Scotland. The land of fog, rain, single malt Whisky,… and Edinburgh University.

Our PhD programme offers the unique opportunity to do part of the degree at a University somewhere abroad. So here I find myself, after working for half a year at the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh and try to figure out: what was the most important outcome? What will I take home? What was expected from me? I guess my supervisor, my University, the Austrian Science Fund (FWF — our funding agency ), and I all have different opinions on that…

Here are the 4 most obvious outcomes I could come up with. But which one is the most important? I’ve no idea.

  • The obvious thing: Profit from other peoples expertise. I take what I’ve learned so far about atmospheric blocking (I will write about that in a later post) and combine it with Prof. Hegerls (she was supervising me in Edinburgh) experience on extreme events. What comes out will hopefully be a paper on European warm and cold spells during blocking situations. Straightforwad and objectively measurable.
  • The indirect effect: New office. At the desks beside me 3 postdocs from the US, England, and Australia. There are more people in the neighbouring offices, a fellow PhD student from Germany… In short: network. Probably the most important thing in science.
  • On a personal side: Well, I found out that I would not be able to live in a country where winter means 5 hours of sunlight a day (not even talking about the constant fog and wind). I mean the FWF, my university, and even my supervisor will probably not care that much but for me personally it was a great experience. I learned a lot also outside university, made new friends, climbed Munros (Scottish “mountains”) and castles, explored Edinburgh… It’s hard to see a direct benefit in terms of my research but who knows?
  • A new perspective: Working with new people, in a different setting, in another country lets me see my own country, my institute, my research group, my PhD programme in a new light. Things are better, things are worse, things are different. I definitely came back more aware of certain things and with new ideas from this research stay.

What does the reader think which is –or should be– the most important outcome of a stay abroad?

Are you…

…working for the FWF and think it’s actually good  that I wasn’t just living in my office?
…my supervisor and think that the paper should have been finished like five months ago?
…a fellow PhD student and think it’s most important that I bring back some new perspectives so that you also gain something from from the fact that I enjoyed myself in Scotland?
…thinking that I forgot the most important thing?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. And while you think about it enjoy some off-topic pictures from beautiful Scotland (careful: they are not representative but have a strong fair-weather bias).

Some Scottish sheep.
Cliffs near St. Abbs east of Edinburgh.
Loch Ness.
Ben Cruachan hidden by fog.
View form the top of Ben Cruachan.
Lochcraig Head.
Sunset near Loch Skeen.

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All pictures are by Lukas Brunner and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.