Science in Europe

So, after a few weeks of panicking and a jaunt to Paris to prepare for life in France, I’ve arrived in Grenoble, my home for the next two months. Aside from the sad realisation that I could remember next-to-nothing of my GCSE French (even with my best Del-Boy accent), it’s hard to overstate how simple this transition has been made for me. The process of confirming my place at the Institut Laue-Langevin consisted of a few emails expressing my interest in studying there, and finding accommodation for the time I was there was equally straightforward. It struck me that this needn’t be the case. Given the amount of paperwork which there must have been, I expected there to be a lot more hassle involved with confirming who I was, or even whether or not I was eligible to be accepted. It’s to the credit of both my university and the institute that the process was so uncomplicated. It’s also exceptionally lucky for me, as I sometimes struggle to find my way back home, never mind organise a few months’ stay in Europe.

Two months of thinking I live near the Misty Mountains

This level of connectivity is useful when it comes to any international collaboration, but it is vital in science. In order for research to be conducted efficiently, it must be as easy as possible for scientists to be able to cross borders, whether geographical or political. Otherwise, the variety of perspectives on a problem and disciplines with which it can be solved are instantly lost. The hugely international nature of such institutes as the ILL is reflected in their list of member states and also partly in the advice given to my Russian housemate that he would do well to learn German, French and Spanish, on top of  his flawless English. I was left feeling a bit short of the mark when I realised that j’ai un chat blanc* reflects my current ability with languages.

However, arriving here did make me feel very proud of being part of the European Union (um, politics, right?). I have the luxury of being able to learn from people at the forefronts of their fields in science (and even get paid for doing it) in a country I’ve never been to for more than a few days and this would be hard to imagine if weren’t for the freedom of movement within the EU. Just so you know, voting and retiring here is also very easy for me. Brilliant.

No, I’m not being paid to say this. If I was I’d do a much better job.

This post is obviously lacking depth and/or any real point (I’m hoping to develop the latter sometime before my two months are up), but I thought it was worth reflecting on. As long as everyone steers clear of the cretins behind the “Science: It’s a Grrl Thing!” campaign, obviously.

Look on in amazement and despair.

P. S. All of you guys clamouring for a more concise, and generally better prepared reflection on this should jet on over to Jon Butterworth’s blog page about it. He also has the benefit of knowing what the hell he’s on about.

*I don’t even have a white cat.

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