The difficult month of September

The difficult month of September

Well, it can’t always be amazing or easy. So to stick to this blog being an honest diary I will just tell it like it is. September was a tough month for me but it was also a month where I have got the most things done! It might not be much but keeping these baby steps in mind will help me build a picture of what I have achieved over time. And yes, I know I have to not be so hard on myself but when you’re in a deep dark hole it can be difficult to think logically.

Fellowship applications are easier with help and takeout

This month there were deadlines for three of the fellowships I mentioned in the last update. It was only last month that I decided to go for the notoriously lengthy Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship and so my main task for September was to work on it. After faffing about with the website with the new housemate, I managed to log on and find the important documents to download. I did some googling and one site had mentioned that I should work on it for 3-4 months! I had 14 days! Then there was this supervisor who blogged about getting four successful ones – and he’d NEVER let his candidates write the thing! I was doomed!

I felt totally overwhelmed and instantly regretted all the choices I’ve ever made in my career so far. Am I sure I want to become an academic researcher? Why did I not look this up earlier this year? Then I stopped panicking so much and I got back to being resourceful. I got in touch with all my friends who I knew had previously applied, I tweeted about it, and I emailed by old boss, my friend who works with funding and grants, and the University of Copenhagen and the Region Hovedstaden Innovation and Research offices… And the very kind and generous community that is academic research responded! With their help, I managed to get my first fellowship proposal done in 13 days and submitted on time!

I’m super grateful to everyone who sent me materials or who looked through my drafts. It was a steep learning curve and I’m glad I did it. It helped me focus my plan. And writing about why my new work place is the right work place for me reminded me that it’s going to be a great postdoc even if I don’t get any independent funding. Having written the most difficult grant there is, it was relatively easy to get the Carlsbergfondet Distingished Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Region Hovedstaden Postdoc Research Award in the two weeks that followed. Now I’m happy to be able to get some lab work started before the next deadline in mid-November!

 

We ate out A LOT

Who has time to cook when you’re writing?! Apart from visiting our local pizzeria Gorm’s at least 3 times in those first two weeks, I got sushi, tried out pho from a place near work, met up with housemates after work for expensive milkshakes (from 42Raw), tex mex (from Taco Diner) and burgers (from Halifax)! They know how to keep hangrer (the thing that makes you hangry) at bay! On one of the worst days I’ve had, when everything that could go wrong went wrong, they got me a beer and a burger. And you know what, I felt much better afterwards!

One weekend we even went to the very fancy restaurant Höst! It’s a beautiful restaurant; winner of the 2013 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. It was great value – for 600 DKK each we left full of amazing food and a lot of wine! I’ve written my review in Yelp so I won’t repeat it on here. My favourite dish was the Danish squid and cabbage poached in a chicken bouillon topped with the best poached egg yolk I’ve ever tasted! The texture was mind-blowing!

 

A flare up of imposter syndrome

I got really depressed when I wanted to start what would normally be a routine experiment for me then I realised I had no idea how this new lab likes to do things, where they store their stuff, where I am allowed to do stuff, what the ‘rules’ were, who I should ask, etc. It felt like so much hard work to do something so small. And I was afraid that if I asked, people would look at me and think “And she’s supposed to be a postdoc?!” I got totally caught up in a massive flare up of imposter syndrome – a feeling of self-doubt and that sinking feeling that my inabilities will be exposed and my new boss will realise that he’s made a big mistake in hiring me.

It really made me think why on earth I’ve gone and uprooted my life and moved again? I know the answer is to advance, but why does it always feel like starting all over again? Obviously the logical version of myself knows that it will take at least three months to settle into a new lab and learn their routines, and that moving is good for the academic soul because you get to learn new approaches, new ideas, make new contacts, and that it will all work out in the end. Still, knowing it and going through it are two very different things. I just want people to be aware of imposter syndrome and if you’re going through it, you’re not alone. I know not many people talk about it but reach out to your friends, they may not be able to fix the problem but they will remind you that but you’re a tough cookie and you’ll be fine. And because they are your friends, you have to trust them.

Anyway, I did my first experiment! It didn’t work but I felt much better after going through the motions. It reassured me that I didn’t forget how to use a pipette after all, and I got over the newbie barrier of asking people questions. And of course my imposter demon was wrong, everyone was nice and wanted to help. And on the saddest day, I got an email notifying me that the small paper I had submitted, revised and resubmitted by myself got accepted! I was super chuffed but there’s still a lot of admin to sort out before we see it on the website!

 

We got an apartment! And it’s ready for Netflix and chill! (I know I’m not supposed to use it like that but it sounds right!)

The new housemate and I looked into moving closer to the city centre and enlisted the help of an apartment finder that other fellow postdocs have used. We now live on the Amager, pronounced “ah-ma”, the island with the giant beach Amagerstrand, the airport, and The Øresund Bridge that is the inspiration for that awesome Swedish television series. Best part of all is that it’s only 15 minutes’ cycle to the city centre!

Getting an apartment in Copenhagen can be a real faff. Apparently, you need contacts, know people who might be moving, etc. Otherwise, you have to pay a ‘finding (an apartment) fee’ and a ‘success (in finding) fee’. This is the ‘easy’ route, which is what we did. After paying near £400, we had to find six times the rent (for a deposit (~3 months’ rent) and 3 months’ rent in advance, which will be the last 3 months) just to move in. Oh, and don’t forget the first month’s rent!

