One of my favourite aspects of being a scientist is the ability to work with people from a wide variety of cultures. When I first got the opportunity to live abroad to immerse myself fully in a different culture in Germany during my PhD, this really expanded my horizons. That is why I was really excited to become a Global MSCA Fellow – it provides the opportunity to make two international moves, first outside Europe and then back to a second postdoctoral position within Europe.
For my outgoing phase, I moved to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, USA. Its fair to say that one month before accepting the position, I could not pinpoint Utah on a map! Indeed, many people asked me why I was moving to this part of the US (apart from the existence of Mormons, no one really knows much about this part of America, and everyone normally seems to move to either the East Coast or California). The major driver for me moving here was the quality of the science I could conduct to follow my career path. However, Utah is also an incredibly beautiful place to live. Whilst here, I have learnt skiing in the Winter within world-class resorts half an hour from my home, and in the Summer, you can hike in the mountains or drive a few hours South into the desert to visit Utah’s five National Parks. I’ve also had some time to explore further afield, increasing the number of States I’ve visited from three to twelve.
There are a few major lifestyle choices I had to get used to. Firstly, you really need a car in this part of the USA, everything from coffee shops to banks is designed for you to drive to. Secondly, be prepared to be given every choice possible to adapt your food at a restaurant – you could probably order a steak without the steak if you wanted! And finally, yes, the healthcare system here is rather strange to a European!
With all that said, the best part of living internationally for me remains the people. It can be hard at times to be so far from the place you call home, and your friends and family. But chemistry is such a welcoming community, and wherever you move you can be guaranteed to make new friends and colleagues for life. With international travel changing completely in the time of COVID-19, I’ve had to delay my next international move to ICIQ for my return MSCA leg. However, when it happens, I’m looking forward to the chance to work with a whole new set of incredibly talented and friendly colleagues once again.