The REWATERGY EXPERIENCE (part 3)
Adithya Pai Uppinakudru
s a non-EU student doing my master in the UK, getting an opportunity to join the REWATERGY programme was one of the best things that could have happened to me soon after finishing my master’s. More than 2 years have passed since I first got the call from the host industrial partner, ProPhotonix, that I had been selected and every day since then has been a journey filled with memories. One whole global pandemic later, here I am writing about my experiences within this project.
I had never been to Ireland and Cork was my first stop in this project. I went in with no expectations and was rewarded to a treat! This was my first long-term job in an industrial environment, and I have been fortunate enough to have some amazing colleagues and supervisors, both in ProPhotonix and URJC, who have guided and supported me every time. Through every step and mistake along the way, I had some amazing friends, within and outside the project, pushing me to keep going. I had the opportunity to explore some parts of Ireland and I only keep wanting to go back again! From long walks along the beautiful River Lee in Cork to watching rugby with the Irish and being speechless seeing the vast landscapes across Gap of Dunloe, it has been an experience of a lifetime. I made some great connections through online conferences, meetings and in the local community.
In the beginning, I was anxious as I knew very little Spanish and struggled with almost everything. Like every new country I had moved to, the struggle for the first few months were worth the memories of the next few. Luckily, my colleagues at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos were very helpful and guided me at every stage. I joined Madrid Cricket club and travelled for games all across Spain with the team, enjoying Paellas and tortillas along the way. Over the years, I have tried a lot of outdoor activities and in Spain, I fell in love with Hiking. I joined a small group of English-speaking hikers living in Madrid, who went of hikes across the beautiful mountains surrounding Madrid every weekend. My hiking guide and a close friend, Phillip from Hiking Madrid, said “mountains are always forgiving after a long week” and I discovered it to be very true. From hiking up the snow-covered peak of Peñalara, the highest peak in Madrid, to hiking through gorging summer heat on top of Monte Abantos, every hike bought with it some amazing friends and memories. Away from the crowd and sounds of busy Madrid, the mountains of Madrid are breath-taking and absolutely marvellous.
I believe that as much as a crowded street says about a city, the true essence of a city comes when it is silent, and I saw the real Madrid on a cold Christmas evening when it was silent and calm all around. Every holiday season, I miss being away from home but on that cold evening, I was greeted by Spanish people wishing me “Feliz Navidad” and was offered to join them for a glass of wine that evening, it truly made me feel like I was one of their own. The cultural diversity and people in Spain have fascinated me and I have been fortunate enough to experience this because of the program.
The experience working on this project has been stressful too, with deadlines and work load going up every month but little memories throughout have made it worth it and I wouldn’t change it for anything! The consortium of people in this project have been very helpful and I only wish we all could meet more often if not for the pandemic. There are a lot of reasons why I would recommend applying for a MSCA project like REWATERGY, but two reasons beat them all, the experience and challenge!
Being part of the REWATERGY project is one of the great opportunities I have ever got. It developed me at the educational, research, and personal level. During the Ph.D. Journey, the project gave me the chance to live in two different multi-cultural countries involving the United Kingdom and Spain. I have already finished my first settlement at Ulster University in the UK. Currently, I am doing the second part of the project at Aqualia water treatment company in Andalucía, Spain. It is the first time for me to live in Spain and was a dream for me. I am really having a great time in Spain so far.
Usually, everyone has a difficult experience when living abroad such as culture shock. However, the risk of experiencing cultural shock was not the case for me during my settlement in Spain. I found a lot more positives living in Spain than I thought. For me, the most important thing is the people surrounding me. The workers at Aqualia are very friendly with me, once I ask them for some help, they are willing to try to integrate and help me even though I was not speaking Spanish. They really have a great attitude towards life and making the most of it. Additionally, during my time in Andalucía, I meet so many friendly international tourists, that communicate with me either in English or German. Usually, when they know that I am from Jordan, they get excited to know what am doing in Spain. I usually explain to them about the REWATERGY projects which is the reason for my presence in Spain and about my project, which aims to develop a method to treat water.
Moreover, living in Andalucia, Spain is incredible for me with the many beautiful beaches and over 300 days of sun every year. I like the outdoors lifestyle, whether it’s a picnic on the beach in Cadiz, which is 30 min far from me, dining by the sea, or even sometimes setting at the beach and reading or working on my research write-up. Compared to the UK where bad weather often means life indoors, I feel much better getting out.
Moreover, the Spanish food is mostly fresh, seasonal, and has great taste. For me, Mediterranean food is one of the most delicious in the world. Especially, the seafood, where plenty of fresh and different kinds of fishes I found at local shops but national cuisines such as Tapas, Paella are the most delicious dishes. For a simple and healthy lifestyle, I found everything needed in Spain. Thanks to the REWATERGY teams and members for planning such an interesting project with great experience at all levels.