Monday, 22 August 2016

03 - The main challenges vs the greatest benefits of being a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network Early Stage Researcher (ITN ESR)

(I guess I've just earned the award for the longest blog-post title ever)
In this post I want to share my personal experiences and views. And at first I have to tell that my case is a little bit special, because I came to France without speaking French and because I'm based at a small company in an office with only about 12 people (moreover who are all French).  

So let's see first the challenges you may face as ITN ESR in my opinion : 

1. You start a new life from zero. Which sounds actually pretty nice and impressive, however it definitely has its 'dark side'. I mean that you move to a place where you don't know anyone or anything. So you don't know how public transport works, and you are definitely surprised when bus schedule is changing on 22nd August (why is that day so special??) or when both the bus and train companies go on strike simultaneously and you have to call a colleague to pick you up (Merci!) to be able to get to the office. You are not aware of the prices, you get lost on the streets (because you refuse to use googlemaps in order to prove that yes, you can do it), you have to learn how to deal with declaring your taxes, with your health insurance and you may even have to realize that finding a zebra crossing doesn't exactly mean that you can pass the road fast and safely (unless you are very very fast :) ). 

2. There are a lot of things it's just hard to decide about when thinking in a 3-year time. Do I need a furnished or unfurnished flat? Is it better to rent a flat close to my office or close to the city center ? What is worth to buy and what is not? If I buy something will I be able to sell when I leave? Or can I take it with me? Do I need a car? Do I need a bicycle? After all am I thinking really just in 3-year time or do I want to stay even after finishing my PhD??

3. It may be sometimes difficult to maintain the contact with a supervisor who is physically far. And it can also be challenging to keep updated and to please two (or more) supervisors simultaneously.  

+1. It's obvious, but your beloved ones are far (unless you are lucky enough to be joined by some of them)...

But now let's see the bright side of being an ITN ESR: 

1. You are part of a big 'team' that involves 10-15 fellows like you and several professors and industrial people. You have the opportunity to meet great and interesting people from the project itself, form your office and from the conferences and trainings you attend. And meeting new people is always great! Especially when they come from different cultures,  working in different fields or simply having different way of thinking. Only a few conversations with these people can really open up your mind that sometimes tends to close when lacking these experiences. 
2. You have several opportunities to discover new places. First of all you can discover the country and region of your new home. And there are always new places around to discover (a city, a mountain, a lake or in the 'worst' case a place where you can find good beer :)). Second of all you travel. You travel for conferences, for consultations, for trainings. OK, these travels aren't exactly like holidays and sometimes they can be pretty tiring but still you travel, so you learn, you experience and explore :)

3. You get feedback on your work regularly not only from your supervisors but also from the other professors of the programme and from the ESR fellows.

+1. You really face challenges in every aspect of life, which means that there is always a new problem and you always need to find a new solution! Regarding your research, the office life,  your private life (in which distance definitely isn't helpful), feeling alone, traveling, administrative issues etc etc. You just learn how to exist outside of your comfort zone and this is something that can surely help you a lot in the future. 

Long title – long post... Je suis désolée!

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