Hello everyone! I’m Federica!

Hello everyone! I’m Federica, the new PhD student who joined the group 😃

I’m amazed that it’s been almost a month since it happened, and I couldn’t be happier!

I was born and raised in Palermo, a beautiful city in Sicily (Italy), but I always felt that it was not my place. So, I tried to combine my passion for cancer biology and my desire to live abroad by exploring the Erasmus Mobility Programme. I was awarded this scholarship twice, but both times I couldn’t avail of this opportunity. In March 2022, I got my Master’s degree and said to myself, “It’s time; this is my chance to go and build the future that I want”. And here I am. 😄

New adventures

I moved to Dublin in June 2022 and loved this city’s vibes! I met wonderful people from all over the world with which I spent really fun and carefree moments. 

These are only a few of that magic moments:

– I saw a deer for the first time in my life – I was soooo happy!

Deers in the Phoenex park
New drink experience

– I tried the “mate”, a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused herbal drink. As you can guess, I didn’t like it 😂 (sorry, my Argentinian friends).

– I got used to the outstanding colours of Ireland.

Obviously, I also had hard days. My English is still not perfect, but it’s getting better every day!  I remember the first day I arrived in Dublin when I was looking for a cup, but I asked for a cupboard in three different supermarkets 😂. People looked at me, probably thinking: “Why is she looking for furniture in a grocery store? Should I say something to her?” I realized that I had asked for the wrong thing only during the night, when I was in bed, thinking about that first crazy day. 

New colours

To be honest, I had a lot of really hard days, days when I felt that I wouldn’t be able to deal with other problems. But I never thought of giving up and returning to Italy. Every difficulty, every good or bad thing, is part of this wonderful experience, and I’m so excited and proud of myself for all the improvement I’ve been making, step by step.

I couldn’t make a better choice because I found my place in this super nice and great team in the Bioengineering Group 🙃

 I look forward to better knowing all my new teammates and sharing with them my journey as PhD student!

Written by Federica Cottone

Hey there, this is Alysia!

Hey there, this is Alysia! I recently joined the Cancer Bioengineering team as a first-year PhD student. At the beginning of 2022, I was selected as a Fulbright-RCSI StAR Programme student. I spent the summer in anticipation of what to expect from my new home. I had never travelled outside of America before! However, moving to Dublin has been a great new adventure with tons of amazing experiences and new friendships. One of the first things I did when I got here was going to cafes all over town to get to know the area. Also, to indulge in the foodie scene of Dublin. I also did some great walking tours, joined a tag rugby team, got cosy with the pub culture, and found some unique thrifting shops. Dublin has a lot of charm and hidden gems wedged in between the cobblestone streets. As an American in Dublin, I thought I would have a really hard time adjusting. However, everyone has been so friendly and helpful! I’ve been able to catch on to some of the local dialogue and sometimes catch myself about to say, “it’ll be grand!”

Feeling lucky!

One of my favourite things I’ve done since being in Dublin is exploring the surrounding area through hiking. I’m from Colorado in the U.S., so the mountains here are quite a bit different. However, I can greatly appreciate the hiking culture that everyone seems to enjoy. I’ve been able to go on hikes with colleagues and friends alike in new stunning locations. My first introduction to Irish hiking was along the Howth cliff walk. Not only was the wind strong enough to fly me back to America, but the rain was “lashing”, and the temperature was absolutely, “Baltic”. I was soaked to the bone but could not be happier about getting outside and finding a social hobby that would help me adjust to my new home.

Hiking along the Howth cliff walk, 2023

It’s only been a few months into my four-year journey in Ireland, but I’m looking forward to so many opportunities. Being so close to the rest of Europe, I’ve already travelled to Paris, London, and Barcelona. I was even in Brussels and Luxembourg for a Fulbright Seminar visiting the EU and NATO! I plan on travelling around Europe some more, exploring the coasts of Ireland, and of course, sampling all the new cuisine! I really lucked out with a great team here in the Bioengineering Group. We have conferences here in Ireland as well as internationally, which helps me explore. I can’t believe I’m here in Dublin doing cancer research. Being selected for Fulbright is an incredible opportunity for me to fall in love with Dublin while doing a PhD program.

Alysia, Ronja and Lin, Barcelona, February 2023

Written by Alysia Scott

My Irish Chapter

Moving to a new country could be a challenge, an opportunity, or perhaps both. It involves stepping outside of your comfort zone, but that is where growth happens.

The most exciting opportunity of 2022 was my joining Dr Olga’s Lab as an MSc student. Welcome to the Research world full of uncertainty! Each day comes with a fresh set of surprises! Which is not uncommon in a lab environment. Sometimes things do not turn out the way we plan. But I am confident that every surprise will be worth it. My project contributes to the big ambition of Dr Olga’s team to develop an anti-cancer vaccine for children with neuroblastoma. It spans one year, which is rather short, but it gives me a fair impression of what a PhD journey might look like. I am already two months in, setting up my experiments, troubleshooting protocols and learning new things daily. Nevertheless, I enjoy that our team is outgoing, and I am eternally thankful to the whole team for their tremendous support and making me feel like I belong.

Outside of academics, I made a few adjustments. I got the chance to become acquainted with a new housing market, banking system, and visa administration as a non-Irish citizen. It seems simple, not really!  

I also enjoy challenging my long-held beliefs. For instance, the after-work hangout and drinks is an intriguing example of a cultural difference I’ve noticed here. In Portugal, I used to enjoy my lab breaks with some pastel de nata with black coffee, but now I prefer a cup of butter h0t chocolate, which is everywhere.

Chinese New Year in Ireland

Hi, this is Lin, it’s my second year living in Dublin and the second Chinese New Year I celebrated here. I love Dublin not only because it is the country I’ve spent more time in than any other country besides China but also because it can support Chinese traditional culture to the greatest extent.

Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is China’s biggest extravaganza. In 2023 we celebrated it on 22nd February. According to the Chinese calendar, the world enters the Year of the Rabbit. I felt the Chinese New Year everywhere in Dublin.

Chinese New Year’s Eve is an important night for Chinese families, like Christmas Eve for the Irish. I didn’t go back to China, but I was with my Chinese friends in Dublin and celebrated together on that day. We put up spring couples and paper cutouts in our apartment, ordered some traditional Chinese food, and made some dumplings. We stayed home, stayed up late, and said goodbye to the old year. We did every vital ritual as we did at home.

In town, people also celebrated the Chinese New Year. Most notably, Good World Chinese Restaurant, my favourite Chinese restaurant in Dublin, has always contributed greatly to promoting Chinese culture. They received the Chinese Intangible Culture Heritage title from UNESCO for having one of the most traditionally prepared dim sums. On the day of Chinese New Year, they had the lion dance and worshipped the Gods of wealth. They think these vital rituals can bring people luck and wealth.

https://www.goodworld.ie/

My Irish friends said “Happy Chinese New Year” to me with warmth and friendliness on Chinese New Year. They respect not only Chinese New Year but also any Chinese culture. Their kindness makes me feel at home.

I love my friends, and I love everything in Dublin!

Written by Lin Ma (PhD student)