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World Mag > WM Summer 2015 edition > Creating Peer Networks

Creating Peer Networks

AISB Alumna / Class of 2010
Angelika Strohmayer
Angelika Strohmayer

I graduated from AISB 5 years ago and left the school with huge hopes and dreams. I started my journey by going to my ‘home country’ of Austria to do a degree in Primary School Education. I lived in Linz for three years, and while I enjoyed the practical work of the degree, there wasn’t enough theory for me, so I decided to pursue a Masters in International Development and Education, taking me to Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England. 

I spent way too much time in the library reading and writing; I loved what I was doing. For my dissertation, I decided it was time to go back to Romania, so I worked with an NGO that supports people experiencing homelessness and with low socio-economic status in Bucharest. I wanted to find out what it was like to live on the streets, but more importantly what learning happened there. 

During this time, I contacted Culture Lab at Newcastle University; an interdisciplinary research group that focuses on Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and together with my supervisor from the lab, we were able to analyse the data I collected in Romania. I came up with potentials and implications for designing learning among people experiencing homelessness.

As I was writing up my dissertation, I applied for a spot in the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Digital Civics; an interdisciplinary research endeavour that strives to connect community education, public health, social care, privacy and trust, computer science, and local democracy and planning. So here I am 6 months later, part of a CDT working towards a PhD. The idea of the CDT is to do applied, impact-driven research. This CDT is an amazing opportunity for me to develop as a researcher and a person. It’s already opened my mind to so many new schools of thought, ideas, topics, and disciplines.

Another great aspect of what I’m doing right now is that the CDT gives me the ability to broaden not only my metaphorical, but also physical horizons by enabling me to travel, attend workshops and conferences, and meet so many amazing academics, NGOs, industry partners, etc. In fact just a few months ago, I was working on digital solutions for sexual and reproductive health in Syrian refugee settlements in Lebanon with an Egyptian academic, a Canadian industry partner, and a member of the UN at a workshop I co-led the social media campaign on, in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s crazy, and I still haven’t completely wrapped my head around all the opportunities that are thrown my way. I really hope I make the most of it.

To my surprise, the paper I was encouraged to write with my supervisor was accepted to one of the world’s leading HCI conferences called CHI, which happened to be in Seoul, South Korea this year. Many of us from the lab flew to the conference and those of us who had papers accepted were able to present these in front of the leading thinkers in the field.

Such an opportunity!

So what’s the plan now? I need to get on with some work, late nights at the office, and lots of reading, writing, and researching. This year, I will be doing research with youths experiencing homelessness due to their LGBT+ identity in Newcastle. I hope to design and develop technologies with them to support their peer networks for wellbeing, learning, and increased potential for activism.

I have at least another three and a half years on this program, and who knows what will happen after that. So, if you had told me 5 years ago when I graduated from AISB that I would be writing an article for the WORLD Magazine on my PhD, I would not have believed you. This program has already allowed me to meet some of the most intelligent, funny, crazy, and lovely people I have ever met, and I’m very excited to see what else is going to be shoved into my path; which obstacles I can turn into opportunities.

Read the entire WORLD Magazine Summer 2015 edition here. 


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