Blog & Updates

January 17, 2023

Our experiences after a year of SURREAL - Shradha (ESR 2)

12 months ago, many of our Early Stage Researchers joined the SURREAL project and we are eager to share their most important experiences to date.

Every week, an ESR will provide a mini update by answering the 4 questions below. Hopefully, this will give you some insight into their most important first year experiences.

12 months on…:

  • What is the most interesting thing you’ve learnt?
  • The hardest task you have come across?
  • The most fun experience within SURREAL?
  • How has your research impacted your daily life?

Shradha will share her experiences of doing her PhD at Universiteit Hasselt with us this week.

Where: Works at the Centre for Environmental Sciences, Universiteit Hasselt
When: Started in October 2021

From the window in my office one afternoon

What is the most interesting thing you have learnt?

The importance of resilience is probably the most interesting thing I learnt over the last year, both in work, as well as non-work-related contexts. Moving far from the comfort of home, family and friends in the quest of multidisciplinarity has been a recurring part of my journey. However, starting a PhD while adulting on the side has made me realize how life is always going to be like a sinusoidal wave, some days are sunny, others rainy, and it takes them both to come together to create color.

The hardest task you have come across?

The hardest task I found myself dealing with was prioritization. With the multiple facets of tasks and responsibilities that come with a challenging role in research and living independently in a new country, I’ve been working steadily towards getting better at it!

The most fun experience within SURREAL?

I’d find it hard to pinpoint to a specific instance here, but every opportunity to collaborate and interact with the other ESRs is super fun! Be it brainstorming for ideas together or just casually and informally checking in with each other. The cross-paths of cultural and academic backgrounds in SURREAL is exhilarating to be a part of, especially at in-person events. 

What a random mid-work walk break could look like in Diepenbeek

How has your research impacted your daily life?

Since I started working on my project, I have developed a newfound sense of awareness for the environmental factors in my immediate surroundings. I find myself consciously observing how a walk in a park or countryside gives me a sense of serenity while a visit to a crowded metropolitan city with heavier traffic leaves me feeling uneasy. Noticing these effects at an individual level while also investigating their impact on long-term public health outcomes fuels my motivation for pursuing my current field of research. This in turn has instilled more structure and discipline in my daily life.

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