When an intensive experience, like a secondment, is over, it is time to make a balance and draw some conclusions.
As planned by my MSCA-ITN NanoCarb project, I left my comfort-zone at VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research) in Belgium, to spend 2 months at the University of Warwick (UK) for my first secondment. It came with mixed feelings: I was excited and delighted for this unique opportunity but at the same time nervous. I had to face several challenges like going in a place where I have never been before, preparing mindset to achieve my goals.
I started my PhD project only 3 months before the secondment and I struggled to prepare everything in a few days for my work and my personal life. While planning my experiments abroad, I realised the great opportunity that this experience could have been for my PhD project development. Panagiotis Georgiou, my NanoCarb colleague who works in Warwick, shared his chemical experience with me and helped me settle down in the Gibson group laboratories. I have learned how to synthesize polymers in the Chemistry Department of Warwick University thanks to the supervision of Prof. Matthew I. Gibson.
The summer period brought different positive aspects that I consider precious. The ducks accompanied me every time I returned to the room (as form of Nature welcome to a new place) and the quiet of a semi-empty campus and laboratories helped me in my thought-stream about studies and experiments.
Furthermore, United Kingdom is full of culture, traditions and different accents. You might experience a bit of a culture shock: it is not easy to adapt and integrate into daily life. I took some time to acclimate by visiting new cities and drinking English tea at 5 p.m. in fancy tea-stores.
In conclusion, this secondment has certainly provided me with a wealth of professional and cultural opportunities. Without even realizing, I developed a clear idea of my career path and how to follow it successfully. Similar experiences open up new horizons of your mind to think and to work differently with an alternative perspective.