01 April 2015

Reflection on a year

A year in Wales. It's a good excuse to ponder what that year has brought me. Mostly good stuff! This country has been good to me.

Let's start with how I got here in the first place: the job. It's a great job! There's a bit much of it, but that's always the case with science. But for the first time I have a heavy teaching load, and I love it. It's great to get to learn so much yourself, and to get the opportunity to try to let your enthusiasm rub off on the students. I really like it. I hope I can keep doing this!

The science is spiffing too; I had spent my entire previous postdoc life slightly lost doing research that was more environmental or biological than palaeoclimatological, and had been in strange departments like geography and environmental science. Now I'm in Ocean Science and I feel at home again! The project is very interesting too, and I have a lot of freedom and responsibility.

Do I need to say something about the underground fun there is to be had here? I know I rant about it a lot here already, but let me say a few words anyway. It's great here! When I started going underground in the southwest the trips soon started to repeat themselves. And we often had newbies, and we had our share of not-so-fit people, so there weren't THAT many challenging trips.

Then came Yorkshire. The mines turned to caves; mainly just one, which was one giant digging project. A completely different ball game! Because it was a dig, new bits kept coming up. And it was rather trying; filthier, colder, more uncomfortable than ever before. And sometimes there was a sporting trip. And these made me step up my game! No wheezing pensioners here; pretty much only thirtysomething athletic types. With upper body strength to burn. And no fear (except for false floors).

Here in Wales I've found the sweet spot; mines and a nice level of technical and physical challenge. There is so much to explore here; you never have to just wander around in some level mine you've been a thousand times before, just because you can't think of anything better. We always have projects! Explore things, try out new things, dig out things, maintain things. And the group is spiffing! Not all athletes, but it won't stop us from doing challenging things.

And further? The landscape here is stunningly beautiful. And thanks to my long distance runs I am increasingly appreciating the more obscure corners of Snowdonia. And that does matter. Looking at the mountains really makes me happy!

Any drawbacks? Well, I have not managed to build myself a social life as vibrant as in York. Not even close. That is the only thing I struggle with a bit. And I know that's up to me to change; it's not something this region imposes onto me. I might manage to sort that out. Watch this space!

And then of course there's the language. When I started learning Norwegian, which was the first language I tried to learn in adulthood, I loved it. I loved it a lot more than I'd ever loved languages in school. In spite of my enthusiasm for Latin! And it got me a proper taste for language learning. So upon moving to Wales I knew what to do. Dysgu Cymraeg! And as stated before; it's quite a different cup of tea. But where would one be without challenges.

Going to Norway was the biggest step, of course; from my home country to something completely different. I learned so much! Another language, driving, skiing, climbing, sea kayakking... and sorting myself out. Moving to Britain honed my finding-a-place-in-society skills. And here in Wales I'm finding my teaching confidence. And cruise planning! Going to sea is one thing; deciding what happens there is quite another. (Although I must say we only provide targets; the Chief Scientist makes the final decisions. Which might be entirely different!) From junior scientist to person with big responsibilities! Believe me, that makes a difference.

So altogether I'm very happy here. And all that is not so good I can improve on! The landscape might not be as spectacular as in Norway, but having a satisfying job easily makes up for that. I am looking forward to the rest of my time here. But I have noticed it's already getting short. The curse and the blessing of a postdoc: always short contracts, never certainty, but the chance to end up in amazing places...

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