Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology
Raquel was very well received at her department in Lund. She has enjoyed being one of the PhD student gang at the LUX Centre, and she finds that she has encountered a different and better work-life balance. She encourages HT staff to welcome international guests and points out that visitors can be involved in local projects, and that they can be a resource in daily university activities.
Hello, who are you, and where are you from?
I am Raquel García-Plaza. I am a physician, working in the Emergency Department in Bilbao, Basque Country (Spain), my hometown. I am finishing my PhD in Medical Anthropology, about the sociocultural epidemiology of the COVID-19 crisis.
How come you decided to come to Lund University? What was the purpose of your visit?
I started my PhD in 2020, and I always knew that I wanted to travel and explore different cultures as part of my project. Before coming to Sweden, I have been in some countries in the south of Africa, the USA and Cuba. I wanted to come to Sweden because this country managed the COVID-19 crisis in a very particular way, and it caught a big international attention, so, I thought that it would be very interesting to, instead of just reading about it, coming here and experiencing Swedish culture in first person. I first was accepted for a stay here back in 2021, but, ironically, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we had to postpone it until now, spring of 2023. Once I knew I wanted to come to Sweden, I explored different universities’ webpages and projects and Lund University Department of Cultural Sciences really looked like a very nice department to stay for three months.
What were your first impressions of Lund and of Lund University?
Lund, as a place, was a very chill and peaceful environment, perfect for my last months of writing my dissertation. As of Lund University, I got a really warm welcome. All my colleagues knew that I was coming, the Head of the Department expected me also, and I found it very nice to finally meet in person the researchers I had been talking through email for so long, organizing the stay. I felt very welcomed since the first moment.
What has been the most positive thing(s) about your mobility period in Lund?
I would highlight two aspects that I really appreciate about being here. 1) I have bonded really nicely with my colleagues, and I feel truly lucky to have had the chance of learning from them and their amazing research projects. I believe that, in the department where I am, there’s a very nice sense of PhD student community. We gather to write together once a week, we come up with cool plans for holidays, and there’s afterwork drinks every now and then. I love feeling part of this community. And 2) I have experienced a very different work environment and work-life balance approach.
What has been the most negative thing(s)?
Mmmm ... If I had to address a negative issue it would probably be that, due to cultural differences, I’m used to being more spontaneous when it comes to social plans, but Swedish people look more rigid, schedule-based. I’ve never struggled with being on my own, in general, but I could see that, if someone’s coming from a very social culture, this can be a bit of a shock and can lead to feeling lonely.
Would you have enjoyed a mentor during your stay here (and/or already before coming)?
A mentor? I believe that I have had a mentor, to some extent. One of the researchers that host me here, she has been very approachable, and has guided me through every possible question I could have had. I feel that I have been accompanied all the stay long. Also, my colleagues have always been there to help me. However, I don’t know if this is every international PhD student’s experience. I am grateful that I have had people to rely on, so yes, absolutely, I would encourage staff to mentor international guests every once in a while. We can also get involved in projects here, and be of help!
What do you think you will bring with you into the future, from your period in Lund?
The most important thing that I’m bringing with me from my stay in Lund is each and every amazing connection I have built with my colleagues. I feel excited to keep in touch with them, catch up, be part of their social circle and support them, as they have supported me.
Would you engage in such a mobility period again, if given the chance?
Experiencing a different culture, under the safety of an institution and surrounded by such a diverse group of very nice people is something I would be more than glad to repeat. My bond with this department is so fulfilling that I’m excited to come back as an official PhD, and teach some lessons during the fall, both to enjoy the teaching experience here and to see my friends again for some days!