Doing a PhD abroad - pros and cons
Atualizado: 14 de set. de 2021
Hey people! I hope you all are doing well. In this post, I'm gonna tell you about my experience in doing a PhD in the UK. Here I'll mention the pros and cons (in my opinion!). So let's start from the beginning... I'm a PhD student in Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, which is in the UK. I came to the UK because I felt I needed to improve my English skills; I never was really good with languages. English is essential if you wanna stay in an academic career because you will need to write, read, speak and listen to people in English. So, in my head, it would make sense to live in a place where everybody is speaking in English all the time; it would be helpful, so that's why I decided to apply for the UK. Also, I knew I would like to work with galaxy clusters, and there are fantastic groups about these monsters of the Universe here. I will list some pros:
You have the opportunity to meet a lot of new people and make connections, which is really good not only for the career but also for our personal lives.
Not only people, but you will also know many new places, and I know most of you like travelling.
You will have the opportunity to practice English and get help from natives.
If you have a great supervisor and are working with an area of science that you really enjoy, it will make your life much easier.
You can learn from different people. I know that this can sound irrelevant, but I noticed that when I listen to other people talking about the same topic, they focus on different points of view. For example, I completed two courses in the same subject in Rio during my undergrad and another one in my masters at São Paulo. The professors focused on different things, and I learned a lot from them; they were complementary. Now I'm learning from people here in Nottingham. This is a great advantage of knowing different universities and institutes.
Now let's talk about the bad things. Cons:
Homesick. This is definitely the *worst* part. I miss my family, my friends, my boyfriend, I miss Rio and São Paulo. I miss eating açai with my cousins. I miss a lot of stuff. It's not the first time I had had this feeling; when I moved to São Paulo to do my masters at USP, I had this feeling sometimes. Still, when you are in another country, it's another level, it's not the same of moving to a different state inside Brazil. We are talking about the ocean! This is the type of situation you only fully understand if you pass through it because it's tough to deal with it. I started to learn to live with this feeling. In particular, this has been quite strong during the pandemic because I can't go to Brazil to visit my family and friends. However, you will survive if you have friends that support you (which happily is my case).
PhD is hard, but it can be more complex if you have to communicate in another language. It's much harder for a non-native speaker to talk to others in English, and I think this is an issue. For example, most part of the time, I want to say something, but I feel I would express myself much better if I was more fluent in the language. However, this is something I'm working on, and hopefully, in a few years, it will be easier to deal with it.
Xenophobia: it exists, and it's real. If you are a woman, it comes together with sexism. If you are a Latin woman, some people will sexualize you for sure. This is not directly related to the PhD or the University in my case, but I suffered from this many times here in the last years. This affects our minds, and it's another external issue that we have to deal with in another country.
And you? What are your thoughts about doing a PhD abroad? If you have any pros and cons, comment here to help us construct this discussion together.