For our “Going abroad” series, Hugo Guyader interviewed Yupal Shukla, who moved from India to Italy. This is the second part of the interview with him. Read part one here.

Yupal Sanatkumar Shukla hails from India where he has pursued his studies and has obtained his first PhD. Before enrolling in his second PhD program at the University of Bologna in Italy, he worked as an academic in management in India. Yupal has traveled to different parts of the world to attend service conferences, and he took a course at Hanken School of Economics in Finland. Let’s ask him a few questions about his international experience.

In 2018, you started your PhD at the University of Bologna. How did you get started? How did you get acclimated to the academic community at Unibo? 

Once I got admitted at the Unibo, Prof. Kandampully introduced me to Prof. Chiara Orsingher, director of PhD program and now my supervisor. She made my start at the Department of Management (i.e. “DiSa”) relatively easy. I was able to meet with more senior PhD students and I was well oriented by Prof. Orsingher. 

Apart from regular PhD courses and training classes during the last two years, I really enjoyed the regular seminars were organized at DiSa. I love two innovative initiatives called “my cup of tea” (professors of the department present their research work once a month and it gives PhD students a great opportunity to meet, interact and learn), and “speed dates with professors” for PhD students (we got the opportunity to interact and to get guidance from the professors — remotely since 2021). Very recently, my PhD program also started leveraging its alumni network for commenting and supervising the newly enrolled PhD students — which I am glad about.

I really wanted to work in services research area for my second PhD, that is why I feel fortunate to have met Prof. Orsingher who gave me a structured training and mentoring, which inspires me to do high quality research work.

How much do you teach as a part of your position? 

I teach only one course in a year: Destination (Marketing) Management. I was guided by Dr. Marco Visentin to apply for an Adjunct professor position. Since I already had a PhD and a couple of publications, I got the position. It’s been three years I teach in Economics of Tourism.

What is your experience visiting Hanken School of Economics in Finland? 

Thanks to a 2019 SERVSIG newsletter, I heard that Hanken had an opportunity for doctoral students to attend their PhD course Service and Relationship Management — coordinated and well-crafted by Maria Holmlund-Rytkönen. There were three months in between the course days so we can prepare a paper. I found professors at Hanken to be very supportive and helpful and this course gave me a new perspective upon my research. I think PhD students in their second and third year would be the ideal time to go to different university. I am due to go for a visiting position in near future for a longer period. 

When you meet people at conferences, what do they want to know about you? 

As I have mentioned it earlier, my first service conference was IRSSM 4 (2013) in India, and I consider it as most useful conference to me in reaching to a place where I am today. I attended most of the IRSSM conferences based on my personal savings and from the money borrowed from friends. Attending IRSSMs provided me with a platform to meet senior service researchers and to expand my network. It is small symposium, wherein we get opportunities to receive quality feedback, and senior researchers keep on helping, mentoring young scholars even afterwards. They even helped me by writing recommendation letters to support my PhD application to Unibo. Eventually, attending IRSSMs helped me to make good friends. I find IRSSMs as very suitable to scholars like me who belongs to emerging countries.  

[see also IRSSM-10 (Dubai): “Impressions from Madhavi Ayyagari” and Werner’s video; and the previous calls for IRSSM-7 (Thailand), IRSSM-8 (Korea), IRSSM-9 (Slovenia)]

You have participated in other service conferences? 

In 2016 Dr. Joan Ball told me about differences in various service conferences. I got to know that Frontiers in Services was one of the best conferences, attracting a huge number of submissions with most advanced research topics in services domain. I started working on my submission in 2017. I approached Dr. Ball if she could guide me and collaborate with me. I submitted two abstracts co-authored with her and with Dr. Donald Barnes, and both got accepted. However, I had no financial support. 

