Blog & Updates

November 22, 2022

Our experiences after a year of SURREAL - Usha (ESR 7)

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?

This week, it is Usha's turn to tell us about her experiences on doing her PhD in Estonia:

Where: University of Tartu, Institute of Social Sciences/Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, Estonia
When: Started in October 2021

What is the most interesting thing you have learnt?

"Many things! But learning about my case study site from my visits, reading the documents, and interviewing people have been most interesting. My case study site is not as simple as it looks: an industrial oil shale area that is providing energy and jobs to people and contributing to the economy. But when I start looking into the multiple aspects in the region and at the global scale, for instance climate change, there is much to learn."

Oil shale industry site, Estonia

The hardest task you have come across?

"I realize that playing with R programming requires a  huge chunk of time, persistence, patience, and support from experts who already know advanced R. I think being able to manipulate the data and being on the level where one can google the code and understand the process, and move on quickly, will still take some time. However, someone advised me to train myself to create my own function, which I am still weighing given the limited time frame to finish my PhD."

The most fun experience within SURREAL?

"Spending face-to face time with other ESRs! The Network School was the first gathering that provided that opportunity, then I had another two opportunities during my secondment in Luxembourg where I spent time with James, Marzieh, Juliette, and Mugdha, and with Ana during a conference in Barcelona. I had a plenty of opportunity to talk about numerous things, such as never ending work and life topics, and see the full body emotions and connect with them."

How has your research impacted your daily life?

"I have dilemmas making decisions! Several thoughts go around in my mind related to the existing systems and crucial issues humanity is facing today. E.g., I don’t have a car, and I am rethinking to have one. I think about my role in reducing harmful pollutants. Well, unless I use green energy to drive, I am more convinced that it’s not worth using a fossil fuel-based car as a single person. Because then I would be contributing to polluting the environment that affects people's health! Plus, how about traffic and noise? Also, it would be fair to use the limited space for other good purposes than parking and highways. I am aware that having a car is very convenient when the public transportation system is bad! But do I really have to make my life dependent on car if I have managed to live until now, without a car?"

Space comparison between public transportation and cars
Alternative ideas for the car from the keynote by Prof. Susan Handy at the Urban Transitions 2022 conference

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