important things that happened when I got there is that Zala, the executive administration officer, asked me for all of my information from Mexico and from the people who I was staying within the city; so even though my original plan was to stay in Reading for two months and a half, unfortunately, due to the COVID19 outbreak I had to leave 2 weeks before the stay ended.

The situation was quite unique, I remember hearing how other European countries were having high transmission and death rates, and I also remember that the UK were not taking that many measures around the outbreak. This is when the Universities started taking decisions about this outbreak situation, in the lectures I was attending one could overhear that the University authorities were considering the chance of finishing the spring term earlier than expected, but in the end, they didn’t; so after talking a bit about it, the academics, staff, and students in the Walker Institute decided to start working from home.

When this decision happened, I decided to go back to Germany because it was the country where my flight was going to depart to Mexico; this decision I made because I didn`t know if, because of the low measures that UK was taking, other countries were suddenly going to start closing the border to the UK, it was something that was starting to happen. So, I also decided to talk to my supervisor, as well as to Dr. Grady about this concern and both gave all their support with this decision.

It was a bit hard to leave the Walker Institute and the University of Reading, because I made some friends there, I met other students and researchers, and I was having a really good experience. I was just getting more confident about my research and about the plans that I have for my personal and career future, so suddenly had to leave this chance was a bit hard, but I also know that I had to.

On my last day at the Walker Institute I tried to say goodbye to everyone I met there especially because it was a quick decision. Actually, two days after I left the UK, they started canceling flights, so I was kind of lucky. I appreciate that the staff and the academics from the Walker Institute were asking if I had gotten to Germany and then to Mexico and also how I was doing.

Finally, I want to say that I really want to keep in touch with everyone there, the Walker Institute and the University of Reading, so that someday we could work together in some audiovisual methodologies research. And I also want to thank all of the Walker Institute community because they made me feel appreciated and important, and they also made me feel that what I am doing is important too.