Changing working hemisphere
Globalization rules the world. Nowadays studying Ph.D in one country, doing post-doc in another one and working in the third country will hardly surprise anyone. However changing the place is not an easy step. It brings new experience but may require mind flexibility to adapt to a foreign country and its people. We asked Muntsa Padró, post-doctoral NLP researcher in Porto Alegre, Brazil to share with us her experience about moving from Spain to Brazil.
It has been three months since I moved from Barcelona, Spain to Porto Alegre, Brazil to do a PostDoc. Although I have spent essentially all my live in Barcelona it was not difficult for me to take some baggage and change my living country, continent, and even hemisphere! It is just a matter of getting excited about the new adventures waiting for you…
I did my Ph.D in the NLP group at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in the field of the automata learning algorithms applied to NLP tasks. After graduating, I worked as a researcher at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra for PANACEA project. PANACEA was an EU funded project devoted to the creation of a platform to chain web services to create language resources. My work in the project was mainly devoted to research and development of tools for creating and merging lexical resources. The project finished at the end of 2012 and I felt it was time for me to gain some experience abroad. Thus, I started looking for a PostDoc position that suited my interests.
Honestly, when I started the long search of a new job I never thought I will end up in Brazil.
Honestly, when I started the long search of a new job I never thought I will end up in Brazil. But when I saw Aline Villavicencio offering an interesting position in Porto Alegre I did not hesitate. I liked her, both professionally and personally, when I met her in EACL 2012 Workshop on Computational Models of Language Acquisition and Loss. I thought it would be very enriching for me to work with her.
And… what about living in Brazil? Well, I thought it would be a good personal opportunity also. I would be able to learn a new language, to get to know a different culture and see the world from a different perspective.
And so far, so good. The Brazilians are very nice people. They are friendly, easy going and welcoming. They always talk to you just for the pleasure of exchanging some sentences with someone. When they realize that I am not from Brazil, they get even more excited. It may be different in other parts of the country, but Porto Alegre sees very few tourists, so the locals are always happy to know why you are here and what do you think about their city.
I work at the Campus do Vale of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). The first time I came to the campus I was amazed. It is located on the outskirts of the city, in the middle of what seemed, to my Mediterranean eyes, a tropical forest. Maybe the buildings are not as new and splendid as the private universities in Brazil, or as other universities in other countries, but the place is quite unique.
The Brazilians define themselves as not liking the conflict.
The Brazilians define themselves as not liking the conflict. And, yes, you can notice it. They will rarely say an absolute “no”. Even not an absolute “yes”. Everything is possible, then… Indeed, when you need some help you just ask for it with your best smile, being friendly and taking the time to talk to different people if necessary. If there is a solution for a problem, they will find it for you. Sometimes it seems to me that yes, here everything is possible if you talk through it during enough time and with enough people.
This “avoiding the conflict” way changes the day to day at work. It is still too soon for me to know exactly how things work here: how you ask, or are asked to do something, how do you complain when you would like things to be in another manner… But I can perceive that it is quite different from Spain. Of course, it depends tremendously on the concrete people you work with, but I have the feeling that this is one of the most important things to learn at a new job: how to communicate in the new environment. How not to be too rude, but to be sure your ideas reach the others. How to know that you understand correctly what is expected from you or what you expect from others. I thought that the main problem would be the language… But now I can see clearly that the most difficult thing to learn are the pragmatic rules of that language.
But, as I said at the beginning, this all is part of the adventure.
But, as I said at the beginning, this all is part of the adventure. This is the way you learn so much when living abroad: you suddenly see that many things you took for granted in the past are nothing more than your own cultural conventions.
About the author
Muntsa Padró is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Informatics at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. She previously worked as a researcher at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra for PANACEA project and she did her Ph.D. in the NLP group at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.