Moyra Lawrence, PhD
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Cambridge
What countries have you lived and worked in, and what jobs/roles have you had?
I did my undergraduate degree in Ireland during which I did two lab placements. I then moved to England for my masters and PhD. After that, I decided to move to France to study epigenetics for my postdoc and my entire lab moved to Germany while I was there. Now I’m finishing my second postdoc back in the UK and have just received a postdoctoral fellowship to move to Japan.
How did you find your jobs abroad?
I knew in which area I wanted to work, so I went to seminars in that area to learn a bit more. At one of those seminars, my PI in France was presenting. It was such a wonderful presentation and such interesting work that I knew I wanted to work with him. For my second postdoc, I found the job on the Euraxess site, a wonderful one for finding postdoctoral positions. For my job in Japan, I’ve been dreaming up a project since my PhD and wanted to find a lab which was expert in these analyses. A colleague of my current PI kindly introduced me to my Japanese PI. I found the funding I wanted online and we made the application together. I’m so excited to start in his lab.
What made you want to work abroad?
I was reluctant to move abroad for my PhD but I really wanted to work in stem cell biology and at the time Ireland didn’t have any 4 -year programs with rotations. I really wanted to spend some time in the lab before choosing it for my PhD so I applied for positions in England. I think once that initial step is made, it becomes easier to move to another country; I moved to France because I found a lab I really wanted to join and then I automatically ended up in Germany.
How did the research environment vary between countries?
Surprisingly, it varied quite a lot. Even something very straightforward like ordering, or meeting other people in the institute, was very different in each place. I’m sure within countries it also varies a lot. Each system takes a bit of getting used to! However, in a way, it’s really pleasant to work in a lab where your everyday job is quite similar (and in English) even if the rest of the country is very different.
What has been your favourite thing about working abroad?
Now that’s a difficult one! In the UK, it’s definitely the collaborative working environment. In France, I’m reluctant to admit it, but it was the food! Germany was the first time I really felt like an expat and that was interesting in itself. In every place you learn something new, meet really interesting people and have experiences you’d never get to have at home.
Have you faced any challenges whilst working abroad?
I think leaving your home country is always challenging. From tangles with bureaucracy to the inability to read your own post to occasional homelessness, the challenges keep coming! But again, the benefits far outweigh the difficulties!
Do you have any advice for ECR members thinking about moving abroad?
I’d advise you pick something to work on that you really love. There will be days you wonder why you’re there and you need to have a good answer for yourself! Also look at transport links home. Get a good moving company so you can bring your things with you and embrace the new culture. I found the ‘Culture Shock’ books quite good so you understand the culture before you move. And enjoy!
Would you recommend working abroad to ECR members?
I would highly recommend it! It’s a wonderful life experience and you’ll meet very interesting people and live a life you never expected!