I was contemplating whether I should write the 2-year reflection post first or the Toronto vacation post, and decided to go with the former. There was so much circling in my mind as I was preparing to write this, all these mixed thoughts and feelings flying in from every direction. Yet…it’s harder and taking longer to write than I had expected. How do you organize two years worth of experience into one post?
Two years of being away from any family. Two years of wanderlust. Two years of getting lost over and over again and waking up in epiphanies in the midst of my academic journey that’s supposedly going to lead me somewhere. Two years of calling a land once foreign to me, “home”.
Well, let’s take a look at some quick figures.
Total number of months since starting PhD (as of end of September, 2012): 24
Number of months in Bordeaux: 11.5 (48%)
Number of months in Louvain-la-Neuve: 10 (42%)
Number of months in Canada: 2 (8%)
Number of months in China: 0.5 (2%)
At two years, I am more than halfway through with this PhD program, which was the reason why I stepped onto European soil in the first place. France and Belgium – I’ve grown to love both of my host countries day by day. Doing science in such exotic lands has never even crossed my mind say, five years ago. Of course, this European adventure brought me so much more than just academic advancement. After all, what would I have gained if I stayed only in Bordeaux and Louvain-la-Neuve – odd combination, now that I think about it – without expanding my reach beyond the horizon of possibilities?
School and work
Being in a co-tutelle, I am involved in a collaboration between two labs in two cities, meaning I hop between the labs fairly often. In terms of time spent, the Bordeaux-LLN ratio is much closer to 50-50 than originally planned, which surprises me even today. At the beginning, I was anticipating something like spending 80% of my time in Bordeaux and 20% in Louvain-la-Neuve, but in reality, I’ve spent almost an equal amount of time so far in my labs in both cities. People ask me if I ever get tired of switching cities every few months, running around, packing and unpacking and repacking over and over again. To be quite honest, yes, I get tired, but strangely, I enjoy this mobility, even if it means having to look for housing in Louvain-la-Neuve in advance every single time (so far, 5 different places).
I’ve seen some of the best sunsets in Louvain-la-Neuve, one along Rue Charlemagne as I was walking home from work. Yes, even a little place like LLN has its charm.