The CarMesh project is funded under the European Union Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnership Pathways (IAPP) umbrella which encourages people from industry and academia to work together and to engage by means of joint research – an essential aspect of this scheme is that partners from different countries exchange staff via secondment. This short blog post is about my experience of my secondment to an SME in Poznan, Poland as an academic researcher who just finished his PhD in Ireland and who is originally from in Germany.
Even though I see Europe as one big community of people, there are definitely plenty of cultural differences between the nations in the EU, not to mention that sometimes, as a German, the pressure is on me when it comes to political (and heated) discussions about the direction of Europe and the influence of the Germany in general and the German chancellor in particular on this. But as this necessary dialogue is probably the most important thing to bring Europeans closer and form a more sustainable community of nations, I’m always pleased to have those conversations and to learn more about how the European ideal and my native country are perceived by others. Although my opinion that there should be a European Passport so that Europeans identify themselves with Europe like Americans do with the United States of America was never really well received by various nationalities.
When I moved to Poznan, I was pleasantly surprised by the flair of the city which counts approximately 500,000 citizens. I had a very warm welcome at Zylia which is located on the UAM campus in Sobieskiego which is in the north-side of Poznan. With people from four different nations at Zylia (Poland, Ireland, Algeria and Germany), in a small company, it was a cultural adventure from the outset – but in a positive sense. From a work related point of view the secondment was quite successful, as we produced various joint internal and external publications as well as running a developer weekend where we played around with some tech toys (Raspberry Pi). I also see the collaboration continuing with at least two other publications in the pipeline.
But the one experience that I will never forget is the Polish language. Everyone who cannot speak Polish, Czech or Russian (there’s probably more languages that are close), just watch this video and you will know how I felt not speaking a single word of Polish:
At the end of my secondment, I can say that I survived with English (and German on one occasion, when I bought my Polish SIM card!) mainly because of the excellent level of English amongst the young Polish people.
My personal take away message is that it is important to see the bigger picture of the European Union and the opportunities it provides to European researchers – there is plenty of opportunities Brussels provide independently from the area you are working in or the type of proposal you have (top down / bottom up). Based on my experience being part of a Marie Curie IAPP project I hope these schemes (and the IAPP in particular) continue in the same or other form in Horizon 2020.