NOMADIC SCIENTISTS: What do you mean by home?

Something all of us the ESRs have in common, mainly because it was a requirement to take part in this network, is that we all left our home countries to start a new and rather long 3-year period abroad, either in a similar or completely different country. That is indeed a challenge we must take, especially at the beginning, and that sometimes it can even go unnoticed. We as humans need this feeling of home; a safe place where to find comfort and feel that we belong.

We are part of a generation of researchers forced to become nomads. Competitiveness keeps rising and we can’t miss any opportunity to become first in line. “Want to build up a strong career? Work on cutting-edge research? You must go out. Move. Don’t dare to accommodate yourself more than a few years in the same place or you’ll be automatically kicked out of the game. Unless you are just about to get a professor position. That’s the only reason to stay.”

There’s no doubt that moving around different places provides a lot of benefits, that is why it results so valuable and it is highly appreciated in our CV. It not only adds up but shapes us. It stimulates our minds. Most of us would actually do it anyway, even if the situation wouldn’t force us to.

The other side of the coin is that, after all these transfers, many years outside our hometown, staying in different places, it is very likely to lose track of what is actually home. Is it the one left behind, where we grew up and used to once call home, still feeling like it? Or time changed things, especially within ourselves, and now it does not feel like it anymore? But wait, is home actually a place or a feeling? Can we feel at home in more than one place, or even in none? This gets complicated.

Let’s say that home is an interesting concept that keeps constantly evolving, at a high rate we might not even notice, especially while we keep wandering around the world. Home can be everything, from just one thing to a mix; it can be a place, a person, a hobby, an odor or a simple action such as staying in on a rainy day… Let’s say that home can be whatever that feels just right. A breath of fresh air. It is of course something personal; it depends on what is inside each of us.

This being said, it should not be confusing nor stressing not to relate to a clear and sustained place when thinking about home, as it’s just a natural consequence of the times we’re doomed to live. Some effort and maybe introspection might help us in finding home virtually everywhere.

Cinnamon explosion in my office table following a Danish tradition for those who turn 25 y.o. and are still unmarried (shame on you!) during my secondment. Thanks guys. After several days smelling like cinnamon, it somehow started to feel like home.

I can’t actually skip mentioning the trending but old Danish term “hygge” (just so you know, you’re most likely pronouncing it wrong if you have no clue about Danish), which pretty much relates to this “feeling of home”; basically trying to build up elements in your daily life that provide you with this well-being, a state of safety and comfort, a sigh of relief.

This post was written by PhD student Lorena Baranda from Francesco Ricci lab at Tor Vergata during her scientific secondment to Aarhus, Denmark.

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