Getting started as a Marie Curie postdoc – Life edition

On my way to work, winter morning on a - rare ! - sunny day in Copenhagen South

…Or “A non-exhaustive list of needs when moving to/within Europe”.

You will need:

The international move kit (family in tow optional):

  • A good knowledge of the local visa and residence procedures,
  • All of your administrative papers (and some),
  • A cushion of savings and/or a couple of credit cards,
  • A translating app,
  • A very understanding partner,
  • A child not adverse to change,
  • A positive mind set (stubbornness might help too),
  • A good outdoor wardrobe for all of your new exploring (in case of Denmark, this includes a bike, a parka, and waterproof everything).

Tidbits specific to the Marie Curie grant:

  • A healthy dose of love for the European Union,
  • A good understanding of international legal mumbo-jumbo (work in progress!),
  • A one-on-one meeting with your financial adviser: the money you see in your grant agreement isn’t the money you will receive each month as your salary. A hint: it will be less. You aren’t employed by the E.U. but by your university or other host institution, and they are the ones calculating your salary according to local rules and taxes, as well as your specific situation, etc. You will get the money, but not as it appears when you apply, so be advised!
  • Patience and forbearance for administrative tasks,
  • A solid understanding of the HR organisation of your host institution, (also work in progress!),
  • A constantly renewed enthusiasm for travelling and everything foreign. You can and should visit the touristy attractions of your new country but you also need to buy food every day, pay your electricity bill, understand your landlord and use the public transportation system. Pretty easy in another European country you would think…well, it depends on the day and the language! It took me two months to grasp all the different transportation cards available in Copenhagen, and I am still unsure how I managed to input my electricity meter’s results in a Danish-only phone service!

All in all, a Marie Curie grant is all about mobility and many aspects of your first few months will resonate with any expat’s / emigrant’s experience. A definite plus is that your legal status and salary were all set up before hand by the E.U. itself. Depending on your location, you can also receive a lot of help through your university and their international help services. Minus you may ask?! Probably just that: everything has been set up for you by the E.U as an international researcher….for 24 months. By the time you settle all of your little life in your new country, it will be time to move on! Advice to myself and anyone interested in applying for a MSCA: enjoy the ride – research always, travel often – and start thinking early of an exit strategy.

Tags : European UniongrantHorizon 2020marie curiemovingpostdoc
Elsa Yvanez

The author Elsa Yvanez

I am an archaeologist, researcher and post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Textile Research, Copenhagen University.