INBIONET secondment: moving cities

Dec ,06 2016

The INBIONET Marie Sklodowska Curie initial training network scheme requires all the fellows to undertake secondments in another laboratory associated with the network. These secondments, not only allow the fellow to learn new techniques, but also to start collaborations with different laboratories. In addition, the fellow is also faced with the challenge of living in a different country and learn how to adapt to a new laboratory which is a major skill for any researcher.

My secondment was taken in Vienna in the laboratory of Dr. Pavel Kovarik of the Max F. Perutz Laboratories. And although my secondment was a huge success at a professional level, with a nice collaboration being formed and a paper being published out of the secondment, it presented some challenges at a personal level, that I will share;

 Getting a place to live for a few months can be a nightmare, not to say extremely expensive. As I could not find a room to rent anywhere (also not speaking German does not help) I needed to rent a very expensive room in the University accommodation.
 The amount of things that I accumulated in my room in Belfast was so big that there was no way I could carry them with me, so in the end I decided to keep my room for the time of my secondment, which lead me to pay two rents for six months.
 The office space in your home university needs to be protected, as many universities have space problems and there is a continuous search for empty desks.
 The supervision gets double (and for some people might get triple or more). While I had frequent meetings with my main supervisor via Skype, I also had regular meetings with the supervisor from the welcoming institution. The end result was that I was often forgetting who told me to do what. It got a little bit confusing however, so many new ideas were produced.
 The sky was blue, for me that came from Belfast where the sky is constantly covered with clouds it was very relaxing which made my experience very pleasant.
 You make friends with your new colleagues. Working everyday with your host colleagues presents two options: you can become better friends, or you start hating each other. I opted for the first option.
 Adapting to a new country is not easy, and by the time you start to understand the language and adapting to the food and language, its time to go back.

A lot can be done during the secondments. One should make the most out of this experience as such good collaboration opportunities are an amazing chance to develop professionally nevertheless, enjoying yourself with new people in a new country is also part of the good work.