Horizons Through PhD Nomads’ Eyes

Ana Paulina López (ESR2)

To follow a PhD means to follow a path that generally takes several years. For some persons, it may take three years, and for others, five. In either case, you usually reside where the host University or company lies, and you may explore new horizons when doing a secondment. Students who live mostly in their home country have a different experience than those who relocate to study abroad. So how can it be living abroad for a long time?

The idea of visiting new places and getting to live in them is often exciting. It is said that the first months of living abroad include the “honeymoon” period when everything turns to be fascinating: new food, sightseeing, biota, architecture, traditions, persons, and so on. Your inner explorer and founder merge and let you live intensively. After some time, this sensation starts vanishing and normalizes once you are used to your new environment. This transition may be faster or slower, depending on one´s adaptability and personality. Still, until then, it represents a period of constant growth and change. Emigrating can speed up acquiring independence and open our minds to perspectives that we never thought of before. All the process clears your thoughts, and you get to know yourself a bit more: you can confirm or define the type of lifestyle that you prefer; learn if you like to accumulate things or to live lighter, or even clarify if you would like to settle or become a modern nomad.

Besides the overall enriching experience, there could be an “other side of the coin” when you live a long time away from home. A degree of melancholy often arises for all the persons you were used to meet and all the things or activities you had in your home country. Despite videocalls and chats facilitating communication and virtual hugs, this is not equivalent to sharing space and time with people you are bound to. In addition, a difference in times zones complicates the flow of communication too. Nevertheless, the impact of this experience will vary depending on how attached and satisfied a person was in the home country before moving abroad. With all these nuances, the identity of one person can diffuse and starts to be re-shaped.

Many of the ESR had the experience of living abroad before becoming part of the team of Nowelties. Thus, the life experience of living abroad has been present for longer than the PhD. I am sure that each of us is getting impregnated with many valuable experiences from the cities that became our homes. It is mostly inevitable that a part of us stays behind when it arrives the moment to leave our cities to start a secondment. As it is said, we could develop a feeling of not being “neither from here nor there” but rather from nowhere or a little bit from everywhere. I am glad to feel identified and belong in a community of PhD nomads.

If you are curious to live for an extended period in another country, go for it. It helps learn as much from every obstacle and embrace a mixed identity development even when it may get complicated. Whenever you have the chance, take the time to visit your home country, encounter your roots and beloved ones, this may bring comfort and the impulse to keep going!