I approached Prof. Ray Fisk (Co-chair) and requested for fees reduction and fortunately he agreed and allowed me to register under the category of doctoral student. Dr. Joan Ball came forward and told me that she will be paying my registration fees. Apart from registration fees, I realized that travelling, loading and boarding cost will be expensive affair. I was in a dilemma: should I travel to the USA or not considering the huge cost involved. Meantime, Prof. Yany Gregoire emailed me: “Yupal, can you confirm that you will be attending the Doctoral Consortium at Frontiers?”. I had a strong feeling about attending Frontiers somehow, so I replied to “Yes, I will”. 

I heard it that it happens only in movies, but it happened with me in real life. I got a call from a well-wisher, whom I met because of my love for Yoga: “Yupal get ready for travelling to the USA, I am going to book your flight tickets”. He also booked my hotel in downtown Austin! It was like, almighty created all necessary situations so that I can attend the conference. This well-wisher played a key role (has been guiding, motivating me to study well all the time) alongside Dr. Ball in making my dream come true. 

And how was Frontiers in Texas?

Participating in Frontiers 2018 was like a fairy tale since I had this dream for so long. I got to learn from the presentations of many leading professors in services area and got constructive feedback on my own research. By attending the plenary talks, I got a new perspective on service research. I could also meet editors of some of the leading service journals. Prof. Chatura Ranaweera guided me how to get the best out of attending such conferences. I was also fortunate to receive the Liam Glynn Research Scholarship Award 2018 so I could participate in the 25th annual SERVSIG doctoral consortium. I got the opportunity to meet fellow doctoral students and I particularly enjoyed the breakout sessions and the editors’ talk on publishing with different methodologies).  It was a mesmerizing experience to be part of Frontiers 2018. 

Any other service conferences apart IRSSM and Frontiers?

I have also attended QUIS16 in 2019 and I look forward to attending SERVSIG conferences (maybe in 2022). My experience of participating in QUIS16 conference at in Sweden was awesome. Prof. Kandampully told me before how attending QUIS conferences benefitted him. It was great experience to work as a co-author in writing the extended abstract with Prof. Orsingher and with Prof. Yves Van Vaerenbergh as I learned a lot in the process.

During QUIS16, I got plenty of time to meet leading professors. I still remember that after the welcome reception, I went for a short walk with Prof. Parsu, and I asked him to guide me on my research proposal. He told me that deciding for a research area in the proposal should be based on the way a scholar would like to build his or her career over a period of time. During QUIS16, I was given opportunity to chair a session, which helped me listen to all the presentations carefully and summarize them in a meaningful way. QUIS16 helped me make new friends and to cement myself in the service community.

What is the best part of being an international scholar? What advice can you give to scholars considering moving to a new country to do research?

Since the day I landed in Bologna, my life has never been the same. As an international scholar, I got opportunity to meet and study with scholars coming from different parts of the world. Studying at culturally rich and research-intensive places like the Unibo, I got the opportunity to take courses not only at my department but also into other schools at Unibo. And I have access to leading service research centers to take doctoral courses (e.g. Hanken). I consider the visa free, easy and cost-effective entry to all European (Schengen) counties makes it best part of studying in Europe. In last two years, I could travel to Sweden, Finland, and the United Kingdom (i.e. to attend a Research Development Workshop). 

What is the biggest challenge then?

I travelled to Italy without my family (my wife and 5-year-old daughter) and I could not meet them for almost 7 to 8 months. To stay away from your family and manage in a country with a completely different culture, it is important to cope with such move promptly. I realized that the quicker we adapt to the change and get adjusted with the new place, the sooner we find ourselves comfortable with new conditions. I was fortunate to have two very close Italian friends, who are senior to me in my PhD program (I consider them as one of my best friends), who have been helping me a lot in my journey, especially in the beginning at Unibo. So, it would be worthwhile to have close friends from the country in which you are studying. Also, one should try to keep their eyes open to attend seminars, workshops and symposium related to their own research interest and try to develop academic relations, I found it really helpful!

Yupal Sanatkumar Shukla
Adjunct Professor and Doctoral Student, Department of Management, University of Bologna, Italy