Exactly one year ago I was leaving my own country, my family, my friends and the life I used to have to start a completely new adventure, to start a new chapter of my life. I have always wanted to do a PhD and applying for a position as an ESR in the BioImplant ITN seemed the natural continuation of my studies. Indeed, I would have the possibility to live in two different countries, to learn a new language and to improve my English, to work both in an academic field and in a company and finally to carry on a study for which I hopefully already had the basis thanks to my Master´s thesis.
I was telling myself: “What more could you ask for?”
Well, if all the aforementioned things seem on paper the description of the perfect PhD, as we would say in Italian, “tra il dire e il fare c´è di mezzo il mare” that translates as “there is a huge difference between saying and doing something”. This is precisely what I found out in the exact moment I landed in Germany and in the exact moment I started working at my Institute. I suddenly realised that learning a new language is not straightforward, I experienced the frustration of not understanding what people were saying and the feeling of not being able to learn my job. Sometimes I thought that the day when I could finally understand would have never come. Also, the continuous travelling is not as pleasant as people may think, or at least, not so easy. Indeed, as soon as you are able to build your own routine and you think you have found your own equilibrium, you have to move, leaving everything behind, to start all over again in another place. Another cold shower was people asking “What is YOUR plan?” “What do YOU want to do in your project” “What do YOU want to achieve in three years from now?”. All these questions made me abruptly understand that from that day on I was THE responsible person. From that day I was not a student anymore but the one that had to make her own decisions. I experienced it all of a sudden and I felt completely overwhelmed. I was figuring a huge mountain in front of me, to be climbed completely unprepared and without having had any previous training.
One year later, comparing myself now with how I was back then, I can firmly say that I am lucky to be in this project and grateful for all the possibilities that are offered. I finally understood the real meaning of the word “training” in the acronym ITN, that cannot be reduced to the sole “learning the topic of my PhD”. Indeed, what people can gain from the whole experience is, in my opinion, much broader. In this year, also thanks to the people I met, I learned that every challenge, every success and every failure are all little bricks, or little steps if we want to keep the climbing metaphor, that will lead slowly and steady to conquer the peak. I learnt how to be independent, how to, I like to say, “be a sponge”, always taking advantage of any possibility to learn, such as a new machine, a new software, a new procedure and much more. I learnt that people are always available to help, if you are brave enough to ask. Well, I think that the secret is indeed this: be brave. Brave enough to face every day with a positive mood, even if things sometimes do not go as expected. If something goes wrong today, for sure it will go well tomorrow.
After one year I can for sure say that I am looking forward to facing the next two years in front of me. I am craving to know which challenges await me and to see how it will be in a new country (in the next few months I’ll move to Ireland). I am climbing day by day my own mountain becoming more and more trained with the passing time. I am looking forward to arriving at the top and enjoy the view with the consciousness to have done it with my own strength. Well, of course never forget to enjoy the way up.