New friends, new experiences

A multimedia story by: Joana Cidade, Marcelo de Lima Leal Ferreira, Breno F. de C. Dominguez Souza and Ana C. Wegelin

He is a citizen of the world. Marcelo Ferreira, 34, lived in Bonn, Germany, from 2010 to 2014, as a DAAD scholar for his PhD in Astrophysics. He learned not only from the university professors, but also from one of the most valuable experiences in his life.

What are some of your best memories from Germany?

Of course my PhD was great, and I am very happy with its success and the support I got from DAAD. But I also have many memories from outside science. I made a lot of new friends (from the institute, from joining the University football team, and some of them I first met by chance). The new friendships might be the greatest thing I gained in Germany. I also had the opportunity to host friends from Brazil, and the visits I got from many of them helped a lot during the PhD period. I also enjoyed some of the local traditions, like the Rhein in Flammen, the Christmas Market and the Maibaumn (I actually went with friends and properly fulfilled this tradition!). It was also interesting to experience a World Cup with supporters different than from my own country. And, of course, I had to try various kinds of Haribo!

  • Working close together in Leiden with new collaborators (and friends!). Although the three of them knew each other for some years, during Marcelo’s time in Leiden they had the chance to collaborate for the first time, and they are proudly submitting a paper for publication in the next couple of months

  • One of Marcelo’s favourite pictures of Leiden. The view of one of the many canals during the summer sunset brings a unique combination of colours over the city.

  • This was taken during Marcelo’s birthday celebration earlier this year (2016) with some of the new friends he made in Leiden. As it was in Germany, he will also carry the friendship of very special people from the Netherlands.

  • The day of Marcelo’s PhD defence in Bonn marks the end of a successful chapter of his life and the beginning of a new one. Two days after this picture he was already living in Leiden, and ready to start a job in a new University!

  • Maybe the most valuable thing Marcelo will carry from Germany: the good friendships that he established while he lived in Bonn. This picture was taken in the last birthday he spent in the city.

"Germany boosted his career"

After your DAAD fellowship finished, where did you go?

I defended my thesis in a November/2014, on a Friday. Then I directly moved to the Netherlands (to Leiden), during the weekend, and immediately started my new job on Monday. I joined the Leiden University as a research associate, and became a member of the Interstellar Medium research group.

What where the main challenges of starting again in another country right after leaving Germany? Didn’t you miss your home country?

It is never simple to start from the beginning in a difference place, where one does not know anyone yet. However, I was very happy to meet new people and making new friendships. I missed both Brazil and Germany, as I am sure I will miss the Netherlands once I move out. Each place is special in its own way, and each one gave me unique experiences.

Can you summarize some of your achievements in this new place?

I had a very nice experience in Leiden. In terms of research, I participated in multiple international collaborations. We published one paper, and we have three more papers to be submitted for publication in the next couple of months. I also presented some of the results we obtained in a conference in China, in October. Beyond that, I co-supervised the research project of five students and co-organized two international conferences; one of them in the United States and another one in Leiden. I was the main organizer of this last one, and I am proud that the meeting was a success, with lots of scientific discussion, which drove the community into new projects.

Video statements from team members

How did your experience in Germany help you in this new job?

I learned new techniques in Germany, as I also learned in the Netherlands. This endless growing curve of knowledge is always valuable. I also experienced working in a international team in Germany, which was also a very important experience. The skills I developed in Germany in order to approach the problems that needed to be solved also continues to be extremely important in my career.

What were the difficulties you faced in the new place?

Definitely the weather and the local food. Specially the lunch offered in the institute, which is something unique. Regarding the weather, I did not expect it to be very different from Bonn, but I was wrong. But the bright side of that is that each sunny day is celebrated as if it was the last.

For how long are you staying in your current job and where do you go next?

My current contract is about to finish, and I will leave the Netherlands in the end of the year. I am currently searching for new opportunities, but my next destination is still unknown. I consider myself as a citizen of the world, so I face this as the opportunity to turn a new location into a home country/home city. Although I do miss my previous home, and I would also be happy to live again in those places.

Postcard to Germany