by Ismael García Espinoza, MSc student in Geography, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogotá (Comments: Dunia H. Urrego)
It is an exciting —and strange— thing to arrive, for the first time, to a country knowing that it will be your home for longer than a month. It all gets even quirkier when you discover this new home is way colder than you thought, and pubs are always full of people who like warm beer a lot.
I had the opportunity of working as a visiting research student during a month within the Tropical Palaeoecology Group at the University of Exeter. My visit was supported through a collaboration between Prof. Dolors Armenteras of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Bogotá and Dr. Dunia H. Urrego of the University of Exeter, UK, and funded by the NERC-AHRC project BioResilience (http://sites.exeter.ac.uk/bioresilience/).
The experience included a rigorous and intense laboratory work in the facilities of the University, which are wonderfully equipped with high precision devices and highly qualified technicians. Also, I spent half a week in Italy, presenting the BioResilience project to the academic community at a Paleobiology and Conservation symposium. I tried to answer all the questions they asked, and I think I did a good job calming their curiosity about Colombia. At the same time, and somewhat unfairly, they could not agree with a single explanation about why Italians speak with their hands. I am still intrigued.
Photo 1. Sampling a sediment core from Pantano de Martos in the highlands
The constant academic and personal support provided by the BioResilience investigators, especially by Dunia H. Urrego and Juan Felipe Franco, as well as the technical assistance of Angela Elliot in the lab, made my first time in the United Kingdom a truly forming experience. Having the opportunity to work in an environment that strives to deliver high quality-science that also cares about the well-being of those who make it possible was inspiring. This experience at Exeter had sown seeds of motivation and determination to continue the hard work within a team capable of generating positive impacts well beyond those initially raised.
Exeter felt like home. I could have never imagined that such a small city would hold such a huge heart. The many accents I had to face and the cold and poor weather were all worth it. I was immersed in an atmosphere of knowledge that improved my technical skills and broadened my interests. And since getting back to Colombia, I always put vinegar on my chips!