To transfer all this money from my savings in the UK, my new housemate introduced me to Revolut. It’s a great app that allows you to transfer money between your accounts in different countries without charging any fees. It was all very easy but it did take the normal 3-5 working days for the money to be transferred through. It also sends out a Mastercard that you can preload with the app and you can use it to buy stuff or take out money abroad without any charges too! If you’re interested, go check them out!

After all the stress of finding and getting our apartment, I was very happy that it was already furnished and came with some essential cooking utensils and even bedding. And, the best thing of all? There’s a washing machine inside the apartment! And we’re allowed to use it from 8 am til 11 pm! No more booking the laundry room or rushing home after work or staying in at weekends to do my washing anymore!

We also have broadband installed! It was very straightforward. I looked through a comparison website by googling “bredbånd sammenlign” but in the end I went with the mainstream Telia as I liked being able to walk into one of their many stores, including one at Copenhagen Central Station, and ask somebody in English any questions I had. I ordered it on a Monday afternoon, got the wifi box for free, no installation fee and it came by Saturday, I plugged and I got internet the following Monday!

I learnt about this great Postnord Denmark tracking app that allows you to track your packages and find out where you can collect them!

 

I did some socialising and did more exploring!

Someone at work organised a social to try out the Vietnamese national dish Pho and of course I was first to say yes! We went to a place that he’d tried and tested, and now recommended – Restaurant Nha Trang. It was a great night with great food and I look forward to returning the invitation by organising a house warming party soon!

I also signed up for an Unofficial Yelp Event, a breakfast club called Early Bird, which is a monthly, morning get-together. We went to Djuus, a lovely little café serving a lot of pretty looking combinations of breakfasts goods. I had a great time despite not knowing anyone. If you want to find out what I thought about the food, read my review here. Next month’s Early Bird will be at Grød!

The Elite Yelper who organises the Early Bird events also organised an exclusive taster of the new menu at Fedtegreven “The Fat Count”. It was awesome! I enjoyed myself so much, mainly because the people were awesome and super friendly. The food was also very excellent! I especially liked practising my Danish pronunciation by ordering my own dessert: “Jeg vil gerne have en rød grød med fløde!”

I made a new friend (from last month’s Yelp event)! She introduced me to some new places in Vestboro – the hipster area of Copenhagen – and I even had time to go to Meatpacking District to have a gander at their many BBQ and burger restaurants and the open air weekend food market. It’s definitely an area I’d like to visit again soon and check out the trendy bars! Any visitors coming soon?

My housemates had friends visiting on one of the most beautifully sunny weekends and we had breakfast on a boat! A GoBoat! It’s a great thing to do on a sunny day. For 399 DKK you get the boat for an hour and you can fit up to 8 people and it’s enough time to go up Copenhagen harbour, around Christiansborg Slot, under the new Indershavnsbroen bridge that connects Nyhavn to Noma and back through Christianshavn. It was awesome!

 

My boyfriend came to visit and helped with the moving!

One day for breakfast we managed to get to Mad & Kaffe in Vestebro and had a pricey but pretty and super trendy breakfast! Definitely a special occasion kind of breakfast! At Torvehallerne – the large indoor market full of nice foods we tried tacos from Hija de Sanchez and a bulgogi pancake sandwich from Kopan Korean Street Kitchen. We also had dinner on a boat, Christianshavns Bådudlejning, which does these deliciously charcoal grilled fresh fish and steak! The atmosphere on the boat is relaxed and it was perfect for a late summer’s evening.

For his birthday I got him a Foods of Copenhagen Tour – a 4-hour walking tour around the city with our guide Stine and two fellow tourists from Wisconsin. I don’t want to give too much away ‘cos it’s definitely worth going on the tour to discover the city on foot, learn some history and some new food trends. Some highlights: we were taken to one of the oldest places to eat Smørrebrød “smear bread” open sandwich in a place called Café Gammel Torv “Old Square Restaurant” and was served traditional curried herrings and meat balls on Royal Copenhagen china. We also visited the Sankt Peders Bageri, which still makes a big batch of giant cinnamon rolls every Wednesday. We sampled some beautiful Danish cheeses at the Ostetorvet in Torvehallerne, learnt about Grød, Ro Chokolade, Istid, and learnt about the local microbrewery scene at Brus and Mikkeller & Friends, and tried some local treats on the trendy Jægerborggade in Nørrebro. We even got to visit H. C. Andersen’s grave in Assistens Cemetery – something we’ve been meaning to do for ages! (I learnt from my Danish teacher that no Dane ever says Hans Christian Andersen, it’s always just H. C. “Hu Say (a bit like José)” Andersen (with a silent d).)

We hired a bike for him and we got to do a lot of cycling in the city! It’s a whole different, but perfect, way to look at the city. It’s so easy to cycle around!

I have lots to update still! E.g. I started Danish lessons, but I think I’ll have to save it for the next update! Until then, you know where to find me!

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Bye from geeky cyclist Chloé for now!

Read the next update here.

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