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Finding a New Normal: A PhD Student in a Covid Crisis: Clara Hynes (ESR 2)

It is just over six weeks since Northern Ireland began implementing lockdown measures in an effort to minimise the spread of Covid-19. Late to the party compared to the rest of Europe, it felt like we had a lot more time to prepare for what was coming, and yet finding a routine at home took much longer than I expected.

The way we live our lives changed dramatically in the space of a weekend. It was a bit surreal to think that only a few short days previously, we were still planning the trip to Madrid for training with the whole BioImplant consortium. The Madrid trip, like everything else, moved to the virtual world, and marked the first milestone in my new life in lockdown.

Abandoning the Plan, and Setting New Goals

In the first two weeks, everything felt a little disorganised and crazy. In the lead up to the lockdown and closure of the Universities in the UK, I felt like I was emailing my supervisors with a revised project plan on a daily basis. I knew on some level; I was never going to act on any of my plans, but it felt more productive than reading every news article about the rising Covid-19 numbers.

I made every effort to be proactive in the transition to at home working. There were weekly supervisory meetings, and the small group of Queen’s based ESRs, who were now spread across four different countries, arranged virtual coffee breaks to keep in touch. As a group we managed to keep in contact, and keep a level-head, but that was about the extent of it.

In reality, the first weeks were spent feeling around in the dark, repeating the same conversations over and over, reading the latest news updates, and staring blankly at the computer screen trying to come up with a plan for when this was all over, while ignoring the fact that we really didn’t know how or when this would end.
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Turning culture shock into a positive experience as a non-EU BioImplant ESR: Syed Wahaaj Ali Rizvi (ESR 11)

Moving from familiar to an unfamiliar environment, leaving one’s own country; family and friends, is not the easy decision but curiosity to learn, bright future, a better quality of life, and desire to explore the world supersedes those fears. After moving to a new culture, in the beginning, we feel anxiety, low moods, isolation due to differences in values, climate, food, languages etc. but positive-minded individuals end up learning new and worthy life experiences. I think most of the Non-EU ESRs particularly from the east, are exposed to this phenomenon of culture shock. I would not delve much into what culture shock is because already myriad literature exists about it. Instead I would like to share my few (by the way there are more) experiences about what I found distinctive, avant-garde and unforgettable in IMDEA materials and Spain. I belong to the south Asian country, Pakistan and spent my last two years in an East Asian country, South Korea. Joining IMDEA materials as BioImplant ITN Ph.D. fellow has been a unique experience and since IMDEA is in Spain. . . I was also exposed to a new culture as well.
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Becoming a BioImplant ESR: Let the adventure begin: Martina Bernini (ESR 7)

Among the biggest events I went through last year, there was the beginning of my job as a BioImplant ESR at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG).

My journey to NUIG begun in January 2019, a few months before my Master graduation, when I applied to this position and went through the interview processes. A few weeks later, I was offered the role and in August I gathered up the courage and made the big leap of moving to Galway.

Moving to a new country has its own challenges, such as finding accommodation and making friends, however, I was fortunate to meet two other PhD students in the BioImplant project that started with me, who have been a reference point since the very first days.

Despite all the challenges, the warm welcome received from supervisors and colleagues set us up for a good start; and now that I have been working here for 6 months I can really state that what I love most about NUIG university is the international environment and the coexistence of ancient tradition with the need of innovation, as testified by the presence of the quadrangle building (below left), now used primarily for administrative purposes, and the Alice Perry Engineering Building (below right), where my office is placed.
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