It is so crazy that the last time I was writing this blog it was so hot in the lab that we were barely surviving and now it got so cold all the sudden that we had to put on our winter coats and boots. Due to last weekend’s clock change it has become even more noticeable that the days are getting shorter and shorter. Sadly it is already dark outside when we are leaving the lab, but I guess on the other hand this time of year provides the perfect circumstances for young scientists, like ourselves to dive into our research and to put all our focus on our experiments.
After getting back from my (much needed) vacations, (I visited the marvelous island of Mallorca during my summer holidays and I am definitely planning on going back, because one week wasn’t enough to discover all the natural wonders of that place and I would like to visit the other Balearic islands as well if I have the chance) I was immediately presented with a few tasks. In September I went to the 11th Ibero-American Congress on Sensors and to the XXIII Transfrontier Meeting on Sensors and Biosensors here in Barcelona with two of my colleagues. They were two consecutive conferences on the topics of optical and electrochemical sensors. At the first congress the participants were mainly from Spain, Portugal and Latino America, and at the second one from France and Catalunya. So as you may have already guessed, the official language of the first conference was not only English but Spanish and Portuguese as well, which made it a bit more challenging for me, since quite a few presenters took advantage of this opportunity and presented their work in their mother tongue (luckily at least the ppts were in English). Besides attending the interesting lectures, I also had the chance to present my results from a previous project that I have been involved in, which was a really great opportunity for me to practice my presenting and communication skills. Unfortunately my presentation was at 17:30 in the afternoon, so I was basically nervous throughout the entire day, but luckily I was able to calm the nerves down after the first few slides and speak relatively loud (the microphone definitely helped though) and slow. One of the reasons that made me feel more confident during my presentation was, that I had to practice it before in front of my colleagues in a semi-formal environment. Their comments and questions have helped me a lot with my preparation for which I am very grateful to them. Regarding presentations, I even had to do a Literature seminar for my research group 2 weeks ago, where I had to present about an interesting article (I chose to present about this year’s Nobel Prize winners in Physiology or Medicine: https://www.nobelprize.org/uploads/2018/10/press-medicine2018.pdf). Even though we have a lot of group seminars and some of them tend to be a bit overwhelming, the literature ones are particularly beneficial in my opinion, because they enable us to hear about other relevant scientific findings that are not necessarily related with our own projects or research field but are indeed eye-opening.
Another significant part of my life since the end of September has been the Spanish course that we have started to attend with Raheel. I have to admit that even though I have already been here for one year and a half now, I still have not been able to fully integrate into the Spanish environment. I guess it is mainly due to the cultural differences (I began to realize that these matter more than I have anticipated at first) and of course the language barrier. Even though both my home country and Spain are a part of the EU, there are certain things that I don’t think I will ever be able to get used to (the volume of people’s voice, the distance that they keep from you when they are talking to you, their daily schedule and eating hours, etc…). Anyways, I have decided that the most important thing I can do for now is to improve my Spanish and hope that it will facilitate my integration. Unfortunately my Spanish classes are a bit late (from 7 until 9 pm), but I have to say that they have been really useful so far, and they have also brought back my love for learning languages.
Since the beginning of October we have been lucky enough to enjoy the company of Safiye in our lab for her two and a half month long secondment. It has been really nice having her here, I think we both enjoy having someone to talk to about the challenges we are facing in our scientific and personal lives.
Apart from the conferences, presentations, courses, experiments and the organization of my personal life (unfortunately I have to leave my apartment and move again, which is always a complicated process…) I have been making a few mini-trips inside Spain during the long weekends of the fall. Spain is a humongous country with incredible landscapes and cities that have mind-blowing historical monuments, museums, markets with the typical foods and drinks of the region, etc. I always like to discover new places and I finally had the chance to visit the capital, Madrid, which has a completely different vibe from Barcelona, but it made quite an impression on me. Everything there is quite monumental, and it also has the advantage, that compared to Barcelona you don’t feel suffocated by the overload of tourists. If any of you decides to go to Madrid I highly recommend to visit Toledo as well, which is a charming city nearby, it was also declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its extensive monumental and cultural heritage.
Right now I am in Sevilla, which is the capital city of Andaluzia (the South of Spain), about which I am going to talk to you more in my next blog. I hope all of you are enjoying this long weekend and that we will see each other soon!
Hasta la próxima,