The most important lesson I learnt from my postdoc career up until now is that there is no best lab nor best mentor…
No matter how long you have stayed in your hometown or somewhere else in the world, I believe that every scientific journey is worth sharing, so feel free to spread your own unique experiences with me and others! Here, I would like to share my experience of studying abroad, which meant leaving my home country Vietnam and travel to the United Kingdom. I will divide my experience into three key themes including: (1) Studying-doing research; (2) Working-volunteering, and (3) Traveling-joining extra activities.
1. Studying – Doing research
I recognised my willingness for doing higher education quite late, so first I needed to spend a certain time to investigate and update different educational systems in the foreign countries before deciding to choose the MSc in Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
After discussing with the administration and finance staff from the UK University, I found that I was qualified for the “Faculty of Science Elite Scholarship Program”, which was granted for those who had good undergraduate results and English language ability. I then invested my time and effort to prepare the application for this potential funding with the support from my staff from the host University.
I found the University quite true as “The Place of Useful Learning” where I had opportunities to get access to the comprehensive lectures, tutorials, and laboratories in the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS) and Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation (CMAC). I could recommend several helpful training or workshops such as “Risk Management”, “Mental Health-Stress Awareness”, or “safeTALK program”.
After investing a lot of effort into self-learning and receiving appropriate supports from my supervisors, lecturers, and friends, I could graduate in November 2019 with a Distinction degree and kept looking for the PhD scholarships to continue doing research in pharmaceutical sciences.
2. Working – Volunteering
Second, more researchers and students like to have practical working experiences related to their current or different projects because they can enhance their knowledge and skills, save extra budgets, and expand their networking. It is the same reason why I chose to do several part-time and/or voluntary works from multi-disciplinaries during my Master program. I was happy to become a Vietnamese Interpreter at the Clear Voice Interpreting Services – part of Migrant Help organization.
This first job gave me a chance to support my Vietnamese community by interpreting at the NHS Health Centers (including hospitals, optician clinics, dental clinics, and psychology centers), Migrant Help offices, and other organizations in Scotland. It was meaningful to observe a miracle when a baby could safely come to the world with my little support as a medical interpreter.
Additionally, I tried a wide range of part-time jobs such as a Personal Tutor, a Student Assistant and a Postgraduate Representative, so I could support many pupils and students with their different academic and personal difficulties.
3. Traveling – Joining extra activities
We may have our own way to empower or release our energy, and I personally devote to traveling and doing extra activities. It would be my big mistake when not mentioning the city’s slogan “People make Glasgow” because the citizens are very hospitable for everyone.
To understand and familiarise with the foreign culture when studying abroad, it is important to visit both tourist attractions and important cultural symbols and places. For me this meant both visits to the Cathedral Church which was one of the symbols of Glasgow and the Lighthouse with a beautiful overview of the City.
It is also important to take good care of body and mind while studying and/or working abroad, and for me this meant to a healthy diet and with simple exercises such as jogging or swimming.
Furthermore, there were numerous extra activities I did for my relaxation or entertainment such as taking pictures or sometimes making video clips to share with my family members and friends, collecting meaningful quotes from books or websites to motivate me and other people, inviting buddies to try delicious Vietnamese cuisine at home or in restaurants like Non Viet or The Hanoi Bike Shop restaurant.
Although, I had to face certain disappointments such as last-minute schedule changes or long delay in instrument booking and important materials, I always reminded me to keep moving forward and never lost hope in the better future. Over one year living abroad, my great achievement is not only the PhD Studentship from the University of Nottingham but also a memorable time with many people at different places.
Finally, in the context of the outbreak of COVID-19, I hope that we can take good care of ourselves and remind other individuals to be more alert, pay attention to take the recommended protective measures. Please stay healthy to be able to complete and share your own scientific journey! I hope that we can make the idea of starting a new scientific journey in a foreign country more achievable and enjoyable!