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Gabriel du Plessis

Master’s in Sociology, graduated in 2014

Coming from South Africa, he is currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of Warwick, UK.

interviewed by Michaela Nespěchalová, April 2024

  1. How has your Master’s of Social Studies degree helped shape your career path?

My Master's degree has been instrumental in shaping my career path. It gave me a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of social dynamics, cultural contexts, and systemic inequalities. Through engaging lectures and dynamic class discussions with students from diverse backgrounds, I acquired invaluable analytical and critical thinking skills essential for addressing complex societal issues. Moreover, it equipped me with research methodologies and communication abilities vital for advocating for marginalised communities. Overall, the degree has given me the tools to pursue research dedicated to social justice, community development, and policy advocacy, allowing me to work towards developing meaningful contributions towards positive societal change.

2. How was your experience at Masaryk University?

My time at Masaryk was marked by intellectual growth and lasting friendships. Academically, the diverse curriculum and engaging professors provided a stimulating environment that challenged my thinking and expanded my knowledge. I was exposed to new ideas, perspectives, and disciplines. Simultaneously, the collaborative nature of group projects and class discussions facilitated meaningful connections with my peers. Beyond the classroom, extracurricular activities and shared interests allowed me to forge lifelong bonds with the people I met along the way.

3. Can you share some examples of the specific skills and knowledge you gained during your program that have been valuable in your professional life?

Studying sociology at Masaryk University equipped me with a diverse range of skills and knowledge that have proven invaluable in my professional life. Firstly, I developed strong research and analytical abilities through coursework and hands-on research projects, allowing me to critically examine complex social issues. Additionally, I honed my communication skills, both written and verbal, which have been crucial in effectively conveying ideas and collaborating with colleagues. Moreover, I gained a deep understanding of sociological theories and methods, enabling me to approach problems from multiple perspectives and devise innovative solutions.

4. What did you learn during your studies that attracted you the most?

During my studies at Masaryk University, I was particularly drawn to its emphasis on principles of equal treatment, diversity, and inclusion. As a queer student, the faculty's commitment to fostering a community based on inclusivity, diversity, and respect deeply resonated with me, aligning with my values and aspirations for a kinder, empathetic, and equitable world. This not only enriched my academic experience but also prepared me to confidently navigate diverse and multicultural environments with sensitivity and respect.

5. What were some of the most memorable courses or experiences during your Master's program?

During my studies, I was particularly drawn to cultural sociology under the expert guidance of Professor Nadya Jaworsky. Her classes were always the highlight of my week, as they introduced new theories clearly and comprehensively with interesting, contemporary examples. Her classes expanded my perspective on sociology and the social sciences while making me see the world in new and exciting ways. The course has undoubtedly had a significant impact on my academic development as, over ten years later, I am part of a group at Masaryk that meets monthly to discuss migration, the focus of my current research, through the lens of cultural sociology.

6. What initially attracted you to the field of social studies, and has that motivation evolved over time?

I was initially drawn to social studies by a fascination with understanding human behaviour, societies, and the factors shaping them. Over time, this motivation has evolved as I've realised the field's dynamic nature and its potential for positive societal change. Since then. exploring diverse perspectives and engaging with real-world issues within social studies has even further deepened my appreciation for its relevance.

7. How did your program prepare you for working in a diverse and multicultural society?

My time at Masaryk University, particularly within the Department of Social Sciences, prepared me for navigating diverse and multicultural societies. Through rigorous coursework, experiential learning opportunities, and engagement with generous faculty and peers from various cultural backgrounds, I developed a nuanced understanding of cultural dynamics and intercultural communication. The curriculum encouraged critical reflection on social inequalities, cultural differences, and power dynamics – equipping me with the necessary skills to promote inclusivity and respect in diverse settings. Additionally, the opportunity to do an exchange semester in Berlin, Germany widened my network and helped me learn how to sensitively navigate the ways knowledge can be gained, shared, and challenged. My program thus fostered adaptability, empathy, and an openness to new perspectives and ideas – essential attributes for effectively working in today's interconnected and diverse world.

8. Do you have any advice for the incoming students that you would like to share?

The international character of Masaryk University provides a unique opportunity to engage with people from all over the world with different lived experiences and perspectives. While studying is certainly an important part of your degree, it is equally important to share knowledge, listen to, and learn from the people you encounter along the way. Embrace discomfort, difficult conversations, and having your worldviews challenged.

9. What is your professional career and where are you currently living?

I am currently completing my PhD at the University of Warwick, UK. My research focuses on lived experiences of queer and trans refugees in East Africa and considers the ways queer and trans refugees develop protection strategies, establish support networks, and advocate for international assistance. In addition to my research, I am currently teaching undergraduate students, which has been both rewarding and inspiring as I not only get to share what I learned so far but engage with new perspectives and ideas every day.


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