PhD Student: Gil Thompson
“Though based at Freie Universität, my advisor is at the Hertie School of Governance, some courses are at WZB, I’m associated with Jacques Delors, and I’ve even had trainings at Humboldt University. There is a genuine sense of a broad, internationally minded German policy and academic community.”
Meet Gil Thompson, a Marie Curie Fellow and Doctoral Candidate based at Freie Universität Berlin studying European integration at the Union's external borders. Gil has a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from St Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and an M.A. in Comparative and International Studies from ETH Zürich and Universität Zürich.
Following his B.A., Gil spent two years supporting financial crimes investigations at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and after his M.A., he spent two years in Washington as a Congressional aide. Here Gil shares some insights into his research and life in Germany.
What do you hope to contribute to the world through your research?
I study police and asylum officers from across Europe who work together at so-called ‘migration hotspots' supporting Greek efforts to manage people who’ve crossed irregularly from Turkey to seek asylum. We don’t understand well what happens when these diverse people are all together on an island facing difficult circumstances. I hope that my ethnographic work will explain mechanisms of European socialization, which can be further refined by subsequent research from different disciplines. I think that better understanding of how people become European — what I call everyday functionalism — could improve future EU initiatives, from Erasmus to military cooperation.
How does living and working in Berlin help you achieve this goal?
Berlin is endlessly exciting and full of people from all walks of life. There are always lectures, performances, and chance encounters, which keep me inspired. People know the city for its arts and nightlife, but it is also full of green spaces and surrounded by endless countryside— it really is the perfect place to sit and write.
What's one thing that surprised you about German university life?
I’ve been surprised at how well-integrated the Berlin universities and think tanks are. Though based at Freie Universität, my advisor is at the Hertie School of Governance, some courses are at WZB, I’m associated with Jacques Delors, and I’ve even had trainings at Humboldt University. There is a genuine sense of a broad, internationally minded German policy and academic community.