They make the Université de Lyon: meet Gaëlle Simon & Chancella Djimasde

On The May 14, 2019

We met with Gaëlle Simon, an anthropology student at the Université Lumière Lyon 2, and Chancella Djimasde, high-school senior at the lycée Frédéric Faÿs in Villeurbanne, who took part in the gatherings for high-schoolers to meet doctoral students.

Please introduce yourself in a few words.

Gaëlle Simon: When I was 15, I decided to stop my studies to become a hairdresser. After a two-year apprenticeship, I started becoming interested in other educational programs that required a baccalauréat. So at age 18, I began my sophomore year and grew a passion for literature and philosophy, which led me to go to university, where I discovered anthropology. I completed an undergraduate degree and a Master’s degree in this field. I am now in my third year of my doctorate program and my research focuses on music (Rap and Funk) and how it is used as a mode of resistance in specific neighborhoods: a favela in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and a housing project in the Lyon urban area.

Chancella Djimasde: I am 18 and I am a senior, studying in the literary track at the lycée Fréderic Faÿs in Villeurbanne. I am preparing for the entrance exam for Sciences Po Lyon. I am enrolled in the Equal Opportunity and Democratization Program (PECD) offered by this prestigious school, where I take history, English and contemporary issues classes every Wednesday afternoon. I would like to become a social law lawyer or build a humanitarian program in Africa or Asia.

Why did you decide to take part in the gathering for high-school students to meet doctoral students organized by the Université de Lyon?

G.S.: I decided to attend the gathering because I believe it is essential to tell young people about the rather obscure world of research. Although the general public often forgets about it, it offers many different possibilities. I thought it was a very promising idea to be able to share our experiences as researchers with young people who may not otherwise have access to this field. Our personal journeys are not all the same, or linear, and sometimes we need to experiment with different paths before finding the right one. This is the richness of experience I wanted to highlight at this gathering. It is also an opportunity to build bridges between the world of science and research and the general public, as a way to prove that science and research can be for everybody. This is an experience I would have liked to have when I was in high-school. So I was happy to take part.

C.D.: Since I feel very drawn to higher education, my high-school’s librarian suggested I attend this gathering to meet doctoral students. About twenty students from my high-school also went out of curiosity to meet the world of research. A doctorate is a university degree that can seem difficult to understand at first, especially since I am still hesitant to begin long studies. So I felt the need to meet people who had studied for eight years after the baccalauréat in order to understand what motivated them. What is the status of a doctoral student? Are they paid? Are they able to work a job to fund their studies? Do they do fieldwork or are they always working at a computer? These are the practical questions I wanted to ask at this gathering.

What did this gathering teach you?

G.S.: This experience was very rewarding. I was pleasantly surprised by the interest high-schoolers showed in my research. The discussion flowed well and was intense and constructive. Some high-schoolers surprised me with unusual or even surprising questions, but they were all very relevant. I had a long conversation with Chancella Djimasde, who is still unsure of her educational path, but who seemed very interested in anthropology. I was happy to take part in these gatherings, which had a friendly, pleasant atmosphere. It was also a chance to practice discussing my research with a different audience, to talk about my path, my experiences, and also to listen to the concerns other people may have. It was a very positive experience I would be happy to repeat.

C.D.: The study of societies and civilizations, and philosophy are the disciplines I am especially interested in. I was lucky to talk to Gaëlle Simon, an anthropology PhD student, and also to a 60-year-old researcher, who is suffering from an illness, but who just completed her doctorate. They all told us about their daily lives and told us about their journey up until their doctorate. This helped me realize that everyone has a different journey. I also realized that if I have a lot of drive and passion, this diploma is not all that difficult to get. Additionally, the small size of the gathering was ideal for high-schoolers so we all felt free to ask questions. I would say that these gatherings are complementary to the support provided by high-schools for academic guidance for future students. This experience was a unique opportunity to immerse myself in the life of a researcher for an evening. I would love to do it again, perhaps as part of a citizen debate between high-schoolers and doctoral students about health or justice.