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Going abroad with my family

PhD student Casper Thule, Department of Engineering, Aarhus University

My study abroad was at the University of York in England for a couple of months in the spring of 2017. We had planned that my wife, who was on maternity leave, and our new-born son should come and visit me for part of the stay. I arrived two weeks ahead of my family so that I could prepare and get on top of the practicalities before they arrived. This gave me the time to explore the local area e.g. how to get around, and where to shop for groceries and various baby stuff.

We stayed with a researcher, Frank, whom I had met briefly at a conference in November the year before. Only having spent very little time with Frank before going to stay with him was definitely something I thought about before going, as it is important to have some sort of mutual understanding when bringing your whole family. However, he was very friendly and we spent time together in our spare time as well. Living with Frank was also a positive experience from a practical point of view, since his home contained all the essentials for everyday life. We found that finding accommodation with a fully equipped kitchen at a fair price can be a challenging task, so we were lucky that this was not relevant for us.

The research group I was joining was part of an EU project that I worked on as well, so I had met a few of them beforehand. My main contact, Simon, also had a wife and young child, and they invited both my family and I for lunch several times. Furthermore, my wife and son also joined Simon’s wife and child for some baby activities in the local church.

Due to the length of the stay, it was fine for my family to plan on a day-to-day basis, but if the stay had been longer, activities and more contact with the local community during working hours would have been advisable.

On a personal level, it was interesting to stay in a new place with my family, as it required more than if I had just gone by myself. My wife agrees that it was a fun experience, which we share as a family, and she was very happy that they came to visit me. I am still in contact with Simon and Frank, and Simon has visited my home in Denmark as well. My professional network has also expanded, as I now know several researchers in a domain that I find very interesting – an opportunity that I would not have come across if I had not stayed abroad during my PhD studies.

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