“If I start a PhD I want to go on a research visit,” I said to my husband back in 2018.
“I bet you do,” he said, knowing, no doubt, full well my penchant for travelling.
I did start a PhD. And we did go on a research visit. Just a very different one from what I had expected.
From the start, I worked meticulously to make the visit happen. We had decided on Australia as the destination, and I talked to everyone about my plans. It was one of these talks that led me to discover the OpenInnoTrain project that the University of Vaasa is a part of and that has collaboration with RMIT in Melbourne. Bingo!
Cue lots of emails back and forth, the visa application process (how do you prove that your kids are really your own?), skimping on everything (including trading in my beloved BMW for a minuscule Honda) in order to save money, and, of course, grant applications. Oh, the grant applications.
But finally we had enough money in the kitty, the Australian border control was happy that we’d only be bringing our own kids with us, I had a host at the university and we had an Airbnb booked. On February 27, 2020, we prepared to exercise our sit muscles (and, let’s face it, our nerves, flying with 4- and 2-year-olds) as we boarded a plane to take us halfway across the globe.
We all know what happened next.
I managed to visit the university three times and see my host once before Melbourne went into lockdown. We were allowed to leave the house for exercising, groceries, and medical supplies; one person at a time. No networking, no interesting events, no research collaboration. No zoo or swimming lessons for the kids.
“You poor things,” our friends commiserated. And yes, for a while things looked bleak. I moped. I was angry. I used a couple of really strong swearwords. But seeing that we felt safe in Melbourne with their extreme restrictions in place we decided to stay on. And you know what? It got better. In fact, it got really good. I got more work done than I could have dreamt of. I became much more independent and confident in my abilities as a researcher (thanks, 9-hour time difference!). I was full of energy, having become obsessed with working out every day in order to get out of the house. And I became grateful for the wonderful, resilient and resourceful kids that we have who happily traded in the zoos and the swimming lessons for trips to the park to smell the roses and look for worms.
So, I may not have done the things that I thought I would do, but I ended up doing exactly the right things.
School of Management