I am a PhD economist, currently living and working in New York. Originally from the German-speaking part of Switzerland, I moved to Lausanne for my undergraduate education, and subsequently to the UK and the US for graduate school. Although I had not initially planned on staying abroad for so long, I have now lived outside of Switzerland for 11 years, but still return home around three times a year, not least because I miss the Swiss alps.
My studies in Switzerland
I studied economics at the University of Lausanne (HEC) back when this was a 4-year ‘licence’ degree. When I started, I wanted to study business, but after the first year (which is common between economics and business) it was clear that my skills and interests were better matched by the more formal and mathematical economics track.
Going to Oxford
I was inspired to apply to Oxford and the Berrow scholarship by a friend from HEC who had done the same (and gotten the scholarship) the year before. I was thrilled when I learned that I had been selected. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to continue my economics education and research at a graduate level in a world-renowned setting and academic environment. It was not something I would have undertaken or considered possible without the support of this generous scholarship.
My degree at Oxford University
The MPhil in Economics is a two-year degree programme. The first year consists of coursework in three core subjects: Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Econometrics. Each is divided into a number of small segments, generally taught by different faculty. Most of the lectures happen during the first two terms, whereas the last term is almost completely dedicated to studying for the three core exams. These exams take place on three consecutive days, which were probably the most intense of my entire university career, partly because there was so much time to prepare and to worry that my favourite topics would not come up! In the second year, one pursues advanced classes in two chosen fields and writes an MPhil thesis. In my case, this provided a nice segue into the research mode of a doctorate and the opportunity to collaborate with some leading academics in my field.
Life as a Berrow Scholar at Lincoln College
I found it very exciting to be part of such a diverse and talented group of students, and I think the Oxford environment is unique in the amount of interaction one has with fellow students from different fields. There were lots of occasions for socialising thanks to the variety of activities and parties organised by the tireless MCR. I also played football with the MCR team, which was a lot of fun despite the rather early Saturday morning game time. Finally there are of course the many quirky aspects of Oxford life, such as wearing a gown to college dinner or a bow tie to exams – it is all quite fascinating!
Upon leaving Oxford
In my second year at Oxford, I applied to some of the top U.S. economics PhD programmes, in part because I wanted to do additional coursework before embarking on a dissertation. Being enrolled in the MPhil (and having done decently well in the first year) was definitely what gave me a shot at getting into these programmes, and I was lucky enough to get into Harvard. The MPhil was an excellent preparation for this, allowing me to start with new research projects relatively early on in my PhD programme. Many of the friendships I made at Oxford survived the move across the Atlantic - especially with so many friends also living in the Boston or New York areas.
My life today
After finishing my PhD at Harvard in 2011, I obtained a job as a research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which is one of the branches of the U.S. central bank. This is a position that is very similar to academia, in that we are spending much of our time working on self-directed research targeted at academic journals. The difference to a university position is that instead of teaching, we work on policy projects – which includes, for instance, preparing briefings on aspects of the U.S. economy that are of interest to policymakers. People are often surprised that foreigners can get this job; but in fact many of our roughly 60 research economists are foreign-born, including three other colleagues with a Swiss passport.