If you count the kilometers by car from my parent’s house to where I am sitting right now, Google Maps says that there are only 1492, but it represents much more.
Back in April, and in the middle of a totally unexpected pandemic, I was turning 26 in the strangest circumstances I could ever imagine. I was in complete lockdown in Zaragoza, the inner city of Spain where I come from, making a birthday cake for my mother, who was turning 60 at the same time (and same strange circumstances for sure). Later that day, I had an interview for a PhD position in KIT which started with three important researchers in the field wishing “Happy Birthday” to me. That was the first signal.
One week later, the opportunity was there: I was invited to join their team and, for instance, to be part of PersonalizeAF Project and this “whole-package experience” that doing the PhD abroad meant. Of course, until the 1st of October there was going to be a very long way of paperwork, burocracies and packing a life in bags. But everything would be worth it.
I flight from a completely empty Barcelona airport (I hadn’t seen anything with less “life signs” like that before!) on 14th September. After a stressful travel with 3 big suitcases and a random COVID-test in the Frankfurt Airport, I arrived at the main train station of Karlsruhe and Patricia was there to help me! During the rest of September, we started to meet the rest of the colleagues and, with Cristian, the third member of this “(E)Spanish(E)Speakers” family in Karlsruhe, we started discovering the city in COVID-19 times.
Then, 1st of October arrived and I started working. The first month has been full of paperwork, administration stuff and starting meetings, but I have started knowing a little bit more about my project and I almost have a catheter designed in Gmesh to play with it.
Finally, we had our “Kick-off meeting”. It has been super nice to match names with faces and to listen to the presentations to know more about all the projects. People seem super friendly and smart and I cannot wait to meet all of them in person, especially the rest of ESRs since we have been spending some (online) time together and it has been a lot of fun. Now we are in the second out of three weeks of Summer School in Data Mining and Statistics “in a 2020 way”, so basically instead of being in Valencia and enjoying the weather, the food, the sangria and so on between the courses, we are in Microsoft Teams 10 hours and in lockdown the rest of the time. It is being really interesting so far, but I guess that everybody would rather be in Valencia and meet in person, for sure. Hopefully, secondments will start in less than a year and we will start collaborating and meeting in person as we really would like to 🙂
This week I completed my first month of work and I already feel Karlsruhe as my home and the KIT people as my friends. I am learning how to “leben auf Deutsch” and my mind is a complete mess mixing the three languages I use in my daily life, but I guess it will improve with time and practicing. Also, I have started reading a lot about impedance mapping and electrophysiology lab, so I expect to start studying catheter artifacts and contribute to AF improvement soon!
I am looking forward to keeping you aware of my progress during this PhD adventure in the incoming months!
See you! Bis bald! Hasta pronto!
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