After graduating in Russian Language and Literature from the University of Birmingham, I did the CREES Masters in 1996/7 and was encouraged to continue my studies (PhD 1998-2002) and then launch an academic career (Research Fellow 2002-2004) all under one roof. Like many of my contemporaries, I have gone on to find a home outside Area Studies, in my case Health Services Research, but I have maintained my connection with CREES and have managed to ensure that my work still focuses on the region. I am now a Research Officer at the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies with a particular brief for monitoring health system reform in countries of the former Soviet Union.
Clearly, I learned a lot at CREES, particularly an appreciation of interdisciplinarity as a powerful means of understanding policy making. I also have many wonderful memories, and while these are largely unrepeatable in polite company, the important lesson they bring is that research is fun, even when it is frustrating. The cohort of students with whom I was privileged enough to study are now my first port of call when I need expertise in a particular area – not just because I respect the depth of their knowledge, but also because I genuinely enjoy their company and like to keep in touch.
Perhaps vainly I thought that this was somehow unique to our ‘golden age’ of CREES, but speaking to my father (Doug Richardson, CREES undergraduate 1962-65), I now see this as the ‘CREES effect’ – the ‘nineties’ and ‘noughties’ was not the only great time to be at CREES but it was one of the best times of my life. For CREES, every cohort of students has been golden.