As in many other fields, in research international experience is becoming increasingly important. Not only is it is required by many funding agencies, but now universities and companies expect it from potential hires. Why? In my opinion, it is evident that we need to work together to solve big problems. This is true here in Finland where we must work together, and it is true that the entire global scientific community needs to pull together to achieve common goals. We need to think bigger, to find the best players in the game worldwide, and to work with them. This kind of networking builds our knowledge and opens up our minds to think more broadly, to think differently, to create innovations.
FinnCERES is a wonderful platform for networking and contacts. The flagship brings together local players in Finland and expands worldwide, for example, by hiring researchers from abroad and by supporting young Finnish researchers to go abroad. And what better way to get networking and contacts abroad than research exchange?? Do a postdoc abroad, take that expat from the company! Personally, I think traveling, immersing oneself in a new culture, getting to know new people and new ways of working also expands you as a person. Too often, research exchange is seen as a burden, but it should be seen as an opportunity that has the potential to change lives for the better, to turn a new page in one’s career.
Some years back, I took my family overseas. It was a lot of work and many compromises were made, but we achieved so much. At the end of the day, we all remember the great things we got to see and do there. We made great friends personally and professionally. For me, that trip taught me something important about myself: that I can! I gained a lot of self-confidence from that experience, and I feel that the challenges life throws at me are smaller or at least easier to handle now. Very recently, I went to Japan for 2.5 months of research exchange. This trip was maybe more challenging that the big overseas move since I had to go alone. It took many arrangements to make sure people at home would cope with daily life, and it took a lot of personal efforts to leave my family for such a long time. Gladly the family was able to visit, and I was able to offer them something they may otherwise have not experienced: Japan. What is more important, I got to know some extremely great researchers, I have great results in my pocket, I have great ideas for future projects, and I got to learn a lot of new things. I feel that I developed as a person and as a professional. And yes, I will go back. There are so many experiments that I still want to do, and so many things I still want to experience.
So, go when you can! We should not fear the world, we should embrace it! It might have something more to give us than we ever thought!
Senior Scientist in Functional Cellulose at VTT