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Going abroad as an international PhD student

PhD student Carmina Falcato Cabral, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University

Nowadays, mobility is one of the main drivers of work and network establishment for any scientist or future scientist. As a PhD student, I welcomed the opportunity to find, plan and finally go abroad and experience how different work, life and resources can be in another country, and I immersed myself in a completely different culture.

For my first stay abroad, I went to Portugal for about two months. Although Portugal is my home country, my visit provided me with the opportunity to experience work life in a laboratory there, which, because I moved to Denmark after my BSc, I had never tried before.

During my stay, I learned techniques and performed a new set of analyses that have proven to be a great asset for my project. I also had the opportunity to give talks about my project and meet people working inside and outside of my immediate research area, enabling me to extend my professional network.
Personally, it was quite interesting to compare how the work flowed in another institute, and how different ways of working can shape a workplace. I believe that this change of environment has really prepared me for any kind of situation that springs up in my project in the future. On the other hand, when I started planning my stay abroad, the logistics behind the whole “move” were quite disconcerting. What to do about rent? Am I getting funding for that? Can I sublet my apartment?

Planning and going can and should take some time, and the details have to be well defined before leaving. Clearly, the earlier you start planning before you actually go, the easier it is to take care of all the annoying details, such as finding out from your landlord whether anyone can take over your apartment. I was also abroad in Bulgaria during my MSc thesis, and have now repeated the process with a stay in Portugal. In the future, I am considering going abroad to Estonia to do some analyses that would greatly improve my PhD project.

I consider that the opportunity to experience work abroad and other cultures is an extremely positive point of the PhD programmes. These stays contribute immensely, not only for the PhD students’ current research endeavour, but also towards cementing a footing in dealing with the different and intricate challenges of future research life.

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