Starting in September of this year, I spent two months living in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Its economy driven by resource extraction, Baku is a vibrant city, with an ample expat community, and with plenty of history and attractions. In order to make my trip a reality, I was able to receive funding from both the Magna Fund bursary, and the Graduate Student Travel/Research Bursary, which offset the cost of airfare and accommodation. Experiencing Baku first-hand allowed me to contextualise my research, and allowed me to get accustomed to the culture and outlook of Azerbaijanis.
While I was in Baku, I conducted my field research, which primarily consisted of elite-level interviews with various representatives from academia and non-government organisations. Interestingly, most of these individuals were Western-educated, and spoke English well. I was also able to visit various academic institutions and use their resources, as well as visiting the Presidential library without restrictions, through the help of staff at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy.
I think back quite fondly on my time in Baku. I loved the culture and the food: both were a rich mix of various influences from Turkey, Iran and Russia. I was absolutely thrilled, however, by the welcoming nature of those in Baku. I made many friends, who welcomed me as if I was family.