The decision to go to another country to work in science is based on funding, the job and all the future opportunities that will be open if everything goes well. But the hardest part is that, most of the time, you have to leave everything behind, including family and friends. So, today I would like to discuss this empty feeling that sometimes we try to fill by working more. This is dedicated to those who decided to go to another country by themselves, as it’s both a great and lonely journey.
Well, probably everybody put the pros and cons in a balance before getting on a plane and moving around the world. Most young scientists are very excited to work in the US because there is funding available, and it is a country well recognized by future postdocs. The feeling of having a new environment in a new lab is really good. Everything is a challenge, everything is different–your colleagues, the city and the language (most of the time).
After time passes, it can get harder or easier. I think it depends on each person and on how things are going back home. Most postdocs go back home once a year while others go less frequently. It depends on the PI, vacation time allowed, and the money that you need to spend. There is a catch here. Some PIs are well-known for choosing foreign workers because they don’t have family to distract them and, consequently, they will be in the lab instead of being at home feeling alone. Actually, this is a true fact on both sides. You will feel better in the lab with the new people that you know than at home, but you should always try to get some time off to know the city, and to have some fun.
I admire some people that are well decided and know exactly what they want, and where they want it. But at least for me, it is always difficult to say ”Well, I will stay here forever” or “I will go home tomorrow.” If you can get family, friends and job in the same country, then you are a lucky! Most people will decide for a good job, and that’s usually far from where you came from. That’s why you had to leave your own country in the first place.
The worst thing for me is that when you get in some place and you say you are a postdoc and came from another country, everybody always asks if you are going home or staying here. Actually, I don’t think we can decide on that. We can decide to try to stay or to try to find a job in our home country, but sometimes you fight for different opportunities and accept the one that worked out.
As time goes by, you will find new friends, learn a lot about other cultures (if you are an open-minded person), be really good in a new language, and most importantly your skills will develop. Then, actually, it will be harder to get a job in your home country because you are too expensive.
But you challenged yourself to get in this point. You have entered this journey, which sometimes feels endless, and you feel good about your work even when you are exhausted. You can see that you are contributing to science with little steps, and you should feel great about that. It doesn’t matter where your career path will end up, if are going to stay in academia, proceed to industry, or dedicate yourself to a teaching job. Without this journey you wouldn’t be able to choose, and you definitely wouldn’t be a more complex professional. I won’t lie, it hurts a lot sometimes to be far from the beloved ones, but if you really love what you do, it is worth it.