New beginnings: Scary adventures that end up being the best decision you made

A day to remember

On a not so particularly special Wednesday in December of 2017, I received a little email from EMBL confirming that I had been accepted for the position of Purchase and Budget Officer, needless to say from that moment onwards it became special as this meant a complete change in my life. What this meant was packing up and leaving my town, my country, starting all over from zero in a different country, city and culture and a completely different field of work. As exciting as it sounded, I admit it was equally scary.

After reading and re-reading the email and telling my family and rejoicing…..came the questions: “what now?”, “what am I doing?”, “is this the right thing for me?”, “what if I don’t fit in?”, “what if the city is too much?” To be very honest it was like that the rest of the month, going from the excitement of starting something new to the fear of the exact same thing. Luckily, it got a lot easier and smoother once I started talking to my future admin colleagues asking for help and tips on accommodation and life in Barcelona so I got to relax a bit.

But then…..

My first days and first contacts with Barcelona and EMBL

I remember it was a raining and slightly cold February day when I arrived to Barcelona, and I was trying to get to two oversized bags (that later turned into 4) to get to my temporary accommodation. What an adventure that was. From that moment on, I had 2 months to learn how the real estate market works in Barcelona, find a place I liked and could afford and move….

It all sounds easy, straightforward and organized right? Well…..not so much so in a very dynamic city as Barcelona. Here I found that even if you´re not convinced by the flat, but you kinda like it, you should either way scream “I´ll take it”, “hit” the real estate agency with piles of documents attesting your capacity to afford the place, because then… if not it gets taken by someone else.

Stressful? Yes, very much so, but I like to look at the positive side of things and so took it as a challenge to get used to the city, experience its neighbourhoods, its little streets and alleys. During the two months of real estate investigation, I got to enjoy the city, find favourite spots (where I still go to), restaurants, bars and found that Barcelona is a vibrant and alive city.

The people here also helped me feel like welcomed and included, from the colleagues at EMBL to the people I interact with everyday buying fruits and veggies to post office and neighbours.

The best thing though are the colleagues I met here who are always more than happy to show me a bit of what they’re doing, of their (simplest) experiments, lab terminology, to explain what each equipment that they need to buy is doing and why the need it. And who also, unknowing my non-existent talent for beach volleyball, have included me in the unit team which has been a blast.

Beach Volleyball Tournament 2019

A year and half of EMBL and Barcelona

Decorated Streets during Festa Major de Gracia 2019 (Grumpy Broccoli)

Well over a year passed since I first came here, I am more settled. I believe I am beginning to feel Barcelona as home.

I experienced normal flat related issues (flooding, appliances not working, electricity going out), normal lab related adventures (suppliers not delivering what we requested, not communicating when they deliver large equipment, importing bureaucracy mayhem and many more).

At work, as an admin member of staff, I very much still need guidance from my colleagues with lab related issues, but I am happy to have all of them here to ask for help, but things are going a lot more smoothly.

Outside work, I am thankful for every single day  in which I am be able to enjoy what Barcelona and Catalunya have to offer from neighbourhood parties (Festes Majors) and flower festivals (Girona) to competitions of Castellers (in Tarragona).

It has been a great journey so far and what I feel like is only lucky that I am getting to have this experience. I don´t think I fully grasped what it would mean to move to a different country with my work until I actually did it, I think I didn´t fully understand what it would be like to work for a research institution until I actually started it, but it is all worth it and even if it was very scary in the beginning it did end up to be one of the best decisions made.