A quite pleasant experience in Gothenburg as a visiting PhD student

Where should I start? —— I’ve been thinking about this question for several days but still have no good answer. OK! (give up thinking…) Let’s start in an old way.

I’m a visiting PhD student from China. I came to Gothenburg primarily because my research interests are well-matched with those of Anne’s group. Initially, my interest was sparked by Anne’s paper on plant functional traits published in Nature, which was how I got to know Anne and her group. I still remember the first time I met with Anne on Zoom. It was an accident actually. I wanted to test whether the Zoom link that I got from Anne worked (I’m not familiar with Zoom at that time), so I clicked that link. Apparently, I didn’t realize what was going to happen after that, then I saw Anne! My mind was like “OMG! Why is it successfully connected now? I haven’t prepared anything”. The next second when my mind went blank, Anne said hi to me with a smile and explained that she was in another meeting. That was the first time we met. What a surprise! I never thought we would meet in that way. It was also this meeting that made me feel that Anne is a very friendly person. I’m really lucky to have this opportunity to join EDGE lab.

Thanks to my super ability to sleep as soon as I get in the car or on the plane, I didn’t even experience jet lag after I arrived here. To be honest, my first impression of Gothenburg is not very good, mainly because of the weather. It is really changeable and unpredictable, raining now and sunny in the next moment — typical Gothenburg weather in winter (terrible! But I do like the snow here). However, the city itself is beautiful and has a welcoming atmosphere. People here are really friendly and always willing to help, which made my stay here enjoyable. They’ll even take you where you want to go when you ask for directions, instead of just telling you “Go straight, turn left, and turn right”. So never believe those who say Nordics are cold. If you still think so, then have a fika with them!

Now spring — the best season in Gothenburg which is in contrast with winter— is coming. All flowers are blooming and everyone is enjoying the beautiful and lovely weather outside. Exploring the city and its surroundings makes me better understand the local culture, food, and traditions.

Being a visiting student here comes with opportunities as well as challenges. Gothenburg University is a very international university, which allows me to have the opportunity to work with and learn from many experts in my field. Benefitting from the close collaboration between our group and other domestic and international labs, I could join many cool and interesting lectures and meetings shortly after I arrived here. I got to know more about pollinators, browning and greening, and many arctic things. The opportunities to encounter diverse perspectives made me see the different insights and get familiar with the new academic environment quickly. I also gave my first oral presentation at an international conference here. That was a challenge for me, but the suggestions and positive feedback from my colleagues encouraged me and gave me confidence. And everyone told me I did a great job after my presentation, which made me really happy.

I was giving a presentation at the 2023 Swedish Oikos conference. Photo by Maria Pavolotskaia

At the same time, adapting to a new culture, language, work environment, and of course, the darkness in winter can be daunting. Before I came here, the only thing I worried about is the language. And indeed, I can’t understand what people are talking about sometimes and don’t know the topic they mentioned. But it gets better as time goes on. And all my group members are always considerate, they would talk about the topic that I’m familiar with. The support and guidance provided by my super nice supervisor and colleagues have been invaluable. Anne really helped me a lot and provided all information and answers that I need in my life and study. I’m really grateful for her. Karin organized a walking club so that we could have a chance to get enough sunlight on weekdays. Julia and Wilhelm could always give useful tips and answers for daily life and research…(I can list a thousand things my group members have done for me). I have to mention that everyone in our group is super nice, Anne, Karin, Julia, Wilhelm, Kata, Geerte, Maria, Malin, Mikael, Ellinor…all of them. I really like them and enjoy working with them. Field season is coming. I’m really looking forward to working with them in Latnja!

If I am given a second chance to choose which lab I want to join as a visiting PhD student, I would still choose our super cool EDGE lab without hesitation, and stay here for a longer time with these lovely people!

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